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    What’s In A Name (Change)? Nothing, Really

    The 2011 American Dietetic Association Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo kicked off with some interesting news — an upcoming organizational name change.

    In a letter to all members, current President Sylvia A. Escott-Stump explained that as of January 2012, the American Dietetic Association (ADA) will be known as the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND). “Why?”, you ask?

    “This is a name that immediately and fully complements our focus: the nutritional well-being of the American public. Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics promotes the strong science background and expertise of our members, primarily registered dietitians. Nutrition science underpins wellness, prevention and treatment.

    An academy is “a society of learned persons organized to advance science.” This term describes our organization and immediately emphasizes the educational strength of our advice and expertise. By adding nutrition to our name, we communicate our capacity for translating nutrition science into healthier lifestyles for everyone. Keeping dietetics supports our history as a food and science-based profession.”

    This announcement was presented with rather hyperbolic rhetoric (“[it] will affect our Association, the entire dietetics profession and our perception by the public”).

    If this is an attempt at a ‘clean slate’ or a ‘new beginning’, I certainly hope the ADA realizes that a new identity entails much more than name modification. Snark aside (who will be this Academy’s mascot? Ronald McDonald? The Keebler Elves? Toucan Sam?), this ‘change’ is insubstantial; it does not address any of the deeper issues continually poisoning the roots of a professional organization that wants to be the leader in the realm of nutrition.

    How can the ADA expect to be perceived as “advancing science” by the public, other professionals, and many of its own members when a significant amount of the public messages it conveys are tainted by the food industry’s most insidious players (and, at times, are no different from the bullet points in food industry “fact sheets”)?

    Mrs. Escott-Stump is absolutely correct when she states that nutrition science underpins wellness, prevention, and treatment. In many cases, nutrition is medicine; many conditions can be managed — and prevented — with the right dietary habits. So, then, why are Hershey’s, PepsiCo, and Coca-Cola such prominent ADA players? Why do Chik-Fil-A, The Sugar Association, and McDonald’s have booths at an annual nutrition expo?  Why is one of today’s sessions all about defending processed foodsFYI: one of the speakers is from the International Food Information Council, a controversial food industry cheerleader that is — you guessed it! — a MyPlate partner. Sigh.

    I was also taken aback by what is missing from this new name: food!  Nutrition is, first and foremost, about food. It is not about popping a multivitamin and getting calcium from a bottle of Vitamin Water. If anything, the American public needs a constant reminder to eat, cook, and — why not! — grow real, wholesome food. My nutrition work revolves entirely around food, from growing practices to seasonal availability to preparation techniques that can turn a bitter and tough kale leaf into a tender and mild salad green.

    A dilapidated house does not need a fresh coat of paint; it needs to be gutted and rebuilt. Similarly, the American Dietetic Association does not require a name change, but a structural one. It is imperative that it recognize the dangers of partnering with certain segments of the food industry, and of communicating public health messages that are outdated (“all saturated fat is bad”) vague (“everything in moderation”), and reflective of industry’s interests. Until then, it can expect to continue to have its authority rightfully questioned and scrutinized.

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    12 Comments

    1. Ken Leebow said on September 25th, 2011

      It makes me proud not to be a member! AND an outsider looking in.

      By the way, have a Coke and a smile … http://bit.ly/awEpYV

      P.S. Last I checked, Coke had 34-million FB fans, McDonald’s 10-million, Oreos 23-million, Reese’s 8-million. Ah, the Standard American Diet certainly can be SAD.

    2. tmana said on September 25th, 2011

      One issue with the name “American Dietetic Association” is its initials, “ADA”, are easily confused with those of the American Diabetes Association (http://www.diabetes.org). Worse, food products marketed to people with diabetes used to be marketed with the adjective “dietetic”. Dietetic candy, for example, was made without sugar.

      This association limits the perceived scope and coverage of professional nutrition-and-diet consultation. From a medical and marketing perspective, the public needs to understand that there are many medical conditions (and apparently, some behavioral conditions) which can be mitigated by dietary management, and that RDs (and other diet-and-nutrition consultants) are trained to prescribe and develop these diets for those who need them.

      Whether or not the diets these consultants are taught to prescribe are free of Big Food influences are another story. (FWIW, the same issue exists in “the other” ADA, whose prescribed diets — developed in conjunction with the American Dietetic Association — are considered by many diabetes patient-activists to be too high in carbohydrates and insufficiently specific about what sort of carbohydrates are appropriate for a person with diabetes.)

    3. Kelly F said on September 25th, 2011

      Well said! If ADA is so concerned about our perception to the public, why are they partnering with fast food and processed food companies? As an RD, I do not want to be associated with those kinds of companies. I can’t believe they have booths at FNCE.

    4. Chelsey @ Chew With Your Mouth Open said on September 25th, 2011

      I couldn’t agree more – great post!

    5. jackie Vega said on September 25th, 2011

      hi Andy! I found your blog through your response to my tweet to you! :) This is a great blog!! What an inspiration to someone like myself! I am studying to sit for the RD exam….yippee!!! I am intrigued by this blog in particular because I did not know the ADA was working towards a name change to begin with! I know there has been chatter about adding/allowing other professionals into our association…hmmm…makes me think! Especially with your fabulous points!! I look forward to keeping up with your blog as inspiration for me to keep up with my own as well as being an opener for an aspiring dietitian!! :)

    6. Lauren Slayton said on September 26th, 2011

      chick fil-et (sp?) sigh. While I like to attend FNCE, I’m not missing the frustration of people eating Gerber graduates and recycling information. Plus, how come I’m not reading about the name changes anywhere non-dietitians read?

    7. Pedro Sun said on September 30th, 2011

      Hey Andy

      I found you from this article and felt the need to say what’s up!
      http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2011/09/28/cleaning-up-the-ewgs-dirty-dozen/2/

      I saw you at our co-sponsored well balanced debate on antibiotics and if they cause resistance in humans. Are you a member of HEN? I think you should check us out as we are trying to change the ADA from within. Awesome to see a guy in the world of nutrition.

      Pedro Sun
      CSCS

    8. Andy Bellatti said on September 30th, 2011

      Hi Pedro,

      Thanks for reaching out. Yes, I am a member of HEN — it was great attending the Film Feastival and meeting some members. Too bad we didn’t get a chance to meet and chat in person, but glad we are in touch now. All the best.

    9. Suzy said on October 7th, 2011

      Great post. I am not an RD but I do have a Master’s in Nutrition and this just confirms to me why I do not want to be a dietitian or a part of the ADA. I whole-heartedly agree that it needs to be about food. I haven’t gone through all your posts yet from the conference, but did you go to the processed food talk?

    10. Andy Bellatti said on October 7th, 2011

      Hi Suzy,

      I didn’t. I was afraid my blood pressure would rise to unhealthy levels (and, also, I knew several other people going to that talk, so I decided to head to another one to get as much “coverage” as possible). In my FNCE wrap-up, though, you can read about the IFIC-sponsored talk I attended that I found disturbing and insulting.

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