Only in America: Candy Maker to Sponsor Our Dietary Advice [Thanks Hershey!]

The American Dietetic Association announced yesterday that it has inked a partnership with Hershey Company. The exact sum of the sponsorship was not disclosed. From the press release:

The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition develops and supports cutting-edge scientific research for products and technologies to provide consumers with a range of snacking choices, and will collaborate with ADA on consumer and health professional initiatives including an innovative, national consumer-focused nutrition education campaign.

“The campaign will spotlight the expertise and experience of registered dietitians, the nation’s front-line food and nutrition professionals, in helping people achieve a healthy, personalized, balanced eating plan.” read more…

Did you understand that?

We didn’t.

Sounds like high words for “Take our big money and don’t forget us when it comes to consumption recommendations for candy. We’ll provide scientific data to back up our propaganda through your dietitians’ mouths.”

Note that the sponsorship agreement is not directly with the company but with the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition, founded in 2005 to promote the chemistry and health benefits of cocoa, chocolate, nuts and other ingredients. By “other ingredients”, do they means corn syrup and sugar? artificial colors? preservatives?

The ADA is already sponsored by health promoting behemoths such as PepsiCo, The Coca Cola Company, and Mars. Why add another candy maker to the mix?

What you need to know:

First off, let us clarify that we love chocolate and candy. Our kids do too. Hershey has been a part of our life since we were babies, whether with Kisses, chocolate bars, Reeses Pieces, Jolly Rancher, or Twizzlers. While we rarely purchase these brands anymore, we won’t have a heart attack if our kids enjoy these and similar snacks here and there.

However, as the kids grow older and rely less on our sphere of influence, there are more and more opportunities for them to get snacks (school, friends, parties, personal allowance, Internet, TV..). We’d like for them to eat less candy, not more, if it was up to us. But when dietitians in an already obese nation get sponsored by a candy company, you’ve got to wonder what support system we the parents will get.

Instead of a very simple message – “less candy” – we’ll hear “moderation”, “balance”, “chocolate is healthy” and other messages that help nudge consumers to buy more snacks instead of less. (And they ain’t gonna be buying Hershey’s Special Dark, either.)

And that folks, is the endgame for all the snack companies – to sell us more of their products, not less. If they have to spend millions to set up a scientific research center and contribute to doctors and dietitians as well, so be it. Marketing expenses.

One parting thought. When you log into the ADA website, one of the first things you see in huge letter is the following copy:

Food and Nutrition Information you can Trust

By accepting funding from the corporations least contributing to American nutrition, how can the ADA convince consumers that it really is to be trusted?

RDs, ADA members and non-members, please chime in with your thoughts.

  • Maya E Nahra, RD, LD

    I just hope that you bringing to light these ridiculous partnerships will wake up a few folks (members) out there. (All these partnerships and I still can’t afford to go to our annual nationwide ADA meeting in Boston this year!)

    I also hope that clients and patients will know that there ARE trustworthy RDs out there who indeed do NOT take all their healthy living cues from published research instead using time tested life experience and a bit of common sense…

    Thanks for all you do!

  • Brian Hedgpeth

    “Food and nutrition information you can trust”…the first thing I read at their website, too. there is NO WAY around it, no explanation and reasoning they can spin – this information significantly lowers my trust for the ADA. I can appreciate the pinch they’re in – we reward the corporations that peddle the crap – politically, monetarily…how do organizations like ADA compete to get the word out, to finance research? This way just isn’t the answer.

  • Carol Plotkin

    Hersheys chocolate is not certified “Fair Trade.” They dabble in it and their website states that they support improving the lot of cocoa farmers. They did acquire and organic line of chocolate, but have not made that last important commitment to ending enforced child labor in cocoa production by certifying their chocolate as “Fair Trade.” How can the ADA, an organization that supports child nutrition initiatives, align themselves with such a company?! The hypocrisy goes beyond a candy company sponsoring dietary advise!

  • thenontoxicmom

    Just another example of the corrupt partnerships that exists between money hungry big businesses and the agencies that are supposed to protect us and keep us healthy. We need to rely on our own judgment and common sense in order to protect our families!

  • Penny

    I’m current in school to become an RD. When I do graduate and get licensed I will not be joining the ADA. They already charge high fees to join so they can offer members various types of benefits. Why do they need to partnership with companies that provide nothing but junk food? What’s the benefit to that? Hey, I love chocolate as much as the next person but isn’t this sort of like the fox going into partnership to “help” with the hen house?

  • Michelle Archer, RD

    It’s unfortunate that the food producers that we should be partnering with are being gobbled up by big business for the sake of cheaper food production over quality food production. As time goes by, there will be no small farmers or producers for dietitians to partner with and all foods will be made/produced/created/sold by big businesses.

    Support your local farmers and food coops and let your dollars say no to companies like Hershey and Pepsi. It’s worth the higher cost! We can make a difference, one person at a time.

  • Mendy Heaps

    Don’t forget…a company or corporation is not a person, so they don’t act like a person. They only exist to make money and they aren’t going to do anything that isn’t about making MORE money. They don’t have feelings and they don’t really care about people (us).
    It’s kind of like a church taking money from a criminal…

  • Natalie Johnstone, MS, RD

    I would say that most Registered Dietitians that I know, owe no allegience to the ADA, they are committed to their clients. Many are not even members due to the cost. I don’t think any deals that the ADA makes with food companies will influence individual practicing dietitians. What it may influence is the media releases that come from the ADA.

    I personally, would agree that a diet needs to be sustainable and therefore, you need to include food that you like. I think moderation is the key. I would not have a problem if a client wanted a 100 calorie treat, chocolate or otherwise. However, when a “sponsorship” occurs, it makes people suspicious, even if it is the same advice you have been saying for years.

  • Chesapeake Network

    Very powerful article, you publish good stuff!

  • Carol

    Hershey is basically trying to catch up with Mars, Inc., which has been in the chocolate nutrition research and eco/social-friendly marketing business for several years. Hershey’s products, however, still don’t pass the taste/ingredients/nutrition tests — other than the token “Special Dark” bar, their products are mostly milk chocolate sugar bombs with a very small percentage of “healthy” chocolate.

  • Becky

    I would have to agree with the statement that most RDs do not have an allegiance to ADA. Those reasons are likely varied, but a big one is the issue of corporate sponsorship. I am a member of ADA mainly for the dietetic practice groups where members can get advice and share expertise. Dietitians are true to their clients. I don’t for a minute believe you’re going to see an RD recommending candy as part of a healthy everyday diet due to this sponsorship of ADA.

  • mogos brhane

    how i hate sponsers

  • Sarah

    The average Dietitian knows enough about general nutrition to not be swayed by the fact that junk food corporations help fund ADA. Whenever there is a seminar, any and all sponsorships and conflicts of interest are published and displayed so everyone is aware.