February 9, 2023

According to reports, America’s premier nutrition advisory group has financial ties to some of the country’s largest producers of junk food.

The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics is a standards-setting body that outlines best practices for the nation’s nutritionists and advises policymakers on public health issues. For many, it is seen as the foremost authority on dieting and healthy eating.

Still, documents show it received more than $4 million in donations from companies like PepsiCo, Hershey and Nestlé between 2011 and 2017 — in a potential conflict of interest.

Documents released through FOIA and examined in a report published in Nutrition for public health exposed the extent of the relationships.

Coca-Cola was one of the junk food companies that partnered with the dietitian academy, donating more than $477,000. The relationship with the advisory body ended in 2015

Who gave what to the Academy between 2011-2017?

PepsiCo – $486,000

Coca Cola – $477,000

Hershey-$368,000

Nestlé – $200,000

National Journal Board – $1.5 million

Conagra, owner of brands like Slim Jim, Duncan Hines, Reddi-wip and Chef Boyardee – $1.4 million

The Academy has been criticized since 2013 for its relationships with processed food companies, but the declassified documents have exposed the true extent of the financial transactions.

They suggest the group took more than $486,000 from PepsiCo, the makers behind sugar-filled Pepsi, and more than $477,000 from Coca-Cola.

A 2014 email from influential Academy member Donna Martin said, “The only flag I saw was that PepsiCo is one of our top ten stocks (in which the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics invested).

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“Personally, I like PepsiCo and have no problem with us owning it, but I wonder if anyone would like to comment on that. Hopefully they will be happy as they should be! I personally would be fine if we had coke supplies!!’

At the same time the email was sent, the Academy was in talks with Subway about how the Academy could promote the brand’s “healthier products,” The Guardian reported.

Baby food maker Abbott donated more than $100,000 to the Academy in 2011 and made consistent donations between 2013 and 2017.

Emails from 2015 show the pair were talking about how the Academy could use its outreach on dietitians to push Pediasure, amid Abbott’s $300,000 two-year sponsorship deal.

Pediasure, a mixture of soy and cow’s milk, is routinely dispensed by pediatricians in the US, despite doubts about the health benefits for children.

Gary Ruskin, executive director of U.S. Right to Know, and a co-author of the study The protector: ‘That’s amazing. That belongs in the hall of fame of conflict of interest – it’s off the charts.”

The KNAW called the report in itself ‘inaccurate’ and ‘misleading’ website.

It said it had “strict guidelines and principles that prohibit external influence from sponsors or any other group or individual,” which were not mentioned in the report.

Coca-Cola ended its partnership with the Academy in 2015.

Sponsorships with Hershey ended in 2015 and PepsiCo in 2016 This was reported by the Wall Street Journal.

The WSJ said the Academy had a list of 24 “supporters” on its website, including the National Confectioners Association, who lobby for the candy industry, including Hershey, Mondelez International, Mars and the Jelly Belly Candy Company.

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The page has since been removed by the Academy.

The papers were obtained by US Right to Know, a group that has its own controversial dealings. They admit to accepting funding from the Organic Consumers Association, a company associated with the anti-vaccination movement.

On its website, it admits to accepting funding from a company associated with the anti-vaccine movement.