Trevor Butterworth

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Trevor Butterworth is former fellow at a defunct corporate front group called Statistical Assessment Service and the current Executive Director for Sense About Science USA.[1] Reporters with the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that Butterworth was an "impassioned defender" of the chemical BPA who "regularly combs the Internet for stories about BPA and offers comments without revealing his ties to industry."[2] The Intercept reported that Butterworth's defense of the chemical industry has "reverberated across an echo chamber of free-market organizations, including Philip Morris’s product defense law firm, Koch-funded think tanks, chemical and food-packaging industry trade groups in Europe and the U.S., and an ostensibly neutral environmental health research foundation run by a chemical industry PR firm."[3] Butterworth has also defended the soda industry against taxes and sought to create disinformation that is beneficial to the pharmaceutical industry.[4][5]


Reporting duo Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust led a four month investigation of the chemical industry's attempts to delay regulation of BPA. [6] In one story they noted that Trevor Butterworth was part of a "stealth public relations campaign" to defend the chemical industry. In one instance, they uncovered a 2006 article in Chemical Week magazine where Butterworth explained his thinking: "Companies need to develop a public information policy that is proactive in educating the public and tackling the claims of activist groups in real time," Butterworth said. "Most of the companies are like a deer in the headlights, and traditional PR is useless in dealing with these problems."[7]

Kissinger and Rust won a George Polk Award for this reporting on BPA.[8]

Reporting on BPA in 2008, the Washington Post's Annys Shinn wrote that the FDA “ignored scientific evidence and used flawed methods when it determined that a chemical widely used in baby bottles and in the lining of cans is not harmful” Trevor Butterworth called the story “a pre-emptive attack on the credibility of the scientific review by members of its oversight board.” [9] In 2009, Consumers Union released a report finding BPA in several canned foods. [10] STATS told NBC Nightly News that “today's Consumer Union research is seriously flawed, the risk overstated.” [11] When Mariah Blake broke a story in Mother Jones about FDA corruption regarding BPA, Butterworth referred to the article as part of “the never-ending chemical scare story of the 21st century.” [12]

For The Intercept, Liza Gross wrote that Butterworth published a 27,000-word investigation sharply questioning the validity of the scientific studies and news reports about BPA’s health effects, and that the Statistical Assessment Service had ties to the tobacco industry through an affiliated nonprofit. [13] In 2017, European chemicals agency (Echa) voted unanimously that bisphenol A (BPA) was an endocrine disruptor linking it to a range of hormone-twisting health effects including cancer, learning difficulties and diabetes. [14]

Butterworth has also defended DuPont, stating that charge PFOA is dangerous is a type of "antiscience".[15] When legislators sought to ban pthalates, Butterworth wrote that it was "a classic case of bad environmentalism."[16] Butterworth's colleague Rebecca Goldin has also defended pthalates.[17]


The Statistical Assessment Service hosted an entire webpage devoted to undermining the science linking sodas with obesity while attacking the benefits of taxing soda that was written by Trevor Butterworth and edited by Rebecca Goldin. [18]

Research from UCLA has found a direct link between soda and obesity.[19] Trevor Butterworth later ridiculed the future director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for writing in the New England Journal of Medicine that "a penny-per-ounce excise tax could reduce consumption of sugared sodas by more than 10%."[20] Butterworth also denigrated a tax on sodas that was being considered by NYC, writing for Forbes that "the ban is unlikely to have any impact on obesity—and even if it does, it will be too small to be measurable or, rather, won’t be measured at all. The evidence that soda has been the lead driver of the obesity epidemic is larded with assertion rather than hard data." [21]

NPR reported that the World Health Organization urged countries to tax sodas. Dr. Douglas Bettcher, director of the WHO's Department for the Prevention of Noncommunicable Diseases, says that "consumption of free sugars, including products like sugary drinks, is a major factor in the global increase of people suffering from obesity and diabetes." Blecher stated, "If governments tax products like sugary drinks, they can reduce suffering and save lives. They can also cut healthcare costs and increase revenues to invest in health services."[22] Researchers at UCLA later confirmed the importance of a soda tax, writing, "Educating people to drink fewer sugar-sweetened beverages only works to a point. After that, taxation on an unhealthy product — along with putting those taxes toward public health programs — would help far more.”[23]

When research began to show that diet soda might not help with weight loss, Trevor attacked researcher Susan Swithers, a psychologist at Purdue University in Indiana.[24] Writing for the Wall Street Journal, Yale Cardiologist Harlan Krumholz wrote that he would no longer drink diet sodas because they may disturb metabolism and cause weight gain. Krumholz also wrote that other researchers at Yale warned that artificial sweeteners also affect hormone secretion, cognitive processes and gut microbia.[25]


Writing for the Statistical Assessment Service, Butterworth criticized reporters Jeanne Lenzer and Shannon Brownlee for a 2008 story that examined unreported industry ties in a story broadcast on the radio program “The Infinite Mind.” [26] Months later, The New York Times reported that Dr. Frederick K. Goodwin, the host of “The Infinite Mind”, earned at least $1.3 million from 2000 to 2007 giving marketing lectures for drugmakers, income not mentioned on the program. [27] NPR later cancelled their syndication of “The Infinite Mind”. [28] NPR's vice president for programming said, "You can't be talking about the efficacy of certain drugs and at the same time be in the business of making money off those drugs. It is stark, and it is clear. She continued "I think there are times when revealing your involvement on a certain front is an acceptable form of disclosure. In this case, it is decidedly not." [29]

Writing for Forbes in 2012, Trevor Butterworth dismissed the dangers of opioids, arguing that the era of oxycontin abuse was over and critics "turned opioids into a straw man for America’s problems with addiction, and salted the media with pharma-doctor conspiracy theories.[30] Multiple media outlets later reported how payments to drug makers helped to fuel the opioid crisis.[31][32] Purdue Pharma, the maker of Oxycontin, later announced it would stop marketing opioids to doctors.[33]

Butterworth also wrote a report that attempted to downplay the bias of industry-funded studies that experts cite as one cause of the Vioxx scandal.[34] Reports in The BMJ noted that Merck tried to obscure the dangers of Vioxx and researchers publishing studies on Vioxx did not always disclose their ties to the company.[35]

When a study in the New England Journal of Medicine found GlaxoSmithKline's diabetes drug Avandia to be associated with cardiac events, Congress began an investigation and Butterworth wrote "a muddled column that sought to characterize the congressional investigations as a 'partisan slugfest.'"[36] Butterworth also wrote a series of articles attacking The New York Times for their reporting on Avandia.[37][38][39]

The New York Times reported that Avandia “was linked to 304 deaths during the third quarter of 2009” and that several FDA safety officers demanded that it be removed from the market. [40] GlaxoSmithKline later plead guilty and paid $3 Billion to resolve fraud allegations, including one count of failing to report safety data about the drug Avandia to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). It was the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history[41] When FDA decided to lift restrictions on Avandia, a researcher wrote in The BMJ the decision “means further drug safety disasters may occur.” [42]


Desmog Blog, page on Statistical Assessment Service[43]

Article at STAT, linking Trevor Butterworth with the Genetic Literacy Project[44]

Trevor Butterworth and Sense About Science Spin Science for Industry[45]

Analysis of Trevor Butterworth by authors of "Our Stolen Future"[46]


  1. Sense About Science USA website, accessed February 2018,
  2. Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2009
  3. Liza Gross, SEEDING DOUBT How Self-Appointed Guardians of “Sound Science” Tip the Scales Toward Industry, The Intercept, November 15, 2016
  4. Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2009
  5. Paul D. Thacker, STAT, January 30, 2018
  6. Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2009
  7. Meg Kissinger and Susanne Rust, The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, August 22, 2009
  8. Robert D. McFadden, The New York Times, FEB. 16, 2009 For Their Risk-Taking, Journalists Garner Polk Awards
  9. Trevor Butterworth, STATS, Media being spun in attack on FDA's credibility over BPA? October 29, 2008
  10. NBC Nightly News, BPA Found in Wide Range of Canned Foods, November 3, 2009
  11. NBC Nightly News, BPA Found in Wide Range of Canned Foods, November 3, 2009
  12. Trevor Butterwroth, Forbes, BPA: The Scientists, The Scare, The 100-Million Dollar Surge? April 9, 2014
  13. Liza Gross, SEEDING DOUBT How Self-Appointed Guardians of “Sound Science” Tip the Scales Toward Industry, The Intercept, November 15, 2016
  14. Arthur Neslen, The Guardian, U moves to restrict hormone-disrupting chemical found in plastics June 16, 2017
  15. Trevor Butterworth, Teflon Is Not Forever: Why the Editors of Mother Jones Need To Be Hit Over the Head with a Frying Pan, STATS, 2 May, 2007
  16. Trevor Butterworth, Bad Environmentalism Triumphs in California: Dems Gun for Rubber Ducks, Huffington Post, September 6, 2007
  17. Rebecca Goldin, Toy Tantrums - The Debate Over the Safety of Phthalates, STATS, January 30, 2006
  18. STATS website, accessed through WayBack Machine,
  19. University of California, Bubbling over: New research shows direct link between soda and obesity, September 17, 2009
  20. Trevor Butterworth, Can A Soda Tax Really Curb Obesity?, Forbes, SEP 16, 2009
  21. Trevor Butterworth, Mayor Bloomberg’s Soda Ban: Why It Won’t Work, Daily Beast, May 31, 2012
  22. Allison Aubrey, Tax Soda To Fight Obesity, WHO Urges Nations Around The Globe, October 11, 2016
  23. Ryan Hatoum, Do soda taxes help curb obesity?, UCLA, October 26, 2016
  24. Trevor Butterworth, Does diet soda actually make you gain weight?, The Week, July 12, 2013
  25. Harlan Krumholz, Why One Cardiologist Has Drunk His Last Diet Soda, The Wall Street Journal, September 14, 2017
  26. Trevor Butterworth, STATS, Prozac Wars: Slate versus “The Infinite Mind” May 12, 2008
  27. Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, Radio Host Has Drug Company Ties NOV. 21, 2008
  28. Jim Edward, CBS News: Money Watch, Fred Goodwin Loses NPR Gig Over GlaxoSmithKline Ties NOV. 21, 2008
  29. David Folkenflik, NPR, Controversy Follows Science Host's industry Ties, November 25, 2008
  30. Trevor Butterworth, Is The Era Of OxyContin Abuse Over?, Huffington Post, December 13, 2012
  31. Maggie Fox, NBC News, Many Doctors Get Goodies from Opioid Makers August 10, 2017
  32. Katie Zezima, The Washington Post, Study: Doctors received more than $46 million from drug companies marketing opioids August 9, 2017
  33. German Lopez, Vox, The maker of OxyContin will finally stop marketing the addictive opioid to doctors February 12, 2018
  34. Paul D. Thacker, STAT, January 30, 2018
  35. Harlan Krumholz, The BMJ, What have we learnt from Vioxx? January 8, 2007
  36. Paul D. Thacker, STAT, January 30, 2018
  37. Trevor Butterworth, New York Times Cherry Picks Data, Sources to Smear Avandia in Advance of FDA Hearing, STATS, July 27, 2007
  38. Trevor Butterworth, The Cost of Media Scare Stories to Diabetics , STATS, August 10, 2007
  39. Trevor Butterworth, New York Times Continues to Mislead on Avandia Risks, STATS, September 12, 2007
  40. Gardiner Harris, The New York Times, Research Ties Diabetes Drug to Heart Woes, February 19, 2010
  41. Department of Justic, GlaxoSmithKline to Plead Guilty and Pay $3 Billion to Resolve Fraud Allegations and Failure to Report Safety Data, July 2, 2012
  42. Steve Nissen, The BMJ, Rosiglitazone: a case of regulatory hubris, December 11, 2013
  43. Desmog Blog, Statistical Assessment Service (STATS), Accessed March 2018
  44. Paul D. Thacker, The pharmaceutical industry is no stranger to fake news, STAT, JANUARY 30, 2018
  45. US Right to Know, Page on Trevor Butterworth, Accessed March 2018
  46. Our Stolen Future, Uncovering a BPA poseur: Accessed March 2018