NEW YORK (Reuters) – Mars Inc, making M&M’s candy and Wrigley’s gum, on Monday published its policies on conducting and funding scientific research for the very first time, as it plans to break ties using the industry-backed company.
Mars a private business in a particularly secretive industry, has become increasingly outspoken in recent decades as consumer distrust emerges as an increasing concern for Big Food. The business said it needed to improve transparency amid a growing demand for research around health, endurance and food security and protection.
Large food makers are struggling with stagnating earnings growth of the core products as consumers say they want healthy, simpler ingredients.
McLean, Virginia-based Mars, which also makes pet food broke ranks with the industry in 2016, when it openly endorsed nutrition recommendations to restrict additional sugar intake.
The candy manufacturer plans to depart the International Life Sciences Institute, or ILSI, from the end of 2018 and also to publicize its criteria for scientific study on its own site, Vice President of Public Affairs Matthias Berninger said.
“We don’t wish to be involved in advocacy-led research that often, and mostly for the ideal reasons, happen to be criticized,” Berninger said.
The December 2016 report of ILSI questioned the science supporting nutritionists’ recommendations to limit added sugars. The analysis was criticized by Mars but remained a member of this group.
The business said it would not tie research funds to certain results, among its own responsibilities. It’ll disclose sponsorship and encourage studies which could be freely published regardless of outcomes.
“We are living in times when we need scientific leadership cases,” said Chief Science Officer Harold Schmitzsaid “After we collaborate, we are going to publish the outcomes, no matter what.”
Guidelines for publishing whole data and disclosing conflicts of interest are quite standard practices for pharmaceutical study but less prevalent for meals, said Peter Lurie, a former U.S. Food and D**g Administration official who heads the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Criticism of prejudice in scientific research has been mounting, together with research coming under attack for touting health benefits of products like chocolate milk. This past year, a University of Colorado researcher needed to resign in the school’s health and wellness center for accepting funds from Coca-Cola Co..
Separately, Mars gets left the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a Washington-based lobbying group which has represented large food companies on issues such as labeling of genetically engineered components.
Together with the movement, Mars joins the ranks of companies such as Nestle SA along with Campbell Soup Co..
Reporting by Chris Prentice in New York; Testing by Lisa Von Ahn