Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving

Hey food industry, get out of RD conferences! #FNCE

8 Comments

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I had a blog post all written for you lovelies, cued-up, ready to go. Then I started seeing the tweets coming out of FNCE (Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo) and I got all annoyed and tweeted what you see above because apparently I’m a masochist. That unleashed a fun afternoon of back-and-forth with fellow RDs on twitter who either don’t see conflict of interest as an issue in our profession or don’t really care.

I keep being about to say “I’m sorry but…” but I’m NOT SORRY DAMMITYou are not immune to marketing. No one is immune. Not me, not you, not anyone and if you think you are then you are the extremely rare exception or you are sorely mistaken. Many dietitians (myself included) regularly bemoan that we can’t get any respect as a profession. Do you really think that showing your influence can be bought with a free sample is helping us to become respected on the same level as other healthcare professionals?

Let me tell you a little tale. Once upon a time I worked in a grocery store (yes, I was an RD at this time). In my position I was responsible for a department, helping customers, teaching classes, providing demos, etc. Myself, and others in the same role at other stores regularly received training, lunch and learns, and samples from vendors. Product knowledge is important if you are talking to customers about food and supplements. The thing is, we didn’t receive training on or samples of all brands. So which products were we more likely to recommend? The ones we’d gotten to try, the ones we felt more connected to. Sure, I never recommended a product that I was morally against (I told people not to buy raspberry ketones if they asked for my opinion)or didn’t genuinely like, but I’m sure that there were equally good alternatives to many products that I didn’t steer people toward because I had no experience with them.

So, when dietitians argue that industry at conferences is fine, I disagree. Sure, walnuts and almonds are great but if they’re the only nuts there what are the chances that dietitians are going to be subconsciously influenced to promote those to their clients over nuts that don’t have representation at the expo? Yoghurt’s great and there are myriad options at grocery stores. If Siggi’s and Chobani are the only yoghurt brands represented at FNCE, which brands do you think that RDs are going to be more likely to choose and recommend?

Some argued that the FNCE is, in part, an expo. True enough, but as a conference organized by the national dietetic organization in the US it’s expected that most attendees will be dietitians. The focus should be on providing them with current evidence-based nutrition information.Having a captive RD audience for marketing at a conference organized by a body that’s meant to represent RDs is reprehensible. It’s time for the FNCE to drop the E.

Lest you still believe that RDs are a higher breed of human and somehow immune to conflicts of interest and marketing tactics, check out the selection of tweets below. Names and handles have been removed because this is not about singling out dietitians, it’s about drawing attention to the larger issue. Kudos to the companies present at FNCE for generating all of these free advertisements. Shame on the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics for allowing this to occur.

 

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Author: Diana

I'm a registered dietitian from Nova Scotia, living and working in Ontario, Canada. My goal is to help people relearn how to have a healthy relationship with food.

8 thoughts on “Hey food industry, get out of RD conferences! #FNCE

  1. I come from the world of farming and industrial animal nutrition. My people are dispassionate scientists and bean counters. We have an industry that sells to us, but there is little marketing hype. Because we can test a product in a pen of feeder cattle, the bottom line always wins. Your industry arguably has a lower level of scientific rigor because of the difficulty, logistics, and cost of dealing with humans.

    You need marketing and hype because the success of your work depends on the ability to sell consumers on healthier diets (or the changes to diets required by medical conditions etc) . Humans are not inherently rational. That has to be taught and it is difficult. (I’m not saying we shouldn’t try)

    I understand and agree that the bleed over from the industry marketing is undesirable. It’s also hard to avoid because there is so much overlap. And not all of it is bad. Short of an allergy, I can’t make any arguement against walnuts.

    If you want to make an case for a professional code of conduct or the inclusion of a professional ethis class in school then go right ahead. Industry’s role and responsibilities is different from a dietary practitioners. As long as that is recognized and understood I don’t see a conflict.

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  2. Reblogged this on In Your Face Nutrition and commented:
    I don’t believe dietitians should allow marketing and advertising in professional conferences. If it’s common knowledge that physicians can be biased from pharma ads in journals and that free lunches worth less than $20 can affect prescribing who is to say that food advertising to dietitians won’t influence our food prescribing.
    Are we somehow immune to marketing influences that other healthcare professionals aren’t immune to?

    I researched Andy Bellatti for an interview earlier this year one of his online quotes stuck with me, “Even if you don’t see eye to eye with everything a fellow RD says it doesn’t mean you should rule out collaborating on mutual interests and perspectives.”

    It resonated with me because as I’ve matured in my career I’ve tried to balance passion, energy, and discontentment.

    I maintain my discontentment with the ties that the food industry has built with the government in things such as food policies and the Canada’s Food Guide and I maintain discontentment that as professional RDs we allow our organizations (and sometimes governing bodies) to subtly advertise to us. Pepsi funded lecture on sugar anyone?

    Yes, I like walnuts. Yes, I would like to try Icelandic style yogurt for free. NO- I don’t think that it has a place at dietitian conferences. We all eat food (maybe this should say, ‘we all need nutrition’) but that doesn’t mean we all need to be targeted by marketers for “national exposure of dietitian members who influence buying decisions in every major market.”

    I maintain my openness to collaborate on mutual interests with all dietitians because RD’s can be a great source of information to help improve public health BUT- please let’s take the influence out of the education!

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  3. Almonds and strawberries are food industry? Don’t we want people to eat these foods?

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    • Yes, these are nutritious food choices but were represented by marketing boards/brands at the conference. Best to have no marketing at conference rather than get into determining who should or shouldn’t be allowed.

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  4. Ugh thank you!!! there’s too much buy in from the food industry. My first year at FNCE I went to one of the lectures that was funded by a specific gum company, showing that gum helped you to lose weight. I couldn’t believe they would allow that. It was completely biased.

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  5. Pingback: A Dietitians’ Take on #ads and Food Industry Bias – In Your Face Nutrition

  6. Pingback: Top 16 of 2016 |

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