Mars have stunned the confectionery industry by announcing their plan to quit industry-funded science group, the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), and have claimed that they will instead support research, regardless of results, after making public their science policy.
Consumer interest groups have deemed this as “big news”, however, it remains to be seen as to whether other manufacturers follow suit.
Recently, the Mars Group – who manufacture M&Ms, Wrigley’s gum and of course, Mars – published their science policy in an attempt to increase trust and transparency, and have now claimed they intend on leaving the ILSI by the end of 2018.
The policy states that Mars promise to regularly publish research findings, regardless of how the outcome impacts them, while also fully disclosing any potential conflicts of interest, as well as maintaining that funding isn’t linked to achievement of a specific research outcome.
“We do not want to be involved in advocacy-led studies that so often, and mostly for the right reasons, have been criticised,” said vice president of public affairs Matthias Berninger.
This is not the first time Mars have distanced themselves from ILSI, though it is the first time they’ve pledged to leave the group, which is funded by 400-plus corporate members that include Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Unilever, DuPont, Chr Hansen, Cargill, ADM and Teresos.
Back in 2016, the Washington-based lobby group released a scientific review, which stated that evidence in favour of guidelines recommending limits on added dietary sugar was not only “low quality”, but didn’t “meet criteria for trustworthy recommendations”.
Mars slammed the study at the time, with Berninger claiming that it made more doubt for consumers rather than aid them in making better food choices, but despite this, the firm remained a member of ILSI.
Executive director of ILSI North America Eric Hentges said it was disappointed Mars had decided to leave but hoped it would “again be part of the ILSI community in the future”.
There have been a number of instances where former Mars employees have since gone on to hold senior positions at ILSI, including board officer and president.