Today’s statement of concern comes from Registered Dietitian Leslie Riding (Twitter handle @lesscheid):
“I am highly concerned with how the public perceives Registered Dietitians. Our expertise in nutrition is only as useful as the public’s trust in our knowledge and practice.
To illustrate why this issue is important to me, I want to share a conversation I recently had:
I was getting ready to exercise at the gym I attend regularly. The owner of the facility called me over to introduce me to another client and proceeded to introduce me as a nutritionist. I politely corrected him and mentioned that I am a Registered Dietitian. He told me that he left that part out of the introduction so that my “credibility would not be called into question”, and then proceeded to tell me that I am the only RD he would feel comfortable referring his clients to for nutrition information.
In past discussions with him about the issue of RD credibility, he shared that he has observed that many dietitians are too closely linked with the food industry for him to feel confident that their instruction is unbiased, and that messages of moderation in relation to nutrition are a disservice to those striving for better health.
We can only turn the tide in this perception by removing corporate and industry influence over the education programs that are approved by our very own professional organization. It is a shame that, despite receiving extensive nutrition science education to become RDs, our credibility is continuously called into question by members of the general public because of our organization’s corporate ties.
I also want to take this opportunity to address the arguments some RDs made to me recently about how continuing education programs would be difficult to provide without food industry funding. According to these RDs, FNCE and state dietetic meetings could potentially double in cost for attendees without outside funding – honoraria and travel costs for speakers being among the costs to cover.
Perhaps we should rely more on local expertise to present at meetings, eliminating the need to cover thousands of dollars in travel costs. Whether a meeting is in Boston, Philadelphia, San Diego, or Phoenix, all these cities – and other cities nearby — have experts who can be recruited to speak on various nutrition issues.
Another question we must pose: why rely on corporations for education sessions when so many of our non-corporate colleagues, who are knowledgeable in a variety of topics, can present? Is it because RDs with ties to the food industry can put RDs “at ease” that PepsiCo understands the science of fiber?
Let’s also remember that AND has stated that corporate sponsorship only accounts for nine percent of funding. Relatively speaking, that is a small amount that can surely be obtained without having to depend on Coca-Cola, Hershey’s, PepsiCo, and Kellogg’s.
I want my credential to be well-represented, a task I do not think the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics currently does well.”