The scandal at the International Institute of Life Sciences (ILSI, for its acronym in English), discovered as a lobbying organization for Coca-Cola, reached Mexico, where the company refresquera had to close their offices on a temporary basis.
According to a study published in the Journal Globalization and Health, the ILSI (International Life Science Institute), which presents itself as an institution that develops “Science for public welfare” and “improves human health and well-being and protects the environment”, is actually a lobby group focused on blocking policies that affect Coca-Cola and other companies.
In the case of Mexico, the Institute’s public actions to influence the tax on sugary drinks were so obvious that they led to the temporary closure of this office in Mexico.
ILSI was founded in 1978 by Alex Malaspina, former director of Coca Cola, who worked at the company from 1969 to 2001. It currently has several research centres in nutrition and the environment. It has offices in the United States, Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Central America, China, India, Taiwan, Southeast Asia, Korea and South Africa.
Referring to Mexico, former vice president of Coca Cola and founder of ILSI, Alex Malaspina, said in an email: “everything that is going on is wrong, very wrong for me, and I hope that we have already reached the bottom and that we will eventually recover because Coca Cola and ILSI are worried.”
In another e-mail sent to Suzanne Harris, then to the front of ILSI, Malaspina noted that the dietary guidelines of the united States could lead to policies contrary to the interests of Coca Cola, such as limiting the consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages, increasing taxes on soft drinks, change the school meal programs, the education of children and adults about the consumption of sugar or restrict the advertising. Malaspina asks ILSI’s international director:”we need to be ready to establish a strong defense.”
In other emails, Malaspina presented the strategy to influence the policies and recommendations of the World Health Organization (WHO) to defend the interests of the refresquera, through ILSI. And he mentioned the possibility that businessman Bill Gates would support them in lobbying.
In this regard, Gary Ruskin, co-chair of the organization US Right to Know (US RTK), noted that “ILSI is a global network of the Great Food and Beverage Industry to discredit the science, to regulators and others that exhibit the health risks of their products. The Big Food and beverage industry wants ILSI to be believed to be working for health, but it really defends the profits of the industry,” he said.