UPDATE: See ADA’s response below.
We’ve just learned from several dietitians about an online survey the American Dietetic Association is circulating among its 70,000 strong membership, focusing on RDs attitudes about the organization’s corporate sponsorship program. You know – taking money from big food companies and pretending it doesn’t matter. Current sponsors include The Coca Cola Company, PepsiC0, Mars, Hershey - purveyors of healthy foods and beverages that make America the healthiest, slimmest nation in the world…
From the survey:
- Are you aware that ADA has a Corporate Relations Sponsorship program? Yes/No
- Would you say, knowing that an organization or brand is an ADA Partner or Premier Sponsor, that you would feel that they are an organization or brand you would value … More / Less / No different … than other organizations or brands?
Some of the questions seem a bit loaded:
How much do you agree or disagree with the following statements?
- The Coca-Cola Company promotes ADA members as the experts when it comes to helping people eat well and stay healthy.
- The Coca-Cola Company has taken a leadership role in communicating information about beverage science and innovation, as well as educating consumers about factual, science-based nutrition information.
Who cares? The point is it should not be a sponsor.
It’s a lengthy survey that seems to be doing everything it can to explain the benefits of the partnerships. Thankfully though, it does conclude with a clear question on the sponsorship issue:
From what you know, how do you feel about ADA’s Corporate Relations Sponsorship program in general?
Strongly approve / Somewhat approve / No opinion / unsure / Somewhat disapprove / Strongly disapprove
What you need to know:
Fooducate’s position is well known. Taking money from Coke, PepsiCo, and Hershey portends serious credibility issues for the organization. Many RDs agree and we’re glad enough of them have raised a red flag that has led to this survey. Hopefully the results will lead to an ADA policy change.
The funny thing is that all the sponsorship money adds up to less than 10% of the ADA’s total funding. With a little “kvetch” and some creativity, the ADA can easily overcome this and feel more free than ever to give clear cut advice such as:
Skip the soft drinks. Drink Tap water. Eat a bag of chips once a month. Dark chocolate is good, one tiny square a day at most. Moderation means a rare treat, not a daily snack….
We have emailed the ADA and are hoping to hear directly from them on the matter.
Here is the response we got from ADA Media Relations Manager Ryan O’Malley:
Thank you for the opportunity to respond to your posting regarding ADA’s Corporate Sponsorship program. This is actually the fourth consecutive year that ADA has sent a Corporate Sponsor Survey to a sampling of active ADA members. We work with an outside firm to develop and deploy the survey and analyze the results, which are then shared with ADA leadership as well as the respective sponsors.
The purpose of this survey is to receive objective feedback and gauge attitudes and perceptions with regard to ADA’s Corporate Relations Sponsorship program and ADA Partners and Premier Sponsors.
To reiterate, ADA closely evaluates all potential sponsorships to ensure that they are consistent with ADA’s science-based positions and messages. ADA does not endorse any companies, products or services. Sponsors do not influence the Association’s decision making process nor do they affect policy positions.
If this is the 4th year the survey is running, how many more will be required until something changes?