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Commercial interests, agenda setting, and the epistemic trustworthiness of nutrition science

  • Saana JukolaEmail author
S.I.: Philosophy of Epidemiology


The trustworthiness of nutrition science has been questioned recently. According to the critics, the food industry has corrupted scientists in the field. I argue that the worries that commercialization threatens the epistemic trustworthiness of nutrition science are indeed well-founded. However, it is problematic that the discussion has revolved around how funding can threaten the integrity of researchers and the methodological quality of the studies. By extending Wilholt’s (Br J Philos Sci 64(2):233–253, 2013) account of epistemic trustworthiness, I argue that when assessing the epistemic trustworthiness of research that forms the basis for different health policy measures, it is necessary to evaluate research at the macro-level and whether agenda setting advances the goals that are assigned to the field. The prevalence of commercial funding becomes problematic if it leads to a situation where the body of available evidence that is used for making health policy decisions does not reflect the shared sense of what epistemic and non-epistemic goals of the inquiry are important.


Nutrition research Trustworthiness Social epistemology Conflicts of interests Bias 



This research was funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG, German Research Foundation)—Project 254954344/GRK2073. I thank the anonymous reviewers as well as Stefano Canali, Martin Carrier, David Hopf, Marie Kaiser, Rui Maia, Cornelis Menke, Anja Pichl, Rose Trappes, and Roel Visser for their helpful comments and criticism.


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© Springer Nature B.V. 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyBielefeld UniversityBielefeldGermany
  2. 2.Department of PhilosophyUniversity of JohannesburgJohannesburgSouth Africa

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