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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
  1. rcoombes{at}bmj.com

The Science Media Centre influences UK press newsgathering so ought to it’s taking funding from business and showcasing scientists with such hyperlinks? Rebecca Coombes reviews

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

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

It’s towards this backdrop that the Science Media Centre hosted the web briefing. The purpose, stated senior press supervisor Fiona Lethbridge, was to appropriate “among the extra dogmatic claims about harms of UPFs being made by folks with out 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 subsequent day—and the media centre itself was the topic of 1 story. “Scientists on panel defending ultra-processed meals linked to meals corporations,” 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 …

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