by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: ADA(American Dietetic Association)

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

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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.

Sep 9 2020

Dietetic Association lets Bayer, owner of glyphosate, educate its members about pesticides (but see correction below)

A reader, Betsy Keller, forwarded a message she received because she belongs to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, (formerly the American Dietetic Association), the professional association for Registered Dietitian Nutritionists.

From: “Today’s Dietitian” <todays_dietitian@gvpublishing.com>

Subject: Questions about pesticides and food? We have answers.

The message originates from Bayer, the German drug company that bought Monsanto a few years ago.

Monsanto invented the herbicide glyphosate, which is used to kill backyard weeds as well as those that occur in fields of GMO corn and soybeans,.

Glyphosate has been linked to cancer risk, particularly non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Tens of thousands of people with non-Hodgkin lymphoma are suing Bayer for glyphosate-related damages.  The courts have ruled in favor of several such plaintiffs.

Bayer has agreed to pay $10 billion (!) to settle these lawsuits.

In the message to dietitians, Bayer says:

Pesticides enable farmers to produce safe, quality foods at affordable prices.They also help farmers provide an abundance of nutritious, all-year-round foods, which are necessary for human health. Crop quantity and quality rely on crop protection. For example, a U.S. study estimated that without fungicides, yields of most fruit and vegetables would fall by 50-90 percent. Moreover, pesticides decrease exposure to food contaminated with harmful micro-organisms and naturally occurring toxins, preventing food-related illnesses.

Oddly, the Bayer message says not one word about glyphosate, non-Hodgkin lymphoma, or the lawsuits.

Bayer must want dietitians to reassure their clients that pesticides like glyphosate are safe.  Bayer must not want dietitians to link glyphosate to cancer risk.

I can’t help thinking that Bayer must have paid Today’s Dietitian to send this message to the AND membership.

I can’t think of any other reason why this association would allow a message like this to be sent to its members.

Correction

Several readers wrote to point out that the Bayer message comes from Today’s Dietitian, not from the Academy.

For example, Nancy Teeter, RDN, gave me permission to quote her:

Thank you for all you do to keep the public informed.  As a registered dietitian nutritionist, I was appalled that Bayer sponsored an educational program for us. I believe you are correct when you say follow the money. Today’s Dietitian is a private company and appears to accept advertising dollars from anyone. AND charges organizations for the use [of] the mailing lists, so everyone wins financially. At the same time, the reputation of our organization is diminished.

She points out: “They also sell their email lists to advertisers.”

Mary Purdy, MS, RDN, who also gave permission, writes:

Thank you for spreading the word about this.  A group of dietitians (myself included) are formulating a letter in response to this and I have already been in touch personally with Today’s Dietitian about this issue which I find extremely concerning.

It is very important to clarify that this message came from Today’s Dietitian, (https://www.todaysdietitian.com/) which is a totally separate entity from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.  https://www.eatright.org/

The Academy has its own set of issues, but I wanted you to be sure that your readers understand that the pesticide info from Bayer came from an eblast from the publisher and business ” Today’s Dietitian”.  This org definitely needs to be held accountable  for this kind of irresponsible corporate sponsorship that spreads erroneous and harmful information so thank you for your efforts here.

She adds: “I also let Today’s Dietitian know that I would be unsubscribing from their eblasts and have encouraged others to do so as well.”

She also adds: “And yes, you are right.  Bayer is an official sponsor of Today’s Dietitian and pays them. They were also one of the sponsors of their recent symposium (At which I spoke… ironically about environmental chemicals and supporting detoxification and elimination organs with diet!).  Here is the website:  you can go to “Sponsors” and see Bayer there among others. https://www.todaysdietitian.com/ss20/

And she forwarded the letter she received from a rep from Today’s Dietitian.  Here are the relevant excerpts:

Thank you for reaching out and expressing your thoughts and concerns regarding the Bayer ad and Today’s Dietitian….Having been a friend of TD  for so long, I’m sure you are aware that the primary support for the publication comes from advertising revenue. Without advertisements, TD does not exist. That said, as with other advertising-driven business models, TD does not endorse or support any product, service, or entity advertised in the magazine or its brand extensions. TD simply offers vehicles for advertisers to reach the brand’s audience.

While you may not agree with the advertisement in question, the advertiser obviously finds value in reaching registered dietitians. Otherwise, they would not be interested in promoting to this professional audience. Just as any other audience that consumes advertising can use its own judgement to decide whether or not to explore an advertised item, so too can the TD readership decide whether or not to pursue any further engagement with the advertiser.

Dietitians: here’s your chance.  Act now.

  • Unsubscribe to Today’s Dietitian
  • Tell AND you do not want your contact information sold to advertisers.
Mar 1 2017

The recent Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ election: controversy over non-disclosure of industry ties

I’ve been asked to comment on the recent presidential election held by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND—formerly the American Dietetic Association).

I’m not a member of the Academy, but I followed this election with great interest because one of the candidates (who ultimately lost) is a consultant for food companies but did not say so.

A member of the Academy called for transparency and posted the names of the candidate’s clients on Twitter.  For this, she was severely criticized.

The only point at issue here is the need for disclosure.  Whether the lack of disclosure cost the candidate the election is hard to say.

Conflicts of interest caused by financial relationships with food companies are a big issue in the Academy, which has been struggling hard to develop policies that will protect it from conflicts of interest.

Andy Bellatti, of Dietitians for Professional Responsibility, had three questions for the candidates:

  • What are your thoughts on possible outreach strategies to bring dietitians who are currently not members of the Academy back into the organization?
  • How would you like to see the current conversation on corporate sponsorship continue over the next year?
  • What would you like to say to dietitian colleagues who want to see more robust criteria around exhibitor presence and session sponsorship at FNCE?

Unfortunately, neither candidate responded to them.  Their answers would have been instructive.

Much has been written about the politics of this particular election, all of it worth reading.

Mar 18 2015

Dietitians in turmoil over conflicts of interest: it’s about time

My e-mail inbox is filled with items about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association).  Its “seal of approval” on Kraft cheese singles (as discussed in an earlier post) was embarrassing—so embarrassing that it was discussed by Jon Stewart: “The Academy is an Academy in the same way this [Kraft Singles] is cheese” (the clip starts at 4:37).

The Onion also had some fun with this.

But now there is even more about how food companies buy the opinions of dietitians.

Candice Choi writes about how Coca-Cola pays dietitians to promote its drinks as healthy snacks (for an example of one of the paid posts, click here).  She explains that the dietitians

wrote online posts for American Heart Month, with each including a mini-can of Coke or soda as a snack idea. The pieces — which appeared on nutrition blogs and other sites including those of major newspapers — offer a window into the many ways food companies work behind the scenes to cast their products in a positive light, often with the help of third parties who are seen as trusted authorities.

Ms. Choi quotes a Coca-Cola spokesman:

“We have a network of dietitians we work with,” said Sheidler, who declined to say how much the company pays experts. “Every big brand works with bloggers or has paid talent.”

Other companies including Kellogg and General Mills have used strategies like providing continuing education classes for dietitians, funding studies that burnish the nutritional images of their products and offering newsletters for health experts. PepsiCo Inc. has also worked with dietitians who suggest its Frito-Lay and Tostito chips in local TV segments on healthy eating.

These are individual actions.  But at last the dietetic membership is objecting to the Academy’s partnership with Kraft.

  1. They have started a Change.org petition to #RepealTheSeal.
  2. The President of the New York State AND chapter (NYSAND), Molly Morgan, sent out a note in support of the petition.

Thank you to the many of you that have expressed your concern and disappointment about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics partnership with Kraft. This issue has been reviewed carefully by the NYSAND Board of Directors and the entire board is in support of actively taking steps to share our members concerns. Below are the action steps that NYSAND is taking:

–       Last week (March 11, 2015) the NYSAND Sponsorship Task Force recommendations were received and yesterday (March 16, 2015) at the March NYSAND Board of Directors meeting the Sponsorship Task Force recommendations were reviewed. Please stay tuned for more updates and note that a motion will be forth coming this week for the board to take the next step in addressing sponsorship for NYSAND.

–       Today (March 17, 2015) a letter was sent to the Academy president and emailed to several Academy leaders expressing the views that our members have shared and that as an Affiliate we are not comfortable responding with the talking points provided by the Academy on this issue.

–       Dietitians have started a petition, “Repeal the Seal”; NYSAND will be sharing this on our Affiliate Facebook and Twitter pages and encourages all members who share the concern to sign the petition as well. CLICK HERE to sign the petition.

3.  The AND national CEO, Patricia M. Babjak, sent out this letter to members, also on March 17:

Let me begin by apologizing for the concerns caused by the education initiative with Kraft. The Academy and the Foundation are listening. As a member-driven organization, the Academy’s staff and leadership hear your concerns and welcome your input.

Unfortunately, recent news articles misstated a collaboration as a Kids Eat Right “endorsement” of Kraft Singles, and that it represents a “seal of approval” from Kids Eat Right, the Foundation, or the Academy. It is not an endorsement. It is not a seal of approval. We understand this distinction is of little consequence to many Academy members who are concerned with the perception. We are working on a solution.

In addition, we are working to establish a joint, member-driven Member Advisory Panel. This Panel will work closely with both Boards to:

  • Establish dialogue with members
  • Gather input and give feedback on member issues
  • Make specific recommendations

Recognizing sponsorship as a significant issue of concern among members, the House of Delegates leadership team, who also serve on the Board of Directors, scheduled a dialogue on sponsorship for the upcoming virtual House of Delegates meeting, May 3. We encourage all members to reach out to your delegates and share your thoughts on the benefits of, concerns about and suggestions for the sponsorship program. The Academy and Foundation Boards are looking forward to your input.

Applause to members who are speaking out.

As I said in an interview with TakePart:

The food companies have learned from tobacco and drugs and other industries like that how to play this game…Let’s confuse the science, let’s cast doubt on the science, let’s shoot the messenger, let’s sow confusion.

But since everyone has to eat, the food industry has been given a pass on its pay-to-play practices….

The capital N news…is that dietitians are fighting back at last.

I hope they join Dietitians for Professional Integrity and insist that the leadership respond to their concerns.

AdditionA dietitian sends this communication from the Executive Board of the California Dietetic Association to members about the Kraft situation:

We would like to direct your attention to what the California Dietetic Association (CDA) has done to address our own issues surrounding sponsorship. We heard your concerns regarding CDA Annual Conference sponsorship and we have listened. We voted and McDonalds was not invited as a sponsor in 2015. This decision has impacted our finances; however, we believe it was important to respond to our member feedback. In addition, an ad hoc committee approved by the CDA executive board, reevaluated the sponsorship guidelines. The new sponsorship policy will be posted soon on www.dietitian.org.

Mar 13 2015

Dietitians put seal on Kraft Singles (you can’t make this stuff up)

As reported in today’s New York Times, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND, formerly the American Dietetic Association) has licensed its Kids Eat Right seal to—get this— Kraft Singles.

But no, AND says, this is not an endorsement.  Kraft is merely a “proud supporter of” AND’s Kids Eat Right program.

As the Times understates the matter,

Over the last few years, the academy been criticized from some of its members and health advocates over what they contend are its overly cozy ties to industry.

Kraft is well known as a sponsor of AND.  Such seals are usually money-raising gimmicks.

I’m wondering if “proud supporter of” means that Kraft pays AND for use of this seal. If so, I’d like to know what the seal costs.

AND members: do any of you know?

Recall the debacle over the Smart Choices logo some years ago.

The press had a field day with the Smart Choices logo on Froot Loops.  As Rebecca Ruiz at Forbes puts it, “the uproar over the program has conveyed a definitive message to industry: Don’t try to disguise a nutritional sin with a stamp of approval.”

Somehow, Kraft and AND seem to have missed this lesson.

Additions: Andy Bellatti sends these links to a statement from Sonja Connor, AND’s president and the website describing the program.

Thanks to Yoni Freedhoff for sending this explanation:

 

AND

And this enlightening note from ABC News:

The academy…said the appearance of the logo on the processed cheese product is not an endorsement or seal of approval. It’s more like an ad for Kids Eat Right, according to the academy, though, in a reversal of how most ads work, Kraft paid the advertiser — the academy — an undisclosed amount to place the logo.

Feb 18 2015

And now a word from our sponsors: The Dietitians Association of Australia

Michele Simon’s latest investigative report deals with sponsorship by food corporations of the Australian Dietetics Association.


cover

 

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.

*Additions:

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.”

Nov 4 2014

Souvenirs from the Dietitians’ annual meeting

The annual meeting of the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics, formerly the American Dietetic Association, always provides an incredible exhibit of products from food companies—the latest in dietetic junk food and food company nutritional spin.

Knowing how much I enjoy these things, and that I am working on a book about food advocates and the soft drink industry (Oxford University Press, September 2015), several of my colleagues brought back souvenirs.

Functional foods (with “healthy” ingredients above and beyond what occurs naturally)

  • For Keurig brewing machines, a container of Fibersol Cran-Raspberry flavored instant tea mix, with soluble fiber added (is tea really a significant source of soluble fiber?).
  • MealEnders.com’s chocolate mint signaling lozenges, “an antidote to overeating.”  If you feel that you are overeating, suck on one: “take control, curb appetite, get results” (if only).
  • A 6-ounce can of Kao Nutrition’s black coffee with 270 mg polyphenol (coffee chlorogenic acid), naturally present because the coffee was not brewed at high temperature (well, coffee is a plant extract, after all).

Swag

  • A pen with a pull-out section that gives the potassium content of commonly consumed foods (these come in other versions too, apparently).

Soda company propaganda

  • A brochure from PepsiCo’s Nutrition Team, HydrateNow.  Gatorade, it points out, is 93% water (and the other 7%, pray tell?.
  • A pamphlet from PepsiCo on Calorie Balance: “many things influence your everyday nutrition.  For maintaining a healthy weight, the most important factors are how many calories you eat and the total calories you use up”  (but if those calories happen to be empty?).
  • A PepsiCo brochure on Diet Beverages for People with Diabetes (but it still is advertising Pepsi).
  • A list of PepsiCo drinks that meet the USDA’s nutrition standards for schools (a long list, alas).
  • A scientific paper, “What is causing the worldwide rise in body weight,” sponsored by Coca-Cola (Coke’s answer: lack of physical activity, of course.)
  • A poster from the American College of Cardiology, “Striking an energy balance,” sponsored in part by Coca-Cola.   It says: “Drink water or no- or low-calorie beverages” (it does not say you should Drink less soda”).
  • A pamphlet on National School Beverage Guidelines sponsored by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Dr Pepper Snapple, and the American Beverage Association:  “The beverage industry committed to bold change and then made it happen.  Working with our school partners, we transformed the beverages available to students” (yes, but it doesn’t explain that public pressure forced them to do this).
  • A Coca-Cola pamphlet, Balancing Act.  This gives five easy ways to burn 100 calories: playing soccer 13 minutes, briskly walking 15 minutes, climbing stairs 10 minutes, jumping rope 9 minutes, gardening 19 minutes (based on a 150 lb person).  Funny, it doesn’t mention that one 12-ounce Coke is 140 calories.
  • A FamilyDoctor.org pamphlet, Healthy Eating for Kids, from the American Academy of Family Physicians and the American Dietetic Association, distributed with a grant from Coca-Cola.  It lists healthy eating habits—family meals, be active, limit screen time, stay positive, etc (but—surprise—does not suggest that your kid might be healthier not drinking sugar-sweetened beverages).

Treasures, all.  I really love this stuff.  Thanks.