THE BLOG

Only in America: Candy Maker to Sponsor Our Dietary Advice

07/22/2010 11:24 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

The American Dietetic Association announced yesterday that it has inked a partnership with Hershey Company. The exact sum of the sponsorship was not disclosed. From the press release:

The Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition develops and supports cutting-edge scientific research for products and technologies to provide consumers with a range of snacking choices, and will collaborate with ADA on consumer and health professional initiatives including an innovative, national consumer-focused nutrition education campaign.

"The campaign will spotlight the expertise and experience of registered dietitians, the nation's front-line food and nutrition professionals, in helping people achieve a healthy, personalized, balanced eating plan." read more...

Did you understand that?

We didn't.

Sounds like high words for "Take our big money and don't forget us when it comes to consumption recommendations for candy. We'll provide scientific data to back up our propaganda through your dietitians' mouths."

Note that the sponsorship agreement is not directly with the company but with the Hershey Center for Health & Nutrition, founded in 2005 to promote the chemistry and health benefits of cocoa, chocolate, nuts and other ingredients. By "other ingredients", do they means corn syrup and sugar? artificial colors? preservatives?

The ADA is already sponsored by health promoting behemoths such as PepsiCo, The Coca Cola Company, and Mars. Why add another candy maker to the mix?

What you need to know:

First off, let us clarify that we love chocolate and candy. Our kids do too. Hershey has been a part of our life since we were babies, whether with Kisses, chocolate bars, Reeses Pieces, Jolly Rancher, or Twizzlers. While we rarely purchase these brands anymore, we won't have a heart attack if our kids enjoy these and similar snacks here and there.

However, as the kids grow older and rely less on our sphere of influence, there are more and more opportunities for them to get snacks (school, friends, parties, personal allowance, Internet, TV...) We'd like for them to eat less candy, not more. But when dietitians in an already obese nation get sponsored by a candy company, you've got to wonder what support system we the parents will get.

Instead of a very simple message -- "less candy" -- we'll hear "moderation", "balance", "chocolate is healthy" and other messages that help nudge consumers to buy more snacks instead of less. (And they ain't gonna be buying Hershey's Special Dark, either.)

And that folks, is the endgame for all the snack companies -- to sell us more of their products, not less. If they have to spend millions to set up a scientific research center and contribute to doctors and dietitians as well, so be it. Marketing expenses.

One parting thought. When you log into the ADA website, one of the first things you see in huge letter is the following copy:

Food and Nutrition Information you can Trust


By accepting funding from the corporations least contributing to American nutrition, how can the ADA convince consumers that it really is to be trusted?

RDs, ADA members and non-members, please chime in with your thoughts.