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Corporations' use and misuse of evidence to influence health policy: A case study of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation

Fooks, Gary Jonas, Williams, Simon, Box, Graham and Sacks, Gary 2019, Corporations' use and misuse of evidence to influence health policy: A case study of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation, Globalization and Health, vol. 15, pp. 1-20, doi: 10.1186/s12992-019-0495-5.

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Title Corporations' use and misuse of evidence to influence health policy: A case study of sugar-sweetened beverage taxation
Author(s) Fooks, Gary Jonas
Williams, Simon
Box, Graham
Sacks, GaryORCID iD for Sacks, Gary orcid.org/0000-0001-9736-1539
Journal name Globalization and Health
Volume number 15
Article ID 56
Start page 1
End page 20
Total pages 20
Publisher Springer
Place of publication Berlin, Germany
Publication date 2019-09-25
ISSN 1744-8603
1744-8603
Keyword(s) Commercial determinants of health
Agnotology
Corporate misuse of science
Corporate political activity
Sugar tax
Corporate misuse of evidence
Science & Technology
Life Sciences & Biomedicine
Public, Environmental & Occupational Health
CONFLICTS-OF-INTEREST
CONSERVATIVE THINK TANKS
CORONARY-HEART-DISEASE
WEIGHT CHANGE
SODA TAXES
INDUSTRY
RISK
SCIENCE
TOBACCO
OBESITY
Summary Background: Sugar sweetened beverages (SSB) are a major source of sugar in the diet. Although trends in consumption vary across regions, in many countries, particularly LMICs, their consumption continues to increase. In response, a growing number of governments have introduced a tax on SSBs. SSB manufacturers have opposed such taxes, disputing the role that SSBs play in diet-related diseases and the effectiveness of SSB taxation, and alleging major economic impacts. Given the importance of evidence to effective regulation of products harmful to human health, we scrutinised industry submissions to the South African government's consultation on a proposed SSB tax and examined their use of evidence. Results: Corporate submissions were underpinned by several strategies involving the misrepresentation of evidence. First, references were used in a misleading way, providing false support for key claims. Second, raw data, which represented a pliable, alternative evidence base to peer reviewed studies, was misused to dispute both the premise of targeting sugar for special attention and the impact of SSB taxes on SSB consumption. Third, purposively selected evidence was used in conjunction with other techniques, such as selective quoting from studies and omitting important qualifying information, to promote an alternative evidential narrative to that supported by the weight of peer-reviewed research. Fourth, a range of mutually enforcing techniques that inflated the effects of SSB taxation on jobs, public revenue generation, and gross domestic product, was used to exaggerate the economic impact of the tax. This "hyperbolic accounting" included rounding up figures in original sources, double counting, and skipping steps in economic modelling. Conclusions: Our research raises fundamental questions concerning the bona fides of industry information in the context of government efforts to combat diet-related diseases. The beverage industry's claims against SSB taxation rest on a complex interplay of techniques, that appear to be grounded in evidence, but which do not observe widely accepted approaches to the use of either scientific or economic evidence. These techniques are similar, but not identical, to those used by tobacco companies and highlight the problems of introducing evidence-based policies aimed at managing the market environment for unhealthful commodities.
Language eng
DOI 10.1186/s12992-019-0495-5
Indigenous content off
Field of Research 1117 Public Health and Health Services
HERDC Research category C1 Refereed article in a scholarly journal
Copyright notice ©2019, The Author(s)
Free to Read? Yes
Persistent URL http://hdl.handle.net/10536/DRO/DU:30130421

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Every reasonable effort has been made to ensure that permission has been obtained for items included in DRO. If you believe that your rights have been infringed by this repository, please contact drosupport@deakin.edu.au.