Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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The bigger problem with the cosy relationship between dietitians and the food industry

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Lots of drama in the dietetic world last week. No, I’m not talking about the wildly popular Dietitians Day. First, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) in the US brokered a facepalm worthy deal with Kraft to have their logo placed on process cheese slices. Dietitians everywhere (myself included) were outraged, certainly not shocked, but definitely outraged. And rightfully so. How are people supposed to take us seriously when an organization claiming to represent thousands of dietitians is promoting process cheese. A product that the majority of us would neither consume nor recommend to clients. On the defensive, AND released a statement (you may need to scroll down a bit to find the post) claiming that the prominent placement of their logo on the process cheese was not indicative of endorsement. Rather, the logo was indicative of Kraft’s support of AND. Right. We all know that doesn’t matter. It’s the perception that matters and everyone perceived the placement of the AND logo as an endorsement of the questionable product. Especially since the initial accompanying pronouncement stated that AND was proud to have their logo appearing on Kraft singles as many children don’t consume enough calcium and vitamin D. AND will be forming a committee to address the concerns of members regarding this deal with Kraft, in MAY. If you agree that this “partnership” is wrong then please take a minute to sign the Change.org petition asking AND to “repeal the seal”.

Hot on the heels of the AND Kraft debacle was the news that a number of dietitians had promoted mini-Coke cans as “healthy snacks”. These dietitians were likely all paid for selling their souls this work, although one of them couldn’t recall if she was paid by Coke or not. Gee, I wish I was making so much money that I could forget whether or not I was paid for something. While I hate to rag on fellow dietitians, it frustrates me to no end to hear of others doing such a disservice to our profession.

Both of these stories exemplify how the relationship between the food industry and dietetics/dietitians undermines our integrity as health professionals. There is a larger problem here. Dietetic organizations need sources of funding that do not come with conflicts of interest. Dietitians need more and better job opportunities. I understand that it’s a tough job market. Believe me, I’m not raking in the dough and I’m only quasi working as a dietitian. However, I would sooner give-up my status as a registered dietitian than to use it to promote questionable food and beverage choices. With the constantly changing science and messages in nutrition it’s hard enough to convince people to trust us. Is it really worth sacrificing our credibility to make a buck?


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Second guessing the second guessing the dietitian post

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I’ve been noticing a disturbing trend among dietitians lately. It involves a certain division of RDs into two groups: “real” food RDs and all of the other RDs. Honestly, I’m not sure what the non-real food RDs are eating and advising others to eat. So far as I can tell, “real” food is the paleo diet and if you’re not paleo you’re not a “real” food RD. The implication being that dietitians advising you to consume anything other than paleo are inferior. I wrote a bit about this nutritional elitism last week. It offends me that, despite being an avid cook, some dietitians would suggest that I don’t eat “real” food because I don’t buy-in to a particular diet. I can assure you, I am not a machine (despite what some on fito have suggested), I do not run on diesel, electricity, nor hot air, I consume a variety of foods for fuel.

This “real” food RD group lead me to this post: Why you should second guess the dietitian. Now, I know that things are different in the US than they are in Canada so I’m trying not to take this too personally. However, it’s extremely frustrating to devote years of my life to a profession that I’m passionate about and to see others (including those within the profession) bashing it. It’s understandable that the author would have a hate-on for dietitians. She’s a holistic nutritionist, and as such, would be subject to much disdain on the part of dietitians due to the lack of evidence-based practice and of professional accountability in her chosen career. I don’t want to turn this into an “us versus them” diatribe though. I have no desire to get into a mud-slinging match. I know some reasonable and intelligent holistic nutritionists. No, my issue is the undermining of dietitians based on a couple of negative personal experiences the author had and based on the actions of the American governing organization (Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – AND).

The gist of the article is that dietitians lack credibility because their governing organization is in cahoots with the food industry. There is no doubt about it; that’s a huge conflict of interest. It’s ludicrous that the food industry would be providing funding and education for dietitians via their professional organization. However, this does not mean that you can’t trust dietitians. It’s also important to note that there are a number of dietitians rallying against the relationship between the AND and the food industry, both through the group Dietitians for Professional Integrity, and through personal decisions. Despite what the author would have you believe, we dietitians are not all attending conferences and lapping up nutrition “education” provided by Hershey and Coke.

Sure, there are going to be some (as in any profession) who are going to unquestioningly accept any nutrition information provided to them in a conference or a webinar. However, from my experience, the vast majority of RDs are intelligent enough to question information presented to them (regardless of the source) and to filter out the wheat from the chaff.

Yes, as the author says, any reputable dietitian will also suggest that you should question any health information given to you. Doctors, dietitians, holistic nutritionists, none of us are infallible and the field of nutrition is constantly evolving. Dietitians are committed to life-long learning and to providing evidence-based advice. We are not droids for the food industry.


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Follow Friday: Stop junk food giants from taking over nutrition programs

Concerned about dietitians’ organizations ties to the food industry? You probably should be. It’s wrong for corporations like Pepsi, Coke, and McDonald’s (to name a few) to be providing funding to organizations that represent health care professionals who provide nutrition counselling. It’s also inappropriate for those organizations to be providing “educational” sessions at dietetic conferences. Here’s your chance to stand-up for dietitians; sign the petition to sever ties between the “junk food giants” and the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Hopefully this effort will spill over into Canada and Dietitians of Canada will stop accepting sponsorship from the food industry.


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Follow Friday: Dietitians for Professional Integrity

I started this blog as an outlet to rant about nutrition myths and other nutrition-related topics that raised my ire. I may not always state things in the most diplomatic manner. My goal is to get people thinking and questioning things and sometimes I voice my opinions in a provocative manner to do so. If I’m wrong about a topic or if there is no “right” or “wrong” but you have a differing opinion I’m happy to hear it and will post it in the comments section for others to obtain additional viewpoints.

One of my top ranting topics has been Dietitians of Canada and their symbiotic relationship with the food industry. As such, I’m more than happy to throw my support behind an initiative out of the US (who are experiencing similar issues with their national dietetic organization: the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics) called Dietitians for Professional Integrity. Please go and “like” their Facebook page. If you are a dietitian, I urge you to consider contributing a Statement of Concern or simply to share your personal experiences on their wall.

It took me a few weeks to muster up the courage and write my Statement of Concern (posted below). The retweets, comments of support, and new followers help me to feel confident that I’m doing the right thing. If we don’t stand-up for ourselves and what we believe in we will never see the change that we desire. Let’s work together to make our national dietetic organizations what we need them to be. Kudos to RD Andy Bellatti for spearheading this campaign.

Statement of Concern:

I’ve had a couple of fellow RDs ask me to submit a statement of concern to support the efforts of Dietitians for Professional Integrity in their efforts to pry Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND) and Dietitians of Canada back out of the pockets of the food industry. A recent event has made me feel both less comfortable with doing this and obligated to do this.

 

When I was student I was a member of DC. I wanted to be involved and obtain current nutrition information from our national organization. It was also an asset when applying to internship programs. However, I was disgusted with the amount of propaganda I received in the mail. Every single package I received from DC contained information from food industry sponsors. I received numerous coupons (includes ones for bologna!), which I was suggested to “share with clients”. After I was accepted into the internship program I allowed my membership to lapse, as I was uncomfortable with the ties between DC and the food industry.

 

I have been vocally critical of DC on my personal blog over the past year and a half. I don’t think that it’s appropriate for an organization that is comprised of nutrition professionals and students to receive sponsorship from the food industry. I view this as a major conflict of interest. How can we be viewed as credible providers of nutritional best practice if we’re funded by the food industry?

 

Apparently, I’ve stepped on some toes with my comments. That brings me to the recent event that compelled me to add my voice to this cause. It was suggested to me, by my provincial dietetic association, that I remove my comments about DC from my blog. I was told that these comments were unprofessional and did a disservice to dietitians (among other things). After much consideration I decided that this attempt to silence me would instead provide me with the impetus to raise my voice more loudly. If we are not allowed to have a critical discourse, and not allowed to comment on actions of an organization that is meant to represent us, how will we ever see positive change?