Yesterday, Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson unveiled an ambitious public education campaign designed to combat obesity. A series of public service announcements will soon appear on billboards, television, and radio, stressing the importance of diet and exercise in maintaining a healthy weight. You’d think our nation’s self-anointed food cops would kick back with a wheat grass shake, slaughter the fatted tofurky, and pass the skim milk in celebration. You’d be wrong. Instead, a fraternity of well-known dietary scolds responded to Thompson’s plan with sour grapes and invective. They want government regulators to seize control over your food choices, and they won’t rest until every last morsel is in line with their nutritional utopia.
“Even now, the administration defaults to explaining the problem away by individual responsibility,” complained Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) scientific advisor (and Twinkie-tax inventor) Kelly Brownell. That quaint notion of individual responsibility stands in the way of CSPI’s mission to tax “butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses, [and] meat.” And restaurant-lawsuit cheerleader John Banzhaf sums up personal responsibility in one word: “crap.”
Thankfully, most Americans have rejected proposals to tax, ban, regulate, and restrict their favorite foods. But some activists won’t take this obvious hint. Instead of acknowledging Americans’ right to make their own culinary choices, these aspiring food tyrants want to ram unpopular edicts down the throats of a disinclined public.
And if they can’t legislate and regulate their dietary utopia into existence, they’ll litigate. Banzhaf has already spelled out plans “to sue them and sue them and sue them” until he forces food companies to their knees. But Congress is about to pre-empt this trial lawyer strategy of coercion.
Today, the House of Representatives is expected to pass the “Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act.” The bill, sponsored by Rep. Ric Keller (R-FL), would protect restaurants from frivolous obesity lawsuits and help reinforce the notion that Americans themselves (not chefs, waiters, or cashiers) are responsible for what they eat.
Common sense? Absolutely. But some activists will take any chance to tar and feather a company that serves food they don’t like. Chief among them are the Peta-philes at the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM). In their rush to punish restaurants that serve meat and dairy foods, these animal rights activists are once again openly comparing food companies to “tobacco” and “the gun industry.”
Memo to PCRM, CSPI, and Mr. Banzhaf: Most Americans welcome helpful tips about staying trim, but nine out of 10 oppose dragging a restaurant into court for serving the food they love. Sadly, your approach never seems to change. It’s all stick and no carrot.