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Thursday, 27 February 2014
What Happens When Dietitians Learn About Nutrition From Big Food?
Snack and soda makers that often are blamed for fueling the nation's obesity rates also play a role in educating the dietitians who advise Americans on healthy eating.
Companies such as Frito-Lay, Kellogg and Coca-Cola are essentially teaching the teachers. They're offering seminars, online classes and workshops that are usually free to the nation's dietitians as part of their behind-the-scenes efforts to burnish the image of their snacks and drinks. The practice has raised ethical concerns among some who say it gives the food industry too much influence over dietitians, who can take the classes for education credits to maintain their licenses.
With two-thirds of Americans considered overweight or obese, the makers of processed foods have shouldered much of the blame for aggressively marketing sugary and salty products. Critics argue that companies use the classes, which are usually less expensive and more convenient than other courses dietitians can take, as a way to cast their products in a positive nutritional light. Not to mention that companies often collect the contact information of dietitians to mail them samples or coupons, in some cases to share with their patients.
"It's not education. It's PR," says Andy Bellatti, a Las Vegas-based dietitian who helped found Dietitians for Professional Integrity, a group of about a dozen dietitians who are calling for an end to the practice.