And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: New Report from Eat Drink Politics

January 23, 2013 – For Immediate Release

Public health attorney and author Michele Simon asks: Are America’s nutrition professionals in the pocket of Big Food? While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ 74,000-member trade group partners with the likes of Coke and Hershey’s, the nation’s health continues to suffer from poor diet.

The largest trade group of nutrition professionals—the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics—has a serious credibility problem. In a damning report released today, industry watchdog Eat Drink Politics examines the various forms of corporate sponsorship by Big Food that are undermining the integrity of those professionals most responsible for educating Americans about healthy eating.

The report details, for example, how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children and how Nestlé, the world’s largest food company can pay $50,000 to host a two-hour “nutrition symposium” at the Academy’s annual meeting. Additional disturbing findings from the report include:

  • Beginning in 2001, the Academy listed 10 food industry sponsors; the 2011 annual report lists 38, a more than three-fold increase;
  • Companies on the Academy’s list of approved continuing education providers include Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo;
  • At the 2012 annual meeting, 18 organizations – less than five percent of all exhibitors – captured 25 percent of the total exhibitor space. Only two out of the 18 represented whole, non-processed foods;
  • The Corn Refiners Association (lobbyists for high fructose corn syrup) sponsored three “expo impact” sessions at the 2012 annual meeting;
  • A majority of registered dietitians surveyed found three current Academy sponsors “unacceptable” (Coca-Cola, Mars, and PepsiCo);
  • 80 percent of registered dietitians said sponsorship implies Academy endorsement of that company and their products;
  • The Academy has not supported controversial nutrition policies that might upset corporate sponsors, such as limits on soft drink sizes, soda taxes, or GMO labels;
  • Sponsors and their activities appear to violate the Academy’s own sponsorship guidelines.

Among the report’s recommendations are for the Academy to: 1) provide greater transparency on corporate funding sources; 2) gather input from all members on corporate sponsorship; 3) reject all corporate-sponsored education; and 4) provide better leadership on controversial nutrition policy issues. Registered dietitian and Academy member Andy Bellatti, who has long criticized his professional group’s conflicted corporate sponsorships said:

Michele Simon’s report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is thoroughly researched and expertly points out the different ways in which the nation’s leading nutrition organization harms its reputation, efficacy, and members by forming partnerships with food companies that care more about selling products than they do about improving the health of Americans. Anyone concerned about public health will realize that the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is in dire need of systemic change if it hopes to take a leadership role and be taken seriously as the home base of the nation’s nutrition experts.

Report links:

Contact: Michele Simon at (510) 465-0322 or Michele@EatDrinkPolitics.com

43 Responses to “And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: New Report from Eat Drink Politics”

  1. David Driscoll says:

    While the association is worrying, the suggestion that dietitians are in the pocket of these companies is a bit of a stretch? Doesn’t the fact that such a large number object to the sponsorships suggest that? Is there any suggestion that members accept the messages from the sponsors that the question the appropriateness of? Anti-science campaigners similarly tie together association and conference sponsorships by drug companies as a reason to distrust doctors on subjects such as vaccination. Would you support this view purely because a governing body made a decison that its members themselves may not agree with?

    • David Salter says:

      Industry does not invest money unless it expects a return. These companies invest in these organisations so they can exert influence, in the same way that pharmaceutical companies invest in medical schools, so they can influence the curriculum, and prevent new findings from being accepted, such as the now established FACT, that cholesterol and saturated fat do not cause heart disease – but still doctors are taught otherwise. You have to be quite stupid to not realize why this is only good for corrupt industry and very bad for the rest of us.

  2. Barbara Carlson says:

    As an RD, just because a company “tells” me sugar is not a problem…does not mean that I accept that assertion. Education in dietetics is far more comprehensive than the few CEU’s available at FNCE. RD’s are trained to use evidence based medicine and I can explain to any company the biochemistry of simple sugars and the negative impact on health of their use at current levels.
    Early in the 20th century, Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle helped us focus on safe production and preservation of food. That book was a positive impact and brought nutrition professionals, veterinarians and physicians into discussion with companies. We are all better off because of those relationships.
    There absolutely needs to be oversight…but alienation, and separation will achieve nothing. How sad that collaboration is viewed as all problem and not a potential to solving current health concerns.

    • Adam says:

      So you’re saying it’s acceptable to belong to an organization which is a burnt out, looted shell of what it’s supposed to be ? Everything is okay because “you don’t accept assertions” ?

      These conflicts of interest trickle their way down into the daily existence of everyone that maintains an R.D credential on this planet and furthermore the situation has installed a pretty low, corporate built ceiling on what that group can even hope to accomplish in the long term.

      It’s mediocrity by design…

  3. Dr C says:

    Yes the companies that profit from poor nutrition should not be part of the continuing education of our patient’s nutritional educators. Yes the similarly cozy relationship between pharma and medical societies creates similar health catastrophes.

    By choosing where to focus the limited attention of our medical professionals, these highly profitable pathogens expand their market shares and delay slightly the coming backlash.

    • Jennifer M. says:

      I think you are spot on with what you are saying. It is frustrating for me to see where so much sponsorship money comes from and also shows what whopping profits these companies are making while slowly poisoning our food system and our population. I think its insulting that whomever is making these decisions to accept financial sponsorship would even consider allowing these companies, who have NOTHING to do with health, anywhere near the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics!
      I support corporations and individuals alike being successful financially, however it behooves me to see inappropriate behavior and decisions making when large sums of money start to come into play. Most often clear thinking often goes out the window with thoughts of creating big cushy salaries for the Board.
      It would be beneficial for the Academy to pull all sponsorships and actually focus on learning how eating real food can make you healthy and learning what real food is. Possibly they can do a 180 and tour some organic farms, get some fresh new doctors and nutritionists who have proven success treating disease with diet and supplements.
      I can’t help but link this into what is so apparent in our country, its hard not to see the correlation of how corporate sponsorships are to this academy; big pharma sponsorships are to physicians; USDA subsidies are to big agro and the beat goes on.
      Times they really need to change and if we change one person at a time and each own our part we may make great strides. Thanks again for writing what is true.

      • Wendy says:

        You said it so well. I have known about this corruption for years and it is frustrating to know that these companies have us right where they want us. There is a similar hidden story going on with the horrific animal industry. If people knew, or cared to know, they would not support it. Eating a whole foods, plant based diet does wonders for human health, animal welfare, and the health of the planet. But then those companies won’t make as much money.

  4. [...] and should be called on the carpet and scrutinized. Public Health Attorney Michelle Simon’s damning report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetic’s Big Food sponsors was just released this [...]

  5. Julian Skinner says:

    Any group which wishes to advise people on healthy eating needs to guard their credibility with the utmost vigilance. Particularly in an environment in which people can see all around them that something is not working, more and more people they know are getting sick. Dietitians have to be particularly careful because they have been pushing low fat, high carb and exercise as though they were proven techniques when in fact the evidence is very thin for them. They have to realise they are not the only game in town. People are generally better educated than they were 30 years ago, they can weigh evidence for themselves. Most importantly they can easily access the studies and meta analyses online and form their own conclusions. Given these considerations plus the fact that dietitians themselves are uneasy about the association, it seems perverse to me that AND is still having anything to do with processed food companies.

  6. Jennifer McCandless, RD says:

    It is important to remember that AND is not the only source of the latest nutrition and dietetic scientific research, there are alternatives; ASN, for example.

    • David Salter says:

      I don’t know this as fact, but I would assume that the junk food industry has infiltrated every single health agency.

  7. In the world of science, mere association is not basis for establishing cause or effect. My guess is that lawyers have had much more influence on the current state of our dismal food supply.

  8. [...] friend sent me the below email response, sent to a colleague of his who inquired about my recent report on corporate sponsorship of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the nation’s trade group [...]

  9. [...] are the media outlets and blogs that covered my report released last month on the conflicted corporate sponsorships of the Academy of Nutrition and [...]

  10. [...] the response he’d seen to Michele’s report. Here’s that post: Michele Simon’s hard-hitting report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ corporate sponsorship was released last month. [...]

  11. [...] garbage that is not healthy?  Companies such as Nestle, Coca Cola and Kraft?  Michele Simon has a great report discussing the matter.  It really puts a stain on traditional dietetics in this [...]

  12. [...] the first few days after my report on the conflicted corporate sponsorship of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the [...]

  13. [...] her latest report And Now a Word From Our Sponsors, public health attorney and author Michele Simon questions the impact of the Academy of Nutrition [...]

  14. [...] that said, Michele Simon’s report, And Now A Word From Our Sponsors, hit a chord with me. It’s no secret that The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics works [...]

  15. [...] the report I recently released, (covered by the New York Times) “And Now a Word from Our [...]

  16. [...] the release of public health lawyer Michele Simon’s report on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ corporate partnerships last month, the Registered Dietitian community has had much to talk about. A recent Twitter chat [...]

  17. W.B. Wolf says:

    Isn’t the FTC supposed to enforce the law(s) regulating “truth in advertising”? How can these companies get away with marketing processed food like Reese’s as “whole grain” or use any other euphemism for “healthy” on their labels or advertising to attract children and the ill-informed?

  18. [...] from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics LinkedIn group after expressing support for my report on the organization’s questionable corporate sponsors. (See previous post on a similar [...]

  19. [...] Michele Simon’s report on AND was released earlier this year, the issue of these problematic partnerships became a national topic of conversation and helped [...]

  20. [...] into consideration that the start of group total overall health lawyer Michele Simon’s report on the Academy of Diet regime and Dietetics’ firm partnerships quite very last 30 working day interval, the Registered Dietitian team has seasoned noticeably to [...]

  21. [...] and his peers was a report published in January by public health attorney Michele Simon entitled, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors. The report asks, “Are America’s nutrition professionals in the pocket of Big Food?” [...]

  22. [...] — the people you turn to for credible advice, as the recent report from Eat Drink Politics, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?, amply [...]

  23. [...] story just won’t die, the  current issue of the Progressive takes an in-depth look at my report from January on the conflicted corporate sponsorships of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. [...]

  24. [...] This came on the heels of the release of public health lawyer Michele Simon’s thorough report “And Now A Word From Our Sponsors,” which took an in-depth look at the Academy’s Big Food ties, making national [...]

  25. [...] This came on the heels of the release of public health lawyer Michele Simon’s thorough report “And Now A Word From Our Sponsors,” which took an in-depth look at the academy’s Big Food ties, making national [...]

  26. [...] This came on the heels of the release of public health lawyer Michele Simon’s thorough report “And Now A Word From Our Sponsors,” which took an in-depth look at the academy’s Big Food ties, making national [...]

  27. | DineKind says:

    [...] This came on the heels of the release of public health lawyer Michele Simon’s thorough report “And Now A Word From Our Sponsors,” which took an in-depth look at the Academy’s Big Food ties, making national [...]

  28. [...] disturbing,” pronounced Michele Simon, an author and open health counsel who in Jan published an expansive report criticizing a Academy’s sponsorship arrangements. “This is a contention whose pursuit it is to [...]

  29. [...] disturbing,” said Michele Simon, an author and public health lawyer who in January published an expansive report criticizing the Academy’s sponsorship arrangements. “This is a profession whose job it is to [...]

  30. [...] January, I released a report called, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket [...]

  31. [...] organizations like the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) have soda companies as sponsors?   Registered dietitians point out they are one of the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math [...]

  32. [...] The report details, for example, how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children and how Nestlé, the world’s largest food company can pay $50,000 to host a two-hour “nutrition symposium” at the Academy’s annual meeting. (source) [...]

  33. [...] The report details, for example, how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children and how Nestlé, the world’s largest food company can pay $50,000 to host a two-hour “nutrition symposium” at the Academy’s annual meeting. (source) [...]

  34. [...] the people you turn to for credible advice, as the recent report from Eat Drink Politics, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?, amply [...]

  35. [...] “Cap the Tap” is a perfect example of the doublespeak that Big Food and Big Soda often employ. The carefully calculated veneer of wanting to be “part of the solution” and “offering choices” to consumers is negated by efforts like this one, which basically paints tap water as an enemy to be defeated. Of course, the health-conscious facade has some benefits (one perk of partnering with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is that Coca-Cola can teach continuing education webinars to dietitians). [...]

  36. [...] The report details, for example, how registered dietitians can earn continuing education units from Coca-Cola, in which they learn that sugar is not a problem for children and how Nestlé, the world’s largest food company can pay $50,000 to host a two-hour “nutrition symposium” at the Academy’s annual meeting. (source) [...]

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