Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Should Coca Cola, PepsiCo, and Mars Sponsor the American Dietetic Association?

Aren't we supposed to trust Registered Dietitians?  There's no way nutrition or dietetic associations would be swayed by the influence of "Big Food" industry giants, is there?

I may have a good answer for that question, and it involves (surprise!) money.

Eat Drink Politics (which is author Michele Simon's website dedicated to "Countering Industry Harm to Improve Public Health,") recently released a very thorough report about the corporate sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the new name for the American Dietetic Association).

The report's main point is that notorious industry giants (like Coca Cola, McDonald's, and Nestle) are influencing the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (or AND), mainly through direct advertising at Academy conventions and "continuing education" courses sponsored by particular companies.

I strongly encourage you to at least browse through the summary of the report (see the tab "Executive Summary" on the Eat Drink Politics' home page).  Although it appears that many Registered Dietitians (RD's) do not approve of some of the corporate sponsors, these huge companies are still in a position to drastically influence the opinions of the dietitians who attend AND events.

Some of the more disturbing items in the report:
  • Coca Cola and other companies can pay to conduct "continuing education" seminars at the AND's annual conference, where they, among other things, defend the safety of sugar and aspartame consumption for children and claim that the federal guidelines for school lunches are really too restrictive (what?!).
  • At the AND's annual conference, the expo hall (you know, the big room where you can wander around and sample things from the corporate sponsors) was dominated by "big food" companies, while tiny booths with real food representatives were squeezed into corners and along the edges.
  • Since these companies are sponsors of the AND, they can put its logo on their products, along with proud claims about how they are partnering with the AND to help support healthy lifestyles.  I'm sure you can picture that kind of label on a box of cereal - this report paints a vivid picture of what that corporate sponsorship actually looks like from the perspective of RD's.
Now, dietitians are intelligent grown-ups who are free to make their own choices about whether McDonald's is really a "healthy choice" for children.  But this type of ridiculously blatant corporate manipulation helps explain the dire health of our nation today.  Dietitians receiving "continuing education" from Coca Cola?  And we wonder why we can't beat childhood obesity?

Fortunately, the report lays out some very clear suggestions for the AND, which, if followed, could drastically improve the credibility of the organization.  In the meantime, please share this information!  In ethical health and nutrition, as in so many things, the first step toward recovery is admitting that you have a problem.

What do you think about "Big Food"'s influence on dietetics and nutrition?  Do you think removal of these corporate sponsors might possibly urge the AND toward accepting more Traditional Food/Real Food values?

Posted at Simple Lives Thursday, Healthy 2day Wednesday, Your Green Resource, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Thank Your Body Thursday, Fresh Foods Wednesday, WFMW, Fight Back Friday, Small Footprint Fridays


  1. of course not. it's green washing.

    it's like my mother always said, "unless they walk the talk, it means nothing". actions speak louder than words - and as long as coke, pepsico and mars are still selling sugar laden, heavily processed, non-real food stuffs, they're full of high-fructose corn syrup. in other words, shit.

    thanks for sharing with us at the wednesday fresh foods link up. i look forward to seeing what other seasonal & real/whole food posts you have for us next week!! xo, kristy

    1. I totally agree with you. Also, it calls into question the reliability of our dietitians, don't you think? Not that many of them are not upstanding professionals with high integrity, but having the "Big Food" propaganda pumped into their brains as part of their continuing education certainly doesn't seem wise! Thanks for stopping by!

  2. A dietitian does not have to be a member of the dietetic association (AND) to practice professionally. You do need licensure and registration but do not have to be a member. So maybe you want to ask your dietitian if they are one...because the reasons some of us are not are precisely because of what you mentioned above.

    1. Thank you so much for your input, Lise! I assume you're a dietitian? It is encouraging to hear from you that many in your field are very concerned about that type of funding!


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