“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” includedGeneral 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)….”