cross-posted at annoyedomnivore.wordpress.com
I was a little surprised when I came across an article by Kiera Butler, which exposed the dirty little secret about dietary organizations in this country. She attended the annual conference of the California Dietetic Association (CDA). The sponsors of their annual conference, held in April, were such companies as McDonald’s, Hershey’s, Sizzler and other large food chains. A front group for many of these companies, the International Food Information Council (IFIC), also was a presence at this conference, even offering up discussions about the safety of genetically modified foods, etc.
As reported by Ms. Butler, “Andy Bellati, a dietitian and member of AND [Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics], recalls his shock the first time he attended the organization’s national conference in 2008. ‘I could get continuing education credits for literally sitting in a room and listening to Frito-Lay tell me that Sun Chips are a good way to meet my fiber needs,’ he says. ‘I thought, no wonder Americans are overweight and diabetic. The gatekeepers for our information about food are getting their information from junk-food companies.” Ms. Butler also points out in this article that corporate sponsorship of dietetic organizations has increased by almost four-fold in the last decade and now generates a good portion of their total revenue.
The insidious presence of companies peddling harmful substances such as high fructose corn syrup to professionals educating the public about food is chilling. While I’m certain that the majority of dietitians have enough education and good sense to see through the machinations of the food industry, it is nonetheless disturbing that they are exposed to company propaganda. Also, many of these dietitians are unaware of the extent of these “partnerships.” The School Nutrition Association, very possibly influenced by the food industry’s sponsorship of their conferences, and following a national back lash concerning Michelle Obama’s attempt to redefine what foods should be served to our children in schools, recently asked Congress to lift two provisions of the new policy. They asked that fruits and vegetables on the lunch line be removed as a rule, and that the constrictions placed on sodium and whole grains be eased.
By any standard, it’s clear that we are suffering from a host of diet-related health problems. Diet certainly plays a significant role in chronic disease, and there is evidence all around us of the food industry’s extensive marketing of unhealthy foods. The fact that such organizations as the ADA (American Dietetic Association) receives money from the food industry simply shows their willingness to be silenced. On the other hand, rather than remaining silent about the overall dangers of processed foods, the ADA actually collaborated with McDonald’s in 1993 to help them develop “Food FUNdamentals” Happy Meal toys as part of a shared “commitment to nutrition education.”
The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association has sponsored AND for the last 14 years. The NCBA is a powerful lobbying organization that has influenced federal nutrition guidelines to ensure that beef remains a dietary staple. Other sponsors of AND include ConAgra, General Mills and Kellogg. This corporate sponsorship allows access to the education of nutrition professionals on how their particular product contributes to healthy lifestyles. Other groups, such as the National Dairy Council, purchased the right to add the AND logo to their “3-Every-Day of Dairy Campaign,” which was simply a marketing tool disguised as a nutrition program. By putting their seal of approval on such marketing campaigns, ADA is sending a message, not just to professional dietitians but to the public at large, that these companies represent legitimate sources of health and nutrition information. And by allowing food companies to provide “instructors” for the continuing education classes dietitians require, simply gives them another venue from which to sell more food.
At the end of the CDA conference in April, Ms. Butler approached a 65 year old retired dietitian from Orange County. The woman had been attending CDA’s annual conferences for 30 years. “Shaking her head, she said she didn’t approve of the trend of junk-food sponsors. ‘I guess they need the money, but this is pathetic.’ She found the McDonald’s lunch particularly deplorable. ‘A dietitian you’d expect to be principled, but here I feel like we’re sleeping with the enemy.”
Recipe of the Week
Garbonzo Bean Soup with Spinach and Pasta
1 cup dried garbonzo beans, soaked overnight
1 bunch fresh spinach
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 cup red wine
6 cups homemade chicken stock
1 14oz can or organic tomatoes, pureed
20 grinds of fresh black pepper
1 cup small pasta
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt to taste
Cook the beans in fresh, cold water until done, about 2 hours.
Heat oil in large soup pot. Add the onions, and saute until translucent on medium high heat. Add the garlic, stir for about 30 seconds, then add the wine and cook until it’s gone. Add the garbonzo beans, spinach, pepper, tomatoes, and chicken stock. Cook at a slow simmer for about 1 hour. Taste for salt, and add a little more because of the addition of the pasta. Add the pasta and cook until just done.