Prostituting to “Big Food” (aka, at least by me, as “Big Junk”)

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Last month the World Health Organization (WHO) finally conceded publicly that processed meats dramatically elevate the risks of getting myriad cancers, thereby giving the WHO’s imprimatur to a fact that everyone in the scientific nutritional community has known for decades.  The occasion of this news was the release of a meta-analysis of hundreds of studies reaching this conclusion, including studies sponsored by members of the “Big Food” industry.   If we were to remove the sponsored studies from this meta-analysis, the case against eating processed meats would be even more pronounced.

The information in this blog series is largely based on meta-analyses (summary results of large bodies of research) of unsponsored nutritional studies.  Studies sponsored by food-industry giants (these would include Tyson Foods, Nestle, Kraft, ConAgra, ADM, General Mills, etc.) are always flawed by research designs tailored to produce results sympathetic to the sponsoring industry – in other words the studies are rigged!  And if a study doesn’t produce the intended biased result, you will never hear about it.

The WHO study (meta-analysis) was mammoth, incorporating the results of over 800 studies conducted over a period of decades.  So, in a serious world, the results and implications of this research should have been the unequivocal message of media reports, right?  Wrong!  Not when the media itself is “sponsored” at a pretty hefty level by Big Food.  Whether you received this report on CNN, or PBS, or from the New York Times, the capper for each report was an unbridled repudiation of the report by an organization calling itself the North American Meat Institute.  The spokeswomen from the NAMI assured media consumers that the far reaching health benefits from eating meat far outweighed the alleged, negligible risks claimed by the WHO report.

Pretending that an unsupported proclamation from an industry trade association is “news” and belongs in a news report is the pinnacle of media hypocrisy.  Reading press releases written by trade groups, and inviting their unscientific comments on WHO research studies, is not, if I may understate, journalism.  It is, if I may again understate, prostitution.  And prostitution of the worst kind.