Major food and beverage corporations such as Nestle, Tate & Lyle, Danone, PepsiCo, Kellogg’s and Ajinomoto are playing a big role in nutritional science studies in Malaysia. These food and beverage manufacturing companies are providing major funding to food scientists and the nutritional science research they conduct. This is causing alarm as the studies can be skewed to promote the foods made by these companies.
One example of how big food companies are impacting nutritional science is the fact that they are the biggest funder of the Malaysian Nutritional Society. In fact, most of the budget of this organization comes from companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo. Dr. Tee E. Siong is the head of the Malaysian Nutritional Society. He is widely regarded as the leading expert in food and nutrition science in the country. Unfortunately, Dr. Siong is heavily connected with major food manufacturing companies.
Dr. Tee E Siong states that a lack of exercise is the biggest reason why Malaysia is now the most obese country in Asia. He denies the link between processed foods and beverages made by companies such as Nestle and PepsiCo and rising obesity. This is no doubt hypocritical. Most of the foods manufactured by these huge corporations are high in sugar and relatively low in nutritional value.
People are now criticizing Nestle and other food companies for essentially distorting real, sound nutritional science to promote their products. For example, a recent study in Malaysia promoted the idea that breakfast cereals were an important source of nutrition for Malaysians. This was despite the fact that these cereals had a very high sugar content and are not really a major source of nutrition for the typical Malaysian person.
Another example of nutrition science being distorted by outside money is when a sugary cereal or snack is labeled as being one of the top healthy choices according to the Malaysian Nutritional Society. A nutrition app called Food Educate labels these same cereals and snacks as being relatively unhealthy. The app has won awards for its nutritional soundness and has even been recognized by the US Surgeon General’s office for promoting more healthy eating.
Food and nutrition scientists such as Dr. Tee defend taking corporate contributions from Nestle, Kellogg’s and PepsiCo. They say it provides them and the Malaysian Nutritional Society with an important source of funding for research. Opponents say that the funding distorts nutritional science and is used to help market their products in Malaysia.