ADA Corporate Sponsorships

American Dietetic Association

Images from EatRight.org

Anyone attending FNCE, the annual American Dietetic Association (*Update: Apologies, now it’s the Academy for Nutrition and Dietetics) conference, this weekend?

Twitter has been going crazy these past few days with posts about FNCE – expressing excitement about going to beautiful SD, shameless plugs to visit sponsor booths, and anticipation for the knowledge to be gained this weekend.

Which brings me to the topic of corporate sponsorships.  Is it okay for the ADA to receive corporate sponsorships from companies like Coca Cola, Hershey’s, National Dairy Council, and Truvia?  Is it okay for FNCE’s corporate sponsorships to include Campbell’s, ConAgra, Nature Made, and Safeway?

I was at a state ADA conference earlier this year, and the program included a lecture sponsored by the beef council and a lecture sponsored by a watchdog group advocating for a vegan diet.  Can we be certain that the information presented is completely true, and not biased because of sponsorships?  Can we be certain that all of the research is indeed getting published, or is some research possibly getting denied due to conflict of interest?  I don’t know.  But it’s concerning to someone like me, who wants to know the facts about nutrition, not a skewed perspective of how great beef is just because the beef council is writing a check.

I don’t know if you heard, but there was recently a contest — if an ADA member wrote a blog about food safety, he/she would be entered into a contest to win a free iPad from ADA and ConAgra.  One blogger noted that this type of contest is basically saying that food safety needs to be a consumer issue, and that  food corporations (the cause of many food safety problems) like ConAgra are not taking enough responsibility.  As a member of the ADA, is this something that I really want to be encouraged?  Food safety in the home is very important, but so is food regulations at the corporate level.  Is it okay for ADA to turn a blind eye to that, even if just for a raffle competition?

On the other hand, though, what would it mean for the members of ADA if there were no corporate sponsors?  Dues are climbing each year (this year, RDs paid $245!), and that rate would be even higher if there were no corporate sponsors.  Are ADA members willing to pay even more?

I personally disagree with the ADA’s decision to accept corporate sponsorships.  However, I continue to be a member because I appreciate ADA’s efforts to lobby for things like licensure for dietitians, and I have appreciated the networking opportunities available.  It’s frustrating, though, because I also don’t want to be associated with an organization that is accepting sponsorships/therefore perhaps turning a blind eye to important issues.  I feel trapped with no other alternative, really.

What are your thoughts about this?

Humane Society and Egg Producers Deal

We’re a little behind here on Two Food NeRDs. Tina is busy preparing to move from Seattle to San Francisco and start her dietetic internship (hooray!), and I am smack-dab in the middle of cherry harvest here in The Dalles. So, we’re going to play some catch-up.

I have been hearing a lot the past two weeks about the joint agreement between the United Egg Producers and the Humane Society of the United States. Michele Simon at Food Safety News wrote a very informative article about the deal, found here:

http://www.foodsafetynews.com/2011/07/who-really-benefits-from-the-egg-industry-deal/

The deal is, as far as I can tell, still only a verbal agreement. I think the desire to improve growing conditions for chickens is laudable, and necessary. But what will this agreement actually accomplish? The phase-in period for the new standards is very long. The proposed federal legislation would also be the toughest sanction allowed anywhere in the country. This means that any state, such as California, Oregon, and Washington which were attempting to/have passed stronger legislation could only impose the federal standards, nothing more.

I am suspicious of the motives of the United Egg Producers. They saw a grassroots movement toward better conditions taking place, and are trying to finagle the best deal possible. Any thoughts on this? Is it a good thing for industry and consumer protection groups to strike deals? Who wins and who loses? Will the result be better conditions for chickens and safer food for all of us?