What principles should guide interactions between population health researchers and the food industry? Systematic scoping review of peer-reviewed and grey literature

Obes Rev. 2019 Aug;20(8):1073-1084. doi: 10.1111/obr.12851. Epub 2019 Apr 9.


There is no explicit consensus amongst population health researchers regarding what constitutes acceptable or effective interactions with the food industry. This has led to confusion and disagreements over conflicts of interest, which can undermine the integrity of science. To clarify this issue, we aimed to systematically identify the key principles developed by population health researchers to prevent or minimize conflicts of interest when interacting with the food industry. Databases of peer-reviewed literature were searched. In addition, an advanced Google search, a request to experts seeking related documents, and hand searching of references were undertaken. Thematic analysis of the extracted data was undertaken. We examined 54 eligible documents describing guidelines for population health researchers when interacting with the food industry. Fifty-six principles were identified and synthesized in five themes. There were high levels of agreement in themes relating to research governance, transparency, and publication but less agreement and guidance on how principles should be applied in relation to funding and risk assessment. There is agreement on some of the general principles for preventing and minimizing conflicts of interests for population health researchers when interacting with the food industry. However, for issues such as assessing the appropriateness of an industry partner, greater clarity and consensus are required.

Keywords: conflict of interest; food industry; nutrition; public-private partnerships; research.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Systematic Review

MeSH terms

  • Conflict of Interest*
  • Food Industry*
  • Gray Literature
  • Humans
  • Population Health*
  • Research Personnel / economics
  • Research Personnel / standards*
  • Risk Assessment