A Cheesy Situation

A few weeks ago I wrote about National Nutrition Month, sponsored by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), with a theme of “Bite Into a Healthy Lifestyle.”   This week the Academy may have bitten off more than it can chew!  Their decision to allow Kraft foods to feature the “Kids Eat Right” logo on Kraft Singles has led to raised eyebrows and even ridicule from the public, the press and the Registered Dietitian Nutritionist (RDN)members of AND.

“Kids Eat Right” is an AND initiative that is supported by the AND Foundation.  Its goal is to provide children with educational tools and opportunities to develop healthy habits around eating and physical activity.  Kraft has been a supporter of this program, and their use of the “Kids Eat Right” logo is accompanied by the words “proud supporter of.”  Unfortunately, this has been misinterpreted as a “seal of approval” from AND for this highly processed product.  This is disappointing to the RDN’s who are AND members and who work hard every day to help people find wholesome foods to enjoy and thrive on.

The issue of corporate sponsorships is complex.  It costs money to run an organization, especially one which is expected to maintain an educational mission and a high public profile.  Member dues do not cover all of the expenses.  Relying on corporate sponsorships is not unique to AND.  For example, the American Medical Association Foundation has corporate sponsors, including drug companies, to help fund its educational initiatives.  In its “Guiding Principles” for sponsorship AND makes it clear that they do not endorse any brand, company, product or service.  The presence of the “Kids Eat Right” logo may, however, give the appearance of an endorsement.  This is the basis for the negative press and the feeling by many RDN’s that AND is selling them short.  Three RDN’s have started a petition to “repeal the seal”, requesting AND to revise this decision. 

Sally Kuzemchak, writing in her Real Mom Nutrition  blog expresses the feelings of many of her fellow RDNs.  She writes, “I’m proud to be a registered dietitian.  My colleagues are calculating tube feedings for critically ill patients, helping people recover from eating disorders, feeding residents in nursing homes, counseling people with new diagnoses of diabetes and kidney failure, teaching families in underserved neighborhoods how to cook healthy meals, and working in schools to   improve nutrition.  They’re doing research and improving people’s lives.  And they’re educating the public with recommendations that are backed by evidence, not fear and hyperbole.”  Her words describe why I am glad to continue celebrating National Nutrition Month with my fellow RDN’s.   

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