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The Nutrition Society in a Stew - 10/07/2006
 
The Nutrition Society’s AGM and annual conference, sponsored by respectable academic and research organizations and the Food Standards Agency, but also by a commercial sector and other sponsors, among which were Cadbury Schweppes.
The Nutrition Society’s AGM and annual conference, sponsored by respectable academic and research organizations and the Food Standards Agency, but also by a commercial sector and other sponsors, among which were Cadbury Schweppes.

“This is a fine mess you’ve gotten us into” was the impression delegates carried as they assembled for the August Nutrition Society’s AGM and annual conference, this week in Aberdeen. They arrived to allegations that “one of Britain’s most high-profile nutritional experts”, according to the Daily Mail, and flaunting in the Daily Mirror the style of Registered Nutritionist, was flouting scientific probity in a new register, “run” by the Nutritional Society, but suspected of being “largely composed of commercial nutritionists making good money peddling lifestyle advice to the public” (Bad Science, Guardian 1st July 2006).

The delegates found that their worthy deliberations were being sponsored by respectable academic and research organizations and the Food Standards Agency, but also by a commercial sector and other sponsors, among which were Cadbury Schweppes, boasting their association with “America’s confectionery” and acknowledged as a “bronze” supporter, Kellogg’s, and the Food and Drink Foundation, all notorious purveyors of “junk” foods whose dire effects on the nation’s health earnest nutritionists and NGOs, in concert with the FSA, strive to restrain – as well as a spot of bother with salmonellas in the British confectionery.

The Society boasted in its proceedings of “impressive progress as a voluntary regulator”: it has set “specialist standards for course accreditation that enable graduates to apply for direct entry to the register, having met standards of specialist competency in nutrition or public health nutrition. A Code of Ethics and a Statement of Professional Conduct underpins oversights that protect the public – the hallmark of all professions – despite the register being exclusively for Society members… Nutritionists need to show how they actually contribute to national health and/or wealth.

A member attending and participating in the conference whose objections were unrequited complained that the Society’s Statement of Professional Conduct meant acceptance of favors from the sponsors as promiscuously as these professional endorsements by Eskimo Nell or Peshwari Naan on their acquaintances.

P.S.
The Bad Science column in the Guardian (08 July 06) returns to the indictment of the Nutrition Society’s registration scheme. VEGA’s experiences with the entanglements of professors, researchers, charities and NGOs with commerce press and public relations merchants counsels the importance of great and prudent care; but such probity comes at great cost in terms of the independence gained at the disciplined loss of sponsorships from commercial interests in the enormously powerful food, drinks and pharmaceutical industries – and even in the government’s approbations, albeit offered openly and subject to exhaustive debate and consultation, as our website illustrates (and, lamentably, many charities overlook such opportunities). We shall report in our monthly bulletin (to cover the month of July) on the latest AGM and scientific conference of the Nutrition Society, which our representative, a member of the Nutrition Society, attended.

 
 
 

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