Today’s statement of concern comes from Colleen Ross, MS, RD:
“Twelve years ago (when I was an ambulatory care dietitian), whenever people would bring up the fact that my professional association had ties to McDonald’s my response was, “well, they are making efforts to offer more healthy foods”.
In the years that followed, I’ve come to the opinion that Coca-Cola, McDonald’s and other big food companies have no interest in public health; offering “healthier choices” are just good marketing ploys that promote the true interest of these companies which is making money, and it doesn’t matter if it is at the expense of public health.
Some argue that just because a food company presents at FNCE (our annual conference) or sponsors a CEU (continuing education) course stating sugar “isn’t bad for you” or that dairy is fine for someone who is lactose intolerant, that doesn’t mean we as RDs have to accept that. After all, we are educated to think critically and make evidence based decisions.
True, but I would expect to have to think critically at a National Dairy Council or Coca-Cola event, not an event offered by my own professional association. I’m not saying that FNCE sessions and panels don’t make encourage critical thinking, but rather that FNCE sessions should be the setting where I learn about studies that are not funded by the food industry.
These companies (i..e.: PepsiCo, Coca-Cola) and industries (The Dairy Council) are becoming so big and powerful that their lobbyists are influencing USDA (there is actually a whole food group section of MyPlate devoted to dairy). There is more to this than just having to think critically. There are other powerful factors that affect nutrition policy in this country, as well as how we are educated as dietitians, the conclusions we come to as nutrition professionals educating the public, and what the public thinks of our education.
These companies promote processed foods, contribute to unsustainable and unethical food practices (just visit Mercy For Animals for a slew of undercover investigations on animal cruelty by the meat, dairy, poultry and egg industry), and their association with AND seems more like an effort to increase the sales of their products. That seems like a conflict of interest to me. Whether others find it true or not, the perception is there and that is the problem.
But, what really bothers me is the lack of debate about this issue. I’m ALL for hearing both sides of the issue. I WANT to hear both sides. I have reached out to AND and called them to discuss their corporate sponsorship issue to see if some effort will be made for its members and the public to debate both sides. I was surprised to learn that they report very few members have expressed a concern about their corporate sponsorship policy. They claim that when they have polled members who have not renewed their membership, less than 1% report the reason being related to their corporate sponsorship policy.
This Facebook page is a great forum for bringing awareness to these issues. But I really hope that all the members who “like” this page call AND so they will know the extent of the concern their members (or former members) have with their policy. My hope is that if we can communicate directly with AND and with sufficient numbers, real change will result with our professional association.”