Over the past few days, a group of selected dietitians has been in Amsterdam at an annual invite-only influencers’ conference known as “Food 3000,” put on by PR firm Porter Novelli.
In his blog Weighty Matters, Dr. Yoni Freedhoff looks at what this conference is about and shares some of the tweets that have come out of Food 3000.
- “Here’s Porter Novelli describing their annual PN Food3000 (#F3K) conference): “We boast long-term relationships with the individuals and organizations that influence consumers’ attitudes, beliefs and behaviors related to food and health. The Food and Nutrition practice annually hosts PN Food3000, at which American Dietetic Association media spokespeople are exposed to the latest innovations and research in nutrition communications. Our team of expert communicators and registered dietitians helps clients devise intelligent strategies to introduce new products or line extensions against well-chosen market segments, including multicultural audiences. We are skilled in developing platforms that create a point of differentiation, establish strategic alliances and sponsorships, grow consumption and position brands for new growth segments.“
- Sample tweet: “Congrats to #Mars International for working to increase kids interest in cooking and healthy eating.” (DFPI adds: Yes, the company that makes M&Ms.)
- Sample tweet: “Processed foods are not the problem – maybe they are the affordable solution- we just have to make them healthier.” (DFPI adds: This is known as “healthwashing,” and usually results in industry adding a smidge of whole grains to a highly processed, minimally nutritious product).
- Sample tweet: “Did ya know food processing can increase nutrients we need more of & reduce what we need to limit?” (DFPI adds: Seeing as how processing slashes mineral content, fiber, and phytonutrients, we are at a loss as to what this means. Sure, nutrients can be enriched or fortified , but that is not the same as consuming nutrients from foods in their original matrix.)
- Sample tweet: “We’re too quick to blame the food industry rather than telling consumer to take responsibility for their eating habits.” (DFPI adds: This tweet is particularly disturbing and alarming).
- Sample tweet: “Healthy eating requires – balance of foods, right portions, & proper prep. Don’t worry about “processed”, focus on right choices.” (DFPI adds: Most times, the best choices are also the least processed choices).
- Sample tweet: “Processed food is called “unnatural” until there’s a “natural” disaster and it’s the only thing available & safe to eat.” (DFPI adds: The fact that a food may be relied on for survival during catastrophic life-or-death events takes away all health concerns?)
As for our thoughts on Food 3000:
There appears to be little transparency as to the purpose of this event and who, exactly, is sponsoring it. The Porter Novelli website mentions it in passing with no detailed information. And, despite statements that this event is about “open dialogue” and “listening to all sides,” there has yet to be one tweet that asks a tough question of industry or brings in an important public health issue to the forefront. As far as we know, there weren’t any sessions or presentations that advocated for sustainability, strengthening local agriculture, or policies that prioritize health over corporate profits.
This is especially surpirising seeing as how industry has come under severe scrutiny over the past few years by reputable global public health and nutrition experts (including the Director-General of the World Health Organization) for battling proposed public health policy, employing deceptive marketing tactics, hiding behind front groups, and relentlessly marketing unhealthy products to children. Countless organizations are rethinking the model of “sitting at the table with industry” after realizing its flaws.
This kind of event — and these sort of highly pro-industry communications — is precisely what people point to when they want to demonstrate that dietitians are a passive audience to food industry messaging. Based on the reaction in social media to much of this conference, it may be wise to step back and think about what this does to the public perception of the RD credential.