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October 2, 2006

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Nutrition Journal Hid Contributorsí Ties to Food Industry

Supplement Published in Journal of the American College of Nutrition Pooh-Poohs Salt Intake Recommendations

WASHINGTON--A nutrition journal published by the American College of Nutrition failed to tell readers that a special supplement on salt intake was written and edited by consultants to the salt industry. The editors also failed to inform the National Library of Medicine (NLM), which included the abstracts from the supplement in MEDLINE. NLM rules state MEDLINE will not carry abstracts from sponsored supplements unless conflict-of-interest disclosure statements are prominently featured in the supplement.

This blatant failure by the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (JACN) to adhere to its own conflict of interest disclosure policies and federal guidelines was revealed in Integrity in Science Watch, a weekly alert from the nonprofit Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI).

The "guest editor" of a June supplement in JACN that focused on sodium and human health was Dr. Alexander G. Logan, a consultant to the salt industry. He also serves as scientific advisor to the sodium committee of the industry-backed International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), which funded the supplement. The regular editors of JACN also allowed ILSIís sodium committee, which includes Frito-Lay, Heinz, Kraft, and Procter & Gamble, to name Logan to edit the special supplement. This fact was not revealed to readers.

No articles in the supplement, most of which downplayed the risk of excessive salt consumption, contained conflict of interest disclosures, even though several were written by past and current consultants to the Salt Institute, which is the industryís lobbying arm. Moreover, JACNís managing editor confirmed that supplement articles 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.

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

In a separate letter to the National Library of Medicine, CSPI asked that the articles from the supplement be withdrawn from MEDLINE for failing to adhere to the governmentís rule requiring full conflict-of-interest disclosure. The rule states:

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.