Do candy, soda mak­ers be­long at a di­eti­tians’ con­fer­ence?

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

The blink­ing game show wheel spins past logos for Triscuits, Wheat Thins and Honey Maid be­fore the nee­dle set­tles at Fig New­tons. “New­tons are made with real fruit and whole grains. True or false?” a Nabisco rep­re­sen­ta­tive asks on­look­ers, who are among 10,000 at­ten­dees at a con­fer­ence where di­eti­tians can earn cred­its for con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion. The an­swer, the Nabisco rep­re­sen­ta­tive says, is true.

Among the hun­dreds of ex­hibits, many fo­cused on items like beans, eggs, straw­ber­ries and leafy greens. But big pack­aged food mak­ers and trade groups also had a pres­ence, em­blem­atic of the com­plex ties be­tween the food in­dus­try and nu­tri­tion­ists and a push by crit­ics to bring greater aware­ness to cor­po­rate in­flu­ence on the pro­fes­sion. Pep­siCo brought a vend­ing ma­chine stocked with Quaker bars, Naked juices and re­duced-fat Dori­tos. Unilever show­cased Hell­mann’s spreads and of­fered sam­ples of Breyer’s ice cream. Nes­tle dis­played bot­tled wa­ter, Nesquik choco­late drinks and But­terfin­gers can­dies. A Sugar As­so­ci­a­tion pam­phlet sug­gested sprin­kling sugar on veg­eta­bles for picky chil­dren.

While the in­flu­ence of food cor­po­ra­tions on the Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics and its 75,000 mem­bers has come un­der greater scru­tiny, some see grow­ing sen­si­tiv­ity to eth­i­cal and con­flict of-in­ter­est is­sues. “It’s been an im­por­tant topic in the phar­ma­ceu­ti­cal world, and now it’s be­com­ing a much more im­por­tant topic in the nu­tri­tion world,” said David Wiss, a mem­ber of Di­eti­tians for Pro­fes­sional In­tegrity, which has called on the academy to show greater in­de­pen­dence from the food in­dus­try. Wiss feels there is a “huge, in­her­ent” in­dus­try in­flu­ence some may not re­al­ize ex­ists.

He said a big­ger prob­lem than the expo hall is the in­flu­ence that spon­sors have with con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion ses­sions for di­eti­tians, and re­called a pre­vi­ous class where he was taught about salt by Frito-Lay. Lu­cille Be­seler, pres­i­dent of the Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics, said in an email that academy mem­bers know the dif­fer­ence be­tween mar­ket­ing and sci­ence, and use their pro­fes­sional judg­ment to eval­u­ate ex­hibitors’ prod­ucts and pro­grams. She said nu­tri­tion pro­fes­sion­als do not dic­tate what peo­ple eat, and “must there­fore be fa­mil­iar with all foods and prod­ucts in the mar­ket­place.”

The academy noted that ses­sions spon­sored by com­pa­nies or in­dus­try groups were dis­tinct from reg­u­lar ed­u­ca­tional ses­sions be­cause they re­quired a $10 do­na­tion from ses­sion at­ten­dees to the academy’s foun­da­tion, which pro­vides schol­ar­ships and re­search grants. The spon­sored ses­sions still count to­ward con­tin­u­ing ed­u­ca­tion cred­its, which are re­quired to main­tain li­censes. That in­cluded one that dis­cussed the ben­e­fits of milk and fla­vored milk spon­sored by Fair­life, one of Coca-Cola’s joint ven­tures, and one on the ad­van­tages of or­ange juice spon­sored by a juice in­dus­try group. A two-hour ses­sion on the value of mul­ti­vi­ta­mins was spon­sored by vi­ta­min brand

Na­ture Made. The pro­fes­sor who taught the class listed Phar­mavite, which owns the brand, in a slide of dis­clo­sures. After­ward, two at­ten­dees said they did not know the pro­fes­sor had been paid by the ses­sion spon­sor. Still, they said they found the ses­sion in­for­ma­tive and felt the pro­fes­sor backed up his views. Diane Enos, who heads ed­u­ca­tional pro­gram­ming for the Academy of Nu­tri­tion and Di­etet­ics, said sponsorship of ses­sions is clearly dis­closed, and that ed­u­ca­tional ma­te­ri­als for those ses­sions are sub­ject to the same stan­dards and re­view as for other ses­sions.

“They have to meet the stan­dard guide­lines, and that means you can’t show un­bal­anced re­search,” Enos said. She said it is not the spon­sor that sub­mits the ma­te­ri­als for re­view, but the speak­ers. In some cases, the speak­ers were rep­re­sen­ta­tives or em­ploy­ees of the spon­sor. Mar­ion Nes­tle, a nu­tri­tion pro­fes­sor at New York Univer­sity, re­viewed the ed­u­ca­tional slides for the ses­sion spon­sored by Fair­life at AP’s re­quest and did not think they should be con­sid­ered ed­u­ca­tion. “They’re pre­sent­ing the com­pany’s view of it. So it’s mar­ket­ing, not ed­u­ca­tion,” Nes­tle said.

Coca-Cola said Fair­life’s man­age­ment team makes day-to-day de­ci­sions about op­er­a­tions. Fair­life said in a state­ment that the pre­sen­ta­tion cov­ered an im­por­tant topic “short­fall nu­tri­ents that many kids miss out on as they start their days, and how dairy prod­ucts as part of a bal­anced break­fast can play an im­por­tant role in ad­dress­ing those short­falls.” Wiss thinks fu­ture di­eti­tians will be bet­ter equipped to crit­i­cally as­sess in­dus­try in­flu­ence be­cause start­ing in 2024, they will need a master’s de­gree to get li­censed. Oth­ers be­lieve that com­pa­nies play a crit­i­cal role in help­ing im­prove the way peo­ple eat. “Some of these com­pa­nies have a big role in the food in­dus­try, and they’re try­ing to change their rep­u­ta­tion,” said Keith Roberts, who is study­ing to be a di­eti­tian. —AP

CAL­I­FOR­NIA: This com­bi­na­tion of two file pho­tos shows (top) the cracked and dry bed of the Al­maden Reser­voir on Feb 7, 2014, in San Jose, Calif and the same reser­voir full of wa­ter on March 14, 2016. Amid a wet start to Cal­i­for­nia’s rainy sea­son, and some mend­ing of Cal­i­for­ni­ans’ back­slid­ing ways on wa­ter con­ser­va­tion, the ad­vice of the state’s drought czar: Re­lax and en­joy the rain. —AP

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