Thursday, June 3, 2010

Issues with the ADA

Spring is a time for renewal, and not just in the garden.  It is also the time of year when RDs are asked to renew our membership to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).  As many of my colleagues will attest, I have struggled with my membership to this organization recently. 

In comparison to other professional organizations, the ADA is relatively small. We don't have the power (aka money) compared to other food corporations and food lobbyists to meet our vision which according to the website is:
Optimize the nation's health through food and nutrition
Like any organization, ADA gets donations to help accomplish its goals. Go to the ADA Corporate Sponsors page here and you'll see for yourself who has been donating money to the ADA. The list includes companies like Unilever, Mars Inc, The Coca-Cola Company, General Mills, and PepsiCo to name a few.  So what's wrong with taking a few bucks from some corporate sponsors?

My issue is that some of these companies are a big reason why RDs are so busy these days.  Added sugar in cereals and beverages, highly processed foods and candy bars just some of the many reasons for the growing obesity epidemic in this country.  And like I highlighted in a previous post here, some of these companies are even trying to convince us that their high sugar foods are healthy choices! What message does it send to our community when as a profession we say, "Drink less soda, eat more high fiber/low sugar cereals and choose healthy snacks," but then the ADA takes contributions from the companies that profit from these same foods.  To me, it undermines our credibility and without credibility can we really accept the title of "nutrition experts"?

I follow Marion Nestle on Twitter and always find some interesting new tweets from her.  Last month this tweet popped up.  I followed the link to Michele Simon's blog Appetite for Profit.  Her post detailed how a RD from Canada, Sybil Hebert, had similar concerns with her professional organization, the Dietitians of Canada.   Ms. Hebert's original post is here.  In writing about the exact same moral dilemma she says,
How does this affect DC's [Dietitians of Canada] message? How does this make dietitians look? Do you think they can be unbiased and critique the food industry, if they're getting money from it? 
She wrote a great letter that she sent to the DC and I applaud her efforts! 

So where did that leave me as the June 1st deadline approached?  After a lot of thinking, I decided to renew my membership for another year.  A friend said, "Maybe you can make more change from within an organization rather than just dropping out?" So that is my personal challenge. I'm not going to be a silent observer.  I plan to write a similar letter to the ADA that Ms. Hebert wrote to the DC.   I'm going to make my voice heard for the next year and I encourage other RDs to do the same if they agree.


  1. You and your colleagues should definitely raise your voices in protest…every time you read something or hear something that is offensive to your profession. So many organizations have to “sell their souls” in order to survive…a terrible statement of the way things work. Just remember, you come from a family of “protesters”, so put those protesting genes to work!

  2. Great post Aaron- and thanks for your comment and support. This is such an important issue that needs to be discussed openly...
    Great job.

  3. Great post! I just found your blog through the Nutrition Blog Network. I am not currently a member of the ADA. I haven't found it to be worth it when I am not currently working in a full-time position. The benefits do not justify the cost for me at this time. Hopefully though, the voices of the ADA members will be heard, and these kind of partnerships will end!