Dietitians Push Back Against Kraft Singles Endorsement
By KELLY PLOWE
Earlier this week, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics announced (to the general public and its 75,000 registered dietitian members) that it had entered into an agreement with Kraft to put a "Kids Eat Right" logo on Kraft Singles, a "pasteurized prepared cheese product." Kids Eat Right is an initiative developed by the academy to help end the childhood obesity epidemic.
Many members of the academy, including myself, were concerned to learn about this relationship (along with the public) and thousands are speaking up and protesting against this endorsement with the #RepealTheSeal campaign. This decision, in which we had no input, has a huge impact on our professional credibility and integrity.
The Academy defends that this symbol and its intention are misunderstood. In a letter sent to its members earlier this week they stated: "Recent news articles misstated a collaboration as a Kids Eat Right “endorsement” of Kraft Singles, and that it represents a “seal of approval” from Kids Eat Right, the Foundation, or the Academy. It is not an endorsement. It is not a seal of approval."
As part of the #RepealtheSeal campaign, a group of dietitians have published an open letter to the Academy (included below) and have started a petition which to date has received more than 9,000 signatures.
March 16, 2015
To Mary Beth Whalen, President Sonja Connor, leadership at the Academy and the Kids Eat Right (KER) Foundation:
As long-time members and proud supporters of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics (AND), we are dismayed, shocked, and saddened by the blog post in last week's New York Times. The piece reports on the KER Foundation's Nutrition seal-- a seal that the Academy states was not an endorsement of the product, but is an indicator of the brands that support Kids Eat Right.
As dedicated Registered Dietitians/Nutritionists and food and nutrition experts, we are protesting the Academy's position to allow the Kids Eat Right logo on Kraft Singles, as well as the possibility to allow any future implied endorsement of any product by AND for the following reasons:
Flawed Understanding of the Marketplace
We wholly reject the rationale that the Academy used in their formal press release to defend the nature of the relationship between Kraft and the Academy. A logo on a product label is an endorsement, an alignment, and recognition of a paid relationship. Simply stating otherwise in a press release, no matter how emphatically, doesn't change this fact. Rather, AND's actions illustrate how profoundly out of touch AND is with business principles, which has put our professional integrity and credibility at risk. It is also a decision that is out of touch with members' values.
Failure to Provide Transparency to AND Members and Consumers
We work hard to provide full transparency in all of our own business relationships, and we expect the same from the Academy. Failure to be transparent about ANDs actions violates the Academy's own Ethics Policy, which calls for the highest standards of honesty and integrity, and for members to not engage in false or misleading practices of communications.
Actions Requested of the Academy: #RepealtheSeal
We ask that the Academy make available to its members, the media and the public the following:
- We ask for full transparency regarding the process of approval to allow the KER logo on the Kraft product -- including the names of those involved, the meeting minutes of the discussion, and Board's vote on this issue.
- We ask for full disclosure of the terms of the financial agreement between KER Foundation and Kraft. We also request full transparency regarding the status of future agreements under consideration for use of our Logo.
- We ask the Academy to provide their plan for the discontinuation of this specific relationship with Kraft and removal of the KER logo off Kraft Singles product packaging.
Academy members deserve strong leaders who will protect the integrity of the Registered Dietitian/Nutritionist credential. This latest action is an embarrassing misstep that must be corrected swiftly in order to prevent further damage to the RD/RDN brand and to the Academy.
Rachel Begun MS, RDN
Kate Geagan MS, RDN
Regan Jones, RDN
Registered Dietitian/Nutritionists colleagues listed at change.org