by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: ADA(American Dietetic Association)

Nov 20 2023

Nutrition professional organizations should not partner with food companies

Just because all of the major nutrition professional organizations partner with food companies, does not make it a good idea.  If nothing else, partnerships with food companies raise reputational risks.  They give the appearance of conflicted interests, as David Ludwig and I warned in 2008.  I have also written about the hazards of food industry sponsorship of professional organizations in Food Politics, Soda Politics, and Unsavory Truth.  Here’s what they are doing now.

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association)  OOPS.  My error.  This should be the American Diabetes Association (even worse).  Abject apologies.  This is what I get for not reading more carefully.  Apologies again.

If I seem to be picking on AND, it’s because it is bigger and gets into more trouble than other nutrition professional societies.

The latest example: According to Reuters, a former AND officer, Elizabeth Hanna, has sued the organzation for “firing her for objecting to what she called a “pay to play” scheme to promote the no-calorie sweetener Splenda.

In its 2022 annual report, the ADA said Splenda was one of a group of “elite” supporters that had given more than $1 million, along with Bayer Healthcare, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Illinois, Helmsley Charitable Trust and others.

On its website, Splenda publishes “diabetes-friendly recipes,” endorsed by the ADA. Hanna, a registered dietitian nutritionist, said she refused to approve the endorsement of several of these recipes in July.

…The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states on its website that some studies have found possible health risks associated with the sweeteners, but that more research is needed.

American Society for Nutrition (ASN)

I am a member of this society and raise objections every time I get something like this in my e-mail.

Sponsored Webinar: Oral Health and Nutrition: Imperative for Healthy People 2030 and US Dietary Guidelines   Sponsored By: Mars Wrigley and the Oral Health Alliance.  The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines (DGA) identified dental caries as a major diet-related chronic disease of public health concern….

Doing this sort of thing risks reputation.

Evidence:  In a video on ultra-processed foods, the Financial Times identifies the ASN as “food industry advocacy group.”

The ASN’s executive director assures me they will ask for a correction.

Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior

Et tu?

It just announced a webinar, “Latinos love affair with Mangos: Maintaining Generational Food Traditions to Improve Health Outcomes.”

This is “a webinar sponsored by the National Mango Board, SNEB Organizational Member.”

The mango is…one of the world’s most popular fruits, and a staple food across Spanish speaking countries of North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Beyond its culinary popularity, an expanding body of research shows associations with mangos and risk reductions for inflammation and metabolically- based chronic disease, many of which disproportionately impact Hispanic American populations.

Mangos as opposed to any other fruit?

I am also a member of this society.

Overall comment

Are the reputational risks—and the loss of integrity—worth the money?  I don’t think so.

Nov 14 2023

The food industry’s role in dietetic education

I frequently get sent copies of e-mailed messages sent to members of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional organization for people holding credentials as Registered Dietitian Nutritionists (RDN).

Disclosure: I do not hold this credential; long after I had a doctorate while I was doing a later master’s in public health, I fulfilled all of the graduate and clinical requirements but was still short one undergraduate course.

Holders of the RDN must complete 75 credits of continuing education courses every five years to maintain the credential.  Usually, dietitians must pay for courses to meet those credits.

But as my correspondents make clear, food complanies offer courses for credit—at no cost.

It is not at all difficult to fully meet credit requirements through industry-sponsored courses.

Here are some examples:

  • International STEVIA Council.  Stevia: The Science Beehind the Sweet: a complimentary webinar that will review the most recent scientific evidence supporting the use of stevia to help reduce the risk of chronic diseases and improve quality of life.  https://www.todaysdietitian.com/marketing/webinars/2023/ISC/index.html
  • This…Free CPEUs: Webinar on Dietary Diversity: Join PepsiCo Health & Nutrition Sciences on Thursday, December 7th for the latest research on incorporating more diverse foods, such as whole grains, legumes and other under-consumed food groups, in dietary patterns. This webinar will also feature a fun culinary demo! Earn 1.25 free CPEUs. Register now.
  • The Latest on Low- and No-Calorie Sweeteners: What You Need to Know. This activity is accredited by Heartland Food Products Group. 1.0 CPEU FREE
  • Looking for more free CPE opportunities?  IFIC has 20+ hours of CPEUs available here  [NOTE: IFIC, the International Food Information Council, is a food industry trade association focused on education].

Comment: One can only imagine what those sessions will say.  Do not expect anything critical about the sponsor’s products.

But here’s an even easier way to pick up a bunch of credits.

Free CPE Opportunities are Now Available for Reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans!  A Special Treat for Professionals: Free CPE Units Available Now for Reading the Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

You can now earn 2.0 free continuing professional education (CPE) credits for reading the Introduction and Chapter 1 of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025! Credits are provided by the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR), the credentialing body for Registered Dietitians and Dietetic Technicians, Registered.

The self-study module will equip professionals with knowledge of the scientific underpinnings that makes the Dietary Guidelines relevant across all life stages. Participants will also learn science-based advice on what to eat and drink to build a healthy diet that can promote health, help prevent diet-related chronic disease, and meet nutrient needs.

Visit CPE Opportunities | Dietary Guidelines for Americans to start earning credits and stay updated on the release of future modules.

Comment:  Let’s hope that dietitians have already read the Dietary Guidelines at some point.  Or maybe it takes free credits to get anyone to slog through its 150 pages.

In any case, AND should not be allowing food companies to “educate” dietitians.

Just to be fair: the society to which I belong, the American Society of Nutrition, is doing this.  It too should not.

 

Oct 4 2023

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics responds to the Washington Post

I was not going to bother to say anything about this letter addressed to the Washington Post from the President of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), Laurie Wright, which she sent to all members.  But at least five recipients sent it to me for comment, so here goes.

From: Commission on Dietetic Registration <cdr@eatright.org>
Date: September 29, 2023 at 3:19:42 PM EDT
To: [REDACTED]
Subject: Letter to the Editor of the Washington Post from Academy President Lauri Wright

The September 13 article “The food industry pays ‘influencer’ dietitians to shape your eating habits” does a disservice to the nation’s hundred thousand plus registered dietitian nutritionists by painting broad-stroke misrepresentations about the dietetics profession and its association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Using examples of only seven individuals, the authors imply it is common practice for RDNs to have undisclosed affiliations with food companies and sponsors. This could not be further from the truth. More than 90 percent of registered dietitian nutritionists work in clinical health care, such as hospitals, medical centers and long-term care facilities, as well as in private practice, public and community health, school nutrition and other foodservice operations.

A growing number of practitioners do share their knowledge and expert opinions through social platforms, engaging with online communities and correcting health misinformation (much of which comes from potentially harmful fads promoted by infinitely larger numbers of uncredentialed influencers with much larger followings). The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has a strict Code of Ethics — which includes adhering to disclosure rules and guidelines established by the Federal Trade Commission — and has published many articles over the years about the importance of disclosure.

The authors further implied that the Academy is funded by the food and beverage industry, citing a long-since debunked “investigation” conducted by a small group of activists that disbanded six years ago. The truth lies in the facts: The Academy uses an independent advisor to manage our financial investments in all sectors of the S&P 500, and less than 3 percent of the Academy’s and its Foundation’s investments are in the food sector. Further, only 7 percent of the Academy’s revenue comes from sponsorships. This information has always been fully transparent to the public through our annual reports.

All this information was provided to the Post reporters in advance of the story, but unfortunately the writers elected to mislead their readers with a false narrative implying that non-disclosure of sponsorships is rampant in our profession. Speaking for Academy members who abide by our Code of Ethics, we expected the Post to abide by a higher journalistic standard as well.

Oh dear.  The cozy relationship between AND members and food companies is something I’ve written about extensively in my books, Food Politics and, more recently, Unsavory Truth.  

I’ve also written about the Academy’s conflicted interests on this site, most recently here.

And then there is Michele Simon’s deep dive into the Academy’s relationships with sponsors from a decade ago.

Here’s what President Wright’s defensive letter does not say:

  • We apologize for the unethical behavior of some of our members and will immediately take steps to make sure no member does this again.
  • Non-disclosure of sponsorship is grounds for dismissal from the Academy.
  • We will strengthen our policies to make clear that the Academy will not tolerate such non-disclosure.
  • We will insist not only of disclosure of paid posts, but also disclosure of the name of the sponsor.
  • To make sure members fully understand what is at stake, we are providing guidelines for ethical disclosure and illustrations of what and what is not appropriate.

For your amusement, one reader sent me an Instagram example of full disclosure from Gwyneth Paltrow (who is not, to my knowledge, an AND member)—clearly labeled as a paid partnership with Copperfit.  You have to be logged in to Instagram to open the link.

Sep 19 2023

Food companies pay dietitian-influencers to hawk their products

The Examination, a brand-new news outlet, and the Washington Post jointly published a jaw-dropping article last week about dietitians paid by food and supplement companies to defend and promote their products on Instagram and TikTok.

Why jaw-dropping?  Two reasons: the media—videos, posts—embedded in the article (these are amazing to see), and the non-disclosure of payment.

As the World Health Organization raised questions this summer about the risks of a popular artificial sweetener, a new hashtag began spreading on the social media accounts of health professionals: #safetyofaspartame….What these dietitians didn’t make clear was that they were paid to post the videos by American Beverage, a trade and lobbying group representing Coca-Cola, PepsiCo and other companies….The food, beverage, and dietary supplement industries are paying dozens of registered dietitians that collectively have millions of social media followers to help sell products and deliver industry-friendly messages on Instagram and TikTok, according to an analysis by The Examination and The Washington Post.

Here’s just one example:

Registered dietitian Lindsay Pleskot, of Vancouver, British Columbia, has posted videos of herself eating ice cream and peanut butter cups while telling people that denying themselves sugary food will only make cravings worse….These and other posts were paid for by the Canadian Sugar Institute.

You might think that embarrassing revelations like these would induce the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to set firm policies about conflicts of interest with food companies.  No such luck.
Instead, the president of the Academy issued a statement. She attacks one of the reporters on this story.

This same Post reporter has targeted registered dietitian nutritionists before. Last October, he published an article about a misleading report authored by anti-licensure activists seeking to undermine the important work of the Academy and our members and to demonize the industry without any regard for the truth. At that time, we responded strongly to rebut the report and to correct the news article with facts.

She also defends the Academy by saying it has rules in place, but “cannot police individual RDNs’ online activities or personal social media channels; we do have a Code of Ethics process to review and act on questionable practices that are brought to our attention.”

She did not say whether she considered these practices to be questionable or requiring action.  I think they do.

Instead, she says, “If the article seeks to malign or discredit the Academy or the more than 112,000 credentialed practitioners whom we proudly represent, we will reply swiftly and with purpose.”

In other words, take no responsibility, attack, and deny.

This is an important story.  Nutrition advice should not be tainted by commercial influence.

These reporters are not going to let this go, and should not.

  • If you have experience with nutrition influencers, share it with The Examination here.
  • I you want to sign up for The Examination, do so here.
Jun 19 2023

Industry influence of the week: pork

A member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, the professional association for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists, sent me this emailed announcement from Pork & Partners, a program of the National Pork Board Checkoff.

The accompanying message:

A Friend To All Foods + CPEUs for You!

Pork & Partners is an exciting new community for RDNs, tailored to help you meet your professional needs. Become a Partner to access free CPEU opportunities, fresh lean pork recipes, client resources, research, and so much more. Join today!

CPEUs are continuing professional education units, required for maintaining dietetic registration.   Dietitians usually pay for continuing education.

It’s so generous of the National Pork Board to offer free credits:

Introducing Pork & Partners, your new communityfocused on the needs of nutrition professionals. We’re here to provide free continuing education opportunities, exciting events, featured recipes, evidence-based handouts and peer-reviewed research. Join us to access resources and support to take your practice to the next level.

The Pork & Partners website emphasizes the nutrition, health, sustainability, and cleanliness of pig production.

I couldn’t find anything on the site about confinement of pregnant sows, the subject of a recent Supreme Court decision, or the many lawsuits over offensive odors from pig CAFOs.

Pork producers must not want dietitians talking about such things.  Hence: free CPEUs.

May 2 2023

PepsiCo is looking for co-optable dietitians

A reader sent me a PepsiCo job announcement sent to dietitians.

CONTRACTOR, SENIOR SCIENTIST: LIFE SCIENCES, SCIENTIFIC ENGAGEMENT TEAM

The PepsiCo Life Sciences Engagement Team is responsible for strategic coordination and execution of Life Science related internal and external science communication and partnership programs to help achieve growth by transforming our product portfolio to meet our PEP+ goals for added sugars, saturated fat and sodium reduction.

We are looking for a Senior Scientist to support our team that drives engagement to build external scientific credibility of our brands among key opinion leaders and consumer influencers and to help deliver internal education to equip our PepsiCo colleagues with relevant nutrition knowledge about our portfolio transformation journey.

Among the job responsibilities are to work on:

  • The AND conference and expo (the exhibits) in Denver, October 2023
  • Education tools and messages for PepsiCo Life Science
    Social media, website
  • Competitor assessment on scientific communications
  • Educational materials related to sports nutrition and hydration

The job requires

  • Master’s degreMe in nutrition or a closely related field
  • Registered Dietitian preferred, but not required
  • 0-2 years of experience at a major food manufacturer or related experience (recent graduate acceptable)

Pepsi Life Sciences offers continuing education credits to dietitians.  Examples:

  • Unpacking Preconceptions About Packaged Foods
  • The Science of Sweetness: Taste and Learn

Comment

  • PepsiCo may own Quaker Oats, but most of its products are ultra-processed and best minimized or avoided.
  • Dietitians ought to be advising clients and the public to avoid ultra-processed foods (especially sugary drinks). from PepsiCo.
  • PepsiCo employs dietitians.  That way it can boast about its nutrition initiatives.
  • Dietitians who choose to work for PepsiCo are co-opted; they become part of the company’s marketing initiatives.

I just hope the job pays really well.

*******

For 30% off, go to www.ucpress.edu/9780520384156.  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.

 

Oct 25 2022

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Captured by Food Corporations

The advocacy group, U.S. Right to Know, sent out a press release to announce publication of an article in the British journal, Public Health Nutrition: The corporate capture of the nutrition profession in the USA: the case of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics [AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association] accepted millions of dollars from food, pharmaceutical and agribusiness companies, had policies to provide favors in return, and invested in ultra-processed food company stocks, according to a study published today in Public Health Nutrition…The study was produced by public health scholars and U.S. Right to Know, a nonprofit investigative public health group that obtained tens of thousands of pages of internal Academy documents through state public records requests.

I’ve been writing about corporate capture of AND (formerly the American Dietetic Association) for years (see below), but this study shocked even me, for two reasons.

  • AND holds stock in food companies making ultra-processed foods.

The documents show that the Academy and its foundation invested funds in ultra-processed food companies. The Academy’s investment portfolio in January 2015 included $244,036 in stock holdings in Nestle S.A. and $139,545 in PepsiCo. The Academy foundation’s investment portfolio in June 2013 included $209,472 in stock holdings in Nestle S.A and $125,682 in PepsiCo.

  • The list of food companies donating to AND is extraordinarily long; it goes on for pages.

The Academy accepted more than $15 million from corporate and organizational contributors in the years 2011 and 2013-2017. The Academy’s top contributors in 2011 and 2013-2017 were:

  • National Dairy Council $1,496,912
  • Conagra Inc. $1,414,058
  • Abbott Nutrition $1,246,389
  • Abbott Laboratories $824,110
  • Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation: $801,261
  • PepsiCo Inc. $486,335
  • Coca-Cola Co. $477,577
  • Hershey Co. $368,032
  • General Mills Inc. $309,733
  • Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality $296,495
  • Aramark Co. $293,051
  • Unilever Best Foods $276,791
  • Kellogg USA $273,272

The Academy’s response: Inaccuracies in U.S. Right to Know Article

The report is disjointed, mostly opinion, emails taken out of context, picking and choosing items based on words out of Board reports, etc.

The Academy lists facts

  • One of the authors has strong financial ties to CrossFit, a staunch opponent to RDN licensure.
  • Less than 9% (12 out of 149) of named scholarships, awards and named research grants were established through industry. The funds that are established have input into scholarship criteria, which are approved by the Foundation’s Board. An independent review committee then reviews applications and selects recipients.
  • Less than 2% (32 out of 2,812) of donors to the Academy’s Second Century were industry donors.

Additional Academy facts

  • Fact: The Academy is NOT influenced by sponsorship money
  • Fact: Less than 3% of the Academy’s and the Foundation’s investments are in food companies.
  • Fact: The Academy has never changed a position at the request of sponsors.
  • Fact: Less than 9% of Academy funding comes from sponsorship.
  • Fact: The Foundation’s Fellows program allows participants to serve as catalysts for change and advancement in emerging areas of need for the evolving nutrition and dietetics profession.
  • Fact: The Academy and Foundation have always been committed to accountability through transparency and fiduciary responsibility.

Comment

I have been writing about the Academy’s ties with food companies for years.  See, for example,

In my book, I document how food companies exert influence through sponsorship of research and professional societies.  Typically, recipients of industry funding do not recognize the influence of sponsorship and deny it, as we see here.

If AND wants to be taken seriously as an organization devoted to public health, it needs to set strong guidelines for conflicts of interest and adhere to them.  At the moment, this organization gives the appearance of a public relations arm of the food industry.

The same can be said of the American Society of Nutrition, but that’s another story.

Resources

***********

For 30% off, go to www.ucpress.edu/9780520384156.  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.

 

 

 

 

 

Sep 14 2020

Misleading marketing of the week: maple syrup of all things

My colleague Lisa Sasson, who is a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (formerly the American Dietetic Association), sent me a copy of its September 11 newsletter.  This, she pointed out, contains this advertisement for  Canadian maple syrup.

Maple syrup, delicious as it is, is basically sugar(s) in liquid form.

But “health and performance benefits”?  They have to be kidding.  I clicked on Give it a turn!

The first thing up: “Pure Maple Syrup is packed with nutritional benefits.”

Oh come on.  We’re talking sugars here.

But the hype continues:

  • Pure maple syrup from Canada contains vitamins and minerals – at approximately 110 calories per serving (2 tablespoons).  It is an excellent source of manganese and a good source of riboflavin. Pure maple syrup is also a source of calcium, thiamin, potassium, and copper.
  • Scientists have identified more than 67 different plant compounds, or polyphenols, nine of which are unique to pure maple syrup. One of these polyphenols, named Quebecol, naturally forms when the sap is boiled to produce maple syrup.

I went to the USDA’s food composition database to see what it says about maple syrup.  Its figures are pretty close to what’s given in this ad, but so what?  Manganese and riboflavin are hardly nutrients of concern in American diets—many foods have plenty—and all the other nutrients listed are in too small amounts to bother to count.

But it continues:

Maple Syrup for Fitness

  • Pure maple syrup can be a natural endurance booster for athletes because it is made primarily of carbohydrates. Since carbohydrates are the primary fuel for the body, it can help give athletes the energy they need. Use in homemade sports drinks and energy snacks for a readily available supply of energy that helps maintain your stamina.
  • Pure Maple syrup contains manganese, which may help support healthy muscles.

Translation: Eat sugar!

As for manganese,

Manganese is present in a wide variety of foods, including whole grains, clams, oysters, mussels, nuts, soybeans and other legumes, rice, leafy vegetables, coffee, tea, and many spices, such as black pepper [1,2,5,10,11]. Drinking water also contains small amounts of manganese at concentrations of 1 to 100 mcg/L [5]. The top sources of manganese in the diets of U.S. adults are grain products, tea, and vegetables [4].

Maple syrup is delicious and I love it, but it is not a health food and should not be advertised to dietitians as such.  The ad is misleading and makes the Academy look like it’s not on top of efforts to mislead its members.