Dr Carrie Ruxton responds to the Times and Herald articles
A few media outlets have recently printed stories about my freelance activities which have the potential to mislead on my integrity and transparency. It could be interpreted from these stories that I am not fit to be a member of the Food Standards Scotland Board because I also undertake consultancy work. On the contrary, my long-term and broad experience of the food industry – working with nearly 100 different companies and trade bodies since 2004 – as well as my track record in the public sector writing obesity strategies and audits, have given me the knowledge to serve effectively on the Food Standards Scotland Board since April 2015.
Since beginning my public service on the Scottish Food Advisory Committee (2007-14), I have published quarterly declarations of interests. These go well beyond the minimum required by listing the types of work that I carry out for clients, such as chairing meetings between companies and consumer groups to enable discussion on ingredients, advertising and labelling, or advising manufacturers about evidence, reformulation, portion sizing and health claims. Since joining the board, I have taken care to ensure that my work does not involve the promotion of dietary messages that conflict with those of Food Standards Scotland. In addition, I am not involved in lobbying.
Up until now, no-one has expressed any concerns about this work and the Chairman of Food Standards Scotland has been aware of my freelance activities since appointing me.
The newspaper articles also wrote, incorrectly, that I have opposed the soft drinks industry levy. In fact, along with my Board colleagues in January 2016, we invited the Scottish Government to explore how best to introduce a sugar tax or levy and that is minuted. Doubts that I had expressed prior to that, about the likely effectiveness, have been resolved by publication of the legislation and the evidence provided by Public Health England.
A further Herald article raised an issue with a systematic review I wrote in 2007 - seven years prior to joining the Board of Food Standards Scotland. Published in Critical Reviews in Food Science and Nutrition, this found a link between sugary drinks and weight gain, but no statistically significant associations between sugar intake and body mass index/weight gain, blood lipids or metabolic syndrome. The newspaper's criticism of my conclusions is unwarranted as these were evidence-based and, indeed, similar to those published in 2015 by the Government's Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/sacn-carbohydrates-and-health-report
To conclude, I remain committed to serving on the Food Standards Scotland board to the best of my ability. My extensive and broad experience in the food industry helps me to do this and will always be fully declared, as has been the case since 2007.