One of Britain's most influential institutions on diet and health has come under fire over its close links with the food industry.
The British Nutrition Foundation, established more than 40 years ago, advises the Government, schools, industry, health professionals and the public. It says on its website that it exists to deliver "authoritative, evidence-based information on food and nutrition" and that it aims to be "world class in the interpretation and translation of complex science."
However, the organisation's 39 members, which contribute to its funding, include – beside the Government, the EU – Cadbury, Kellogg's, Northern Foods, McDonald's, PizzaExpress, the main supermarket chains except Tesco, and producer bodies such as the Potato Council. The chairman of its board of trustees, Paul Hebblethwaite, is also chairman of the Biscuit, Cake, Chocolate and Confectionery Trade Association.
Critics say the foundation's dependence on the food industry is reflected in its support for the views promoted by industry and that it is not fully transparent about its funding.
The foundation is holding a conference next month on the science of low-calorie sweeteners, which aims to "separate fact from fiction". The web page for the event says "intense sweeteners have been available as a means of reducing sugar intake for more than a century" but the perceptions of them "can be somewhat negative". The conference aims to "explore the facts behind the stories and see where low-calorie sweeteners fit into today's foodscape."
The web page doesn't say, though the information is available elsewhere on the website, that the foundation is financially supported by Tate & Lyle, British Sugar, Ajinomoto (maker of AminoSweet), and McNeil Consumer Nutritionals (maker of Splenda).
A foundation press release in February said people could shake off the winter blues by drinking more fluids. It didn't say that its donors include Danone (producer of Evian, Volvic, and Badoit), Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Innocent, Twinings, Nestlé, and various yoghurt drink manufacturers. A footnote mentions the food industry as one of the foundation's funding sources.