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Groups to CDC: Stop Falsely Claiming Not to Accept Corporate Money

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Public health, government watchdog and public interest groups today petitioned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to cease making false disclaimers that it “does not accept commercial support” and has “no financial interests or other relationships with the manufacturers of commercial products.”

The CDC makes such disclaimers hundreds of times in its publications and on its website, despite that the National Foundation for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has accepted for the CDC nearly $80 million from drug companies and other commercial manufacturers during fiscal years 2014-2018.

The petition states: “These claims may be comforting to consumers and health professionals, but both are indisputably false.” Groups endorsing the petition include Knowledge Ecology International, Liberty Coalition, Project on Government Oversight, Public Citizen and U.S. Right to Know.

“It’s time for the CDC to be truthful with health professionals and all Americans, and to stop denying that it takes corporate money,” said Gary Ruskin, co-director of U.S. Right to Know. “The CDC is violating the public trust by misleading us in this way.”

“That the CDC accepts millions from corporations directly impacted by the agency’s public health programs is indefensible,” said Dr. Michael Carome, director of Public Citizen’s Health Research Group. “So the CDC instead has adopted the strategy of repeatedly denying that it accepts such payments.”

“The CDC needs the trust of the public, on the efficacy and safety of vaccines and drugs, and measures to prevent disease and injury,” said James Love, director of Knowledge Ecology International. “A small amount of money from corporations diminishes the trust the public will have that the agency works for us, and provides independent, trusted information.”

In January, Ruskin co-authored a study in the Milbank Quarterly on emails between The Coca-Cola Company and the CDC, showing the company’s efforts to influence the CDC for its own benefit. One high-ranking CDC official even guided Coca-Cola on how to lobby the World Health Organization to back off its efforts to curtail added sugars. Coca-Cola has been a donor to the CDC Foundation.

In 2017, U.S. Right to Know obtained documents showing an alliance between Coca-Cola and then-CDC Director Brenda Fitzgerald. These documents were the subject of articles in The New York Times and The Intercept.

The groups’ petition to the CDC is available here.