Dietitians of Canada is currently hosting one of the biggest events of the year, Nutrition Month. This is a great opportunity to promote healthy eating to the public, but as a Registered Dietitian I am concerned to see that Dairy Farmer’s of Canada are one of the three official campaign sponsors.

As sales of dairy milk have been slumping in Canada for the last 30 years,  and dairy is likely to lose its status as a unique food group in the new Canada’s Food Guide, slated to be released later in 2018, dairy is under threat. It is, therefore, no surprise that Dairy Farmer’s of Canada want to partner with Dietitians of Canada to give a health halo to their product and potentially boost consumer confidence and sales.


But, is it ethical for Dietitians of Canada to partner with industry? On their “About Us” page, Dietitians of Canada state:Our purpose is to advance health through food and nutrition; including providing evidence-based food and nutrition information. Could a partnership with Industry bias the information shared in the Nutrition Month campaign?

As a vegan I acknowledge that I am biased against animal agriculture’s influence on health professionals. However, I want to be clear that I would prefer to see no food or agricultural industry sponsorship of Nutrition Month. This includes other current or previous sponsors like Mexican Avocados or Canadian Lentils

As part of Nutrition Month, there are 15 ‘Feature Recipes’. Nine of those 15 recipes include dairy products in the ingredients list. There are also five Fact Sheets. Each of those fact sheets carry the Dairy Farmer’s of Canada logo, along with the logos of other sponsors.

The official Nutrition Month poster was produced by Dairy Farmer’s of Canada, and to order or download it, Dietitians of Canada’s 6000 members must visit a site called This seems like a pretty powerful and insidious way to influence the views of Registered Dietitians, who are Canada’s trusted nutrition professionals. IMG_5653 is unsurprisingly and unabashedly pro-dairy. Their Scientific Evidence tab, is headed with the statement “It is well known that milk products are an integral part of a healthy diet” and their ‘Facts and Fallacies’ section states that “Scientific evidence supports the fact that there is no need to be concerned about the health consequences of consuming milk products”. These statements are more propaganda than evidence. IMG_5658

In fact, the data on dairy consumption are mixed, and some recent studies have linked dairy consumption with increased cancer mortality, development of diabetes and increased risk of heart disease. It is disingenuous to promote milk products as unequivocally healthy.

As a Registered Dietitian, I am concerned about this alignment with industry. Not only the dairy industry, but I am concerned about any player in the food or agricultural industry influencing the advice that health professionals give Canadians.

I would prefer to see no food or agricultural sponsors of Dietitians of Canada activities, including Nutrition Month. Dietitians of Canada has already taken the courageous step of removing industry sponsorship from their annual conference, except at the clearly marked ‘sponsor showcase’.

If there are to be sponsors, the details of the sponsorship should be public and transparent. How much money was involved? What is that money used for? Are there any benefits to sponsors in terms of promotion of their products in Nutrition Month recipes, posters or fact sheets?

I could not find any public disclosure documents about the details of their partnership with Dairy Farmer’s of Canada on the Dietitians of Canada website. Dietitians and the public need to be protected from the influence of industry.

Dietitians of Canada may argue that these campaigns are expensive to mount, and that it is impossible without food or agricultural industry sponsorship. That may be the case, however it is worth noting that Dietitians of Canada finds the funds to pay its own employees high salaries. The Chief Executive Officer makes about $350K, which is nearly six times greater than the average Registered Dietitian’s salary of 60K

Ties between Dairy Farmer’s of Canada and Dietitians of Canada run deep. Dairy Farmer’s of Canada have sponsored Nutrition Month for many years. Also, the new Chief Executive Officer at Dietitians of Canada, Nathalie Savoie previously worked for Dairy Farmer’s of Canada for ten years. For three of those years she was concurrently serving on the Dietitians of Canada Board of Directors. Nathalie has been open about her ties to industry, which is promising, and hopefully she will take on her new role with a fresh and impartial perspective.

Questions remain, about the use of industry funding in Dietitians of Canada. I think Dietitians of Canada needs to carefully examine their ethics and policies around accepting and allocating funds.

I am proud to be a Registered Dietitian, however I am concerned about how industry might be influencing the nutrition messages we communicate to the public. I am calling for a ban on industry sponsorship at best, or at least total disclosure and transparency about these relationships.