Michele Simon’s latest investigative report deals with sponsorship by food corporations of the Australian Dietetics Association.
Consistent with her previous report on corporate sponsorship of the American dietetic association (now The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics), this one finds that the Dietitians Association of Australia (DAA):
- Is sponsored by Meat and Livestock Australia, Nestlé, Unilever, Dairy Australia, and the Egg Nutrition Council
- Is a partner in the “Nestlé Choose Wellness Roadshow”
- Has important members who work for Kellogg and PepsiCo
- Has a spokesperson who is paid by Coca-Cola to present his research denying a connection between sugars and obesity
- Displays recipes from corporate sponsors with branded products despite policies against such things
- Is believed to have stripped a dietitian of her earned credential for speaking out against such conflicts of interest [*but see additional comments below].
The DAA offers its corporate sponsors the following benefits:
- Credible, independent, expert partner for nutrition communications
- Unparalleled opportunity to inform the Australian public through members and the DAA profile
- Access to members and interest groups for advice
- Information and expert advice on all nutrition and health issues
- Opportunities to sponsor DAA programs
This is a good deal for food and beverage corporate sponsors.
It’s not such a good deal for DAA members. At best:
- They appear in conflict of interest.
- Their advice appears bought.
- They lose credibility.
As Simon concludes:
The health of all Australians depends upon the independence of the nutrition profession and its leadership’s ability to operate free of conflicts of interest and be the nutrition leaders they claim to be, free from sponsorship money.
February 19: Dr. Sara Grafenauer APD PhD of the DAA wrote me an e-mail detailing charges of error in this account. She also wrote to Michele Simon. Food company sponsorship of nutrition professional societies deserves far more critical attention than it usually gets and I am glad to see this debate.
February 20: Dr. Grafenauer writes again: “Thank you for considering our concerns however, with all due respect, the following statement is factually incorrect and should be removed:
- Is believed to have stripped a dietitian of her earned credential for speaking out against such conflicts of interest.
DAA’s credential, Accredited Practising Dietitian (APD) is very important to the association and its members. It has rigorous processes around its maintenance and integrity and would never be used for purposes other than it is designed (for such as ‘gagging’ a member as is suggested here). There is no basis for this potentially defamatory statement and DAA will take whatever steps are necessary to defend the credential.”