Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Obesity Society President Elect in Bed with Big Food?

The flying pig that flew by my window yesterday morning appeared to be crying.

Apparently Dr. David B. Allison, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama and incoming president of the Obesity Society, testified on behalf of Big Food in the Big Food vs. New York City lawsuit on mandatory calorie labeling.

Somehow not only did he argue that there is no credible evidence that providing customers with calories on menus would affect choice or obesity, he went further to state that placing calories on menus,

"would be ineffective and possibly even deleterious"
Allison's testimony was reportedly paid testimony which according to the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's Integrity in Science Watch newsletter, would be par for the course for Dr. Allison. They provided a link to 3 paged, single spaced document highlighting all of Dr. Allison's conflicts of interests with monies paid to him by Big Food and Big Industry as a whole. For shock value, I'll add the list below this post.

That there's no research to confirm that posting calories on menus will help is not a shock since it has only been over the course of very recent history where this has been suggested let alone tried. That it could be "deleterious" to provide consumers with information about calories is to my mind at least, a jaw-droppingly bizarre statement, and when coming from the future president of the Obesity Society, a dangerous one. Let me ask you Dr. President-elect - if there's no evidence to suggest that posting calories on menus would affect choice or obesity how is there enough evidence for you to make the flying leap that their posting would be, "ineffective", and possibly even, "deleterious"?

Can any readers out there give me some examples of how being more informed before making a decision lead to a potential for harm? While posting calories on menus certainly isn't going to eliminate overweight and obesity in one fell swoop, if you're concerned about your weight and notice that your appetizer has more calories than your main, or that your main has more calories than 3 Big Macs, it may in fact influence your decisions, may in fact give you a grounded education on calories and may in fact help you with your weight. More importantly, if consumers are interested in Calories, that of course will put pressure on Big Food to at the very least have some lower calorie menu options which again, those interested in watching their calories may choose.

My friendly, governmentally sourced email tipster (who forwarded me the newsletter) also included their own thoughts as to Dr. Allison's testimony. They stated that from the CSPI document it appeared as if Dr. Allison likely,
"isn't anti-calories on menus, he's pro-expert witness fees in lawsuits"
A sad day indeed.

The following are the companies that Dr. Allison has signed in a document listing them as conflicts of interest due to received grants, monetary donations, donations of product, payments for consultation, contracts, honoraria or commitments:

Air Canada
Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance (AALGA)
Allegheny University
American Bakers’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Oil Chemists Society
American Psychological Association
American Society for Parentaral and Enteral Nutrition
Archer Daniels Midland
Bristol Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson
Campbell Soup Company
Catalyst Communications, Inc
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ciba Foundation
Consumers’ Union
Corning HTA/Covance
Current Drugs Ltd
Cytodyne Technologies, Inc.
Decision Resources
Elsevier Science Publisher
Eon Labs Manufacturing, Inc.
Ergo Science
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology
Fertin Pharma A/S
Fisons Corporation
Fleishman Hillard, Inc
Food and Drug Administration
Gardiner-Caldwell Communications Ltd
General Mills
Genetics Institute
Genome Canada
Genome Explorations
Genome Therapeutics
Gerber Foundation
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Grey Health Care Group
Health Learning Systems
Henry A. Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College
Hoffman La-Roche
IBC UK Conferences
Institute for the Future
International Association for the Study of Obesity
International Food Information Council
International Life Sciences Institute
InvaCare, Inc.
ISL Healthcare Group
J P Morgan
Jenny Craig
Johnson & Johnson
Knoll Pharmaceuticals
Kraft Foods
Lawrence Erlbaum Publishing
Lee, Smart, Cook, Martin, & Patterson, Attorneys at Law
Life Measurement Instruments
Ligand Pharmaceuticals
Lilly Research Labs
Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins Publishers
M&M Mars
Many Universities, hospitals, and not-for-profit research organizations (list available on request)
Marcell Dekker Publishing
Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C., Attorneys at Law
McGraw-Hill Publishing
McKenna & Cuneo, L.L.P., Attorneys at Law
Medical Economics (Thomson Healthcare)
Mediva Pharmaceuticals
Medlab, Inc.
Millennium Pharmaceuticals
National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders
National Institutes of Health
National Science Foundation
New York State Department of Health
Noonan/Rosso Communications, Inc.
North American Association for the Study of Obesity
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NutraSystems, Inc.
Nutratech, Inc.
NutriPharma (Scan Diet; Nutralet)
Original Marketing, Inc.
Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals
Parenti, Falk, Waas, Hernandez & Cortina, Attorneys at Law
PAREXEL International Corporation
Paterson, MacDougall, a Toronto, Canada law firm
Pfizer Central Research
Porter Novelli
Proctor & Gamble
Queens University, Canada
Rand Corporation
Research Testing Laboratories
RW Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute
Servier Amerique
Slim America
SlimFast Foods Company
Spadoro & Hilson, Attorneys at Law
Sugar Association
SuperGen, Inc
Terrapin Technologies
The Cortland Group
United Soybean Board
United States Postal Service
V2, Inc.
Veteran’s Administration
VimRx Pharmaceuticals
W.B. Saunders Publishing Co.
Weight Control Digest
Weight Watchers International
Wellcome Trust
Wheat Foods Council
Wilentz, Goldman, & Spitzer, Attorneys at Law
Zeneca Pharmaceuticals