Breakfast study mischaracterized funding by cereal group

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PLOS ONE has quickly corrected an October analysis of what children in Malaysia eat for breakfast, after the study neglected to note it benefited from mistakenly noted an unrestricted research grant from cereal companies supported author salaries. The grant supported the salaries of research assistants, according to the correction note.

Per the authors’ request, the journal has noted that the study received financial support from Nestlé R&D Center in Singapore and Cereal Partners Worldwide, a collaboration between General Mills Inc. and Nestlé S.A., with the goal of selling cereal outside the US and Canada. These funders provided “salaries for research assistants” for the MyBreakfast study, on which the analysis is based, according to the note.

The paper includes authors affiliated with Nestlé and Cereal Partners Worldwide, as well as a detailed “Competing interests” section, which outlines the relationships with these companies.

The correction note explains the information that should have appeared in the funding section of the article:

The correct funding information is as follows: The Nutrition Society of Malaysia received an unrestricted research grant from Cereal Partners Worldwide, Switzerland and Nestleé R&D Center, Singapore. This financial support was provided in the form of salaries for research assistants but the funders did not have any additional role in the study design, data collection and analysis or decision to publish. The specific roles of these authors are articulated in the “author contributions” section.

It also notes a spelling mistake, which affects the citation:

The sixth author’s name is spelled incorrectly. The correct name is: Mahenderan Appukutty. The correct citation is: AK N, Koo HC, JM HJ, MT MN, Tan SY, Appukutty M, et al. (2015) Whole Grain Intakes in the Diets Of Malaysian Children and Adolescents–Findings from the MyBreakfast Study. PLoS ONE 10(10): e0138247. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0138247

A PLOS One spokesperson told us that the authors requested the correction:

The authors requested the update to the Funding statement and correct citation for the sixth author, which are covered in the Correction.

Nestlé Breakfast Cereals produced a video about the MyBreakfast study. The paper notes that “diets rich in whole grain are associated with several health benefits,” and concludes that children in Malaysia aren’t eating enough of them:

Whole grain is consumed by only a minority of Malaysian children and adolescents and even among consumers, intakes are well below recommendations. Efforts are needed to firstly understand the barriers to whole grain consumption among Malaysian children in order to design effective health promotion initiatives to promote an increase in whole grain consumption.

The article has not been cited, according to Thomson Scientific’s Web of Knowledge.

We contacted first author Norimah A. Karim, who works at the National University of Malaysia, for more information.

Editor’s note 12/21/15 3:03 p.m. eastern: We initially misinterpreted the correction note, and originally reported that the study had omitted the funding information entirely. After posting, a spokesperson for the journal alerted us to the error, which has been fixed in the title and first sentence of the story.

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2 thoughts on “Breakfast study mischaracterized funding by cereal group”

  1. Doesn’t RW’s revision of this post amount to a “mega-correction,” which might better have been a full retraction? Granted, RW is journalism, not science. The same standards don’t necessarily apply. Still, RW’s correction completely changes the sense and implications of its original post.

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