Today’s statement of concern comes from Registered Dietitian Aaron Flores (Twitter handle @BVMRD):
“I was an ADA/AND member from 2002 (when I started my academic curriculum to become an RD) until this year, 2013. For the past few years I have really struggled with whether or not to renew my membership. I do not like the fact that AND partners with Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, Mars, General Mills and Kellogg’s. I think taking money from food companies whose products mostly fall into the “far from healthy” category sends the wrong message about our organization as a whole—whose primary goal is to promote good nutrition.
This year I have decided I will no longer be a member of the Academy. I feel that our organization’s partnerships with agribusiness dilutes our credibility as nutrition professionals.
That was made very clear to me last year when New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg proposed his ban on large sugary beverages. It was a controversial topic that everyone had some sort of opinion on. AND had no position on the matter and did not take a stand.
How could they, as the country’s largest nutrition organization, have no position on such a topic? In my mind, their partnerships with Coca-Cola and PepsiCo explained their silence. Even if they wanted to come out in favor of Mayor Bloomberg’s proposed policy, how could they, when they take money from companies that produce and market sugary beverages?
These food industry partnerships ruin our credibility as nutrition experts because they foster the perception that the AND acts on behalf, or in the interest of, these food companies. Even if that isn’t the case, it’s certainly the perception it lends itself to and, unfortunately, perception is everything.
I want to make it very clear that I am not “anti-AND”. I am proud to be a Registered Dietitian. There are some great people in AND who are doing important work. It is my belief, though, that until the corporate sponsorship policy changes, the biggest statement I can make is to vote with my pocket book. If AND were to change its corporate sponsorship policy, I would happily re-join.
Some of our colleagues do not agree with us, so my hope is that this important conversation continues. I want dietitians to talk about this issue. It can no longer be glossed over. If more people start talking about it and expressing their concerns, AND will have to listen.”