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PRESS RELEASE: Life Science Institute

For Immediate Release:
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin +1 415 944-7350 or Sarah Steele +44 7768653130

The nonprofit International Life Science Institute claims to conduct “science for the public good” that “improves human health and well-being and safeguards the environment,” but really is a food industry lobby group, according to a study published today in the journal Globalization and Health.

The study provides examples of how ILSI advances the interests of the food industry, especially by promoting industry-friendly science and arguments to policymakers. The study is based on documents obtained via state freedom of information requests by U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit investigative research group focused on the food industry.

The study’s authors conclude that, “ILSI should be regarded as a lobby group and that academics and researchers, policy makers, the media, and the public should view ILSI’s research as promoting the interests of the food, beverage, supplement and agrichemical industries” and that its actions “counter healthy public policies.”

“ILSI is Big Food’s global stealth network to defeat scientists, regulators and others who point out the health risks of their products,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “Big Food wants you to believe that ILSI works for your health, but really it defends food industry profits.”

The Globalization and Health paper was co-authored by Sarah Steele, senior research associate at Jesus College and the University of Cambridge; Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know; Lejla Sarcevic, Intellectual Forum senior research associate at Jesus College, Cambridge; Martin McKee, professor at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine; and, David Stuckler, professor at Bocconi University.

In January, two papers by Harvard Professor Susan Greenhalgh, in the BMJ and the Journal of Public Health Policy, revealed ILSI’s powerful influence on the Chinese government regarding issues related to obesity.

ILSI is incorporated as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, based in Washington DC.  It was founded in 1978 by Alex Malaspina, a former senior vice president of Coca-Cola. It has 17 branches located all over the world.

As an example of how ILSI keeps in close alignment with Coca-Cola and the soda industry, the paper quotes an email from Malaspina in which he laments ILSI Mexico’s failure to follow the industry position on soda taxes. Malaspina describes “the mess ILSI Mexico is in because they sponsored in September a sweeteners conference when the subject of soft drinks taxation was discussed. ILSI is now suspending ILSI Mexico, until they correct their ways. A real mess.”

“Our findings only continue to add to the evidence that this non-profit organisation has been used by its corporate backers for years to counter public health policies. We contend that the International Life Sciences Institute should be regarded as an industry group – a private body – and regulated as such, not as a body acting for the greater good,” said the study lead author Dr. Sarah Steele, a researcher at Cambridge’s Department of Politics and International Studies.

Documents from the ILSI study will be posted in University of California, San Francisco’s Food Industry Documents Archive, in the U.S. Right to Know Food Industry Collection.

For more information about U.S. Right to Know, see our academic papers at https://usrtk.org/academic-work/. For more general information, see usrtk.org.

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