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academy of nutrition and dietetics



Conflict of Interest Colored Dietitians’ Annual Food and Nutrition Conference

Sponsorships are generally beneficial and non-controversial. They’re a way to keep doing business without having to worry about funds. But what happens when those sponsorships are in direct conflict with the mission of the sponsored?

AND sponsors

When this happens in the field of dietetics, advocacy groups like Dietitians for Professional Integrity (DFPI) are formed. Founded in February by a group of citizens and 14 dietitians, they were primarily a Facebook group discussing concerns like the connection between the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and Big Food.

Last month AND held their annual Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo. DFPI attended the event, commonly referred to as FNCE, and have now released a report entitled “The Food Ties that Bind,” summarizing and detailing the message Big Food shared with the attendees.

According to the report, the Expo hall was liberally peppered with information from AND’s various partners and sponsors, including but not limited to: Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, Unilever, General Mills, PepsiCo and the National Dairy Council. Corporate sponsors of FNCE had the opportunity to include “educational materials” in the tote bag provided to each attendee.

One handout, “Aspartame: One of the Most Studied Ingredients in the World,” was provided by Coca-Cola’s Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness. It detailed how long aspartame has existed and stated that it is used in 100+ countries around the world. It failed to include information from a recent study that found artificial sweeteners can alter the food reward-system response in the brain. This after Coca-Cola got blasted for being the health and wellness sponsor at BlogHer by the social media community.
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Big Food’s Deep Pockets Have Infiltrated the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, and RDs Won’t Stand for It

The Lorax isn’t directly connected with the dietetic field, but if he speaks for the trees then they are speaking for the health of humanity. The Lorax’s sage words, “Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not,” could be the motto of a recently formed group called Dietitians for Professional Integrity.

For now their presence is largely on Facebook and they’re working together, with both dietitians and concerned citizens, to make sure the field’s largest trade organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), hears not just their complaints but their calls to action.

apple and money

See, the AND accepts sponsorship dollars to keep their organization rolling. But Andy Bellatti, creator of Dietitians for Professional Integrity, and his colleagues are calling bull – these sponsorships are paid for by the very brands these professionals are working hard against.

“Our main initiative is to have the Academy cut ties with its current sponsors,” noted Bellatti.

When you take a look at their on-going corporate sponsors, that’s where you can see how these dietitians are saying the AND “soils the good name of registered dietitians,” according to our Mary Hartley, RD.

Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Hershey, Abbott Nutrition (which produces Similac), General Mills, and Kellogg’s are some of the organization’s major sponsors. It’s cause for red flags amongst the organization’s members and the citizens who support this movement.

“The big picture issue is how Coca-Cola teaches webinars to RDs, how McDonald’s serves lunch at the California Dietetic Association conference, and how PepsiCo and Coca-Cola are financial contributors to the Academy’s Evidence Analysis Library,” declared Bellatti. To that, Monsanto sponsored the New York State Dietetic Association’s annual meeting.

“The organization chooses to align itself with these brands. It’s misguided,” he said. “It makes us look tone deaf during a public health crisis.”
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Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Relationships with Big Food Soil the Good Name of Registered Dietitians

A couple of bad reviews on Yelp can put a restaurant out of business. It’s called a reputation crisis. Registered dietitians (RDs) face a reputation crisis due to the actions of their parent organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). AND is being called out for having close ties to the food industry. For their nutrition conferences and events, AND accepts sponsorship from big food and beverage corporations. Sponsorship gives the appearance of conflict of interest, and in reputation management, perception is everything.

apple money

It started last October when lawyer/author Michele Simon released a report, “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors.” She called out AND for having close ties to Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Mars, and the like because those companies sponsor their continuing education activities. Soon, celebrity nutritionists like Marion Nestle and Dr. Mercola were writing about “How the Junk Food Industry Controls Registered Dietitians.” And then, this month, another incident made the New York Times, Food Politics Creates Rift in Panel on Labeling. More negative press. I fear AND has sullied my unblemished reputation.
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