A controversy on whether “sponsorship” means “approval” has rocked the dietetics and nutrition world recently. For many of you, this may be the first you will hear about it. You may come to the conclusion that it doesn’t matter. But I think it raises important topics for all of us to consider in being informed consumers.
In November 2010, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics – main professional organization for dietitians – launched an initiative for children’s nutrition and health called Kids Eat Right. This initiative was supposed to help RDs become more active in children’s health and spread awareness in general. The obesity epidemic in the US has spread to children, unfortunately, so it is important to teach good nutrition and healthy weight to parents, educators, and children alike.
Recently, the Academy has sponsored an “education initiative” with Kraft, which allows Kraft to use the Kids Eat Right logo on their Singles American cheese product. The logo will be found on the original and 2% varieties of the cheese product. This “sponsorship” has been mis-reported in the news as a “seal of approval” or “endorsement” of the product.
As an intelligent consumer, can you see why dietitians are upset? If you saw this logo on a product, wouldn’t you assume the logo indicated that it is a healthy addition to your child’s diet? I know I would. Since my nutrition knowledge would lead me to think otherwise, I would at least assume that this product is endorsed by this organization.
Now, I’m not saying you can never feed your kid Kraft Singles. Many children don’t get enough dairy in their diet, and cheese can be a good source of calcium. However, it is also a significant contributor of sodium to the diet, which I’ve mentioned previously is a problem for children. American cheese is especially high in sodium, with 200 mg sodium per slice compared to 122 mg sodium in cheddar cheese. Also, the logo is allowed on ALL varieties of Singles, not just the 2% milk or skim milk which are lower in fat and total calories.
The Academy is putting together a review board to re-evaluate the partnership with Kraft and this use of the logo, due to the outcry from members. As a member, I appreciate their responsiveness. I am still proud to be a Registered Dietitian and a member of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. However, this collaboration does give me pause.
What’s the take home message for you? Make informed choices at the grocery store. Don’t think that a logo on a package means something is healthy, especially if you already thought otherwise. Research it. Maybe the product has redeeming value you didn’t know about. Maybe it doesn’t. But realize the real purpose of that logo – endorsement or sponsorship aside – is for you to research the information behind that logo.
Kidseatright.org does have some tips, recipes, and other nutrition resources for parents or caregivers. Check them out if you have a chance.
If you have an opinion about this issue, please share it in the comments. I’d love to hear your thoughts. Also, if you’d like to let the Academy know how you feel, you can either contact them directly at firstname.lastname@example.org or join the #RepealtheSeal campaign here.
Have any nutrition questions? Need help with meal planning or a special dietary need? Send your questions to me at kimberlykmarsh(at)gmail(dot)com, and I will answer them in upcoming posts!