Notes from a Nutritionists’ Conference

cda-mcd-sponsor

One recent Friday afternoon, in a Mariott Hotel ballroom in Pomona, California, I watched two women skeptically evaluate their McDonald’s lunches. One peered into a plastic bowl containing a salad of lettuce, bacon, chicken, cheese, and ranch dressing. The other arranged two chocolate chip cookies and a yogurt parfait on a napkin. “Eww,” she said, gingerly stirring the layers of yogurt and pink strawberry goop. The woman with the salad nodded in agreement, poking at a wan chicken strip with her plastic fork.

When I asked how they were liking their lunches, both women grimaced and assured me that they “never” go to McDonald’s. So why were they eating it today? Well, they didn’t really have a choice. The women were registered dietitians halfway through day two of the annual conference of the California Dietetic Association. They were hoping to rack up some of the continuing education credits they needed to maintain their certification. McDonald’s, the conference’s featured sponsor, was the sole provider of lunch. “I guess it’s good to know that they have healthier options now,” said the woman with the salad…

As I wandered the exhibition hall, I saw that McDonald’s wasn’t the only food company giving away freebies. Cheerful reps at the Hershey’s booth passed out miniature cartons of chocolate and strawberry milk. Butter Buds offered packets of fake butter crystals. The California Beef Council guy gave me a pamphlet on how to lose weight by eating steak. Amy’s Naturals had microwave brownies. The night before, Sizzler, California Pizza Kitchen, Boston Market, and other chain restaurants had hosted a free evening buffet for conference-goers…

This is not the only powerful nutritionists’ group with strong corporate ties. The sponsors of the School Nutrition Association’s 2013 annual conference included PepsiCo, Domino’s Pizza, and Sara Lee. SNA made headlines recently when it asked Congress to lift the rule that students must take fruits and vegetables on the lunch line, and to ease the rules around sodium and whole grains…

Toward the end of the day, I spoke to a 65-year-old retired dietitian from Orange County. She told me she’d been attending CDA’s annual conferences for 30 years. Shaking her head, she said that she didn’t approve of the trend of junk-food sponsors. “I guess they need the money, but this is pathetic,” she said, rolling her eyes. She found the McDonald’s lunch particularly deplorable. “A dietitian you’d expect to be principled,” she said. “But here I feel like we’re sleeping with the enemy.”

Well said.

The songs we sang 50 years ago about a plastic fantastic society are silenced.

Boring and snoring, the moneyboys turned journalists into marionettes, doctors into makeup artists, grassroots organizers into anarchist performance art. The professions are more thoroughly owned than ever before.

The remainder may speak reams of truth; but, they command no content providers. Peer reviewed journals and gallery openings haven’t yet turned undifferentiated anger into successful dissent.

But, keep on rocking in the Free World.

4 thoughts on “Notes from a Nutritionists’ Conference

  1. Scribbler says:

    “…today we live in a society in which spurious realities are manufactured by the media, by governments, by big corporations, by religious groups, political groups… So I ask, in my writing, What is real? Because unceasingly we are bombarded with pseudo-realities manufactured by very sophisticated people using very sophisticated electronic mechanisms. I do not distrust their motives; I distrust their power. They have a lot of it. And it is an astonishing power: that of creating whole universes, universes of the mind. I ought to know. I do the same thing.” Philip K. Dick (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philip_K._Dick)

  2. "I'm Lovin' It"© says:

    (8/22/15): During a hearing at the Brazilian Senate, politicians, union leaders and workers from five continents voiced allegations against the McDonald’s Corp., the world’s biggest fast-food chain, over mistreating its employees and dodging taxes. http://www.telesurtv.net/english/news/Outcry-over-McDonalds-Labor-Tax-Practices-at-Brazil-Hearing-20150822-0017.html According to Jutta Steinruck, a member of the European Parliament, “McDonald’s is a global player, and people all over the world should know it is an unfair player that should face global pressure to pay its taxes and decent wages.” She added that McDonald’s is being investigated in Europe for allegedly evading payment of 1 billion euros in taxes. See also link to “McDonald’s Joins Economic War against Venezuela” (Jan 2015)

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