McDonald’s Loves Dietitians So Much

McDonald's Gold Sponsor of California Dietitians

Would you trust McDonald’s to advise you on nutrition? Of course not. Should the sugar industry advise you on school nutrition standards? Not a good idea.

So why is McDonald’s the premium sponsor of the California Dietetic Association’s annual meeting? Wait before you answer, because it gets even worse.

These conferences are important to registered dietitians because they include scientific sessions that qualify as “continuing education”. Dietitians are required to complete a certain number of hours every year to maintain their good standing.

But how can a dietitian get an objective and scientific education when the session she is attending is sponsored by a company with direct interest in the topic being discussed.

As Kiera Butler reports in Mother Jones:

I attended “Sweeteners in Schools: Keeping Science First in a Controversial Discussion.” Sponsored by the Corn Refiners Association, whose members produce and sell high-fructose corn syrup, it included a panel composed of three of the trade group’s representatives. The panelists bemoaned some schools’ decision to remove chocolate milk from their cafeteria menus…one panelist said that she’d been dismayed to learn that some schools had banned sugary treats from classroom Valentine’s Day parties, which “could be a teachable moment for kids about moderation.” Read more…

Can a true discussion about the effects of sugar and high fructose corn syrup take place when there is nobody with an opposing view on the panel?

We’ve written in the past about our disdain of junk food companies sponsoring the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). Unfortunately this practice has trickled down to the state level. The result is that the integrity and advice of dietitians is called into question by the public. This has caused, and will continue to cause damage to the reputation of thousands of hard working dietitians at the front-lines of the war on obesity.

We strongly urge dietetic organizations to forgo sponsorships with junk food and fast food corporations. The sponsorship is only 10% of the AND’s annual budget. But it causes 100% damage.

  • JK

    Who do your recommend they use as sponsors for their meetings (as RD’s do not have the resources to support this on their own – thanks to lack of reimbursement for their services and limited salary)? Certainly farmers don’t have that kind of budget to help as sponsors. When “big business” is participating, there is always full disclosure on the program and in speaker introductions. It would be nice to have a better balanced panel for some sessions, however that is not always possible.
    Dietitians always have the individual patient/client’s best interest at heart and can take biased presentations lightly while sticking to the science to provide the highest quality of care possible.
    As for the McDonald’s sponsored luncheon, I’d bet that they did not serve Big Macs and fries, but rather one of their healthier options (entree salad, yogurt & fruit parfait, etc)? Consider too, who sponsors MD meetings? The Drug companies! Isn’t this a similar “conflict” of interest?
    In the real world, we need to develop relationships with business and the influence goes both ways. Perhaps dietitians are actually teaching the fast food industry to offer more healthy options and eliminate super-sizing? At the very least, dietitian’s and other health professionals and consumer advocates have influenced the Fast Food industry to provide nutrition information of their products to the public so that the consumer can make their own educated choices.

    • Fooducate

      The sponsorship is 10% of total revenue, so there should be a way to fill in the gap without McDonald’s. There are companies that sell healthier foods.

      The bulk (over 90%) of McDonald’s revenue is generated from unhealthy food, so using salad as the proverbial fig-leaf simply doesn’t cut it.

      Showcasing another bad apple – the pharma/MD relationship – still does not justify the sponsorships in the dietetics world.

      Bottom line – The dietitian community is flushing its long term public credibility down the toilet by accepting this type of sponsor.

      • Confused

        In the article that you gave me the link to it said sponsorship was 40% of entire revenue

        • Fooducate

          Yes, it’s a mistake they made.


          • JKern

            Where are you getting the figure that McD’s gift = 10% of revenue. That is, by the way a huge amount, and should not be trivialized.

          • Fooducate

            The 10% stat is for the National organization, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. It’s not from a single sponsor, rather from all of them.

    • BeesAreDyingPeople!

      Another example: Big pest control chemical makers who sponsor state pest control technician license training! While there, people are told to stay away from organic methods because they stink, stain, and are ineffective! The technicians know that their livelihood is wrapped up in this, so most avoid organics for Bayer and other big chems!

  • H2O


  • SuperMom101

    Dear JK,

    Here’s why corporation’s sponsor “professional organizations:” ever see the the “little red dress” on diet coke cans to promote “awareness” of heart disease for women. Message/branding/advertising/awareness/educating = chemicals in a can prevent heart disease = profits

  • JKern

    “This has caused, and will continue to cause damage to the reputation of
    thousands of hard working dietitians at the front-lines of the war on

    Seriously? I suspect patients of RDs are far more pragmatic about the reality of sponsorship of CE credits. (Not to mention that most people have no clue who sponsored a session at a conference while they’re having a consult with their dietitian.)

    Interesting that I’ve never heard an RD comment that his or her (there are male RDs too, Hemi) credibility is doubted based on who is sponsoring their conferences. And as JK said, who will sponsor conferences? An un-sponsored conference would be prohibitively expensive.

    And, finally, RD are not the front line in the “war”. Policymakers are the front line.

    It’s good to know who’s footing the bills and attempting to influence the opinions of RDs. But you need to keep this knowledge in perspective and measure the benefits against the costs, as I am certain the CA Dietetic Association has done before accepting the check.

    • Fooducate

      Ask RDs in private practice how hard it is to recruit new clients.
      Sponsors are only 10% of revenue, so the gap is not unbridgeable.
      Policymakers have long sold out – they are the armchair generals. Not in the front lines.
      It’s good to know who is footing the bills…so that changes can be made.

      • JKern

        It’s a pretty big leap to say that an RD who can’t get new clients can blame a lack of respect for the profession because the national or state association took money from a cola company (a fact that I still content few patients know or care about).

        Rather than pick up on the coattails of an NPR story, how about offering a REAL look into the issue and get on the phone with some from the CA association and let them explain their decision. I rather doubt that the people who run the association are heartless, clueless and greedy oaf, and that the decision to accept money from food companies is far more complex than what is presented here.

        And sell-outs or not, policymakers ARE the front line. It’s a lot of why we have the problems we have.

  • Disgusted

    It does not seem as we are winning the war here ..this desease keeps spreading…if food educate and food babe and all others can’t put a stop to this crap who can???? What’s the use of speaking out is power and Mcdonalds and all these poisonous chains of bad fast foods have money and power and they just drown out the good guys..sees like a losing battle…I just eat right..I don’t do Mcdonalds and his companion Demonds but I could only do for myself everyone has to educate themselves ..and that’s not going to happen…

    • H2O

      Keep it up,because it will rub off on your friends and family.for every person you can influence that’s one less dollar in their pockets and they are not getting any of my money. Thats less profits for them and you and I are not supporting their cooperate greed and poison.