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Nearly Half of US Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Members Have Conflicts of Interest

The cover of Full Disclosure: Assessing conflicts of interest of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee a report by U.S. Right to Know

This report provides disclosure of conflicts of interest of the 20 members of the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee who determine the national Dietary Guidelines for America. The report found that almost half of the members had a medium to high risk of conflict of interest due to connections with industry actors.

Summary

 

There have been longrunning concerns that some experts responsible for advising on U.S. dietary guidelines also take money from big food and drug companies. These guidelines not only influence consumer behaviour, but are also used by policymakers to determine federal food programs, healthcare and education. Concerns over industry influence therefore reduce the public trust that government recommendations are based in science. As a result, this year the USDA released a public conflict of interest disclosure pertaining to the 2025 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC). However, the report only looked at the previous year of activity of its members and may not have been as thorough as an independent report, meaning fewer conflicts of interest were declared. ‘Full Disclosure’ a report by U.S. Right to Know was written to provide fuller disclosure of conflicts of interest of the members of the 2025 DGAC, including financial and other ties during the last five years to the food, pharmaceutical, grocery, and other industries with a stake in the outcome of the dietary guidelines. 

 

The report used a web search and literature review of publicly available data for each member of the DGAC to identify links (financial or otherwise) with relevant industry actors. The web search involved a review of the first 100 google search results, social media accounts, biography, CV, institutional websites, personal websites and CMS Open Payments sites of committee members, as well acknowledgements of funding or conflicts of interest in academic papers. A conflict of interest was defined as a financial or non-financial link with an industry actor which risked which creates a risk of impaired professional judgement. Relevant industry actor were defined as a food, agribusiness or pharmaceutical company whose interests may be affected by the committee’s report, or an organisation that receives funding from such a company. The time frame of influence included within five years prior to service on the DGAC and the anticipated next two years of work. Relevant relationships included research funding from infant formula companies, paid consultation positions with weight loss drug manufacturers, advisory board roles at the national Dairy Council, as well as presentation at corporate meetings and events. These were scored as follows:

  • high-risk (such as direct financial links with large industry actors, or being in a position of decision making at a small food industry company
  • medium-risk (such as financial links with a government-industry partnership, or employment at a small food industry company)
  • low-risk (such as professional interests of the member, including contents of past publications)
  • minimal or no risk (such as personal values, religious beliefs or habits) 

 

The report found that 13 of 20 DGAC member had some form of conflict of interest with industry actors, 8 of which were categorised as high-risk. These were conflicts of interest with food (8), pharmaceutical (3), and weight loss (2) companies or industry groups, most often in the form of research support and consultancy. Four members had possible conflict of interest with food and pharmaceutical companies that have a history of corporate sponsorship and lobbying in the development of the guidelines. Industry actors who had links to multiple committee members included Abbott, Novo Nordisk and the National Dairy Council. However, the report also highlights that seven members had no relationship in the past five years, which the authors describe as a definite sign of progress. Specifically, they compare their results to a 2022 study of conflict of interest for the previous DGAC, which identified conflicts in 19 of 20 committee members, though they note a direct comparison is not appropriate due to differences in methodology. Additionally of those with a conflict of interest, four members only had a single instance although these range from a large, multi-year grant from a food company to a single speaking appearance at an industry-funded conference or an associate editor role at a journal that accepts corporate funding.

 

You can read the report here, as well as TABLE’s assessment of dietary guidelines here

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