To quote Jon Stewart on a recent Daily Show episode: “Turns out the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics is as much an ‘academy’ as Kraft Singles are ‘cheese’.” Now what I’ve just done here is give away the ending of the movie, and now I will take you back in time…to a few days ago…when 75,000 dietitians got all SORTS of pissed.
Our story starts off innocently enough: the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics, an organization to which I belong, is the national organization representing all dietitians. The Academy sets out to identify itself as an organization of experts, and the go-to resource for evidenced-based information on all things nutrition. The Academy has established several partnerships with food companies over the years, and these relationships have certainly caused some rumbles and rifts here and there (read: the Coca-Cola partnership). But there has NEVER been a rabble-rousing partnership more controversial than the one that came out a few days ago: the Academy’s “Kids Eat Right” seal will now be seen on KRAFT SINGLES.
Why is this such a hullabaloo? Well, the reason is right there on the package, clear as day. Kraft Singles are NOT, and have NEVER been, real cheese. They are “process cheese food”. What does this mean? Since it’s Throwback Thursday, I did a little research. James L. Kraft, the founder of Kraft Foods, was a pretty savvy businessman. He discovered a need for a cheese that was sliceable, shippable, and shelf-stable. After a period of experimentation, he procured a patent for “process cheese”, which is “a sterilized product made by heating Cheddar at 175 degrees for 15 minutes while whisking it continuously” (source). The next experiment was how to slice the process cheese; so Kraft came up with a giant rolling pin-like device that would flatten the melted “cheese” and slice it into even squares. Just like a cookie cutter. The Kraft Singles we know today were the result of a third patent for the individual plastic wrapping, and voila, this product took the cheese market by storm in 1965. They were crazy popular. Even Modern Packaging magazine (yes, this was a magazine) exclaimed, “all of the handicaps of store-sliced cheese — variations in thickness of slices, slivered edges, imperfect packages, drying out, curled ends, etc. — are overcome” (source).
Now after that brief history lesson and vintage ad, let’s get back to the issue at hand. Even though the Academy is claiming that the Kids Eat Right logo is not an “endorsement” or a “seal of approval”, it has yet to explain exactly WHAT it is. The fact that the logo is on the package implies an endorsement—consumers can’t tell the difference. And the BIGGER issue for all of us dietitians is that this simple seal is discrediting all the hard work we’ve done. It’s hard enough to get the public to listen to our evidenced-based recommendations and stop following celebrity trends. It’s even harder now that media outlets are blasting US for this seal just because of our association with the Academy.
Bottom line, we RDs are NOT pleased. We can’t be seen as nutrition experts if our national organization is throwing around its seal of approval to any food–real or fake–that comes along with an Academy payout. But we’re not taking this lying down. Fellow RDs Regan Jones, Kate Geagan and Rachel Begun started a petition and have already gotten thousands of signatures. Here are the 3 steps you can take to join us in this fight:
1) Sign the petition at change.org, which outlines the steps we are asking that The Academy and KER take to rectify this situation.
2) Post this Open Letter on your blog and/or social media platforms and use #RepealTheSeal hashtag (you can find the open letter here).
3) Invite others to repost on their blogs and/or share the petition link social media networks.
You don’t have to be a dietitian to join us! You just have to believe that Kraft Singles aren’t cheese (that should be pretty easy; it says so on the package), and that we RDs should be given the credit we deserve because right now, the Academy is throwing us under the bus. Let’s #RepealtheSeal together…and eat some real cheese instead.