Yesterday, we shared a letter from Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics President Sonja Connor and House of Delegates Speaker Elise Smith which outlined the key elements identified by the House of Delegates for inclusion in an Academy Sponsorship Plan.
At its meeting this past weekend, the HOD concluded that “sponsorship guidelines should be developed to include the following concepts” (we list some of them below, along with our thoughts):
- “Academy or Foundation logos will not appear on food or beverage products.”
We are in full agreement.
- “Any potential sponsor’s food or beverage product(s) should meet the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.”
For example — Dietary Guidelines encourage whole grains. Does that mean Cookie Crisp cereal (where the first ingredient is a whole grain, as General Mills boasts on the cereal’s packaging) or PepsiCo Sun Chips would be considered appropriate sponsors?
- “Any potential sponsor or partner should support and promote healthy eating, the expertise of registered dietitian nutritionists and dietetic technicians, registered, and the vision, mission and goals of the Academy.”
This guideline has potential if it is tweaked and gets more specific, but it is currently vague and open to wide interpretation.
After all, current Academy leadership believes Coca-Cola supports and promotes healthy eating (via its Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness), supports the expertise of dietitians (remember the “Promoting the Registered Dietitian” poster at Coca-Cola’s booth AND’s 2012 conference?), and aligns with AND’s vision, mission, and goals.
- “Details of any agreement with a sponsor or partner need to be fully disclosed.”
The sponsorship issue goes beyond disclosure and transparency, which is why this seems like a distraction. What needs to be tackled are the nefarious ties between AND and the food industry. Sharing the details of a partnership with McDonald’s does not make the partnership more appropriate or less problematic.
- “Member and public input is solicited on potential sponsorship opportunities.”
Yes, and hopefully without leading questions. Recall an AND survey from a few years back which asked dietitians what educational or policy “gap” the Dairy Council could help fill, and “None” was not an option. With that kind of question, AND could technically (though also inaccurately) claim that 100% of dietitians surveyed identified one educational or policy gap the Dairy Council could help fill.
- “Effects of sponsorship, or lack thereof, on Academy and Foundation programming will be evaluated.”
Okay, but how? And, by whom? We have been told for years by AND leadership that the Board of Directors consistently evaluates the sponsorship policy. Our request for details about this evaluation process went unanswered.
- “The Academy will establish a permanent sponsorship committee. Representation on the committee should include a public member and a member who has served on the Academy’s Ethics Committee.”
Will this permanent committee have decision-making power, or will it simply draft recommendations that will be passed along to the Board of Directors, who will have a final say on the matter? Also, will there be any membership criteria?
We suggest that no members of this committee have ties (i.e.: employees, consultants, ambassadors, etc.) to any food company or trade group.
We understand that this conversation, while long overdue, is still in the early stages, and we will wait to see what shape these recommended guidelines take. However, the way these current recommendations are written could very well result in the status quo being upheld.