Grass Consumer Group asked us some very important questions on Twitter last week. Some of our answers won’t quite fit into 140 characters, so we’ve put together a Q&A in response to their questions:
Question1: ‘You state that you share science-based research with your members – what about public awareness? Any sugar studies? How do you promote the nutritional well being of the community?
We are involved in numerous activities to raise public awareness around nutrition issues including National Nutrition Week, a Department of Health initiative to inform the public on practical ways to incorporate the South African Food Based Dietary Guidelines. This includes messages around sugar.
We also support the South African Food Based Dietary guidelines that clearly state the following about sugar: “Use foods and drinks containing sugar sparingly, and not between meals” and agree with the following abstract from SAJCN on the reviewed dietary guidelines 2010: “This should remain unchanged. An excessive intake of sugar should be seen as a public health challenge that requires many approaches to be managed, including new policies and appropriate dietary advice.” (http://www.sajcn.co.za/index.php/SAJCN/article/view/752)
The South African Food Based Dietary guidelines and this technical paper were shared with dietitians and nutritionists at the 25th Congress of the Nutrition Society of South Africa and the 13th Congress of the Association for Dietetics in South Africa.
A document “Guidelines for Healthy Eating Information for Nutrition Educators” was created to be used by nutrition educators in the public sector.
We have partnered with PEN Global Resource for Nutrition Practice, a dynamic knowledge translation subscription service to bring our members the most up-to-date, evidence-based nutrition resources.
ADSA Spokespeople are always available to engage with the media on nutrition topics and communicate nutrition messages to the public via ADSA website http://www.adsa.org.za, ADSA blog https://nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com/, ADSA Twitter account https://twitter.com/ADSA_RD and ADSA Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/ADSAorgza.
We share nutrition information around many topics, including but not limited to strategies to reduce salt intake (we are involved in the Salt Watch campaign), sugar, obesity, portion control, food labeling, nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, nutrition for active kids, nutrition for cancer patients and nutrition for optimal diabetes management.
We have in the past (and will continue in the future) been involved with campaigns during Salt Awareness Week, Breastfeeding Week, Diabetes Month and many more.
Question 2: How do you approach your sponsors? Who approaches whom? What is a gold sponsor?
Some of our sponsors have approached us directly and others we approach. We (ADSA) and some of our members work with industry and think that is a powerful way to make change happen. We believe that it is important for us and dietitians to be involved with the food industry – imagine the food supply if we didn’t.
At the same time we don’t believe in endorsing brands to the communities within which we work, hence the decision to remove logos from our public-facing channels as this can influence public perception. Our sponsors are also not allowed to use the ADSA logo on their websites or with their products. We don’t hide our sponsors (https://nutritionconfidence.wordpress.com/2015/02/19/a-word-from-claire-julsing-strydom-adsas-president-on-sponsorships/) but don’t allow for endorsements of any kind and therefore have made these changes to our sponsorship policy. More info about our sponsors or their products are only available to our members through the Log In function on our website. It hasn’t always been like this, but we learn and evolve and make changes.
Our members are trained health professionals that are able to look at a variety of food products (that are used by the public) with the necessary knowledge to ascertain how and when various nutrients and food products would be beneficial for a client based on their individualised nutritional requirements.
We are currently working with corporates outside the food industry, to get them on board as sponsors, because we are unable to function as a not-for-profit organisation without financial support. The income from our membership fees only covers 66% of the budget we need to continue educating and supporting our dietitians, as well as promoting the nutritional well being of the community. Sponsorship funds are pooled and use for the administrative costs. All nutrition related matters or purchasing of functionalities like PEN will come from membership fees, which have increased dramatically in the last year to accommodate these changes.
We have various tiers of sponsorship, which are based on the level of financial contribution a company makes and offers different benefits to the sponsor. These benefits are all related to industry affairs and member communication, not public interaction or communication. Our sponsors have never influenced decisions made by ADSA and donate funds to the association to promote the dietetics profession in South Africa and ultimately improve nutrition education to the public through dietitians and we are grateful to our sponsors for their assistance.
Question 3: Please respond to why you promote sports cereal bars for kids and suggest sweetened low fat flavoured milk drinks for kids as per this article on your website: http://www.adsa.org.za/Portals/14/Documents/Nutrition%20Info/NutritionTipsForActiveChildrenByKarlienSmit.pdf
The @GrassAction tweet with regards to the article was taken out of context. We advocate evidence-based, individualised advice. When choosing foods, context, portion and frequency are key considerations. This article specifically referred to active kids that take part in sports and is backed by relevant evidence.
As medical professionals we are bound by ethical codes and at all times ensure that our content is backed-up by evidence. The links are included in the article. Please have a read-through and let us know if there are specific questions you have about the evidence or flaws within that evidence.
We stand by this article, within the context of “An ideal training diet for active children”.
We find that many South African’s blindly follow nutrition advice and fad diets without asking questions, digging deeper and really looking at the research. Without consumer groups like Grass Action some questions would never make it into the public space. Thank you for asking the tough questions.