Today’s statement of concern comes from Kim Henderson, MS, RD (Twitter handle: @nutritionscoop):
“I attended my first Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE, the annual Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics conference) in 2010, two months into my studies for a Masters degree in nutrition. As a biology undergrad, I had relatively little exposure to the nutrition world and was excited to attend the national conference and increase my knowledge of nutrition.
Blown away by the enormity of the expo show, I eagerly scurried from booth to booth soaking in as much nutrition information as I could; asking questions, feverishly taking notes, and gathering as many product samples as I could. I unashamedly filled up bag after bag with expo goodies: low calorie high fiber muffin tops, (guaranteed to help clients lose weight and feel great, or so I was told), “guilt-free” chips and snack products, and bars containing “the perfect amount” of macro and micronutrients for optimal health. I filled my bag to the brim and couldn’t wait to share these treasures with my colleagues back at school.
At that time, if anyone had mentioned to me that there was a conflict of interest regarding sponsorship and the Academy, I would have dismissed those claims as absurd
In my nutrition innocence, I believed the food companies at FNCE had our best interests in mind. I trusted their advice and their products to be healthy. Why wouldn’t I trust them; they were at a national convention for nutrition and health!
It wasn’t until I had a better understanding of our national and global food system that I realized the implications of the Academy partnering with junk food companies, including the grave danger it creates for my professional credibility. How can I, as a highly educated and well-respected RD, take a stance against harmful industrial food practices when the national organization I belong to is receiving money and educating its members from the very companies doing that damage?
I hope that the Academy will listen to me and the many others who feel strongly about the problems that come with the current corporate sponsorship policy and develop sponsorship guidelines that are ethically and socially responsible.”