My name is Andy Bellatti. I am a registered dietitian (R.D.) because I think our own health and that of our families and communities is vital to the future of our country.
I co-founded a group called Dietitians for Professional Integrity and started this petition because the professional organization that represents me and my colleagues has been hijacked by junk food companies. This is bad news for the American public, which is facing a public health crisis of diabetes, heart disease, cancer, stroke, and obesity.
My colleagues and I belong to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (The Academy) – formerly known as the American Dietetic Association – the nation’s largest professional nutrition organization, which represents over 75,000 Registered Dietitians and health professionals. While there is a lot of potential for such an organization to shape and improve the health of our country; that potential is not being tapped into. If you’ve heard the phrase ‘let your food be your medicine’ you'll get where I’m coming from with this petition.
For years, the Academy has formed shocking partnerships with the very companies that have contributed to the many health problems faced by millions of Americans. Do you think multi-billion dollar junk food companies like Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, PepsiCo or Hershey’s are reliable sources of information on healthy eating? Probably not, yet they sponsor professional events for – and educate -- the people you turn to for credible advice, as the recent report from Eat Drink Politics, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?, amply demonstrated.
At this year’s California Dietetic Association meeting, McDonald’s was the gold sponsor. At this year’s Utah Dietetic Association meeting, McDonald’s Director of Nutrition addressed dietitians about the chain’s “healthful” offerings (some of which are cooked in trans fats, the very fats strongly condemned by the American Heart Association due to their definitive links to heart disease).
We're not saying that people should boycott all products from these companies; that's a personal decision, but there should be no place for junk food companies in a nutrition organization. These partnerships pose troubling conflicts of interest, threaten the credibility of the Registered Dietitian credential, and limit the Academy’s ability to create or support policies that protect public health.
When junk food giants are allowed to sponsor our conferences and provide continuing "education" to Registered Dietitians, our credential -- which we worked hard for and value -- loses credibility in the eyes of the public. These alliances run so deep that dietitians can attend webinars – where these companies tell them that soda is unfairly vilified, and that sugary cereals are a healthful way for children to start their day – to earn “continuing education” credits for re-certification.
These companies spend millions of dollars every year marketing the very products that contribute to our nation's ever-worsening health, and they actively fight initiatives for better health and to curb marketing to children. Some organizations, like the American College of Nutrition, have realized these partnerships are problematic, and stopped taking money from Big Food. I know The Academy can do this, too.
Dietitians for Professional Integrity – a group of over 4,000 Registered Dietitians, health professionals, and conscious consumers – is asking The Academy to cut ties with food companies that not only contribute to our nation’s worsening public health epidemic, but have also been challenged by respected non-profits like Oxfam for questionable corporate practices.
Many of us have expressed our concerns to the Academy for years, to no avail. This is why we need you, members of the public, to raise your voice and support this campaign.
Help us deliver the message to The Academy that there is a better way for a nutrition organization to operate, and that its ties with these sponsors are unacceptable.
This petition will be formally submitted to the Academy at this year's Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo, held in October in Houston, Texas.
Please adopt transparent, member-vetted sponsorship guidelines that showcase the true professional integrity of your members by aligning only with companies and organizations that prioritize public health and environmental stewardship.