This nutrition education session brought to you by … Coca-Cola

Coke booth at the 2004 Society for Nutrition Education Conference, by AmandaLeighPanda via Flickr (CC BY 2.0). Coke’s booth at AND’s 2012 conference looked much bigger and swankier; find the link for photos at the Grist article below.

Author and advocate Anna Lappé had a great post at Grist last week. In it, she featured Michele Simon‘s recent report, And Now a Word from Our Sponsors: Are America’s Nutrition Professionals in the Pocket of Big Food?

As Lappé describes,

In her report, Simon documents how the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), a 74,000-member trade group, has longstanding partnerships with dozens of food companies, including Coke, Hershey’s, and more. Since 2001, the academy has tripled the number of food-industry sponsors listed in its annual report. Perhaps most shocking to me was the engagement of food corporations to run continuing education units for academy members. All AND members are required to take educational courses every year, and many of the approved food-industry providers include companies like Coca-Cola, Kraft Foods, Nestlé, and PepsiCo. It also turns out that many of the corporate-sponsored courses are offered for free.

In part of her report, Simon describes some of her experiences at AND’s annual conference last year. Her encounters at booths of the Corn Refiners Association—in attendance to promote high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to dieticians and nutritionists—and others are emblematic of the problem:

Reasonable people can disagree about the science of HFCS versus other sweeteners, but the problem is, the rep at this booth was not sharing impartial research. Rather, he was a paid consultant only telling one side of the story. This scene was repeated over and over at booth after booth. The companies with booths at FNCE [the Food and Nutrition Conference and Expo] weren’t just there to promote their food products and spin them as good for you; many of them were also there to spin the scientific research in their favor. For example, the American Beverage Association, a lobbying group representing companies such as Coca-Cola, had a booth promoting its PR campaign called “Clear on Calories.” The trade group also had numerous “fact sheets” on how sugary soft drinks don’t contribute to obesity. There is plenty of research countering this view, but where were those fact sheets?

Head here for Lappé’s piece, which includes a number of great links (including one to the PDF of Simon’s compelling report) along with a bit of optimism (“It’s encouraging to know that many members of AND are concerned about the impact of this corporate sponsorship on their profession …”).

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