The kerfuffle continues over the conflict of interest that exists between the Academy of Nutrition Dietetics and the many Big Food giants who sponsor it.
Member Andy Bellatti draws attention to it regularly (particularly at the last AND convention), and a report by author Michele Simon released Tuesday by Eat Drink Politics stoked the embers. Food policy doyenne Marion Nestle added her comments Wednesday, and followed up yesterday in reply to commenters
These are Nestle’s people, so of course she has to be solicitous of them, such as when she leads off by saying that she received “a wealth of thoughtful comments [that] are well worth careful consideration.”
Except, they’re not, really. Any objection — *any objection* — offended RDs have about comments regarding the AND’s financial ties to Big Food must be directed to the AND if they are to have any value. Here’s Nestle’s summation of comments:
Many express disappointment that I would suggest that corporate sponsorship might influence their thinking or practice, that other nutrition professionals have equal or better education, that I singled out AND when other nutrition and health organizations also accept food industry funds, or that I am unsympathetic to their plight (they are required to be AND members whether or not they agree with its policies).”
To all of it, I say: bosh.
The problem here is not what people say about these payoffs, it is the payoffs themselves.
Wounded pride or not, does *anyone* think that Big Food gives money to the nation’s largest accrediting organization for dietitians for reasons other than influence?
Does *anyone* think that any corporation would lay out money to any organization that could influence its profits if it didn’t think it was buying something with its cash?
Does *anyone* think that a group like AND could take large sums like this and not appear to be on the take? (More on this in a follow-up post.)
Accordingly, complaints should be directed to the organization. It created this situation, not the people who criticize it.
No illegality is apparent in this financial relationship but it stinks, anyway. It ought to be criticized, first and foremost by the members who feel — and have been — tarnished.