Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics industry sponsorship, documentation

Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics / Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics Foundation
Certifies Registered Dietitians (RD) in the United States
$4.6-8.2 million (click here to see how this was calculated)

Abbott NutritionAjinomotoAramark, Biothera, Cargill, California Strawberry Commission, Cambro Mfg. Co., Campbell Soup Company, Chobani, The Coca-Cola Company, Colgate Palmolive Company, Commission on Dietetic Registration, ConAgra Foods, Corn Refiner’s Association, CoroWise (Cargill), The Dannon Company, Distilled Spirits Council of the United States, Elanco, General Mills, Jean Hankin, Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, Hershey’s, Hormel, Iowa Department of Education, Kellogg Company, Kraft Foods, Mars Inc., McCormick, McNeil Nutritionals, Mead Johnson, Monsanto, National Cattlemen’s Beef AssociationNational Dairy Council, Nature Made, Nestlé, New Jersey Dietetic Association, NEWtritious, Novo NordiskPepsiCo, Safeway, SOYJOYTruviaUnilever, Walmart Stores, Inc., Alice Wimpfheimer1

Interpretation
Because of the long list of corporations that primarily sell processed foods, the AND, despite its declared mission to “improve the public’s health and nutrition”, has a strong financial incentive to promote processed and convenience food products and candy through its educational, accreditation, and advocacy commitments. This is supported by 1. opposition of AND to trans-fat labeling in 1999, contrary to strong scientific evidence earlier that decade (but in agreement with sponsor interests); 2. publications and ambiguous (non-)policy on added sugars and processed carbohydrates, contrary to strong scientific evidence (but in agreement with sponsor interests); 3. nutritional concepts promoted by AND–e.g. the importance of calories and calorie counting over against food quality–against the scientific evidence (but in agreement with sponsor interests); 4. prominent processed food industry presence at annual meetings; 5. open processed food industry sponsorship of educational speakers at annual meetings. This page documents these points.

AND’s opposition to trans fat labeling
In 1999, the AND was one of the most vocal opponents of the labeling of trans fats on foods, despite the fact that by 1999, the evidence for the harmfulness of trans fats was from strong to overwhelming.2 The funding sources for the AND during this time–including $100,000+ from each: Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Weight Watchers International, Campbell Soup, Nestlé USA, Ross Products Division of Abbott Labs., Coca-Cola, General Mills, Nabisco, Procter & Gamble, Uncle Ben’s, all of which used trans fats in their products throughout the 1990s3–indicate a strong financial incentive for endorsing trans fats and opposing trans fat labeling and provides circumstantial evidence that such financial incentives have influenced AND policy.

AND’s “policy” on sugar consumption
In line with its financial support from Aramark, Chobani, Coca-Cola, ConAgra, The Dannon Company, General Mills, Hershey’s, Mars Inc., Kellogg Company, Monsanto, Nestlé, PepsiCo, SOYJOY, and others, AND takes an impressively laissez faire attitude toward added sugar in processed foods.

For example, the AND states in an official 2012 position paper:4

It is the position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics that consumers can safely enjoy a range of nutritive [e.g. added sugars]5 and nonnutritive sweeteners when consumed within an eating plan that is guided by current federal nutrition recommendations, such as the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the Dietary Reference Intakes, as well as individual health goals and personal preference.

For the precision with which the position paper itself was written, this statement stands out for being remarkably ambiguous. Does it mean that sweetener consumption is safely enjoyed when consumed according to the guidelines, with personal preference acknowledged as a reasonable standard by which to decide consumption within the limits set by the guidelines? Or does it mean that one can choose between “the Dietary Guidelines for Americans and Dietary Reference Intakes,” “individual health goals,” or “personal preference” when deciding how much sugar to consume? Incredibly, the position paper leaves this open to interpretation.

My suspicion: the “personal preference” line can be interpreted whichever way the reader wants to interpret it. Convenient for Big Food and unassailable for AND: “the ambiguity was an accident.” Such states of affairs, I suggest, are best explained by AND’s corporate sponsorship.

AND’s anti-labeling scholarship; links to industry front groups
On June 12 2015, the awkwardly named International Food Information Council Foundation (IFIC) published a press release article suggesting that recent research implied that, perhaps like calorie labeling on the menus of fast food restaurants, added sugar labeling may “backfire.”6 And who published this consciousness-raising research? The prestigious Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.7

Organization with ambiguous-, awkward-sounding name? Check. Calling into question nutritional labels for added sugars? Check. Published by the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics? Check.

Spider senses tingling, I dug deeper and located a list of the IFIC’s funders. The exhaustive list:

Abbott Nutrition, Ajinomoto North America, Inc., Archer Daniels Midland Company, Atkins Nutritionals, Inc., Bayer CropScience LP, Cargill, Incorporated, The Coca-Cola Company, Compass Group, The Dannon Company, Inc., Dow AgroSciences, LLC, DuPont, Elanco, Ferrero USA, General Mills, Inc., The Hershey Company, Hillshire Brands Company, The J.M. Smucker Company, J.R. Simplot Company, Kellogg, Kraft Foods, Mars, Incorporated, McCormick & Company, Inc., McDonald’s Corporation, McNeil Nutritionals, Mead Johnson Nutrition, Mondelēz International, Monsanto Company, Nestlé, PepsiCo, Red Bull North America, StarKist, Yum! Brands, Zoetis8

A veritable Who’s Who of Big Food. In other words? IFIC is an industry front group.

In the press article, the IFIC wanted to inform the public of an important finding in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: added sugar labels will confuse consumers, and thereby, cause them to eat less sugar. In the IFIC’s words:

Most consumers perceive that products with an “Added Sugars” declaration have a higher sugars content than is actually present.

Now, it cannot be said that misunderstanding is the right basis for sound food policy: there is no doubt that consumers should have the proper information. But certainly, it is noteworthy that the IFIC and AND so quickly raise the alarm when such a misunderstanding might impinge upon corporate profits.

We are still waiting for them to raise the alarm on processed food, widely recognized as being the major contributor to rising rates of chronic disease and health care costs. [All documentation and commentary for above claim will go here in footnotes. In progress. – KB]9 10 11 12 13

The above connections are circumstantial and not definitive. The next section on AND will deal with what we believe to be decisive evidence of corporate influence over the organization: its use of its authority to promote sponsors’ junk food products.

AND’s promotion of junk food
[In progress. – KB 2016/01/02]

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  1. Bolded are the most long-standing and/or highest contributing sponsors of 2012. The above is only a partial list, parsed from the reference, below; the AND have not yet responded to requests for a full disclosure of corporate funding sources. See Michele Simon, And Now A Word From Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?, January 2013, 39, http://www.eatdrinkpolitics.com/wp-content/uploads/AND_Corporate_Sponsorship_Report.pdf.
  2. See Walter C. Willett and Alberto Ascherio, “Trans Fatty Acids: Are the Effects Only Marginal?” American Journal of Public Health 84, 5 (1994): 722-724, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1615057/.
  3. The relationship between multi-national food corporations and the (then-so-named) American Association of Dietetics during the 1990s can be found by using the search function (“American Association of Dietetics”) on CSPI corporate funding page, here: http://www.cspinet.org/integrity/corp_funding.html
  4. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, “Position of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: Use of Nutritive and Nonnutritive Sweeteners,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 112 (2012): 739-758, http://www.eatrightpro.org/~/media/eatrightpro%20files/practice/position%20and%20practice%20papers/position%20papers/final_sweetener_position_paper_5-12.ashx.
  5. In the first page, the position paper makes the following definition: “different terms are used to refer to nutritive sweeteners, including sugars, sugar, caloric sweeteners, and added sugars.”
  6. Matt Raymond and Laura Kubitz, “Proposed “Added Sugars” Label Is Misunderstood, Could Backfire”, International Food Information Council Foundation, http://www.foodinsight.org/no-added-sugar-label-misunderstood-nfp.
  7. Idamarie Laquatra, Kris Sollid, Marianne Smith Edge, Jason Pelzel, John Turner, “Including “Added Sugars” on the Nutrition Facts Panel: How Consumers Perceive the Proposed Change,” Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics 11, 115 (2015): 1758-63, http://www.andjrnl.org/article/S2212-2672(15)00505-5/fulltext.
  8. IFIC, “International Food Information Council (IFIC) and IFIC Foundation Partners and Supporters,” http://www.farmarian.com/ific-industry-sponsorship/.
  9. See the relevant excerpt from the 1997 World Health Organization report, here: http://www.farmarian.com/1997-who-study-group-report-diet-nutrition-and-the-prevention-of-chronic-diseases-industrialization-of-the-food-system-and-consequent-health-changes/.
  10. See also Marion Nestle in her pathbreaking text Food Politics: “It is one of the great ironies of nutrition that the traditional plant-based diets consumed by the poor in many countries, some of which are among the world’s finest cuisines, are ideally suited to meeting nutritional needs as long as caloric intake is adequate. Once people raised on such foods survive the hazards of infancy, their diets (and their active lifestyles) support an adulthood relatively free of chronic disease until late in life. Also ironic is that once people become better off, they are observed to enter a “nutrition transition” in which they abandon <their traditional> diets … The result is a sharp increase in obesity and related chronic diseases.” Marion Nestle, Food Politics, 2nd ed. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 15-16.
  11. Although only discussing the problem of obesity, and only in the last 40 years (corresponding only to what Anthony Winson in The Industrial Diet calls the “third phase of industrialization of food”), scholars at the WHO, NIH, Oxford, Harvard, et al, in 2011 write in The Lancet: “The rise of the obesity epidemic seemed to begin almost concurrently in most high-income countries in the 1970s and 1980s; since then, most middle-income and many low-income countries have joined the global surge in obesity prevalence in adults and children. … Obesogenic environments arise because businesses and governments are responding to the broader economic and political environments that they find themselves in. A central tenet of modern, market-based economies is the benefits of economic growth; and a parallel tenet of business and trade is the benefits of more liberalised, less regulated global markets. Economic growth is especially important for low-income countries to move them from poverty to economic prosperity; however, for high-income countries, higher levels of GDP do not bring greater happiness and wellbeing for their citizens but do bring greater consumption of all products. The technological changes that are creating cheaper and more available food calories and the strong economic forces driving consumption will inevitably lead to overconsumption and obesity.” Despite its narrow focus (ignoring, as it does, the fact that the obesity epidemic is merely the intensification of a longer epidemic of non-communicable, food-related disease, starting in the late 19th century) and lack of discussion or possibly understanding of the crucial mitigators of this trend in some parts of the developed world (e.g. France, Italy, Japan), this article is clear nonetheless that industrial obesity is caused by a food environment characterized by the ubiquity of ultra-processed foods. See Boyd A. Swinburn, Gary Sacks, Kevin D. Hall, Klim McPherson, Diane T. Finegood, Marjory L. Moodie, Steven L. Gortmaker, “The global obesity pandemic: shaped by global drivers and local environments,” The Lancet 378 (2011): 804-814, http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(11)60813-1/.
  12. Notably, see also Robert Lustig. In progress.
  13. Finally, see Ivan Illich’s discussion in 1976. If Illich’s scholarship is accurate, such an understanding as documented above, by Marion Nestle, the WHO, and in The Lancet, was well-known by scholars on the subject for perhaps 150 years. (Incidentally, this fact makes the work of Weston A. Price significantly less original than often seems understood, despite its canonization in the the ancestral health and Paleo communities, even in Michael Pollan’s In the Defense of Food.) Illich’s text reads: “In poor countries today, diarrhea and upper-respiratory-tract infections occur more frequently, last longer, and lead to higher mortality where nutrition is poor, no matter how much or how little medical care is available. In England, by the middle of the nineteenth century, infectious epidemics had been replaced by major malnutrition syndromes, such as rickets and pellagra. These in turn peaked and vanished, to be replaced by the diseases of early childhood and, somewhat later, by an increase in duodenal ulcers in young men. When these declined, the modern epidemics took over: coronary heart disease, emphysema, bronchitis, obesity, hypertension, cancer (especially of the lungs), arthritis, diabetes, and so-called mental disorders. Despite intensive research, we have no complete explanation for the genesis of these changes. But two things are certain: the professional practice of physicians cannot be credited with the elimination of old forms of mortality or morbidity, nor should it be blamed for the increased expectancy of life spent in suffering from the new diseases. For more than a century, analysis of disease trends has shown that the environment is the primary determinant of the state of general health of any population. Medical geography, the history of diseases, medical anthropology, and the social history of attitudes towards illness have shown that food, water, and air, in correlation with the level of sociopolitical equality and the cultural mechanisms that make it possible to keep the population stable, play the decisive role in determining how healthy grown-ups feel and at what age adults tend to die. As the older causes of disease recede, a new kind of malnutrition is becoming the most rapidly expanding modern epidemic.” Ivan Illich, Medical Nemesis, (New York: Pantheon Books, 2007), 2, http://www.ratical.org/ratville/AoS/MedicalNemesis.pdf. Now, as far as I am aware, Illich’s interpretation, at least in this passage, is not far from that of Thomas McKeown, whose central ideas have endured and are standard fare in public health graduate programs. This, at least inasmuch as both acknowledge the importance of the historical development of the food environment for health–if not in an equal emphasis on its present deterioration in causing illness. (On this, they seem to be in disagreement.) For a short discussion of McKeown’s relevant scientific legacy, see James Cosgrove, “The McKeown Thesis: A Historical Controversy and Its Enduring Influence,” American Journal of Public Health 92, 5 (2002): 725-729, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gob/pmc/articles/PMC1447153.
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