Industry Influence, Integrity, and Respect

wpid-img_20141020_104501.jpgA simmering controversy in the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics brought out issues of food industry influence, integrity, and respect in a lively session yesterday at FNCE 2014 (the Academy’s annual meeting in Atlanta). Academy President Sonja Connor moderated the session, which should tell you how seriously the Academy is taking this subject.

Joy Bauer opened the session with an overview of building a nutrition brand through social media. She is a charismatic, entrepreneurial dietitian who serves as the nutrition expert for the Today Show and has created a formidable nutrition brand based on her own good name. No controversy here. No difficult discussion of professional ethics.

Melinda Hemmelgarn plunged into the heart of the concern with a detailed introduction of issues related to industry sponsorship. She moved on to describe the sponsorship guidelines developed by the Hunger and Environmental Nutrition Dietary Practice Group (HEN DPG) — guidelines that she regards as a model to protect the professional integrity of the Academy. This is an issue that the HEN DPG has obviously given a great deal of thought. On their website, they devote a page to external relationship and sponsorships which opens by saying:

HEN welcomes like-minded entities and organizations who are interested in working together on hunger and/or environmental projects, and for the purpose of sharing information.

To complete the session, Kathy McClusky presented a review of the Academy’s current sponsorship policies and a review of the new Sponsorship Advisory Task Force that she chairs. She opened by embracing the lively debate that is no doubt headed her way on that task force, saying:

I’ve been a debater since high school, so I’d rather hear people talk it out than to have them sit around harboring unspoken issues.

The session closed with Q&A that made the strong perspectives of some members quite clear. Despite the President’s request that people ask questions — rather than make points — not one questioner could resist. One person asked, “Is it possible that we’re thinking about the money all wrong? Can we exist without this money?”

Professional integrity and transparency are critically important. Conflicts of interest and bias are real concerns that deserve attention. We hope that the result will be an organization that meets these concerns and continues to respect a healthy diversity of views — including views that are not like-minded to our own.

Click here to read the Academy policy on corporate sponsorships and click here to read the HEN DPG policies on external relationships.

Respect, photograph © Nathan Siemers / flickr

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2 Responses to “Industry Influence, Integrity, and Respect”

  1. October 21, 2014 at 8:45 pm, Wilma B. Freire said:

    As an active Health and nutrition professional I am very interested in the información you provide.

    • October 21, 2014 at 9:27 pm, Ted said:

      Thanks, Wilma! I appreciate encouragement and any other constructive feedback you might offer.