by Marion Nestle
Mar 17 2008

OK. Time to talk about the American Dietetic Association’s alliances with food companies

Ashley just posted this message: “Today I received an email from the American Dietetic Association [ADA] welcoming the Coca-Cola company as a corporate sponsor. As a rookie RD this type of announcement is perplexing and often disturbing. What is more bothersome is that the President of ADA referred to the American Public as consumers… How do I align myself with an organization that aligns themselves with industry more than social activism?

Thank you Ashley for reminding me about some previous comments about the ADA’s industry partnerships, including this one: “I feel badly that you chose to put down ADA for its message instead of joining forces and finding ways that we can work together…as an organization which does not have much money this is the way that we can fund educational programs for our members and get our scientific message out to the public…I hope that you will consider joining with us instead of voicing criticism for this well-respected organization of highly educated and well-trained health professionals.”

Respected ADA colleagues: as long as your organization partners with makers of food and beverage products, its opinions about diet and health will never be believed independent (translation: based on science not politics) and neither will yours. Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Is the goal of ADA really the same as the goal of the sponsors–to sell the sponsor’s food products? Is this a good way to get important scientific messages to the public?  ADA members: how about doing something about this!

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  • Bravo!

  • And … wow. This is almost surreal – Wrigley supporting a fact sheet on gum chewing, Hershey supporting one on chocolate, and some association of fruit juice manufacturers supporting one on fruit juice.

    Tsk, tsk, tsk.

  • Renata

    What should we do? What would it take? Let’s just say that 10 years ago, I didn’t think this was much of a problem. I just didn’t get it. Now I do, but I don’t know how to go about it other than not be a member.

  • Kati

    I think this was around 10 years ago. It was around 15 years ago when I was finishing up grad school as well. It seems like that group is overly receptive to new food technology, ie, fat replacers, sugar substitutes, engineered food bars, engineered shakes, energy drinks, packaged meals, etc.

    It’s good to hear that Ashley found a working group that is on the same page so maybe there is trend toward new, more critical thinking.

  • Andrea

    Ashley, what DPG is more progressive?

    I stopped my ADA membership years back, wrote letters, emails – but didn’t seem to get much response.

    My current employer requires us to join the ADA, so I’d be interested in seeing the DPG you found…

  • Ashley

    To answer your question about the DPG(dietetic practice group) is the Hunger and Enviromental DPG. Upon the release of the Coca-cola partnership announcement, the list-serve was blowing up with dismay and anger. This group realizes the degregation that such relationships creates. Our main concerns:
    1. Corporate sponsorship and how those relationships diminish our integrity
    in the public eye.

    2. Corporate sponsorship and how those relationships diminsh our integrity
    in the eyes of our professional peers (American Public Health Association,
    American Nursing Association, etc.)

    3. How corpporate sponsorship influences ADA position statements and policy.

    I can assure you that this group of HEN members are dedicated to safe, whole foods, sustainable systems that have minimal impact on the enviroment. This group truely has ignited an fire in the walls of ADA and is the fastest growing DPG in the “member based” organization. Change comes from the inside out. And that is the only reason I continue to pay my dues.

    “Mice make elephants dance”

    Please read fellow member Melinda Hemmelgran’s In defense of food – and dietitians :

  • We as nutritionists and ADA members have created a petition entitled, “The Last Straw – Nutritionists unite against the American Dietetic Association’s recent partnership with the Coca Cola Company. We will be posting it shortly on line for folks to sign and I will update this blog with the address. It goes as follows:

    We, the undersigned petition the American Dietetic Association to cut off its ties with the Coca Cola company. We do not want to be part of an organization that has Coca Cola as its major sponsor. We feel this partnership is in direct opposition to what we as nutritionists stand for and the role we assume in the defense of real food and the safeguarding of the health of our children and the health of our planet. Coca Cola spends millions of marketing dollars in this country and abroad to promote the consumption of soft drinks that are filled with sugar or artificial sweeteners, caffeine, phosphoric acid, and other non-nutritious substances. The consumption of these products have been found to contribute to our nation’s alarming epidemic of childhood obesity, diabetes, as well as tooth decay. Furthermore, the Coca Cola Company’s practices abroad have been found to be extremely harmful to the land and people in many countries especially India. As nutritionists, we cannot stand idly by and allow the American Dietetic Association to use our names or our membership in support or association with this beverage company.
    Thank you Marion, for bringing up this issue on your blog!

  • Renata

    Please be patient with me because I am trying to work through this. Let me state first that I am disturbed by the corporate affiliations ADA has, and I am not trying to diminish the harm soft drink consumption has had on our nation’s (and world’s) health. Nonetheless, how will this petition help ADA get the funding the say they need to further their cause? I see the value of the petition, as it gives RDs a voice, and it can challenge the ADA to start rethinking how they get funding. But how else can we be part of the solution? Where is this discussion taking place? I am aware that the HEN group is discussing this, but what about somewhere that all RDs are able to participate if they wish?

  • I think it’s just great that these issues are being raised at ADA – at long last. The point is to make the organization stronger and more credible. That will require the membership to understand that if the ADA is not independent of industry funding, its positions on diet and health cannot be perceived as credible. This is an important issue, and well worth the struggle. Ideas about how to move forward?

  • Anu

    Although funding seems to be a key issue with our profession, I do have to say that there are other means and other ways. It is really giving out a confusing message to the nation to have dietetics professionals associate with a company that sells harmful products. Why not partner up with Bear Naked granola products – or Kashi where there is perhaps plenty of funding available? It is definitely very dissapointing since the evidence of HFCS and fatty liver disease in children is prevalant as well as links between artificial sweeteners and hyperactivity disorder. I hope that the ADA realizes that integrity should stand above $.

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  • Suzanne

    Talk about the fox guarding the henhouse!

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  • It is basically up to the parents not the fast food companies. My son is 4 and wants to go to McDonald’s for nuggets. I don’t go. We go and see the train instead – the train (here in Colima, Mexico, they can be up to 2kms long with 6 locomtives), is a bigger draw than nuggets! But his uncles and aunts go and take him. Why? Because of the playpen in McDonald’s and because his uncles and aunts like to eat that rubbish. I cook for my son and he appreciates that.

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  • JMB

    I could nt find this link :

    Consider the ADA’s Nutrition Fact Sheets, for example, each with its very own corporate sponsor (scroll down to the lower right hand corner of the second page to see who paid for the Facts). Thanks

  • I just checked and the link works for me. Try this directly:

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  • Thanks for this and for being such a great advocate for RDs.
    It inspired me to write a letter to Dietitians of Canada (same thing happening there). I posted it on my blog…

  • Marion,

    I agree with you 100% and as an ADA member I want to voice my concerns, yet I am uncertain where to direct them? It seems e-mails are simply bounced around in ADA and it is difficult to reach the intended destination. Any suggestions?

    A Fellow RD.

  • Marion

    @Jessica: I’m not a member of ADA but some of the readers who have commented on this post most definitely are. Take a look at their posts and sign up! Thanks for writing.

  • The ADA sponsored by Coca Cola!!!! How awful, I am taking a class on Diabetes that the Hospital signed me up for and I was AMAZED when The Nutritionist said we could drink as many Cokes as we wanted with artificial sweetners!!! I was SHOCKED, now I know why, Doctors, Hospitals & Nutritionists sponsored by Big Pharma just blab out whatever they are taught to say! How do we stop this misinformation?