Report Reveals Close Ties Between US Nutrition Panel and Food Giants

by Ella

A significant portion of a federal government panel tasked with shaping US nutritional guidelines has been found to have strong affiliations with major players in the agriculture, processed food, pharmaceutical, and corporate sectors. This revelation comes to light in a recent report by US Right to Know, a government transparency organization. The report scrutinized the 20-member panel of food and nutrition experts responsible for advising on updates to the official dietary guidelines of the US government.

Among its findings, the report identified nine panel members with connections to influential entities such as Nestlé, Pfizer, Coca-Cola, and the National Egg Board, raising concerns about the panel’s priorities, whether they prioritize the health of Americans or corporate profits. Gary Ruskin of US Right to Know expressed that such revelations “erode confidence in dietary guidelines” and called for transparency in the report’s findings.


This panel, known as the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DAGC), plays a pivotal role in offering recommendations to the Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). These recommendations, considered the “gold standard” for dietary advice, influence food offerings in various institutional settings like schools, hospitals, and military facilities. They also guide healthcare professionals, impact the distribution of federal food aid, affect nutrition labeling, and shape the formulation of food products.


“The guidelines affect the entire US food system quite strongly,” Ruskin emphasized.


As of now, neither the agriculture nor health departments have responded to requests for comments regarding these findings.


US Right to Know conducted extensive research spanning five years, uncovering conflicts of interest among the 20 panel members. Apart from the nine panelists with “high-risk conflicts of interest” linked to the food and drug industry, the report identified four more members with possible conflicts of interest. Nevertheless, the agencies were commended for appointing seven members who appeared to have no conflicts of interest.

Some panelists were discovered to have connections with multiple companies, including Abbott, Novo Nordisk, the National Dairy Council, Eli Lilly, and Weight Watchers International. One panel member had received approximately $240,000 in grant funding from Eli Lilly.

The report underscores the long-standing practice of industries, such as food and pharmaceuticals, attempting to influence advisory panels like the dietary committee. US Right to Know has previously published studies revealing how these industries seek to shape public opinion, scientific research, and government policy.

The timing of this revelation coincides with ongoing public health crises in the US, including diabetes and obesity, which are partly attributable to the consumption of ultra-processed products and unhealthy foods produced by companies associated with panel members.

Earlier this year, the USDA and HHS issued “disclosures” of conflicts of interest among panel members for the 2025 dietary guidelines in response to pressure from public health advocates and Senator Chuck Grassley. However, these disclosures only covered the previous year, were aggregated, did not specify individual members’ conflicts, and were criticized as insufficient by Ruskin.

The new report aims to fill the gaps left by these vague government disclosures. While the agriculture and health departments can override the panel’s recommendations and Congress can also intervene, US Right to Know proposes several recommendations, including stronger disclosure requirements, pre-appointment notifications of appointees, and an expansion of the Physician Payments Sunshine Act to cover the nutrition field.

Ultimately, one of the simplest steps suggested is for the agencies to refrain from appointing individuals with high-risk conflicts of interest. According to Ruskin, this is an avoidable problem that could better serve public health by appointing experts with no conflicts of interest.



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