Row over ultra-processed meals panel highlights conflicts of curiosity concern at coronary heart of UK science reporting

  1. Rebecca Coombes, head of journalism
  1. BMJ

The Science Media Centre influences UK press newsgathering so ought to or not it’s taking funding from trade and showcasing scientists with such hyperlinks? Rebecca Coombes experiences

On 27 September, the Science Media Centre (SMC) in London held a briefing for specialist journalists.1 5 professors working in vitamin assembled to debate the proof round ultra-processed meals (UPF), and the rising public debate about its hyperlink with weight-reduction plan associated illness. “Is there proof that it’s one thing in regards to the processing—relatively than the fats, salt and sugar content material of those meals—that’s accountable?” the press discover requested.

Extremely-processed meals are actually having a tricky journey. There’s now sturdy proof these meals are related to a variety of adverse well being outcomes.23 Advertising and marketing restrictions have stalled within the UK however are advancing elsewhere on the planet, noticeably in South and Central America, such because the black warning labels on ultra-processed meals in Chile and Mexico. This 12 months Unicef banned any partnerships with ultra-processed meals firms, citing “a major reputational threat” and pointing to a “damaged meals system”4.

It’s in opposition to this backdrop that the Science Media Centre hosted the web briefing. The goal, stated senior press supervisor Fiona Lethbridge, was to appropriate “a few of the extra dogmatic claims about harms of UPFs being made by individuals and not using a background in meals science.” Over an hour, the affiliation of UPFs with well being harms was flagged—however the proof was judged to be not black and white.

The briefing made headlines the following day—and the media centre itself was the topic of 1 story. “Scientists on panel defending ultra-processed meals linked to meals companies,” ran the Guardian’s story by well being editor Andrew Gregory.5 Though funding from Unilever to PepsiCo was declared to attending journalists, not one of the media talked about the …