Several members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND–formerly the American Dietetic Association) sent me a letter from the Academy’s president, Evelyn Crayton, announcing its new policy on sponsorship.
AND’s previous policy, which encouraged sponsorship by food companies selling fast food, salty snacks, and sugary drinks, has been the subject of a critical investigative report and induced members of the Academy to create Dietitians for Professional Integrity to get the policy changed.
This advocacy worked. It induced AND’s leadership to appoint a Sponsorship Advisory Task Force (SATF) to recommend a less conflicted policy to AND’s Board of Directors.
The SATF delivered its report to the Board on January 13. As Evelyn Crayton explains,
The Board voted to implement a pilot program encompassing many of the SATF’s recommendations. The one-year pilot program includes appointing a Sponsorship Committee to review national-level sponsor opportunities and to develop assessment tools that will support the sponsorship process.
The Board of Directors approved the following newly revised sponsorship guidelines, which take effect immediately for all Academy organizational units. Dietetic Practice Groups and Member Interest Groups will be required to adhere to these guidelines and Affiliates are encouraged to adopt them.
Sponsorship approval requires that:
- The sponsor’s vision and mission align with the Academy’s Vision, Mission and Strategic Goals.
- The sponsor’s product portfolio is broadly aligned with the Academy’s Vision: Optimizing health through food and nutrition.
- The sponsor relationship and sponsor product portfolio are broadly aligned with official Academy positions.
- All aspects of the sponsorship (such as research, consumer messaging or professional education for members) align with the Academy’s Scientific Integrity Principles.
- The Academy does not endorse any company, brand or company products, nor does the Academy’s name or logo appear on any product. Such endorsement is neither actual nor implied.
- The Academy maintains final editorial control and approval of all content in materials bearing the Academy name or logo.
- There is clear separation of Academy messages and content from brand information or promotion.
- Relevant facts and important information are included.
- The Board is confident that these revised guidelines and the new Sponsorship Committee pilot program will enable the Academy to better serve the organization and our members.
This looks impressive and deserves congratulations. The policy calls for transparency, separation, and alignment—all laudable goals.
I have only two concerns:
- What did the SATF report actually say? How about making it available? [If anyone has a copy and can send, please do.]
- What is the definition of “alignment with the Academy’s goals and principles?”
As always, the devil is in the details. As Andy Bellatti explains,
Some of these guidelines (i.e.: “the sponsor’s mission and vision align with AND’s”) already exist in the current policy — the same policy that considered PepsiCo (and former sponsors Coca-Cola, Kellogg’s, and General Mills) an appropriate sponsor.
The Academy’s Board can start the process by making the SATF report public (at least to members) and then explaining its process for setting the policy.*
It also needs to explain how “alignment” will be defined. What are the actual criteria for deciding whether AND will accept food-industry sponsorship.
But this is a great first step and deserves much praise.
*Update: the Academy released the report.