The mission of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is to empower members (registered dietitians) to be the nation’s food and nutrition leaders.
The registered dietitian (RD) credential is one of the only professional nutrition credentials in existence and dietitians are considered the foremost experts in nutrition. But, in a world with billion-dollar advertising budgets for fast-food chains and highly processed snack foods, the general public is understandably confused about what constitutes a healthy diet.
We believe that taking money from companies that spend millions of dollars advertising unhealthy products and lobbying against public health damages our reputation and reduces public trust.
The Issue is Power and Influence
Food and beverage corporations are some of the largest in the world, with financial systems bigger than that of many countries. Their goal is profit and expansion in the name of share-holder enrichment. Processed food is extremely profitable and, in an era where more calories are produced than needed, promoting overconsumption is standard. In addition, today’s big business involves lobbying the government for subsidies and tax breaks, fighting public health policies that could limit profits, and producing research that obfuscates the real issues.
Our Professional Reputation is at Stake
We strongly believe that ‘sitting at the table’ and working with multi-national corporations that sell predominantly junk food is contradictory to our mission as dietitians. Collaboration makes sense when all parties involved have similar missions. A company that mainly profits from selling soda cannot be expected to prioritize health and make business more difficult for itself by alerting the public to the negative health effects of its own products.
In 2015, Kraft Foods entered into a partnership with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Kids Eat Right Foundation, which approved the use of the ‘Kids Eat Right’ logo on packages of Kraft singles. This was perceived by many as an endorsement of processed cheese, and the partnership evoked strong criticism from dietitians, other health professionals, and the general public.
The Academy ultimately rescinded the agreement with Kraft but the debacle forced the dietitian community to ponder whether we should have relationships with food companies that sell products few dietitians consider health-promoting. DFPI believes the answer to that question is “no.”
Industry’s Actions are in Direct Contrast to Public Health
Below, some examples that support our reasoning, all involving companies and trade groups that have partnerships with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and/or exhibit at its annual conference:
- The sugar industry has a long history of spinning science to help create health policy that clears it of any responsibility and wrongdoing.
- Government research on cavities was sabotaged by sugar industry interference.
- The sugar industry has obscured science and undermined policy by threatening to suspend funding to the World Health Organization and misrepresenting science to secure weak school lunch nutrition standards.
- Idaho dairy industry wrote and lobbied for state’s “ag-gag” laws.
- PepsiCo partnered with fast food giant Burger King to produce and market Cheetos-covered mac and cheese.
- The candy lobby deliberately manipulated science to represent its products in a better light.
- The soda industry has spent over $100 million over the last seven years to defeat public health initiatives.
- Big Food deliberately blocked negative science on artificial trans fats.
Don’t Forget Food Industry Front Groups
The Center for Media and Democracy defines a front group as “an organization that purports to represent one agenda while in reality it serves some other party or interest whose sponsorship is hidden or rarely mentioned.” Food industry front groups usually claim to hold the public’s interests in mind, but they are a way to communicate food industry talking points through a seemingly neutral messenger.
Consider these examples: