How Did My Profession’s Conference Get Hijacked by Big Food? (Guest post by Andy Bellatti)

Coca-Cola promoting the RDNational ConfectionersThe HFCS folks

Booth displays at Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Expo. (photos by Andy Bellatti)

I recently attended the annual gathering of the largest trade group of nutrition professionals, which I also covered last year. Look out for complete report from me in the coming months. Meantime, I am pleased to share the experience of one registered dietitian, Andy Bellatti.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) hosted its 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) earlier this month. Sadly, the event once again (see last year’s report) demonstrated how this registered dietitians’ accrediting organization drags its own credential through the mud by prioritizing Big Food’s corporate interests over sound nutrition and public health.

Nutrition Conference or Junk Food Expo?

Academy “partners,” which enjoy top sponsorship status at the expo, included the National Dairy Council, Coca-Cola, and the Hershey Center for Health and Nutrition (yes, the chocolate company). Event “premier sponsors” included General Mills, PepsiCo, and Mars. As a dietitian, I am embarrassed that the nation’s largest nutrition trade organization maintains partnerships with companies that contribute to our nation’s diet-related health problems.

The expo floor did have a few bright spots, such the Center for Science in the Public Interest, Meatless Mondays, and independent companies promoting relatively whole-food products (and advocating for California’s GMO-labeling initiative), such as Lundberg Farms, Nature’s Path, Manitoba Harvest, and Mary’s Gone Crackers. However, these booths were small and more difficult to locate, while the largest and flashiest booths belonged to the likes of PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Monsanto, and the Corn Refiners Association. (Notably, many of these companies are funding the No campaign on GMO labeling.) Even the candy lobby had a booth for the first time this year (not surprisingly, their message was one of “moderation,” that meaningless term). Many of these booths shamelessly pandered to me and my colleagues. Coca-Cola for instance, claimed to “promote the registered dietitian.” How exactly they do this is unclear; “co-opt” would be a more accurate term.

Educational Sessions or Big Food Propaganda?

In addition to dominating the expo hall, Big Food also often asserted unilateral control over the messaging at many of the educational sessions. One session on food allergies (“Beyond Belly Aches: Identifying and Differentiating Food Allergies and Intolerances”) was mostly National Dairy Council propaganda. Lactose-free dairy products were presented as the best (and sometimes, only) choice for individuals with lactose intolerance in order to “prevent nutrient deficiencies” and confer alleged benefits of dairy, such as weight loss and reduced risk of heart disease and diabetes (these claims were not referenced).

These oft-repeated talking points by the dairy industry are a slap in the face to nutrition science; all the nutrients in dairy are available in plant-based foods, and the research linking dairy intakes to weight loss and decreased risks of diabetes and heart disease is tenuous at best, and is often sponsored by the dairy industry. (The weight loss claim has even been deemed by the federal government as deceptive.) Many dietitians specializing in food allergies who attended the session expressed their disbelief on Twitter. Others I spoke to walked out, insulted by what they considered to be unhelpful and inaccurate information.

A session on children and beverages titled “Kids Are Drinking What?” – also presented by the National Dairy Council – was essentially an hour-long advertisement for milk. The dairy reps acknowledged how they target African-American and Hispanic communities with a “drink more milk” message, which I found particularly disturbing as both ethnic groups have high rates of lactose intolerance. The dairy council also kept repeating a new slogan – “one more cup” – which, again, is supposed to “reduce nutrient deficiencies.” Notably one of the most glaring deficiencies among U.S. children – low fiber intake – was not brought up at all; and no wonder, since dairy products contain no fiber.

Even more disturbing was all the hand-wringing over children’s high intake of sugar-sweetened beverages, as if the dairy council really cares about kids’ health. This alleged concern disappeared when I asked about the added sugar in chocolate milk. The panelists’ – all of whom were employed by the National Dairy Council — answer was that chocolate milk is a “nutrient-dense” beverage. Never mind how, with three teaspoons of sugar per cup, one serving of chocolate milk supplies the maximum daily amount of added sugar for children ages four to eight, as recommended by the American Heart Association.

Big Food’s presence was sometimes more covert. One session on food additives was sponsored by the International Food Information Council, the same food industry front group that last year assured us that pesticides are safe. Striking a similar chord, this panel explained how additives are safe because, after all, strawberries and coffee contain “chemicals” responsible for their taste and aroma. So, the logic train went, if we eat strawberries and coffee without a care, why do we fear controversial preservatives such as BHT and BHA? (The Center for Science in the Public Interest recommends avoiding BHA.)

Panelist Dr. Roger Clemens enthusiastically defended chemical additives while mocking survey results that showed how a significant portion of the public mistrusts the Food and Drug Administration. When I asked him why other countries have banned additives that the FDA has not, I was told it is simply a result of “a different group of scientists” arriving at “a different conclusion.” How convenient. What concerned me even more was how most of the audience appeared to find Dr. Clemens’ defense of additives humorous. Sadly, it appeared that Dr. Clemens did not have to work very hard to convince many dietitians that chemical additives were safe.

Does Sound Nutrition and Common Sense Require a Debate?

Some semblance of balance was attempted at two sessions. At one, titled “Why Can’t We All Just Work Together? Public Health vs. Industry,” panelist Margo Wootan, of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, explained how industry and public health have two very different goals. Food industry consultant Beth Johnson, meanwhile, claimed the food industry is committed to improving Americans’ health by continually reformulating products to include more whole grains and lower sugar and sodium. But this approach is really not going to cut it given the seriousness of diet-related health problems this nation faces. To my surprise and disappointment, during the Q&A, one RD sided with the food industry saying that consumers should be blamed for not making healthy choices.

At another point-counterpoint session, this one on processed foods, Susan Crockett from kids’ cereal giant General Mills passionately defended processed foods. Her opponent, Jessica Kolko, an RD from Whole Foods, explained how Americans’ reliance on highly processed foods is responsible for a litany of public health ills. Ms. Kolko argued that the solution is for people to increase their intake of “real food.” While this session finally delivered the “eat real food” message that I espouse (shouldn’t all RDs?), why was a critique of the food industry framed as a “controversial” topic that can only be discussed in a debate format?

Taking Back the RD Credential

On the bright side, there is an emerging subgroup of RDs who are increasingly unhappy with Big Food’s ubiquity in the Academy, and who voice their disappointment. The Hunger and Environmental Nutrition dietetic practice group, of which I am a member, concerns itself with issues of corporate control, food justice, environmental regulations, and other “big picture” ideas. This summer, they released their guidelines for responsible corporate sponsorship. They encompass environmental sustainability, humane labor practices, and support of sound public health policy. The Academy leadership would greatly benefit from reading and applying these criteria more broadly.

At its annual “Film Feastival,” HEN hosted a screening of Split Estate, a captivating and sobering documentary about the tragic consequences of fracking in New Mexico and Colorado. In between harrowing stories of children, adults, and ecosystems sickened by pollutants, oil and gas industry representatives reassured viewers that fracking was a completely safe practice. As the documentary went on, their lies were exposed, and I thought of the striking similarity to Big Food’s spin and untruths; the very companies that my professional organization partners with. Bleak subject matter aside, I was happy to spend a few hours utilizing my brain, thinking critically, and listening to a panel of concerned individuals – a doctor, an RD, an activist, and a farmer – all advocating against powerful lobbies that prioritize profits over health. Sound familiar?

Now more than ever, members of the Academy who recognize the insidious nature of partnering with Big Food must speak up and let the leadership know how and why these partnerships are detrimental to the profession. We cannot allow ourselves to be steamrolled by the inane notion put forth by many in power that partnering with the likes of PepsiCo and McDonald’s benefits our profession and the health of Americans. It is simply untrue. I am growing increasingly tired of having to defend the credential I worked so hard for, which in many circles is seen as promoting Diet Coke and Baked Cheetos. We will never be taken seriously as nutrition experts when our messaging and credential is co-opted by junk food companies who think we are just an easy sell.

I urge my colleagues to think critically, ask tough questions, and relentlessly defend the ideas of healthful, real food. Yes, you will have detractors. Yes, at times you may feel you face a well-oiled – and well-budgeted – PR machine that is ready to discredit and stomp you. However, this is not the time to claim defeat. Many people are now recognizing the power of food to promote – or destroy — health. It is up to us, as registered dietitians, to take back our credential.

 

43 Responses to “How Did My Profession’s Conference Get Hijacked by Big Food? (Guest post by Andy Bellatti)”

  1. Thank you for this, and all that you do, Andy. Keep up the good fight!

    • Freda Butner, RD LDN says:

      Now what exactly are we fighting about? Coca-Cola is not our nemesis. If one wants to remove AND from such sponsorships, that means we also disconnect ourselves from the Coca-Cola Company’s numerous initiatives such as the scores of world-wide Clean Water/conservation programs, rebuilding Japan, saving the polar bears, support of American parks, plant-based plastic bottle packaging, saving bears in Taiwan, Human Rights Campaign, helping farmers in China, use of electric trucks, LGBT inclusive credo, planting trees program, Habitat for Humanity, and many, many more environmental and sustainable and award winning programs. Heck, I bet half of the people these projects help to survive even have access to Coke! Coca-Cola DOES NOT ask AND to push Coke in our jobs and our “clients” were not at FNCE. Other than the attention given to the published article, what % of citizens are likely to march on Washington regarding their presence at our exclusive conference? Who are we kidding about our ‘reputation’ being at risk! Coke is, simply put, their signature product. Coke is sexy; building aquifers for potable water and the like is not. Have the naysayers actually looked at their Website? If we would dare draw a distinction between AND’s mark on this earth with the magnanimous impact Coke and other legal products from responsible companies have made, how would it be measured? What would be judged? I for one am happy that the $ bottle of Diet Coke I occasionally enjoy goes toward participation in all of the aforementioned humanitarian issues that I am not able to do as an individual. Do we go around blaming car manufactures for traffic fatalities? Hardly; we know reasons for accidents are more complicated than a fault of the maker. I am a vegetarian, but the last I heard, dairy doesn’t just flat out kill people. If you disagree with milk (which btw I do because of animal welfare), then don’t recommend it to your clients. If AND members believe RDs should be purists to the bone, then we are elitists and will appear so to the rest of the world –the world that Coke makes better (pun intended!). Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola, candy bars and other once-in-a-while foods can thrive without AND. I don’t think we can be who we are without them. Their money/sponsorship enables us to carry out our mission and profession the way we are trained to do. They do not criticize that we do not promote (some of) their products when counseling our clients. We do approve of (bottled) water, right? We do not like to be looked upon as the proverbial ‘food police,’ in our communities of work, so why is it germane for our profession to take on a company because we may disagree with one of its products? If we truly were in the business of scrutinizing every detail of every company that AND receives money from, what would the score sheet look like? Beyond egregious acts of moral turpitude, it is not something practical to tackle, in my opinion. So theoretically, if we had this score sheet for sponsorship, when all was said and done, what would our annual fees become? Yikes, thinking of that figure makes me want to sign off and have a rum and Coke! Get a life, Coke adds to it.

      • Windy Daley of Texas says:

        Freda, have you read the latest research regarding diet colas? As a health teacher, I truly believe that anyone involved with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is not friendly (perhaps even an enemy) to the health of the American public. How could anyone who believes in promoting the health of children be a member of such a two-faced organization? I am not the only American who feel this way.

        I feel relieved to read the above article by Michele Simon. At least there exists one dietitian who is not a Diet Coke and Baked Cheetos believer. One–out of all the thousands. I would never go to any member of the Academy for nutrition advice. Why did they change the name of the American Dietetic Association? Was it the same reason that the corn refiners wished to change high fructose corn syrup to “corn sugar?”

        I personally do not consider anyone who is sponsored and educated by soda, fast food, and snack companies as educated in “health” and “nutrition.” The fast food “Academy” has lost me–and I suspect anyone connected to it–except for perhaps Michele–and I am glad she is rethinking her connection to such an association.

        Americans need to be warned and educated regarding the fast food “Academy.”

      • Windy Daley of Texas says:

        And I need to add Andy Bellati as perhaps a “good” dietitian since he wrote the article–but he is still a member of such. I am only a health conscious American wishing to offer my viewpoint–a growing viewpoint on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics–an organization bought out by fast/processed food corporations.

        We need to love our children enough to feed them real foods. Thanks for the article.

      • Jason says:

        There you have it. Another brain washed Dietitian preaching the great things about coke.
        Coke has done a great job with
        - Pushing it brown addictive sugar or aspartame filled drinks to the whole world. The fall out from this nasty company is liked to the rampant increase in diabetes’s, obesity and poor dental health.
        - Aspartame is linked to neuro toxicity
        - Coke is Posing as the savior by pushing their fluoridated BPA plastic water bottles.
        -Coke has been sued by countries world wide for polluting the environment.
        -Coca-Cola influenced Grand Canyon officials to scrap plastic bottle ban.
        -Coca Cola owns Vitaminwater: were accurately named, it would actually be called Sugarwater. Its first two ingredients are, not surprisingly, sugar and water (the sugar coming in the form of crystalline fructose, a processed sweetener.
        -Coca-Cola has been responsible for severe human rights abuses. Back in the 1970s and 1980s, the company was responsible for similar behavior in Guatemala, where eight workers in Guatemala City were murdered or otherwise killed for trying to keep their union alive.
        -Coca cola lobbied against the GMO labeling law.

        The history goes on and on. The public is waking up and Dietitans assosiations are becoming discredited.

        http://www.activistpost.com/2013/03/dietitians-of-new-world-order.html

        See dietitans for professional integrety on facebook.
        https://www.facebook.com/DietitiansForProfessionalIntegrity

  2. leah mcgrath says:

    Andy, I know you and I differ greatly on our perspectives but in the interest of accuracy and for those who were not there let’s at least be factual:
    1. Technically the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics is NOT the “accrediting organization”. AND is “..world’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals”…the accrediting body is the Commission on Dietetic Registration (CDR) which is the credentialing agency for AND.
    2. The only reason any of the booths, would be “difficult to locate” would be if you didn’t look at the guide and layout provided. So let’s not imply that “healthy” products were hidden from attendees. I seem to remember pavilions/areas featuring organic/Natural foods, Diabetes Supplies/Products another of gluten free and one pavilion that was all fresh California produce.
    3. To say that the Nature’s Path booth(one you approved of) was “small and more difficult to locate” would be completely false as it was literally one of the first booths in the Expo hall as soon as you entered and was in fact one of the largest of the booths.
    4. As far as the educational sessions…there were sessions Sunday, Monday and Tuesday throughout the day and in total probably one hundred or more sessions with Topics ranging from sustainable practices , school lunch programs, and social media to tube feeding, encouraging fruit and vegetable intake and food insecurity. Dietitians are not made to go to any session and typically seek out sessions that correspond to continuing educational goals.

  3. leah mcgrath says:

    excuse me…I meant Nature Made and now I see you wrote Nature’s Path…a booth that I did easily find on a corner spot.

  4. I am a Registered Dietitian. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) is touted as the largest organization of food/nutrition professionals, yet AND thrives on s(l)ick political relationships with some of the worst elements of the agriculture and food industry. We are central networkers for promoting toxic agribusiness, processed foods, and industry/government driven food and nutrition messages. We spin industry funded “science” which is an insult to health professionals and most of all to the public that we are supposed to serve. Just this year in my state of Michigan, the annual meeting included a RD promoting propaganda on the value of artificial sweeteners in our diets. Then we heard another presentation on the value of pesticides and why we shouldn’t worry about their safety. My opinion is that “hustling” style relationships between AND and many of their sponsors, partners, and supporters are sabotaging our nations health through deception and greed. Every time I pay my membership and registration fees, I worry that I am complicit in this destructive force. There are growing numbers of RD’s that seek to influence the organization from within to bring about a new level of professionalism, consciousness, and accountability. For the sake of future generations and the health of our planet, we beseech AND to denounce this corruption and initiate reform.

  5. There is a complicated relationship between sponsors and professional associations. I agree with most of what Andy writes about. This relationship between sponsors and professional associations frustrates me beyond AND. I’m a member of the American College of Sports Medicine and I have regularly attended their Health and Fitness Summits. Gatorade is front and center. I’ve always been bothered by the color dyes in Gatorade, but now they oppose GMO labeling. So, let’s not just attack AND. I bet many alternative nutrition associations get their conferences sponsored by vitamin companies. It’s the nature of the beast. Leah points out much of the good that comes out of this conference. I have no problem with healthier alternatives from big industry being shown in the Expo (need to keep up on what my clients may be eating since I rarely eat the stuff myself-of course, I’m always trying to bring my clients back to whole foods), but they should not be allow to commandeer educational sessions! When I attend FNCE, these are the sessions that I avoid.

  6. Andy,

    Thank you for this post. As a FNCE attendee this year I think you summed things up perfectly. I too was disappointed by the big food propoganda and representation at the event. For an organization such as AND that touts being “evidenced-based”, where is the true unbiased science? If we/AND cannot communicate a clear message to consumers about health then what are we doing? I really appreciate yourself and all of the other RDs, who think beyond what is forced in front of them and truly analyze what is going on being the viel of big money/food to seek out true science based information for their clients, patients, and general consumers.

    Chelsey

  7. Laura West Kong says:

    While I laughed at your tweets from the FNCE floor, the truth is that the situation is anything but funny.

    As big (junk) food companies’ influence grows among the pool of RDs, my esteem for the profession as a whole is going to drop proportionally. Why would I seek the professional advice of someone whose nutritional standards are lower than mine? From someone educated in “healthy” eating by Coca-Cola and friends?

    Goes to show that the FNCE may be no different than Big Food in that money comes before values and health. Sad!

  8. [...] and its members. You can read excellent examples of the interesting (and biting!) commentary here and here. I agree that it’s troubling to see prominent displays by Coca Cola, McDonalds, and [...]

  9. John Ranta says:

    As a layman who has spent a lot of time researching nutrition and metabolism, I have to say to all of you that AND and RDs have very little credibility. My own study into nutrition began with Gary Taubes, and has continued with the work and writing of Nina Planck, Michael Pollan, and on through the research of Drs. Lustig, Eenfeldt and others. I appreciate Michele’s skepticism of AND. From what I’ve read, there is far too much conventional wisdom, far too much reliance on “big food”, and far too little science in the nutrition “profession”. You even have one of your own here defending Coca Cola because of their Public Relations efforts in third world countries. Is a good PR effort all that it takes to gloss over the fact that Coca Cola’s products make consumers sick?

    Lustig’s research connecting sugar and HFCS to obesity and diabetes is under constant attack by “scientists” funded by Conagra and Pepsi. The Corn Refiners Association funds a research organization headed by Rippe, which publishes cleverly designed “studies” defending HFCS as being “no worse than sugar” (talk about damning with faint praise!) The fact that your profession’s major conference is dominated by companies who profit from malnutrition threatens to discredit every RD who attends.

    There’s hope. Gary Taubes, who is beholden to no corporate interests, is starting an organization dedicated to nutrition research. Perhaps we’ll see some real science to combat all the corporate misinformation. JR

    • EmC says:

      As a Dietetic student, my fear is that I am going into a profession that is losing its real mission, to heal people with food and prevent sickness while promoting a high-quality lifestyle. That is what I am in it for. I appreciate, and agree with, the comments regarding the need for AND to drop the big agribusiness funding in order to stand for true food science. I do hope that when people seek my professional services they will appreciate the fact that I want what is best for them and will strive to be the best dietitian for them that I can possibly be.

      • Davo says:

        Dietitians conference EXPOSED by a Dietitian who secretly filmed a global dietetics conference with all the multinational corporate partners Pepsi, McDonalds, Nestle, Pfizer) .

        A clear example of why Dietetics associations are pushing disinformation to the masses. Please share.
        Australian Dietetics http://www.vimeo.com/59828051

    • Before you denigrate a whole group of professionals, John, you better study more!!! I take offense at your comment. You have no clue what I have studied as a registered dietitian and how dare you make an ignorant comment sterotyping me. Open your mind. There are many more very well informed RDs out there than you even have a clue about! I don’t know if you are a professional person, but if you are, then you should have professional respect for the training of other professionals! It is extrememly UNPROFESSIONAL to make the type of comment that you have made!

      • Michele says:

        Carol,

        It’s just this sort of reaction to AND’s corporate sponsorships that denigrate the profession and why I suggest you should direct your anger to the AND leadership.

  10. Stephen Albers says:

    Your article struck struck a personal chord with me because I have a friend with a BS in Hotel Management who is seeking to add to her nutrition credentials. She will be taking the CDM, CFPP exam in a couple of weeks. I have suggested she investigate the additional courses she would need to get certified as an RD. But if the RD credential is essentially meaningless propaganda for Big Food, maybe she would be better advised to seek a nascent certification in science-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Foundation?

    It is clear to me that, like Big Tobacco, Big Food’s days of self-serving hypocrisy and lies are numbered. So possibly the value of the RD credential will evaporate and is not worth her pursuing – a “has-been” credential in favor of a “forward-looking” credential. Or is it possible to influence the RD establishment for change? Opinions would be appreciated.

    • Hi Stephen,

      The RD science-based curriculum (which includes physiology, biochemistry, and food science) lays a strong foundation. The bigger issue here is the Academy’s ties with Big Food.

      I have always encouraged individuals interested in nutrition who are also worried about corporate influence to become RDs. The more forward-thinking people we get on board, the better chance we have of the credential being taken more seriously.

      This is an issue where bringing forth change from the inside is crucial (the Academy can easily dismiss and ignore “naysayers” from the outside, but it’s a different story when dissent comes from RDs).

      My recommendation is to start with the RD credential as a base and then seek out additional certifications and credentials according to one’s interests (i.e.: food allergies, plant-based nutrition, etc.).

      Thank you for your comment.

  11. [...] Posted October 17th, 2012. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) hosted its 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference and Expo (FNCE) earlier this month. Sadly, the event once again  demonstrated how this registered dietitians’ accrediting organization drags its own credential through the mud by prioritizing Big Food’s corporate interests over sound nutrition and public health. Read more. [...]

  12. EmC says:

    Why does Coke have a stethoscope on an RD?

  13. This blog post was great, from my perspective. It’s important to highlight how big food has invaded so many facets of our lives, and helps to explain a few mysteries as well. I appreciate this sharing in a forum where we can all read and weigh in with our own opinions.

    I’m interested in health and nutrition, and end up talking with a lot of people about it. Here are some of the things family and friends have shared that their dietitians have suggested to them:

    - To help keep your blood sugar levels in check, drink a Diet Pepsi in between each beer when you are drinking (to a diabetic).
    - It doesn’t matter if you are allergic to dairy. It is the only nutritional source of calcium and you have to drink milk every day. The benefits far outweigh the pain or damage it could be causing to your body. You must drink milk.
    - Children are not ready to eat the food adults eat. They must eat pre-packaged ‘children’s meals’ such as Lunchables in order to meet their daily nutritional needs

    People listen to these kinds of things. They believe them as gospel because a professional has told them so. When people share their experiences about attending conferences like these that are so heavily influenced by corporate sponsorship, it’s important for Joe Q Public to be able to know that the sponsorship is happening (rather than it being kept a secret, as has been suggested in the comments). It can help to provide some framework for why these recommendations are perhaps being made, instead of choices that are based on nutritional science.

    • Lisa says:

      Rachel,
      I highly doubt an RD told a client to feed their kid Lunchables. Because children should not eat food adults eat? That makes no sense because aren’t Lunchables just miniature adult food in a slick package? I have never heard of advising a lactose intolerant client to drink milk even though it makes them sick. You should probably check your sources on those comments.

      The sponsorships of AND by Big Food are a dilemma for me as a professional and a student, but I am not going to write off every dietitian as in the pocket of them. I appreciate hearing both sides of the argument and prefer to make my own judgement and not push my opinion on others.

    • simba says:

      When it comes to food, especially, what people hear isn’t always what’s being said.

      I’ve been told I said, with regards to someone else’s diet, that a very low calorie approach with daily periods of binging was best, whereas I said something along the lines of ‘make sure to eat breakfast and look at calories so you make yourself aware.’ I’ve sat in meetings where three of us sat listening to the doctor, and there were four different accounts of the prognosis and advice. I’ve also sat in and heard weird advice being given by the doctor to the patient she thought was sitting there (‘fat slob who drives everywhere’) rather than the person who actually was there (broke, carless person who walks for four hours a day because they have to.) Breakdowns in communication are far from exceptional, when it comes to healthcare.

      I’m not trying to discredit your anectdotes, and I have no doubt that many dieticians say and believe stupid things, but I’d always take that kind of third-hand story on health with a pinch of salt, particularly when it comes to things like saying there’s no calcium in anything other than milk.

  14. [...] post originally appeared on Appetite for Profit October 15, 2012. © Food Safety [...]

  15. [...] Bellatti, shares his experiences at FNCE and voices similar concerns in a recent blogpost titled“How Did My Profession’s Conference Get Hijacked by Big Food?” (I would also encourage you to read through some of the comments at the [...]

  16. [...] I’ve read a bunch of reviews of FNCE on blogs, but I thought this take, on how a nutrition conference is being hijacked by big food, was very [...]

  17. [...] I followed tweets during the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics annual conference for the humor value.  Registered Dieticians lamenting the amount of junk food provided and big food sponsors at the event.  Here’s a great post on how our nutrition is getting ‘hijacked by big food.’ [...]

  18. Great article. I do believe RD + brand partnerships are possible, but only if they are with companies whose proven values include improving the health of people and the planet. Obviously, Coke, HFCS, and any other Big Food company do not have public health on their priority list and that they’ve taken over RD conferences is gross.

    As for all these comments about RD’s giving bad advice and not knowing what they’re talking about, I would remind people that if you hear something from a nutrition professional that doesn’t sound or feel right, don’t dismiss the whole field – just find another dietitian. The same is true with any expert. Not every doctor gives good advice, but that doesn’t mean doctors in general don’t know anything.

  19. Lauren Swann says:

    RE: >>during the Q&A, one RD sided with the food industry saying that consumers should be blamed for not making healthy choices<<

    this statement is erroneous. I asked why they blame industry when industry develops, produces, markets healthier products that do NOT sell. I asked why they let the consumer off the hook for the role they play. I did not "side with industry" nor did I say "consumers should be blamed", I inquired about a valid reality of the dynamic, a variable factor that is often ignored, overlooked during the accusations between industry and advocacy. I was pleased that Margo Wootan during her response acknowledged the validity of my concern and respectfully addressed it without the same biased disposition you write of it here.

    I am NOT pleased with the way you, Mr. Bellatti, have spun such a question to support your agenda and attitude and you might want to consider the way conduct effects your ability to influence others — creating or perpetuating adversary is not considered a valuable means to achieve positive outcomes, but that understanding is something that comes with experience.

    • Andy Bellatti says:

      Lauren,

      By going to the microphone and stating that consumers are “let off the hook” (AKA “why aren’t they being blamed?”) for not choosing “healthier” products, you sided with the food industry. At no point did I hear you acknowledge that the food industry deceptively advertises, consistently gets in the way of public health policy, or prioritizes profits over health.

      This is a write-up of my experience at FNCE, and, to me, your statement defended the food industry. You have had your opportunity to comment. Also, please notice that at no point did I use your name in my account.

      Not sure what “my agenda” is. Do you mean my support of sound public health policy and my calling out of food industry deception? If so, that isn’t an agenda, it’s what drives and motivates me.

  20. [...] corporations attempt to show face at national nutrition conference.  Who would have thought… http://www.appetiteforprofit.com/2012/10/15/how-did-my-professions-conference-get-hijacked-by-big-fo… Share this:TwitterFacebookPinterestMoreEmailLinkedInStumbleUponTumblrRedditDiggRelated PostsMontauk [...]

  21. [...] is severely limited by its ties with the food industry. I encourage you to read the details of my experience at the Academy’s annual conference in Philadelphia last year, as it lays out much of what worries me about my organization’s co-optation by the likes of [...]

  22. [...] nutrition policy issues. Registered dietitian and Academy member Andy Bellatti, who has long criticized his professional group’s conflicted corporate sponsorships said: Michele Simon’s report on [...]

  23. [...] nutrition policy issues. Registered dietitian and Academy member Andy Bellatti, who has long criticized his professional group’s conflicted corporate sponsorships said: Michele Simon’s report on the [...]

  24. [...] dietitian and academy member Andy Bellatti, who has long criticized his professional group’s conflicted corporate sponsorships [...]

  25. [...] dietitian and academy member Andy Bellatti, who has long criticized his professional group’s conflicted [...]

  26. [...] academic scholars, public health experts, journalists, food bloggers, as well as AND’s own members. So this isn’t about my report, this is about AND’s unwillingness to address its [...]

Join Email List

Speaking Requests

Media Requests

Contact Michele Simon: michele@eatdrinkpolitics.com

Archives

  • 2014 (24)
  • 2013 (67)
  • 2012 (70)
  • 2011 (53)
  • 2010 (49)