No Room for Debate

Journalist critical of 2015 United States Dietary Guidelines disinvited from speaking at the 2016 National Food Policy Conference [Updated: Read the UK responses to Bonnie Liebman’s email re: CSPI / Nina Teicholz retraction letter by clicking here]

Nina Teicholz, journalist and author of The Big Fat Surprise, has been disinvited – or perhaps a more apt word would be “deplatformed”¹ – from a prestigious Washington, DC food policy panel. Politico reports that Teicholz, whose work challenges the science on diet and nutrition, has been replaced by Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research & Education. If nothing else, Storey’s pro-carb perspective will make for an agreeable talk.

Margo Wootan, Director of Nutrition Policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and National Food Policy Conference panelist, reportedly said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work” – citing a letter that was sent to the BMJ requesting the retraction of Teicholz’s Sept. 23, 2015 article, The scientific report guiding the US Dietary Guidelines: is it scientific?, which strongly criticised the methodology and findings of the 2015 dietary guidelines report.

The Nov. 5, 2015 letter was organised by Wootan’s CSPI colleague, Director of Nutrition Bonnie Liebman, via an email that was circulated among more than 180 university professors and graduates from the United States and elsewhere. For a sense of the slipshod organisation and uncritical thinking that went into the preparation of the letter, click here for Liebman’s original email plus a sample of the responses, which I obtained via a records request to Queen’s University, Belfast.

If you believe public debate should include dissenting voices, click here to sign a petition to reinstate Teicholz on the panel at the National Food Policy Conference on April 6-7.

See also: Disappearing Act: 18 co-signers of BMJ retraction request letter are now MIA, which I co-authored with Atlanta, GA reporter Peter M. Heimlich last December.

¹Deplatforming means disinviting a speaker at the insistence of a special interest group, and is traditionally the domain of hypersensitive undergrads, as seen last October when students at Cardiff University (UK) petitioned to cancel a lecture by iconic feminist Germaine Greer.

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2 thoughts on “No Room for Debate”

  1. The emails are interesting because it appears that people were asked to sign the retraction letter upon being given a hostile interpretation of a statements in Teicholz’ review, rather than being asked to read and assess the entire document before signing a letter demanding its retraction.
    Most of the people signing the retraction letter are unlikely to have read or checked the BMJ article in full. It took me long enough to read it.
    Most of the diet-heart meta-analysis studies in the public record contain data-extraction or mathematical errors, usually minor, sometimes affecting the results. None of these studies have been retracted or corrected. Scholars largely take them at face value, and the DGAC and CSPI use them uncritically to promote their agendas. There is a list of such errors and ambiguities here. http://www.stevenhamley.com.au/2015/03/the-figures-used-in-meta-analyses.html
    Ultimately the few inaccuracies in Nina Teicholz’ review were minor, the conclusions remained sound, and it is the many accuracies that still need to be addessed. A debate would have been a good way to air all these issues.

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