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