Readers who turn to ABC as their source of news will get a very skewed impression of distinguished professor Dr. David Allison, head of the Section on Statistical Genetics at the University of Alabama and director of the National Institutes of Health-funded Nutrition Obesity Research Center. An ABC News article by Dan Harris and Maggy Patrick which was apparently pulled from the national TV newscast at the last moment accuses Dr. Allison of accepting money from the food and beverage industry in order to poke holes in the scientific consensus on whether soda consumption significantly contributes to the obesity epidemic. Basing his conclusions on sound science, Dr. Allison has previously stated that there is not enough solid evidence, nor have studies conducted in this field been rigorous enough to confirm such a cause-and-effect relationship.
But that hasn t stopped ABC from targeting this prominent scientist who was spotlighted for no other reason than his relationship with companies such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, and McDonald s. As his department heads at the University of Alabama carefully point out, however, his research is not always aligned with the best interests of his corporate sponsors, and the amount of funding he receives from private industry is only a fraction of the research grants endowed upon him by the government.
The most egregious accusation in the article is the analogy that likens the behavior of the food and beverage industries to the duplicitous acts of Big Tobacco decades ago, a period during which the cigarette makers were known to have paid scientists to manipulate studies to their benefit. That s just part of the anti-industry game plan: tar all food makers with the tobacco brush easy, but false and irresponsible, says ACSH s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan.
To get a more accurate account of the events instead, read Trevor Butterworth s response in Forbes. In a step-by-step analysis, Butterworth outlines the conflicts of interest among other so-called food experts, such as Dr. Kelly Brownell, a psychologist and director of the Rudd Center for Nutrition and Obesity at Yale University, who have likened soda manufacturers to tobacco companies despite the paucity of evidence linking soda consumption to weight gain.
ACSH s Dr. Gilbert Ross notes that it s a bit ironic that ABC News would run this article, considering that the broadcasting company also receives industry support from its advertisers.