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CNN Today

American Dietetic Association Under Fire for Accepting Funding From Food Makers

Aired October 19, 2000 - 1:38 p.m. ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

LOU WATER, CNN ANCHOR: And now the information that we get every day. every single day, another tip on how to lose weight, and every day we gain more weight.

NATALIE ALLEN, CNN ANCHOR: Yes we are. And some are blaming the American Dietetic Association for that.

They're holding their annual meeting this week, and here's Elizabeth Cohen with the story.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

ELIZABETH COHEN, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Here at the 83rd annual meeting of the American Dietetic Association, a symposium on heart disease is sponsored by the pork industry. A big gala celebration was sponsored by the beef industry. A nutritional symposium opening day -- Kellogg's.

And that, say critics, is a problem.

DR. ANDREW WEIL, AUTHOR, "EATING WELL FOR OPTIMAL HEALTH": I think the ADA has taken money from a lot of the big manufacturers in the food industry and, consciously or unconsciously, that, I think affects the content of the information they put out.

COHEN: He points to literature distributed by the ADA. "Chocolate: Facts and Fiction," for example, is supported by a grant from Mars, Inc., the chocolate company. The fact sheet on pasta, supported by a grant from the National Pasta Association. The one on milk, supported by the milk industry.

MARGO WOOTAN, CENTER FOR SCIENCE IN THE PUBLIC INTEREST: It's hard to criticize your friends and even harder to criticize your funders.

COHEN: The ADA says it gets only 9 percent of its money from the food industry, and the money doesn't influence their message.

KATHLEEN ZEIMAN, AMERICAN DIETETIC ASSOCIATION: We don't endorse foods. We don't endorse any kinds of foods because we believe strongly that all foods can fit in a healthy diet.

COHEN: She says its true Americans keep getting fatter, but it's not the ADA's fault. She points, instead, to societal circumstances.

ZEIMAN: There's sabotage everywhere you go. Every movie theater, gas stations -- giant portions in restaurants.

COHEN: And she blames Americans themselves.

ZEIMAN: The messengers have delivered the information. It's really the personal responsibility of the individual to make those changes.

COHEN: The ADA's message is this:

ZEIMAN: At the American Dietetic Association, we preach the philosophy that there are no good or bad foods, just bad diets.

COHEN: Book author Dr. Andrew Weil says this message doesn't work.

WEIL: It simply adds to the confusion. It does not give people helpful, practical advice. It's too generic.

COHEN: Dr. Weil says the ADA doesn't get more specific about which foods to eat and which to avoid for fear of angering sponsors and biting the hand that feeds them.

Elizabeth Cohen, CNN, Atlanta.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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