Monday, July 04, 2005

Want fries with that?

A dietician is someone you go to for professional advise about a healthy eating, isn’t it? Why then has the Dietitians Association of Australia actively encouraged a financial relationship with McDonalds? Though not an official sponsor of the DAA, the fast food monolith has leased a stand for the past two years at the association’s annual conference. It is a two way relationship, the organization raises money from renting the stand, while the company gains tacit approval and exposure within this industry niche.

As if this wasn’t a concerning indicator of less than healthy brands gaining some influence over this official health body, direct sponsorship by food manufacturers of the Association are reaching some alarming heights. The DAA has numerous “partnerships” with food industry producers and groups. These include Nestlé, Kellogs, Dairy Australia, Meat and Livestock Australia and Unilever. Other partners come from the pharmaceutical industry, including Novartis (Gerbis baby food) and Abbott. The DAA is at pains to state on their website that its sponsors in no way influence their advise. Though it is pretty clear from the partners listing that the official line is that good nutrician is based on having cereal for breakfast, eating lots of dairy products, tucking into some meat and feeding junior baby formula followed by processed infant food.

Or maybe it’s not as obvious as that. The message may be, its ok to not persevere with breast feeding while there are so many quality products on the market (and lets not mention Nestlé’s role in third world malnutrition). It could be that dairy is the ‘best’ source of calcium (so lets not even bother to mention great non dairy sources). Or perhaps grab that ‘high energy’ cereal for breakfast, its really good for you.

Of course I could, due to my own professional bias, be being too hard on the Association. After all their website has recipes using tofu in their database, so its not all meat and milk. But when their own committee member’s start resigning due to the ‘unhealthy’ influence of some sponsors, then you have to start wondering.

I did.

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