In Reply Clemens and Schmidt imply that a conflict of interest is synonymous with a lack of scientific integrity. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report concluded that no matter how careful an individual is, conflicts may compromise a scientist’s objective analysis consciously or unconsciously, potentially resulting in a poor decision.1
Clemens and Schmidt also assert, without substantiation, that transparency and conflicts of interest standards may “compromise food safety through empaneling less-experienced reviewers.” If true that too few competent scientists are without serious conflicts, perhaps the close-knit network that makes many of the determinations about additives to food “Generally Recognized as Safe” (GRAS) has become stagnant and needs to grow.
Neltner TG, Maffini MV. Conflicts of Interest in Approvals of Food Additives—Reply. JAMA Intern Med. 2014;174(2):300-301. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2013.12686