Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Credibility Questioned

Due to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics deep ties with the food industry, including such corporate giants as Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo, their genuine credibility as a nutritional organization is called into question.
By Michele Simon
February 13, 2013
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Do you love Sugar? Coca-Cola sponsored continuing education courses teach that: sugar is not harmful to children; aspartame is completely safe and the Institute of Medicine is too restrictive in its school nutrition standards. So why has the consumer's nutritional ally, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, teamed up with this mega corporation? 
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Reposted with permission from Eat Drink Politics.

By any measure, the nation is currently suffering from an epidemic of diet-related health problems. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, chronic diseases – such as heart disease, stroke, cancer, and diabetes – “are among the most common, costly, and preventable of all health problems.” Against this backdrop, we must ask: What is the role of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) — the nation’s largest association of nutrition professionals — in preventing or at least stemming the tide of diet-related health problems? What responsibility does this influential group of registered dietitians bear to be a leading advocate for policy changes to make eating healthfully more accessible? Does forming partnerships with the food industry compromise such a group’s credibility? And what does the food industry gain from such partnerships? Why does it matter? As this report will show, the food industry’s deep infiltration of the nation’s top nutrition organization raises serious questions not only about that profession’s credibility, but also about its policy positions. The nation is currently embroiled in a series of policy debates about how to fix our broken food system. A 74,000-member health organization has great potential to shape that national discourse – for better and for worse.

Findings:

  • Beginning in 2001, AND listed 10 food industry sponsors; the 2011 annual report lists 38, a more than three-fold increase.
  • The most loyal AND sponsor is the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, for 12 years running (2001-2012).
  • Processed food giants ConAgra and General Mills have been AND sponsors for 10 of the last 12 years. 
  •  Kellogg and the National Dairy Council have been AND sponsors for 9 of the last 12 years.
  • Companies on AND’s list of approved continuing education providers include Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo.
  • Among the messages taught in Coca-Cola sponsored continuing education courses are: sugar is not harmful to children;  aspartame is completely safe, including for children over one year; and the Institute of Medicine is too restrictive in its school nutrition standards.
  • At AND’s 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.
  • Based on square footage, only about 12 percent of the expo floor was taken up by fruit and vegetable vendors, using AND’s own generous classification.
  • The AND Foundation sells “nutrition symposia” sponsorships for $50,000 at the annual meeting. In 2012, Nestlé presented a session on “Optimal Hydration.”
  • The Corn Refiners Association (lobbyists for high fructose corn syrup) sponsored three “expo impact” sessions at the AND 2012 annual meeting.
  • Roughly 23 percent of annual meeting speakers had industry ties, although most of these conflicts were not disclosed in the program session description.
  • In an independent survey, 80 percent of registered dietitians said sponsorship implies Academy endorsement of that company and its products.
  • Almost all RDs surveyed (97 percent) thought the Academy should verify that a sponsor’s corporate mission is consistent with that of the Academy prior to accepting them.
  • A majority of RDs surveyed found three current AND sponsors “unacceptable.” (Coca-Cola, Mars, and PepsiCo.)
  • The AND lobbying agenda reveals mostly safe issues benefiting registered dietitians. To date, AND has not supported controversial nutrition policies that might upset corporate sponsors, such as limits on soft drink sizes, soda taxes, or GMO labels.
  • AND’s sponsors and their activities appear to violate AND’s own sponsorship guidelines.
  • In 2011, AND generated $1.85 million in sponsorship revenue, which represents about 5 percent the total revenue. This is down from 9 percent in both 2010 and 2009.
  • For the AND Foundation, corporate contributions were the single largest source of revenue in 2011: $1.3 million out of a total of $3.4 million or 38 percent.
  • In 2011, the AND Foundation reported more than $17 million in net assets, more than six times its expenses for that year.

Recommendations

1) Greater Transparency: AND should make more details available to the public (or at least to members) regarding corporate sponsorship — far beyond what it currently provides in its annual reports.
2) Request Input from Membership: Trade group policies should reflect the desires of its members. Many RDs object to corporate sponsorship but don’t know how to make their voices heard.
3) Meaningful Sponsorship Guidelines: AND should implement much stronger and more meaningful sponsorship guidelines, possibly looking to the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietetic Practice Group’s stricter guidelines as a model.
4) Reject Corporate-Sponsored Education: AND should reject outright corporate-sponsored continuing education, as well as corporate-sponsored food education sessions at its annual meeting. AND should also consider placing more distance between its credentialing arm and the main organization. 
5) Increased Leadership on Nutrition Policy: In recent years, AND’s leadership has taken important steps to improve its policy agenda and create a positive presence in Washington. However, while the staff in the D.C. office is lobbying on behalf of AND’s membership, “education sessions” are being taught to RDs by Coke and Hershey’s. This disconnect will continue to undermine AND’s credibility on critical policy issues until the conflicts are resolved.


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Post a comment below.

 

Chrissy Denn
4/11/2013 2:31:27 PM
Is all written in sarcasm? Why on earth would any American who values our unique political just give up and say "it is useless to try and fix any federal or state agencies", as you have. If there are problems, such as corruption, it is the job of the people to get involved, not step aside. All agencies, whether private or public must be held accountable. And yes, we are a country of private business, aspiring and old, but we do function under a government and we must expect the highest standards.

t brandt
3/12/2013 2:00:51 AM
Quite the contrary. Look up "inflammatory index" of various foods. ...Paleoarcheological data suggests many human diseases were unknown in populations that ate the "Caveman Diet." (mainly meat with very little plant material.) Man began growing crops & grains became the main staple of the diet ~7000yr bp. That's when skeletal remains began showing decidedly less robust characteristics & various pathologies, including dental caries & osteoporosis. ...Allergy to shellfish is the only common problem from eating animal protein. Most food allergies involve plant proteins. Diabetes mellitus is exclusively a problem of excess plant carbs. And then there's Celiac disease, a reaction to wheat protein. "Hi cholesterol" is a fraudulently exaggerated problem & is exacerbated more by carbs than chol intake anyways. There's a few rare genetic problems like alkaptonuria induced by amino acids, but those are supplied by plant proteins as well as animal.

Spencer Payne
3/11/2013 4:07:20 PM
Protein from animal products actually acts as an expresser of genes that give rise to a variety of chronic illnesses. See The China Study by T.Colin Campbell. If you have any desire at all to gain scientific knowledge regarding the actual causative factors in disease you owe it to yourself to read this book.

Justin Bock
2/22/2013 5:32:12 PM
These discussions are important. But it is useless to try to fix any federal or state agencies, better to just ignore them. We need more PRIVATE rating agencies that compete and rate food and products based on our personal wants. A private rating agency SHOULD have an agenda because it will be the agenda you have. Great market for more rating agency business right now. Get involved and start a business that will serve those who think like you do!

t brandt
2/15/2013 12:12:51 PM
Before everybody gets their shorts all in a bunch over this, please first check any site you like to get the nutritional content of various foods: you will find that all those "healthy" fruits & veggies have practically no nutrient content anywhere near that of meat. Grains, for instance, even that precious "whole wheat." is nothing but a source of starch, ie- sugar. The NCBA has done a pretty lousy job of advertizing the nutritional & health value of beef- many studies show a diet hi in meat and lo in carbs is the most effective in lowering chol and controling diabetics' glucose levels....BTW- obesity does not cause disease, it merely indicates a diet with excessive carb intake- that is associated with poor diabetic control. Obese patients who have heart attacks have a higher survival rate than non-obese patients. Go figure....Obesity is rampant in the US for two main reasons:(1) cheap carbs with food prices suppported by the Feds,(2) The Feds "food pyramid" which is acutally upside down, encouraging us to eat more carbs and less meat & the refusal of the ADA to admiit they're wrong these past 50 yrs. And we could add (3) the political correctness of avoiding meat.








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