CA Academy President’s Message

Hello CA Academy Members,

Last week, two stories were released to the public about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ (AND) corporate sponsors. On October 24th, an article in the journal of Public Health Nutrition analyzed emails from former Academy President, Donna Martin which revealed that AND has accepted financial contributions from companies such as Hershey Co. and Coca-Cola, and invested in pharmaceutical and food industry stocks. The Washington Post highlighted the study’s findings. Note, the organization who obtained the emails, U.S. Right to Know has been investigating the origins of COVID-19, and one of the journal article authors has financial ties to an organization that opposes RDN licensure.

The Academy released a response pointing out the inaccuracies in both articles. While I can share some of these facts in this message, such as less than 3% of AND’s investments are in food companies, I would like to tell you what the CA Academy has been working on:

  • We proactively formed a sponsorship committee this year. The goal of the sponsorship committee is to review and update policies on how our organization accepts sponsors to ensure that it is aligned with our vision to “optimize California’s health through food, nutrition, cultural understanding, and health equality.” The sponsorship committee is open for all members. If you are interested in joining or learning more about it, please complete the Sponsorship Committee Google Form.
  • Our sponsorship policy was approved by the Executive Board on October 26th, 2022. The policy includes three core values – integrity, healthy food products and services, and transparency. Sponsors are encouraged to have environmentally responsible/sustainable business methods and practices. Sponsors will be asked to provide a description of their company that highlights these business methods and practices. The California Academy will promote transparency by selecting sponsors that that embrace science-based, sustainable, and ethical practices.
  • We will be hosting a town hall the first week of December that will be opened to both members and non-members. The purpose of the town hall is to hear from you and how we can improve our practices, including sponsorship policies.

As a dietetic professional and a member of the CA Academy, you will probably be receiving several questions and comments from your peers, friends, and strangers on social media. To help you respond, please see our suggested talking points below:

  • The article in Public Health Nutrition is not a comprehensive review of the Academy’s policies and procedures on corporate sponsorship. The information was largely on based on emails from a single Academy member. The authors used little, unconfirmed evidence to draw their conclusions and even stated that their analysis “was exploratory and not meant to be exhaustive.”
  • The financial investments of both the Academy and the Academy’s Foundation are managed by an independent investment company who has the sole authority to make decisions to invest or sell equities on the merits of the stocks themselves. The independent investment company makes the financial decisions to ensure returns meet the Academy’s policy requirements.
  • The Academy’s corporate sponsors do not represent the beliefs and values of all dietetic professionals. It is preposterous to assume that every Registered Dietitian Nutritionist is receiving funding and being influenced by the food industry.

Sponsorship will continue to be on the forefront of how we as an organization plan our continuing education events, networking events, and the upcoming 2023 annual conference. I look forward to having these conversations and identifying opportunities that support furthering our profession. If you have any questions or concerns, please contact us.

Fatinah Darwish-Elsherbiny, MPH, RDN
President, California Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics