Sugar Industry Asks U.S. to Cut W.H.O. Funding After Negative Report


| April 2003


The U.S. sugar industry is lobbying the Bush administration to cut its funding of the World Health Organization after a recent W.H.O. report warned consumers to cut their sugar intake.

The Sugar Association, along with six other food industry groups, has requested that Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson ?use his influence to get the W.H.O. report withdrawn? before its planned release tomorrow, reports Sarah Boseley in the London-based Guardian. And in a letter to W.H.O. Director General Gro Harlem Brundtland, industry officials threatened to challenge the organization?s $406 million funding from the U.S., declaring that America?s tax dollars should not be utilized ?to support misguided, non-science-based reports which do not add to the health and well-being of Americans, much less the rest of the world.? The correspondence illustrated the industry?s resolve to ?promote and encourage new laws? that will limit future W.H.O. funding to reports ?supported by the preponderance of science.?

The report advises that ?sugar should account for no more that 10 percent of a healthy diet,? a view industry executives say is ?scientfically flawed.? They insist that one-quarter of a healthy diet can ?safely consist of sugar.? The W.H.O. figure is based on the recommendations of international nutritional experts. Sugar industry statistics are supported by research from International Life Sciences Institute, an organization founded by Coca-Cola, Pepsi, General Foods, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble, and a recent report by the independent Institute of Medicine. But in a letter last week to Secretary Thompson, institute president Harvey Fineberg said that industry leaders had misinterpreted the report, which he said did not make a sugar intake recommendation. The controversy is only the latest in a 13-year battle between scientists and the sugar industry. In 1990 the W.H.O. International Obesity Taskforce recommended the same 10 percent sugar intake, and the World Sugar Organization responded with a massive lobbying effort, convincing 40 ambassadors to challenge the report, as it would ?do irreparable damage to countries in the developing world.? In 2000, Aubrey Sheiham, professor of dental public health at University College, London, Medical School, was asked to help create an EC guideline called Eurodiet. ?The sugar people said that if the 10 percent [limit] was in, the whole report would be blocked,? he recalls. In they end, the committee agreed to a compromise stating that the 10 percent figure was equivalent to eating sugar no more than four times a day.

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