The American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) is one of many industry-funded corporate front groups which allow industry-funded experts to pose as independent scientists to promote corporate causes.
Its executive director, Elizabeth Whelan, is portrayed in the mass media as an independent scientist, although she defends petrochemical companies, the nutritional values of fast foods, and the safety of saccharin, pesticides and growth hormones for dairy cows. She claims that the US government spends far too much on unproven health risks such as dioxin and pesticides because of the public’s “unfounded fears of man-made chemicals and their perception of these chemicals as carcinogens”.
The American Council on Science and Health has received funds from food processing and beverage corporations including Burger King, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, NutraSweet, Nestle USA as well as chemical, oil and pharmaceutical companies such as Monsanto, Dow USA, Exxon, Union Carbide and others.
'In 1997 Whelan explained that she was already being called a “paid liar for industry,” so she might as well go ahead and take industry money without restrictions. Dr. Whelan claims that ACSH accepts funding from corporations “as long as no strings are attached.” ...
Despite claims that it is not influenced by its donors, ACSH conducted an “independent” study of artificial sweeteners, then sought funding from groups like the Calorie Control Council to disseminate the results. Monsanto and its subsidiaries, GD Searle and the Nutrasweet Company, gave ACSH $105,000 in 1992, making Monsanto ACSH’s largest funder.'
According to a former ACSH employee, Whelan collaborates with corporate vested interests in publishing articles and booklets supporting the health claims of their products. Examples have included Hershey chocolate company printed a booklet on the health benefits of sugar and Stroh Brewery was invited to make editorial comments on a booklet on the health benefits of alcohol.
ACSH has put together a website, Riskometer.org, to demonstrate that the risks posed by industrial chemicals are very small compared to other risks people are exposed to, particularly smoking. The site states: 'Favorite scares include ones about traces of various chemicals in the environment, and about both synthetic and natural food constituents." It argues that efforts to regulate these chemicals are inappropriate: "Such misdirection of public attention fuels unnecessary anxiety and raises the costs of consumer products for all without any proof of public benefit.'
Such ranking of risks ignore factors such as whether a particular risk is taken on voluntarily (such as smoking) or involuntarily (such as occupational and environmental risks), whether there are alternatives and whether people are informed of the risks they are exposed to so they can make their own choices (as in the case of food additives).