This month’s issue of Today’s Dietitian magazine includes the first of two feature pieces on the topic of corporate sponsorships.
Among those expressing concern over sponsorships:
- “These ties reflect poorly on our credential, because anybody who wants to criticize dietitians can make such an easy argument. If we got rid of these ties, we would take away a huge source of criticism,” says Andy Bellatti, MS, RD, a nutrition consultant who has been active in the issue of corporate sponsorships for dietitians.”
- Marion Nestle, PhD, MPH, the Paulette Goddard Professor of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health at New York University and author of Food Politics, says, “The pervasive sponsorship by food product makers puts the Academy in flagrant conflict of interest.”
- “Nestle says, “Dietitians ought to be advising clients and the public about what to eat to stay healthy and prevent chronic disease. This necessarily means promoting consumption of some foods and discouraging consumption of others. Dietitians cannot speak truth to clients and protect corporate sponsorship at the same time.”
- “Kate Geagan, MS, RDN, a nutrition and communications consultant for the food industry and author of Go Green, Get Lean, believes that, in some cases, the issue may be more about what’s not being said about foods, such as the case of the Academy not speaking up on antibiotic use in livestock. She adds, “I believe the problem is the lack of transparency regarding the full nature of these relationships—financial and access-wise—to both RD members and the public.”
- “I wonder what clear benefit members are receiving, aside from RDNs that are employed by industry,” Bellatti continues. “The winners seem to be the food companies who gain direct access to members to promote products and to provide education to members about their products. That’s where we’re really failing; we’re disarming ourselves as the experts and instead allowing the industry to tell us what’s valuable. The food industry is now authorized to educate us through continuing education programs provided to RDs, rather than the other way around.”
- “The goal of food companies is to sell products and expand sales to increase profits. That’s their job,” Nestle says. “The goal of dietitians is to improve the health of individual clients, patients, and groups. Ideally, companies would produce health-promoting products and their goals and the goals of dietitians would be compatible. In practice, such compatibility only rarely occurs.”
As for AND’s official stance:
“”While the Academy declined to make any new comments regarding its corporate sponsorship program for this article, it referred to a March 2013 interview with Today’s Dietitian. In this interview, Ethan Bergman, PhD, RD, then president of the Academy, stressed that the Academy doesn’t endorse any company, product, or service, regardless of sponsorship.”
The article also quotes dietitians who agree with the Academy’s current sponsorship model.