The heavy hitters knock it out of the park in this newly released movie about the seedy relationship between the government and Big Food. In the trailer alone, we see Dr. Mark Hyman, Dr. Robert Lustig, Gary Taubes, and Michael Pollan, all at the forefront of food activism in this country. They all agree: the misinformation propagated by mainstream medicine (Registered Dietitians), the CDC and Big Food needs to be corrected.
A calorie is NOT a calorie.
A sugar calorie does not operate in the body as a broccoli or steak calorie would. Where we get our nutrients matters for our health, and Big Food will do anything and everything in their power to prevent legislation against their toxic products. New York Times Columnist Mark Bittman goes as far as comparing junk food companies today to the tobacco companies of the 1980’s.
What do Julia Roberts, the CDC, and the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics have in common?
They’re all sleeping with the enemy. I’m not a Registered Dietitian, but I work with quite a few. I spoke with them before posting this piece and they have some opinions of their own about the relationship between Big Food and major associations for dietitians. Their opinions range from outrage to dismay — one even said that after attending a CDA event last year, she boycotted all events this year and expressed her concerns to the folks in charge. Another shared her frustration with the complicated marriage between big money and policy advocacy for patients (conversation for another time). Still another holds onto hope that eventually RDs won’t need these large associations, and a lack of membership will shift the conversation to what’s right instead of what’s profitable.
All this is to say that what I’m about to share with you does NOT represent ALL Registered Dietitians.
I was extremely disturbed upon reading a recent article from Mother Jones about the disheartening partnerships taking place between Big Food and the major associations with which Registered Dietitians affiliate themselves.
Just so we’re all on the same page, the associations included are:
- California Dietetic Association (CDA)
- Vision: Optimize the state of California’s health through food and nutrition.
- School Nutrition Association (SNA)
- Mission: SNA is a national organization of school nutrition professionals committed to advancing the quality of school meal programs through education and advocacy.
- Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND)
- Mission: Empowering members to be the nation’s food and nutrition leaders
- Vision: Optimizing the nation’s health through food and nutrition
(all Mission and Vision statement copied and pasted verbatim from the respective websites.)
The largest annual meeting for the RD profession took place earlier this month in Pomona, CA, and the primary sponsor for the event was none other than McDonald’s.
According to the MJ reporter, McDonald’s food was the ONLY lunch option for the attendees, much to their dismay. Other sponsors, panelists, and speakers included representatives from the beef lobby, the corn lobby, PepsiCo, Nestle, Nabisco, Boston Market, Sizzler, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola, Hershey, and the list goes on and on.
What do the missions and visions of these companies have in common with those of the three associations listed above? (Hint: NOTHING.) I’m not going to list them all here, as I assume if you’re reading this, you have access to google, but I’ll take a short snippet from the PepsiCo mission:
“Our mission is to be the world’s premier consumer products company focused on convenient foods and beverages.”
On what planet should this company have a seat at the table with folks who profess to “optimize the nation’s health” and “advanc[e] the quality of school lunches?” Is there a more unapologetically obvious conflict of interest here?
The most egregious offense coming from this event is the claim that these members are fair and unbiased. The Corn Refiner’s Association sponsored a presentation claiming the absolute safety of high fructose corn syrup, that it shouldn’t be singled out as a cause for increased obesity in children (this, despite scientific evidence to the contrary).
Context Clues: A Look Back
Let’s join Michael Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, and take a look at a well-kept secret in the history of convenience food. In 1999, CEOs from some of the major players listed above (also included were Nabisco, General Mills, Proctor and Gamble and Mars) met at a secret meeting in Minneapolis to discuss … drum roll please … their role in the rising childhood obesity statistics. Let me remind you this was 1999, and the numbers since then have skyrocketed.
Spoiler alert! They agreed to take care of themselves and their own pockets.
Have these corporations had a change of heart? Are they suddenly less interested in the success of their toxic products than in the health and wellbeing of our nation’s children? Is there any substantial evidence that they’re genuinely interested in engaging in real solutions to the obesity epidemic in this country? No, there’s not.
The Bacon Ranch Salad with Grilled Chicken from McDonald’s doesn’t count as a health food, by even the loosest of standards. Sorry guys.
As I said last week, the personal becomes political when it comes to something as obviously corrupt as partnerships between Big Food, Big Government, and the associations of Registered Dietitians. Educating yourself on the reality of what’s going on at this level will help you untangle the wealth of misinformation out there. Make informed decisions for your own health and that of your family at the grocery store by keeping it simple.
- Stay on the outer perimeter where there are the fewest labels to decipher (produce, meat and fish counters, dairy and eggs, bulk section)
- Avoid anything with a label making a health claim
- Choose products with no added sugar
- Choose local and organic where possible
Check out FED UP wherever it’s playing in your area, and VOTE WITH YOUR FORK.