Today I am using my little blog for something really important to me, change. And while I’m all about helping us make healthy life changes easy, I’m talking about a different kind of change. Let me explain.
I am a proud Registered Dietitian Nutritionist…
…And I am part of a community of other hard-working, intelligent, caring, passionate RDNs who I believe have integrity in our practice of nutrition. We go to GREAT lengths to practice ethically and in the best interest of each individual’s health and well-being. While we all make mistakes along the way, myself included, RDNs work tirelessly to be THE trusted source for nutrition science.
Well, a couple of weeks ago, our national governing body, The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, made, what I believe to be, a big mistake that unfortunately is hurting the RDN community at large. At the very least, it’s ticked off most of us.
A news story broke from the NY Times about Kraft cheese singles receiving a logo from the Kid’s Eat Right Foundation, a sector of the Academy. While the Academy swore it was not an endorsement, it was perceived as one — by everyone else. And I believe the whole situation was handled very poorly from the start, putting many nutrition professionals in a terrible, vulnerable position. In an instant, the credibility that many of us have spent our careers building was stolen out from under us.
It’s taken me a couple of weeks to sort through these events, talk to some trusted colleagues and decide where I stand. My purpose for participating in this movement is to say to the Academy that business as usual must change. I’m not on a witch hunt to get anyone fired or berate an individual or group. I am on a mission to do things different as an organization from this point moving on: Please enforce complete transparency in both the operations of The Academy AND The Kids Eat Right Foundation.
We (RDNs) 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 asking your help in harnessing the power of our collective voices to make known to the public and the Academy that (1) we do not support this type of logo placement (2) we request that the on-package logo be repealed and (3) we request full transparency by AND & KER about this partnership to ensure this does not happen in the future.
I hope that The Academy will respond immediately to these requests.
You can get involved with us by signing the petition at change.org, which outlines the steps we are asking that The Academy and KER take to rectify this situation.
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 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 Policy1, 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.
Jenna Braddock, MSH, RDN, CSSD
Rachel Begun MS, RDN
Kate Geagan MS, RDN
Regan Jones, RDN
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists colleagues listed at change.org