He listed himself as a consultant to Kraft in a 1992 memo he wrote.
Two years earlier, Gullotta co-authored a memo titled "Raison d'etre"--French for "reason for being." In it, he and his colleagues outlined the importance of their electrophysiological studies, in which they measured brain activity by hooking up electrodes to smokers' scalps. The research showed how much nicotine was needed in order to trigger a feeling of "impact" in smokers--a sensation that helps explain why cigarettes are addictive.
In the same memo, Gullotta noted that Kraft had expressed interest in his work on brain responses to tastes and smells "as a means of understanding flavor differences in certain products." Gullotta, who retired in 2002, did not return repeated phone calls seeking comment.
In general, Kraft's Daigler said it's not surprising some of its scientists "look for ways to exchange information, share best practices and identify efficiencies that reduce overall costs." She also noted, "There clearly was a shared interest among these employees in issues relating to flavor and aroma--issues that are relevant to a number of otherwise unrelated industries."
The primary goal of Kraft's research and development team, Daigler said, is "ensuring the safety and wholesomeness of our foods."
Still, Kraft and Philip Morris scientists traded ideas for studying the fine details of how the brain processes tastes and smells. A 1997 planning memo proposed investing in "neuroimaging," or brain scans, and research on sensory neuroreceptors, which are sites on brain cells that process smells and tastes. That synergy group included Jean Spence, now Kraft's research chief, and Dick Cox, Philip Morris USA's senior vice president for research and science.
The relationships between cigarette scientists and food researchers could play into the hands of plaintiffs' lawyers and their strategists. Among them is John Banzhaf, a law professor at George Washington University who has plotted legal strategies against the makers of cigarettes and foods. He said extensive research links might make it easier to convince juries that food companies share responsibility for the obesity crisis.
"It becomes relevant not only because they are the same company, siblings in effect, but the very same scientists, some in the very same laboratories, are working side by side," Banzhaf said.
Other lawyers who took on the tobacco industry said the companies' collaboration could startle consumers who don't realize how similar the research agendas at food and tobacco companies can be.
"What seems to be happening is these companies said, `Hey, you guys are sort of in the same business,'" said Richard Daynard, a law professor at Northeastern University in Boston who helped formulate strategies for suing food and cigarette companies.
Like cigarettes, he said, processed foods "are highly engineered to make the consumer react in a particular way."
Kraft says it is responding to concerns about obesity by reformulating products, revamping marketing and providing more information to its customers. Those efforts, Daigler said, "are far more constructive ... than any lawsuit could be."
She noted that nearly all of the documents the Tribune found were old and available to the public since the late 1990s.
Philip Morris has released few documents since 2001, making it difficult to determine whether or how the cigarette-maker and Kraft have collaborated in recent years.
But the earlier documents show that the researchers traded tips on a range of sensory technology. At an intra-company workshop in 2000, Philip Morris scientists presented their findings on the chemical composition of smoke while Kraft researchers lectured on how they used a tool called an "electronic nose"--capable of detecting the chemicals in odors--in work on Capri Sun fruit-flavored drinks.
Weighing in on addiction
The documents do not show that Kraft employees researched cigarette addiction, but one researcher offered her opinion on that controversial topic. Kraft scientist Dorothy Chou in 1994 offered cigarette executives ways to argue that nicotine was not addictive.
In the memo to Philip Morris USA's research director, Chou raised objections to calling cigarettes addictive. Unlike alcohol, depressants or Valium, "withdrawal from nicotine never threatens physical well-being," she wrote, noting that her boss at Kraft had recommended she send her opinion to Philip Morris.
Just two years earlier, Chou strongly recommended Philip Morris fund a university study to probe whether cigarette smoking had "beneficial effects on Alzheimer's patients." She suggested specific ways of using brain scans in the study.
Chou, who retired in 1996, referred questions to officials at Kraft.
TRIBUNE SPECIAL REPORT: A FOLLOW-UP
Where there's smoke, there might be food research, too
Documents indicate Kraft, Philip Morris shared expertise on how the brain processes tastes, smells
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