In a new Civil Eats post, Dietitians For Professional Integrity strategic director Andy Bellatti shares a big-picture historical perspective that helps shed light onto the recent controversy which involved some dietitians, paid by the soda, tweeting opposition to soda taxes.
The post also offers suggestions for how Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics leadership can stand up for public health.
- “While some may look to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) to speak up against this behavior on the part of dietitians, the organization’s own behavior doesn’t set much of a precedent for refusing Big Soda’s money.”
- “The national organization, which represents close to 100,000 dietitians from around the United States, has worked closely with the food and beverage industry for decades (it teamed up with McDonald’s in 1993 to develop a line of Happy Meal toys), thereby normalizing these actions.”
- “It’s also important to point out that Coca-Cola and PepsiCo are no longer AND sponsors, although their departure wasn’t due to AND’s leadership taking a stand against problematic sponsorship. Coca-Cola bowed out last year after the New York Times front-page coverage of its now-defunct Global Energy Balance Network ignited a public relations nightmare. PepsiCo quietly chose not to renew its sponsorship contract with AND earlier this year (there was no announcement from AND or PepsiCo).”
- “These changes belie the fact that AND has simply made its ties to the food and beverage industry less visible in recent years. Since 2010, PepsiCo has given AND a $5,000 Healthy Lifestyles Innovation research grant “to promote healthy living through nutrition and physical activity.” And attendees at AND’s annual conference can always visit the ABA’s or PepsiCo’s booths, where the companies share sleek handouts that downplay public health concerns.”
- “If AND were to take a stronger stance on soda taxes, they wouldn’t be alone. In February, Dietitians of Canada publicly supported the taxation of sugary beverage. And the World Health Organization also recently urged all countries to tax sugary drinks. But the Academy’s sole contribution to the conversation around soda consumption was its rejection of Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s 2012 proposed sugary drinks portion cap rule, according to the Journal of Preventative Medicine’s new study on soda sponsorship of health organizations.”
- “There is still time for AND to steer this ship to safety and stand up for public health (while salvaging the dietitian brand). For starters: it can create stringent guidelines about who can exhibit at the annual expo, reject industry-funded educational grants, and publicly support soda taxes. Until then, it seems the sea of corporate interest will only get choppier.”