Registered Dietitians are tired of their organization being financed by the junk food industry and Big Pharma. Now they’re starting to speak out.
EatRight.org is the American Dietetic Association’s website. It claims to offer “food and nutrition information you can trust.” But can we really trust nutrition information from an organization that says sugar, fluoride, and artificial colors are safe for children?
We believe the ADA’s partnership with the junk food industry helps fuel the diabetes epidemic. If the ADA succeeds in its attempt to monopolize nutrition services, we will be left with nothing but a deep-fried and genetically modified junk-food-influenced nutrition profession.
In response, ANH-USA, Registered Dietitians, Certified Clinical Nutritionists, MDs, and concerned citizens have joined together to help launch ReallyEatRight.org to highlight how the ADA is working to undermine nutritionists—professional colleagues who also care passionately about health and food. We’re also trying to encourage the protection of nutrition services that can prevent chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes.
The site is filled with informative articles, including an internal ADA document that specifically discusses eliminating competition in the field of nutrition. The same document plainly states the rationale for the organization’s multi-state legislative effort to monopolize nutritional therapy: because “existing legal and regulatory constraints on practice are unlikely to prevent robust, broad competition” in the “growth area” of nutrition and dietetics. It discusses “significant competitive threats” from holistic nutritionists and naturopathic physicians, as well as nurses, pharmacists, chiropractors, and athletic trainers.
The practice of dietetics is one of the many different modalities of nutritional therapy. Many RDs feel that dietitians—and particularly their certification body, the Commission on Dietetic Registration—should respect and compete with other nutrition professions and licensing bodies in the marketplace, and should not subvert competition by creating a government-sanctioned monopoly through legislation.
In fact, growing numbers of Registered Dietitians, dietetic students, and ADA members are gravely concerned about the direction of the ADA and the negative impact that direction will have on its 70,000 members. They believe the ADA’s partnerships with junk food companies and the pharmaceutical industry—and the payments it continues to receive from them—have severely damaged the organization’s independence and credibility, and have severely compromised the professional legitimacy of dietitians.
ADA receives payments from soft drink giants Coca-Cola and Pepsi, industrial food monolith Aramark, cereal manufacturers General Mills and Kellogg’s, candy makers Hershey and Mars, and Unilever, the multinational corporation that owns many of the world’s consumer products brands in foods and beverages. It also receives funding from Abbott Nutrition, a division of pharmaceutical giant Abbott Laboratories (which makes Vicodin, a drug the FDA was advised in 2009 to take off the market because of overdoses and liver damage, and Meridia, the weight-loss drug which was withdrawn because it was both dangerous and ineffective). These are just some of the funders that are known.
“No group, especially one that receives payments from junk food companies, should monopolize the field of nutrition when there are many other healthcare professionals with advanced nutritional training. The ADA is creating a monopoly over the practice of nutritional therapy—to the detriment of consumer choice and our health,” said David Brownstein, MD, a board-certified family physician who uses nutritional therapies in his practice. “I’ve seen firsthand what the ADA considers ‘healthy food,’ and it is frightening to see their sugary and chemical-laden foods being given to people who are recovering from surgery,” said Dr. Brownstein.
RDs and consumers have good reason to be upset. Consider these facts:
- Lifestyle and nutrition is essential in preventing many chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and cancer—which currently place a huge burden on US healthcare. In the US, approximately ten percent of healthcare dollars are for diabetes treatment directly. Indirect costs are much higher and include increased work absenteeism, reduced productivity, and lost productive capacity due to early mortality.
- Instead of taking important preventive measures, healthcare is focused on treating the disease with drugs.
- Sen. Charles Grassley (R-IA) has asked the ADA and other health advocacy groups for a listing of their payments from the pharmaceutical, medical device, and insurance industries. The senator’s investigation is ongoing.
- The ADA receives about $1 million a year in payments from pharmaceutical companies. Because of Sen. Grassley’s investigation, the ADA disclosed their payments from the pharmaceutical, medical device, and insurance industries.
- The ADA receives payments from Coca-Cola, Hershey, the National Dairy Council, Mars, PepsiCo, and others. The ADA won’t say exactly how much they receive from these companies and industry associations.
- The credentialing arm of the ADA, the Commission on Dietetic Registration, offers continuing professional education courses sponsored by Coca-Cola.
- The ADA allowed the junk food company–sponsored “Smart Choices” food labeling program (now widely considered a failure and an embarrassment) to be introduced at their Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. One of the biggest critics was Food Safety News (a very mainstream website, not particularly natural-health-friendly), whose reporter said, “The corporate takeover by Big Food was worse than I even imagined.”
- The ADA allows pharmaceutical companies to market their controversial products at ADA events. At the 2007 ADA Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo, GlaxoSmithKline was allowed to promote their first over-the-counter diet pill, Alli, even though the drug’s weight loss effectiveness is minimal and there are side effects such as hard-to-control bowel movements and anal discharge. The FDA has since issued warnings for Alli, noting the possibly of severe liver damage, and consumer groups are asking the FDA to remove Alli from the market.
You might be interested to know that come January, the American Dietetic Association is officially changing its name to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. According to their press release, “The new name complements the focus of the organization to improve the nutritional well-being of the public.” We wonder if it’s not just a bit of whitewashing—or worse, an attempt to steal “nutrition” as a profession from Certified Nutritionists.
ReallyEatRight.org is designed to help RDs stand up and take back their profession from junk food companies, and to insist that their professional association start acting like a responsible partner in health instead of attempting to undermine their colleagues (nutritionists) through legislation. The site features Action Alerts designed specifically for Registered Dietitians and ADA members, as well as the general public. It currently has state-based initiatives for residents of New York and New Jersey!
It is our fervent hope that dietitians and nutritionists will be able to work together to improve the health of our citizens, without being weighed down by Big Pharma and junk food company interests. Our goal: To persuade 5,000 nutrition professionals and 25,000 citizens to sign the petitions, which we will deliver to the head of the ADA and request a response, with media documenting the event.
Please to go ReallyEatRight.org and sign the petitions today!