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Conflicts of interest

Nutrition journal failed to disclose ties to food industry for article on salt intake

Tuesday, October 03, 2006 by: Ben Kage
Tags: conflicts of interest, science journals, health news


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(NewsTarget) The Center for Science in the Public Interest's weekly alert Science Watch says that the Journal of the American College of Nutrition published a special supplement on salt intake, but failed to inform readers it was written and edited by salt industry consultants.

Also left out of the loop was the National Library of Medicine, which published the abstracts from the supplement in MEDLINE. The NLM's rules state that MEDLINE will only carry abstracts from sponsored supplements if conflict-of-interest disclosure statements are notably displayed in the supplement.

The CSPI sent a letter to NLM asking that the supplement's articles be withdrawn from MEDLINE for failing to disclose the conflicts of interest, as per the government's rule.

"Supplements or other publications that indicate funding derived from private, for-profit organizations will not be routinely indexed for MEDLINE unless certain conditions are met. A disclosure statement should be included within the text of each article that might be cited for MEDLINE, preferably on the title page of the article, that indicates any financial relationship that each author has with the funding source and with any product discussed or implied in the text of the article," the rule states.

According to the CSPI alert, Dr. Alexander G. Logan, a paid salt industry consultant, was the guest editor of the June issue of JACN that featured the supplement. Unrevealed was the fact that Logan -- who is also a scientific adviser to the supplement's sponsor, International Life Sciences Institute -- was named to edit the supplement by ILSI's sodium committee, consisting of Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kraft, and Proctor & Gamble, the alert said.

The supplement itself contained no conflict-of-interest disclosure statements for any of the articles, which mostly downplayed the risk of excessive salt in the diet, the alert stated. Additionally, one of JACN's managing editors admitted that articles featured in the supplement did not undergo normal peer review.

"The editors of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition should apologize to their readers, publish full conflict-of-interest disclosures and a disclaimer that none of the pseudo-science in the supplement underwent peer review," said Merrill Goozner, director of the Integrity in Science project at CSPI.

Integrity in Science Project Coordinator Corrie Mauldin wrote a letter to JACN editor John Cunningham of the University of Massachusetts stating, "No respectable journal should be renting out its name to the highest bidder and let industry-funded groups hand pick 'guest editors.'"

"Once again, we see a serious breach of ethics in a mainstream medical journal," said Mike Adams, author of The Seven Laws of Nutrition. "Time and time again, we find these journals selling credibility for cash by pretending that industry-authored articles are somehow independent and credible. It's appalling."

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