This year’s National Nutrition Month, held every March, has been a disaster for registered dietitians. I speak for myself as one of the rank and file when I say our professional association, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, threw us under the bus. Again.
The fiasco started on March 12th when The New York Times ran an article titled, A Cheese ‘Product’ Gains Kids’ Nutrition Seal. It described how the Academy gave Kraft permission to add our ‘Kids Eat Right’ logo to Kraft Singles, those individually wrapped slices of pasteurized prepared cheese product. ‘Kids Eat Right’ is a nutrition education program run by the Academy’s foundation. Kraft Singles is the first product to carry the logo, in the form of a seal. It looks like a product endorsement, but the Academy maintains it’s not. Unfortunately for them, it quacks like a duck.
Due to the absurdity of an organization of nutrition professionals promoting Kraft Singles, major news outlets, including ABC News, Fox News, the Wall Street Journal, US News and others, picked up the story. They called into question the credentials of registered dietitians. It was guilt by association for us. But none was worse than Jon Stewart on The Daily Show, who quipped while pointing to a package of Kraft Singles, “the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is an academy in the same way this is cheese.” Oh, the shame!
Dedicated registered dietitians did not take this lying down. We rallied to sign a Change.org petition protesting the Academy’s shenanigans and the possibility of all future implied endorsements. Dietitians demanding ‘Repeal The Seal’ have collected 11,916 signatures so far. Anyone can sign the petition. Truth in advertising matters.
The problem is not Kraft Singles. I don’t eat them, but some people do, and we RDs have seen worse.
Rather, it’s about improper paid relationships between the Academy and big food companies.
We’ve reported on the Academy’s conflict of interest with corporate sponsors in the past.
We dues-paying members have no input on the foundation’s actions. I want the Academy to do a better job of advocating for me. Let the government and others educate the public and hire us registered dietitians to help.
Hypocritically, the Academy tells dietitians not to “engage in misleading practices and communications with the public.” Aren’t their backroom deals the ones that they forbid?
They’re hearing our cries, as the Academy President, Sonja L. Connor, MS, RDN, LD, FAND, released a statement saying, “On April 1, Kraft Singles will begin appearing on retail shelves with the Kids Eat Right logo on the packaging. We are working with Kraft to limit the time it remains on the shelves.” Her statement also added, “The Academy and Kraft are in discussions to terminate the contract for our pilot program. This will take a short period of time to complete.”
There is hope.