Today’s statement of concern comes from Frances Arnold-Johnson, RD, CLT (Twitter Handle: @FrancesLArnold):
“Last year, USA today asked Coca-Cola’s President of North American Brands Katie Bayne, “What do you say to those who believe that sugar — particularly in soft drinks — works on the brain like an addictive substance?” Her reply: “There is no scientific evidence.”
Meet one of many junk-food corporations who sponsor nutrition education in the US. Coca-Cola officially believes that obesity rose as consumption of sugary drinks decreased. Other large multi-national food corporations, such as McDonald’s, Hersheys, Nestlé are official sponsors of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (the Academy). Because the Academy is the only nutrition agency that can credential Registered Dietitians (RDs) to practice medical nutrition therapy, these sponsorships pose a serious conflict of interest.
RDs are expected to uphold “evidenced-based” nutrition standards. Ironically, the corporations offering free education to RDs often cherry pick the science that favors them. Why does the The Academy continue to dog itself, RDs, and intelligent Americans with such embarrassing associations?
These associations are questionable, causing many RDs and consumers to wonder how the Academy can objectively support public health and simultaneously appease their junk food sponsors. The conflict of interest is clear. One example is the Academy and the Dairy Council encouraging children to consume sweetened dairy products. In their mind, children won’t drink enough dairy unless it’s dazzled with sugar (and the fact that sugary dairy products have calcium automatically makes them “a healthful choice”). Are these practices truly in the best interest of consumers?
I’ve had enough and am taking a stand for ethics and integrity. I stand for youth who don’t understand manipulative marketing. I stand for the adults who are frustrated by all the confusing nutrition messages and who wish to enjoy good health. I stand for the public who is yanked around by media hype about food. I stand for the Dietetic students who may not realize that the noble profession of nutrition is being maimed by junk food partnerships in our industry.
As an RD, I’m asking the Academy to seek better sponsorships.
We are at a crossroads that presents the Academy with an opportunity to act as a noble leader in this new food frontier. By upholding integrity and ethics, the Academy can be a powerful agent of change in the interest of public health, farmers, and the environment. It can work toward long-term solutions for humans and the environment, while still enjoying non-controversial sponsorships.
This change will not be easy, and it will require tremendous character among all nutrition professionals. It will take pressure from the public, and nutrition and healthcare professionals, for the leadership to take an interest in doing the right thing. This is why I thought it was important for me to be a co-founder of Dietitians for Professional Integrity (DFPI). If you care about this issue in a similar way, please join us in standing strong!”