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Petition to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – #RepealTheSeal

I am participating in the #RepealTheSeal campaign to show my disagreement with the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ recent decision to allow the Kids Eat Right logo on food packaging. I invite my fellow colleagues and bloggers who share this opinion, or who support this campaign, to also post this Open Letter on their own blog, to sign the petition at change.org, and/or to use #RepealTheSeal hashtag via social media.

Repeal - basic

Morning guys! This isn’t the type of thing I normally get involved with/post about, but I decided this was important enough to be addressed.

For those who haven’t seen the New York Times article from last week yet, check this out: “A Cheese ‘Product” Gains Kids’ Nutrition Seal.” Ridiculous, right?

If you’re confused about what’s going on, here’s a quick synopsis without all the technical jargon. First, background:

  • The Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics (AND) is the main membership/ governing organization for nutrition professionals. It has over 75,000 members (registered dietitians, dietetic technicians, registered, and other dietetics professionals holding undergraduate and advanced degrees in nutrition and dietetics, and students).
  • AND has come under fire before for the corporate sponsors it accepts. Many of the companies that AND allows to sponsor it/the annual meetings aren’t those that I would choose to support, and my fellow dietitians haven’t been pumped about some of AND’s corporate sponsor alliances, either.

What all this current fuss is about:

  • The Kids Eat Right program, run by AND, was launched to support public education projects and programs that address the national health concern of obesity among our children.
  • Recently, a “Kids Eat Right” logo appeared on Kraft Singles (yes, that super processed, more like plastic than real cheese product).
  • Everyone was like: “What the hell, AND? Does this mean you’re supporting Kraft Singles as a healthy choice?” Dietitians (like me) were especially upset, because this reflects directly on us and our credibility as we are members of their organization. (Y’all know I’m down with dairy, but only of the whole, real variety, and I certainly don’t think it’s a vital part of diets/the only way people can get calcium.)
  • AND replied: “Guys, relax. The logo doesn’t mean we’re endorsing the product, just that Kraft contributes a lot of money to our Kids Eat Right program.” Umm….
  • A lot of people think that their answer was pretty ridiculous. I mean, if you are a consumer at the store and you see a “Kids Eat Right” logo on a product, you would assume that that product has been designated a healthy choice for kids, right?

As you can imagine, this logo is an issue for a lot of dietitians for a number of reasons, but especially:

  1. It’s ridiculous that a plastic cheese product is being seen as having our stamp of approval, since what AND does reflects on us. This waters down the trust in dietitians everywhere. And who knows on what less than stellar products the logo will appear next?!
  2. People are upset that AND is being shady about what’s going on with their sponsorship/the meaning of the logo.

Thanks to a few of my amazing colleagues, Regan Jones, Rachel Begun and Kate Geagan, an open letter to The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics has been written and a petition has been started to repeal this decision to allow the Kids Eat Right logo on products.

As dietitians/nutritionists, we work hard to provide full transparency in all of our own business relationships, and we expect the same from our Academy. In the business world, a logo on a product label conveys an endorsement, an alignment, and recognition of a paid relationship.

We are making known to the public and the Academy through the OPEN LETTER printed below that (1) we do not support this type of logo placement (2) we request that the on-package logo be repealed and (3) we request full transparency by AND & KER about this partnership to ensure this does not happen in the future.

If you agree our #RepealTheSeal campaign, we’d love for you to join us in signing the petition. You don’t have to be a Registered Dietitian to sign or to get involved in spreading this message!

Find the #RepealTheSeal petition here and read the open letter to the Academy below. Thanks for helping us make an impact!

———–

March 16, 2015

To Mary Beth Whalen, President Sonja Connor, leadership at the Academy and the Kids Eat Right (KER) Foundation:

As long-time members and proud supporters of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), we are dismayed, shocked, and saddened by the blog post in last week’s New York Times.  The piece (http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2015/03/12/a-cheese-product-wins-kids-nutrition-seal/?_r=0 – ) reports on the KER Foundation’s Nutrition seal— a seal that the Academy states was not an endorsement of the product, but is an indicator of the brands that support Kids Eat Right.

As dedicated Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists and food and nutrition experts, we are protesting the Academy’s position to allow the Kids Eat Right logo on Kraft Singles, as well as the possibility to allow any future implied endorsement of any product by AND for the following reasons:

Flawed Understanding of the Marketplace

We wholly reject the rationale that the Academy used in their formal press release to defend the nature of the relationship between Kraft and the Academy. A logo on a product label is an endorsement, an alignment, and recognition of a paid relationship. Simply stating otherwise in a press release, no matter how emphatically, doesn’t change this fact. Rather, AND’s actions illustrate how profoundly out of touch AND is with business principles, which has put our professional integrity and credibility at risk. It is also a decision that is out of touch with members’ values.

Failure to Provide Transparency to AND Members and Consumers 

We work hard to provide full transparency in all of our own business relationships, and we expect the same from the Academy. Failure to be transparent about ANDs actions violates the Academy’s own Ethics Policy, which calls for the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and for members to not engage in false or misleading practices of communications.

Actions Requested of the Academy: #RepealtheSeal

We ask that the Academy make available to its members, the media and the public the following:

  • We ask for full transparency regarding the process of approval to allow the KER logo on the Kraft product— including the names of those involved, the meeting minutes of the discussion, and Board’s vote on this issue.
  • We ask for full disclosure of the terms of the financial agreement between KER Foundation and Kraft. We also request full transparency regarding the status of future agreements under consideration for use of our Logo.
  • We ask the Academy to provide their plan for the discontinuation of this specific relationship with Kraft and removal of the KER logo off Kraft Singles product packaging.

Academy members deserve strong leaders who will protect the integrity of the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist credential. This latest action is an embarrassing misstep that must be corrected swiftly in order to prevent further damage to the RD/RDN brand and to the Academy.

Sincerely,

Rachel Begun MS, RDN
Kate Geagan MS, RDN
Regan Jones, RDN
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists colleagues listed at change.org

Comments

  1. 1

    Anne, I knew I liked you for a reason! :) This just reinforces my decision. Thank you for this and I will definitely re-post.

  2. 3

    As an RN, I completely agree with you! Consumers really rely on professional opinions and to have that seal on something so blatantly unhealthy is just ridiculous, but most people don’t know how unhealthy that is. It’s sad that money plays such a large role.

  3. 4

    Anne, thank you so much for sharing this! I hope you will continue to use this powerful platform at your disposal again in the future to leverage important advocacy campaigns like this one. I have never been comfortable with AND’s relationship with the dairy and meet lobbies that are continuously funding AND activities. You go Glen Coco!

  4. 5

    Yes! I remember getting a Pepsi logo on an ADA bag back in the day and it always drove me crazy. I almost didn’t use the bag just for that.
    I may pass this around the office today.
    Thanks for bringing this to light for me! (On that note, I am seriously about to go give a grocery store tour-I’ll make sure the Kraft singles have an asterisk next to it.)

    • 6

      I signed! Thanks for the link.
      Also, don’t any AND administration watch Parks and Rec…this is a total Sweetums case!

      • 7
        michelle monroe says

        YES! Parks and Rec! haha. “They’re so healthy! Look, they’re all wearing vests!”

        But honestly, I think it’s terrible what the AND did. There is already a cloak of mistrust and suspicion among the community in regards to AND’s (and inevitably our) interests, and this stunt just confirms it for many people. It’s a disgrace, and it’s unfair that we as dietitians have to fight so hard to prove our integrity and qualifications to the public after we’ve worked so hard for our credentials. AND should be supporting it’s hard working (paying) members who are out in the community trying to effect real change rather than Big Food. Thanks for reposting!

  5. 9

    Hi Anne! I am so thrilled to see you posting this and am excited to see RDs using their voice to truly make a difference in policy and in the health of Americans. That being said, first please know I have read your blog since its inception and have been a constant fan. However, I wanted to mention that perhaps in a manner somewhat analogous to how you’re processing this decision by your organization, many of your readers felt dismayed by the trip to general Mills which consistently fills our kids’ breakfasts with overly sugared, processed foods. Again in an analogous manner, it seemed as though money and the free trip could buy your voice just like kraft bought this label. I don’t mean to be harshly critical and I hope you take this response just as I hope the leadership reading your letter responds positively. Perhaps this could be a time for all of us to reflect on the impact of our voice, big or small, in influencing those around us. Thanks again for this post and for your willingness to be a voice for change.

  6. 15

    Wow, that is terrible! That nasty cheese is definitely not healthy! I signed the petition and shared on FB!

  7. 16

    I definitely signed that this morning. It’s absurd. Kraft Singles of all things??

  8. 17

    Wow, that’s bonkers….

  9. 18
    Roadrunner says

    Well done, Anne… A very principled, thoughtful, courageous position.

  10. 19

    Thank you for spreading awareness of this issue, which by the way, I can’t even believe is an actual issue! Kraft singles?? Seriously?

  11. 21

    So thankful for your voice and stance on this issue!

  12. 22

    Hi Anne! I’m so glad you did this post. I really appreciate your blog for it’s take on the field of dietetics and nutrition. I’ve read a lot about AND and learned about their not-so-secret business relationships with large food companies, and I am glad to see dietitians standing up and saying they don’t agree. I also wanted to complement you on your continued focus on providing readers with content related to nutrition. It’s really important to me as a reader to know that you are well-informed and active as a dietitian.

  13. 23

    Very interesting information. Thank you very much.

  14. 24

    Hi Anne! I am so thrilled to see this post today. I found your blog doing research on the process of becoming a Registered Dietitian (thank you for that detailed information by the way!!), and have been following you ever since. I have found myself reluctant to pursue the path of becoming an RD because of issues exactly like this. My core values do not align with that of AND. The very reason I want a career in nutrition is to help prevent misinformation like this, as I’m sure applies to all RD’s. I’m worried that perhaps the AND is not the right fit for me, and I should pursue alternative credentialing, but I still want to be an educated and trustworthy nutrition practitioner. Any insight you might have would be greatly appreciated.

    Thanks for all the work you do!

    • 25

      Hi Jenny, thanks for reading! I would absolutely encourage you to still pursue the RD – if anything, having those letters behind your name will give you more power to disagree with larger issues like this. There are a lot of RDs like me that are in line with how you feel – so please don’t let AND discourage you! We need you. :)

    • 27

      Yes please don’t let it discourage you. Many dietitians are not members of AND and do not pay yearly dues exactly for these political reasons.

      AND may hand out the title of RD for those who have earned it, but you don’t have to agree with their “value system” (ie. Money talks…). Many dietitians take other career paths and never look back. Use AND to get your credentials then move on to bigger and better things!

      Good luck on your journey. It’s totally worth it :)

  15. 28

    Signed!! How insane and ridiculous. It’s sad to say but our leading councils are run by money and who you know.

  16. 29

    Signed it earlier once I saw it on The Lean Green Bean! As someone in marketing (and to most people in general!) it’s clear to see that it will make people look and think, “gee, this is healthy”. It’s crazy. I hope AND is responsive to this! Thank you for sharing this and for being willing to stand up for it!

  17. 31

    Thanks Anne! This is just another example of the issues with our food industry. Thank you for sharing this important post.

  18. 32

    I’m on the fence about whether I want to sign this petition. Whole foods are ideal for everyone nutritionally, but not everyone has access to whole foods. So if a kid in a food desert gets his calcium from Kraft singles and doesn’t die from malnutrition because of the enriched breakfast cereals he eats, I’m ok with that.

    • 33
      michelle monroe says

      Hi Mandi!

      I have to say I agree with you in that context. I am a dietitian who wholly believes that there is room for everything in a healthy diet. But I think the bigger issue here is the fact that of ALL, and ANY healthy product that could have been chosen to bear AND’s KER logo, it essentially was the company who could fork over enough $ for it. Kraft bought the seal, more or less, so AND’s motivation was financially driven rather than nutritionally driven. And to make matters worse, AND has not disclosed the dollar amount, which was probably in the millions. What small health food company could ever compete with that? It’s unfair, and it casts AND in a very bad light that causes people to mistrust dietitians. “Well, they don’t really care about my health, all they care about is making money.” It’s not any better than companies out there trying to sell a weight loss supplements.

      • 34

        Agree with you, Michelle. It’s not about the actual food (I’m a huge proponent of being healthy meaning that you are not ALWAYS eating healthy – that said, I don’t think I’d choose kraft singles as my indulgence, but to each their own…) – but about the larger issue that you note. I also think it’s especially about the fact that AND’s members were not consulted on anything about this decision, yet it reflects on us and hurts our credibility.

  19. 35

    I haven’t heard of this! That’s awful, you have our utmost support. Get a big enough of a twitter shitstorm started, it generally does the job these days :3 Take for example that comic book cover drama the other day, took no time to change it.

  20. 36

    As a fellow dietitian I completely agree that ANDs endorsement and subsequent explanation (!) is an absolute shame to our field. I will be signing and using the repeal the seal hashtag. AND needs to start representing what we all went to school to learn about! Whole foods and healthy choices. Not plastic cheese.

  21. 37

    Than you for sharing this Anne – just signed the petition and wholeheartedly agree with you and all the other RDs on this (a fellow RD!)

  22. 38

    I don’t know if you saw, but The Daily Show tonight talked about the logo being on Kraft singles. Jon Stewart had some funny things to day about it.

  23. 40

    I’ve been fuming about this as well. Glad you posted! I wish real foods could get the support and attention that processed ones do. The lonely sweet potato; the single leaf of chard -they need a seal and an easy recipe to go with. AND needs an overhaul.

  24. 42

    Excellent post! Signed and Shared!!!

  25. 43

    What’s the big deal? Kraft singles are healthy

  26. 45
    Charlsie N says

    My local radio station brought this up in their news portion this morning. The comments and laughs about this really makes me wonder what the AND was thinking. The guy said something about how the plastic wrap around it tastes better than the actual cheese slice itself.

  27. 47

    Thank you for bringing to my attention, I just signed. its false advertisement. There are a lot of people, especially kids and uninformed adults, who rely heavily on packaging when purchasing a product. Kraft singles are not a healthy choice, especially for kids. No wonder why America is so obese, because companies are more concerned with making money than actually helping people. I hope this petition works and am glad to see people like yourself in the field be so proactive.

  28. 48

    I don’t like Kraft Singles but calling it plastic sounds more like food snobbery than science. I’d expect snobbery from any random food blogger but science from an RD.

Trackbacks

  1. […] I’m telling you all this because I want you to read a blog post from a blogger I follow who is an RD and someone I truly trust to provide healthy, good advice.  Her name is Anne Mauney.  She lives in Washington, DC and runs a blog called FannetasticFood.com. […]

  2. […] you’re interested in some of the background, read this – Anne, RD up in Washington, DC., breaks it down for […]

  3. […] Brown, RD @ Kumquat Alanna Waldron, RD @ Eat Real Food Alex Caspero, RD @ Delicious Knowledge Anne Mauney, MPH, RD @ Fannetastic Food Sherry Coleman Collins, MS, RDN, LD @ Southern Fried Nutrition Ashley Colpaart, MS, RD @ Epicurean […]

  4. […] Anne has a really great post explaining the whole issue–Check it out! […]

  5. […] NOT a fave, but definitely worth sharing. This is just ridiculous, and Anne’s response was perfection.  […]

  6. […] NOT a fave, but definitely worth sharing. This is just ridiculous, and Anne’s response was perfection.  […]

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