JavaScript DHTML Drop Down Menu By Milonic Addressing Inaccuracies of the ' And Now a Word from Our Sponsors' Report from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics

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Addressing Inaccuracies of the 'And Now a Word from Our Sponsors' Report

A recent report about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics' corporate sponsorship program contains a number of factual inaccuracies. Academy members and others have requested that the Academy identify errors in the report and provide facts to enable all readers to accurately evaluate the report as well as the Academy, its members, services and programs. The examples below are not a comprehensive list of all errors contained in the report.

Update 2/8/13

To date, the author of the "And Now a Word from Our Sponsors" report has never disclosed who funded her report. On February 6, 2013, the author participated in a tweet chat on Twitter and was asked several times to disclose the funding of her report. She tweeted a link to her website which states "some of our clients and funders prefer to remain anonymous for various reasons and we respect those wishes" (see right, click to enlarge).


Report:

"The 2011 annual report listed 38 (sponsors), a more than three-fold increase. Although in later years some companies are listed more than once for different forms of sponsorship, the figures suggest a marked increase in sponsorship opportunities."

Fact:

There are a total of 16 sponsorship opportunities in the top two levels of the Academy sponsorship program and 10 FNCE Event Sponsors.


Simon Twitter

Report:

"Beginning in 2001, AND listed 10 food industry sponsors; the 2011 annual report lists 38, a more than three-fold increase."

Fact:

The number of the Academy's industry sponsors is misrepresented in the report. The author combined Academy sponsors with Foundation corporate donors when documenting the growth.


Report:

"For good measure, AND posts this disclaimer-like note below (the Corporate Sponsor Guidelines on eatright.org): 'If consumed in moderation with appropriate portion size and combined with regular physical activity, all foods can fit into a healthful diet.'"

Fact:

This statement is drawn directly from the Academy's official position paper, "Total Diet Approach to Healthy Eating." This position reflects the most current nutrition guidance, such as the 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans and the USDA's MyPlate food guidance system; the White House's Let’s Move! campaign to reduce childhood obesity and Healthy People 2020. Each of these public policies and dietary patterns supports the total diet approach.


Report:

"Kellogg and the National Dairy Council have been AND sponsors for 9 of the last 12 years."

Fact:

Kellogg has been a Premier sponsor since 2007. NDC has been an Academy Partner since 2007. NDC supported the Academy prior to the sponsorship restructure.The Academy provides descriptions of each of these sponsorship levels on its website.


Report:

"Does forming partnerships with the food industry compromise such a group's credibility? And what does the food industry gain from such partnerships?"

Fact:

The term "Partner" is used by the Academy in its sponsorship program solely to describe a specific level of support of the Academy and its activities, through clearly defined and publicly available criteria. It is not used as a general term or to describe any other type of relationship. Sponsors do not influence the Academy's decision making process nor do they affect policy positions. All materials are reviewed by registered dietitians within the Academy as well as outside member experts in areas of specialization as needed.


Report:

"The AND lobbying agenda reveals mostly safe issues benefiting registered dietitians. To date, AND has not supported controversial nutrition policies that might upset corporate sponsors, such as limits on soft drink sizes, soda taxes, or GMO labels."

Fact:

The Academy exists to support its members; part of its stated mission is advancing the profession of dietetics through research, education and advocacy. The Academy develops science-based positions, which are regularly updated, on the full range of nutrition-related issues, with more than three dozen position papers to date. The fact that the Academy has not issued a position on an issue is not evidence of Academy support for—or opposition to—that issue.

The Academy is an independent science-based organization that conducts detailed analyses of reliable research and evidence to develop its positions. The views of corporate sponsors are not considered. While terms like "safe" and "controversial" are matters of opinion, the Academy considers each of its positions to be important for safeguarding the public's health and guiding its members in their practice. Examples of current Academy positions include:


Report:

"AND should make more details available to the public (or at least to members) regarding corporate sponsorship—far beyond what it currently provides in its annual reports."

Fact:

In addition to the Academy's Annual Report, details of its sponsorship program are publicly available. Sponsor/exhibitor information for the Academy's Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo is also publicly available.


Report:

"Roughly 23 percent of annual meeting speakers had industry ties, although most of these conflicts were not disclosed in the program session description."

Fact:

If a Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo speaker accepts any external funding beyond his or her standard contract with the Academy, the speaker must disclose the funding; disclosure includes placing the information on a slide during his or her presentation; making a verbal statement during the presentation and filling out a required conflict of interest/disclosure form that is kept on file at the event. This form is available to any conference attendee, including onsite members of the news media, upon request.


Report:

"In an independent survey, 80 percent of registered dietitians said sponsorship implies Academy endorsement of that company and its products…Almost all RDs surveyed (97 percent) thought the Academy should verify that a sponsor's corporate mission is consistent with that of the Academy prior to accepting them…A majority of RDs surveyed found three current AND sponsors 'unacceptable' (Coca-Cola, Mars, and PepsiCo)."

Fact:

A review of this survey by Performance Research, a third-party firm dedicated exclusively to research and evaluation in the sponsorship marketing industry, found "several deficiencies that would invalidate much of what is cited. The inherent problems with the cited research include a lack of evidence that the various member factions are not over-represented, and the wording of many of the questions are biased, written without balance or with equal opportunities to disagree with the author's point of view. [The] analysis of the data was professionally inaccurate in that they ignored significant facts and findings that presented views that opposed their article's objectives. For these reasons, these articles should be considered on par with any other opinion-based editorial, and the facts presented with regard to the cited research study do not represent a true scientific measurement of the Academy's membership base in total."


Report:

"Trade group policies should reflect the desires of its members. Many RDs object to corporate sponsorship but don't know how to make their voices heard."

Fact:

The Academy annually polls a selection of members that statistically represents Academy membership as a whole. Results from these surveys, conducted since 2008 by Performance Research, a firm dedicated exclusively to research and evaluation in the sponsorship marketing industry, show increased awareness of the Academy's sponsorship program and continued support by members.


Report:

"Examples include the Coca-Cola 'Heart Truth Campaign,' which involves fashion shows of women wearing red dresses and is also promoted by the federal government."

Fact:

The "Heart Truth Campaign" is an initiative of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. The Academy provided evidence-based heart health tips to be included in a brochure Coca-Cola produced in support of the Heart Truth Campaign. This entire brochure, which also included health tips from the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, was reviewed by the Academy to ensure its messages were consistent with Academy positions, statements and philosophies.


Report:

"Another instance of partner/sponsor cobranding is the National Dairy Council's '3-Every-Day of Dairy Campaign,' which is a marketing vehicle for the dairy industry disguised as a nutrition program. The partnership consists of several fact sheets that bear the AND logo, demonstrating the value of the group's seal of approval. The National Dairy Council does not disclose that they paid for the right to use the AND logo."

Fact:

Use of the Academy's name and logo is very limited. All materials that contain the Academy logo are reviewed by the Academy to ensure messages are consistent with Academy positions, statements and philosophies. On this fact sheet, the Academy was one of several health and nutrition organizations to support 3-Every-Day of Dairy, a science-based education program encouraging Americans to consume the recommended three daily servings low-fat or fat-free dairy products. The Academy's logo appeared with those of the American Academy of Family Physicians, American Academy of Pediatrics, National Hispanic Medical Association, National Medical Association and School Nutrition Association.


Report:

"Attendees at the AND annual meeting could sign up for a 'Pre-FNCE Workshop' sponsored by Hershey's, in which RDs could 'take a trip to Hershey, PA, to experience the science of chocolate at the Hershey Company's Chocolate Lab… [and] visit the Hershey Story Museum.' But to cover up the fact that nutrition professionals were visiting a candy store, the event was called 'From Nature to Nutrition: A Hands-on Exploration of Natural Cocoa from the Bean to Health Benefits,' and was listed in the program as 'Planned with Academy Partner: Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition.' To ensure maximum participation, RDs earned four continuing education units for this full-day field trip."

Fact:

This workshop was offered as an optional pre-conference event at the Academy's 2012 Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo. The event was planned in collaboration with Hershey but was funded by the Academy and its Center for Professional Development. The four credit hours were based on the portion of the day that was dedicated to scientific presentations on new epidemiological research on cocoa and chocolate; clinical nutrition research studies on topics like cardiovascular health related to cocoa; and the manufacturing and processing of cocoa in various geographical regions. Educational credit was given only for portions of the program that met the Academy's established educational criteria.


Report:

"But session sponsorships tell only part of the story of corporate influence, as many of the speakers also had industry ties."

Fact:

Companies and organizations that sign on to the top level of sponsorship, "Academy Partner," are offered the opportunity to present an educational session at FNCE. These sessions undergo the same strict review and approval process by the Academy's Committee for Professional Development as any other session. As part of the Academy's dedication to transparency, all educational sessions that are presented by an Academy Partner are noted as such in event program materials and onsite. Speakers must also complete interest/disclosure forms in accordance to Academy policy.


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