Today’s statement of concern comes from Christopher Vogliano, MS, RD:
“According to The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics’ website, “RDs are advocates for advancing the nutritional status of Americans and people around the world”.
Having the nation’s nutritionist experts sponsored by the same companies that are partially responsible for our current economic health crisis is a severe conflict of interest. As a registered dietitian, I am concerned with the growing corporate influence over our profession. The primary responsibility of a corporation is to increase profits for its shareholders. Corporations that provide free nutrition curricula and continuing education credits to dietitians have a clear ulterior motive: to promote the sale of their products.
If we don’t shift our focus towards creating solutions that address our nation’s upstream problems, a more reputable nutrition organization will take ownership of this challenge.
The positive increase in public perception and trust these corporations receive by partnering with the Academy greatly outweighs the minimal monetary gain received to help fund our organization. As a health organization, it is our duty to make responsible decisions that will better the health of our nation, not help increase the profits — and improve the image — of corporations that choose to ‘partner’ with us.
As a dietitian who works at a food bank serving low-income clients in underprivileged areas, I see a serious disconnect between what consumers think is healthy and what actually is. Many clients trying to choose healthier options are often confused and deceived by the intentionally muddied nutrition claims that accompany many products found in the grocery store.
As an example, I recently had a client explain to me how their switch from soda to bottled iced tea was a great step toward managing their recent diabetes diagnosis. I explained to this person that many iced teas, including the one they were regularly consuming, have as much sugar as soda. This was a surprise to my client, who was swayed by the health halo this “natural” tea used in its advertising (the company that markets these teas is one of the Academy’s premier sponsors).
On a daily basis, I see first hand the powerful influence these junk food marketing campaigns have on the health of our communities. According to a study published in the Institute of Medicine, “Low-income youth and adults are exposed to disproportionately more marketing and advertising for obesity-promoting products that encourage the consumption of unhealthful foods and discourage physical activity”. (Institute of Medicine, 2013; Kumanyika & Grier, 2006; Lewis et al., 2005; Yancey et al., 2009). Many clients do not have the means to be properly educated on how to eat nutritiously, leaving them extra susceptible to the effects of junk food marketing.
The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics should not partner with companies that spend nearly 70 percent of their marketing dollars on foods that are creating unhealthy food environments for communities that are already fighting uphill health battles. Our profession should instead focus on educating the general public on the importance of limiting the foods and beverages these corporations spend millions of dollars advertising.”