Andy Bellatti became a card-carrying member of the American Dietetic Association (now Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – AND) as soon as he completed his training as a registered dietitian.
It wasn't long before Andy realized something was very wrong.
The AND, it turned out, was less interested in nutritional science than scoring promotional dollars from industry. Their campaigns receive funding from a Who's Who of Who's Poisoning America:
Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Nestlé, General Mills (purveyors of Lucky Charms and Cookie Crisp breakfast cereals), Kellogg's (home of Tony the Tiger and Sugar Frosted Flakes), Kraft, Unilever (whose brands incluce Good Humor, Dove, Breyers, Popsickle, Klondike, and I Can't Believe It's Not Butter), the National Dairy Council, the National Cattleman's Beef Association, and so many more.
That funding comes with interesting strings attached. Andy found that he could receive continuing professional ed credits by taking courses from the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition, the Coca-Cola Company Beverage Institute for Health & Wellness, General Mills Institute of Health and Nutrition, Nestlé HealthCare Nutrition, and ConAgra Food Science Institute.
The upshot of all this influence: no foods are considered “bad,” and everything is OK in moderation, and Kraft American Singles were the first product given the AND's “Kids Eat Right” seal (retracted shortly thereafter due to an entirely predictable public relations nightmare).
Disgusted by the conflicts of interest, Andy and several other members petitioned the AND to reject funding and influence peddling by the companies whose products collectively kill more Americans than wars, homocides, suicides, and car accidents combined.
So Andy started agitating and organizing within the AND rank and file, calling upon other dietitians whose professional integrity was offended by the foxes decreeing nutritional policy for the henhouse. They formed Dietitians for Professional Integrity to combat that industry taint. From their website:
We are a group of concerned dietetics professionals looking to advance the dietetic profession and credential through advocating for greater financial transparency and ethical sponsorships within the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
This website was created to let you know more about who we are and why we do not think Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kellogg's, and other Big Food giants should sponsor the country's largest nutrition organization.
Our efforts are guided by professional integrity. We believe the American public deserves nutrition information that is not tainted by food industry interests. Those of us who co-founded Dietitians for Professional Integrity are nutrition experts first and foremost; we went to school to help people achieve better health through food, not to help multinational food companies sell more unhealthy products.
I met Andy through Dr. Garth Davis, who recommended him as a source of recipes for our book Proteinaholic (due out October 6, y'all :). Once I discovered his activist roots and encyclopedic knowledge of nutrition, I knew I had to invite him as a guest on the podcast.
In our conversation, we cover:
- the AND's role in “healthwashing” some of the worst food in America
- the current controversy over Coca-Cola's “advertorial” claiming that you can exercise away all your sugary beverage calories
- why the industry tactics are so sophisticated (no “amateur hour” here)
- the complete lack of scientific basis for the concept of “no bad foods”
- how the AND subtly undermines and ostracizes those who disagree with its self-serving policies
- nutritional fads (like juicing) and how to stay safe in a confusing world
- how to identify and protect yourself from sneaky industry front groups
- and much more…
Enjoy, add your voice to the conversation via the comment box below, and please share – that's how we spread our message and spread our roots.
The Plant Yourself Podcast theme music, “Dance of Peace (Sabali Don),” is generously provided by Will Ridenour, a kora player from North Carolina who has trained with top Senegalese musicians.
It can be found on his first CD, titled Will Ridenour.
You can learn about Will, listen to more tracks, and buy music on his website, WillRidenour.com.