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Big Food Exerts Unhealthy Influence on America’s Nutritionists

Posted Sep 29 2011 1:21pm
Big Food Exerts Unhealthy Influence on America’s Nutritionists :

THIS is why I can’t take RDs seriously (among other reasons).

thehonestpalate :

There are some things that make me shake with anger.  A few:

  • People on the subway who play music without headphones.
  • Line cutters.
  • All of the Twilight books, movies, merchandise and fandom.
  • Health and government professionals who tell lies for their own personal benefit.

The last one on the list is unforgivable, and unfortunately it happens constantly.  This article, Big Food Exerts Unhealthy Influence on America’s Nutritionists, which I read on Grist.org, discusses a problem that I sometimes briefly forget is all too prevalent in the nutrition industry.  

The processed food industry is trying to woo dietitians into promoting products that are usually labeled as “unhealthy” or “snack food.”  With endorsement from a nutritionist or dietitian, these products receive credibility from a professional who’s job it is to tell the public what and how to eat right.  The nutrition field is already rife with conflicting views, lies, and unclear data, and it’s only discredited further when dietitians partner with Big Food companies who’s goal is not public health, but to make a buck.  

Often, food companies sponsor events for the American Dietetic Association, and other industry groups, providing housing, event space and food for free - an attractive option for groups lacking funds.  But now these conferences are packed with booths for companies like Yum! Brands, Pepsico, General Mills, McDonalds, etc, and they are seriously influencing the people who matter.  

A recent conference held a panel titled A Fresh Look at Processed Foods, which was attended by hundreds of RDs and health professionals.  One panelist, Lindsey Loving of the International Food Information Council, announced to the audience that processed foods, “represent sources of important nutrients for consumers and should be eaten along with fresh fruits and veggies.”

How could a trained RD take this seriously?  Impossible, right?  Wrong.  Unfortunately RDs and nutritionists can be bought, if not with a paycheck, then with fancy hotel rooms at conferences, free flights, gift baskets, and further recognition.  I often find that dietitians partner with brands to make themselves more visible, giving them the opportunity to attend events, meet professionals and test new products.  The dietitian’s customer base grows and the food company gets acknowledged by a trusted and trained professional.  The cycle continues… 

Dietitians and nutritionists who work with brands are breaking a code of ethics that is crucial to performing their job successfully and credibly.  They are damaging the profession’s reputation and harming consumers, just to get ahead.  If a dietitian wanted to make personal gains without any regard for the public, they probably should have gone into finance instead.  Please leave the task of bettering the health of our nation to those who actually want to make a difference.

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