It's not very often that this blog takes a step away from the overall fun and ease of good food and dives into the more serious ins and outs of nutrition. I laugh with friends sometimes about how I'm really not much of a "nutrition blogger." I consider myself a food blogger, regardless of the fact that I'm an RD. I just prefer to blog *mostly* about good-for-you food.
So if you're not much on heavy handed topic discussions, and you've come here for the pretty pictures and recipes, let me go ahead and direct you to the bottom of the post where you'll find a tasty little batch of peanut butter-banana muffins, made with peanut flour (a first for me that I thoroughly enjoyed. Hope you will as well).
For those of you who've stuck around for the rest of today's post, here it is:
Today's departure from our normally scheduled food-talk is all about Disclosure. It's not pretty. It's not tasty. It's just good old fashioned ethics.
I've been around the media world since I had my first "real" job. I started out in magazines, later worked as a spokesperson (and still do), and now mostly focus my efforts on the management of nutrition communications programs for clients, as well as managing my own portfolio of brands (Healthy Aperture, this blog and Recipe ReDux, to be exact.)
What this latest chapter of my career has meant is A LOT of reading blogs written by RDs and reviewing TV segments that include RDs as spokespeople.
And this is what I've learned:
On the whole, "we" as registered dietitians, (not saying everybody, so no hate mail please) have been doing a pretty poor job of disclosing both real and perceived conflicts of interest.
Now before you click away and call me an RD hater, please know that's not where I'm coming from. I don't believe that the majority of RDs who are operating at what I consider "sub par" disclosure standards are doing so for any reason other than the fact they simply don't know what's required and more importantly, don't know where to begin. I know I didn't.
RDs are trained to do things like interpret peer-reviewed science and translate that science into medical nutrition therapy. Some of us are fortunate enough to have all that training, plus dabble in the fun world of knowing how to bake a tender muffin using whole grain flour or roast Brussels sprouts to make them drool worthy.
But what we haven't been taught how to do - or at least haven't been taught adequately - is how to disclose.
It sounds crazy even as I type it, doesn't it? "How to disclose"... really, what's so hard about it? You have a conflict of interest. You disclose it. It's that simple, right?
I wish it were that simple. Or at least I wish everyone saw it as that simple. But I've seen discussion after discussion break out over when it should happen and where it should happen. Should it be in the form of a hashtag? Or no, should it be in the form of a policy? Or wait, no what if there's not enough space? Is there enough time? Should it be in the form of a page? Should it be said at the start of a TV segment? Should it be listed on the screen? Can I disclose it on air and then not disclose on my website? And this discussion goes on and on and on....
Are you familiar with the phrase "Rearranging the deck furniture while the Titanic is sinking?"
That's what it all feels like to me sometimes. We're so bogged down in the tactical how/why that we forget the real intent behind disclosure:
To give consumers the information they need and deserve to make a determination about whether or not they want to follow your recommendations.
To me, it's that simple.
Let's look at it this way. Cabot Creamery Cooperative is one of my main clients. I've said that here before, and I proudly list it on my Disclosure page. When I make a recommendation about using their reduced fat cheddar, I whole heartedly believe Cabot tastes the best. I believed that before I ever started doing business with them.
But if you didn't know that I worked with Cabot, and I told you you should buy some... and you did, believing that I'm an un-biased RD who must know best because she's an authority on reduced fat cheeses, how would your opinion change when you found out I worked for them?
It makes a difference.
My recommendation is still valid. I still believe Cabot's the best. But you deserve to know I'm affliated with them.
And that's where the RD-Disclosure connection has broken down. Again, I'm not saying it's absent everywhere, it's just not very prominent. And it's going to be the ruin of our profession, in my opinion. Consumers are increasingly skeptical of healthcare recommendations and the member-organization that most registered dietitians are affliated with has been under increasing scrutiny and criticism in recent years for their affliations and partnerships.
Keep all that in mind and consider what those same consumers would think if they found out their favorite RD was recommending products to them, getting paid for that recommendation and not disclosing that?
Am I saying RDs should not get paid to recommend products?
On the contrary, I am a huge advocate of RDs partnering with brands whose products/food choices match with their nutritional philosophy. How can we change people's eating habits if we're not actively promoting good food choices? And why shouldn't RDs be employed in that capacity?
Does it make an RD a sell-out to work with a brand?
Not in my opinion. Again, we all have different interests and aptitudes. I happen to be one of those RDs who loves working in communications. It's my thing. I'm not a lab coat and clinic kinda person. And not all of us can be researchers at universities, right?
So I say all of that to say this... I am in NO way an expert on Disclosure. I'm just someone who started a blog a few years ago, had never really heard much about the need for disclosure and fumbled my way through figuring out that I need to do a better job. I'm also someone who has seen a lot of RDs forgo it as a necessity, and I think that needs to change. Not only because we risk being in violation of the FTC guidelines, but more importantly, risk breaching the code of ethics we are bound by as a registered dietitian.
And being one never to shy away from a new endeavor, I launched this
RDs4Disclosure is a non-profit site devoted to helping other RDs navigate through this basically unknown part of communications. It's not the final word on Disclosure and it's not the authority. But it is a resource to get RDs started, if they need a little help. I won't take up any more space today explaining the site. If you're interested, you can make the jump and read all about it. I'd just ask that if you are a fellow RD, you take stock of your own Disclosure efforts and let me know what you think about this topic.
Oh... and visit the recipe below ;-)
[Disclosure: I received free samples of the peanut flour I used to test these muffins from the National Peanut Board. I was not compensated for my time. I am not employed by the National Peanut Board and they are not a client of mine]
***See how easy that was****
Now back to our reguarly scheduled food. Peanut butter-banana muffins, made all the more peanut-y & protein-rich using peanut flour. These are not to be missed!
Peanut Butter-Banana Muffins
Ingredients (6 muffins)
- 1/4 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1/4 cup peanut flour
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 2 tablespoons peanut oil
- 2 tablespoons peanut butter
- 1/2 cup brown sugar
- 1 mashed overripe banana
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/4 cup milk
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Coat cups of a muffin pan with cooking spray or line with liners.
Combine flours, salt, baking powder and sugar a large bowl. In a separate bowl, combine oil, peanut butter, banana, egg and milk until well blended. Pour wet ingredients into the dry mixture, and stir just until blended. Divide evenly between muffin cups.
Bake for 20 - 25 minutes or until wooden pick inserted into center of muffin comes out clean. Let cool in pan at least 5 minutes.