We believe establishing dialogue with Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics leadership is an important part of advocacy.
We emailed the following letter to AND President-Elect Donna Martin last week:
“Dear Dr. Martin,
Dietitians For Professional Integrity extends its congratulations on your new position as President-Elect of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
We very interested in advocating for sponsorship reform, and strongly believe dialogue with AND leadership is an important piece of our work.
We are pleased with some of the progress we have seen since our inception in February of 2013, including the formation of the Sponsorship Advisory Task Force (SATF) in 2014.
Specifically regarding the recently revised sponsorship guidelines, some concerns and questions remain for us:
1) Some of the new guidelines (i.e.: “the sponsor’s mission and vision align with AND’s”) existed in the previous version, under which PepsiCo — and former sponsors Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Mills — was deemed an appropriate sponsor.
2) The guidelines focus on product portfolios and do not consider corporate behavior, lobbying history, and media statements as a measure of whether a company is an appropriate sponsor. Current sponsor PepsiCo, for example, has lobbied against soda taxes and against the inclusion of added sugar on the Nutrition Facts Panel. Its CEO has been quoted as saying that “if all consumers exercised… the problem of obesity wouldn’t exist.” How does this align with AND’s mission and vision?
3) Are existing sponsors going to go through this review process? If so, how is PepsiCo an example of a company that “optimizes health through food and nutrition”?
4) Back in January 2016, it was announced that the Board of Directors “voted to implement a pilot program encompassing many of the SATF’s recommendations.” Can you comment on the status of this new committee and the development of assessment tools to support the sponsorship process?
Our position is not one of “zero sponsorship.” While that is certainly an option, we don’t see this as an issue of being “for” or “against” sponsorship. That rhetoric creates a dichotomy that only further divides dietitians and does not address systemic issues.
Instead, let’s think about what kind of sponsorship is appropriate, relevant, and ethical for a health organization. We also don’t think sponsors must be limited to the food sector; wellness, technology, and culinary companies could make for excellent partners.
We hear from dietitians and dietitians-to-be who have concerns about the current sponsorship model on a weekly basis. This is an issue of high priority for many of our colleagues.
We always welcome dialogue, and want you to know that you can always reach out to us for further conversation on this topic. Our foremost priority is to elevate the RDN credential. As evidenced by last year’s Kraft Singles/Kids Eat Right controversy, sponsorship plays a large role in public perception of who we are and what we stand for.
Thank you for your time. We look forward to ongoing dialogue with you.
Dietitians For Professional Integrity”