Despite Big Food’s claim that it partners with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics because it cares about health and wants to be “part of the solution”, let’s not forget what other organizations and associations it aligns itself with.
Case in point — the Grocery Manufacturers’ Association (GMA).
According to the Center for Media and Democracy, “The Grocery Manufacturers Association has opposed virtually every state bill across the nation that would restrict the sale of junk food or soda in schools. Michele Simon, in her book Appetite for Profit, found in a search of the GMA website more than 126 hits relating to schools, most of which are either submitted testimony or a letter filed in opposition to a school-related nutrition policy. Document titles include: GMA Letter in Opposition of Texas Food and Beverage Restrictions, GMA Letter in Opposition to Oregon School Restrictions Bills, GMA Requests Veto of Kentucky School Restrictions Bill, and GMA Letter in Opposition to California School Nutrition Bill. They have also opposed efforts to limit the sale of soda in schools.
GMA also has lobbyists in every state capital working to weaken or defeat legislation. In 2004, GMA helped defeat a California bill that would have set nutrition standards for school food. With more lobbying resources and money to contribute to political campaigns, the GMA is able to beat back nutrition advocates. GMA lobbyists have also banded together with soda lobbyists to oppose efforts to limit the sale of soda in schools and with restaurant associations to oppose the posting of calories on menu boards.”
GMA’s Chair is the current CEO of ConAgra (an Academy partner), the Vice-Chair is the Chairman and CEO of General Mills (another Academy partner), and other members include executives from Academy partners PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestlé, The Hershey Company, Mars, Campbell’s, and Unilever.
This serves as further evidence that Big Food utilizes its partnership with the likes of the Academy as “damage control”, all while battling proposed public health measures. By placing standards on who it chooses to align itself with, the Academy could send a clear message to Big Food: you can’t have your cake and eat it, too.
Until then, accepting partnerships with the likes of General Mills, Coca-Cola, and Unilever is nothing more than easy — and unwarranted — positive press for the very companies that need to be called out for consistently opposing policies meant to improve the health of Americans.