Filed Under: Food Police

The Assault On Personal Choice

In response to the FDA’s consideration of cigarette-style warning labels on “foods deemed unhealthy by government scientists,” this week’s special obesity-hype issue of TIME magazine prominently features a full-page “Common Sense Obesity Warning” from the Center for Consumer Freedom. A consortium of obesity hysterics and food cops descended on Williamsburg, Virginia this week at the TIME/ABC News Summit on Obesity.” As the event ground to a merciful halt today, TIME science editor Philip Elmer-Dewitt let the magazine’s agenda be known: “We’re going to keep [food] companies’ feet to the fire, and this is not the last you’re going to hear from TIME magazine on the subject of obesity.” Here are just a few more low-lights from this week’s assault on consumer choice:

In the pages of this week’s issue of TIME, professional diet scolds Marion Nestle and Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell declare “personal responsibility is a trap” and “a failed experiment.” That’s not surprising, coming from Nestle (a Socialist Scholar) and Brownell, who wants to slap fat taxes on every food he doesn’t like.

Texas Department of Agriculture chief Susan Combs was honored as a “hero” at the summit. Infamous for instituting a draconian ban on sweets that dropped a jackboot on children’s bake sales, Combs told the audience she views herself “as the food — not Nazi — Czarina.” The president of TIME voiced her approval: “[Anti-obesity policies] will happen by little increments of inches led by food cops in Texas. I so admire Susan Combs.”

The $8 billion Robert Wood Johnson Foundation (RWJF), the Daddy Warbucks behind this week’s summit, also underwrote the expenses of some media outlets covering the event — an arrangement that artificially boosted news coverage. Last year RWJF announced plans to apply its gargantuan budget to fighting obesity in the same way it attacked tobacco.

Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) chief Michael Jacobson showed why mandatory restaurant menu-labeling is just a foot in the door for more food cop edicts. At a CSPI event in March Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA) stated that menu labeling is just a “first step.” According to TIME, merely three months later, “Jacobson insists that too many people will look past the calorie, fat, carb and fiber counts on the menu. What’s needed, he says, is sanity in portions” (read: government regulations).

In response to nutrition zealots’ cry for marketing bans on food advertising to kids, Federal Trade Commission Chairman Timothy Muris declared: “Our dogs and cats are fat and it’s not because they’re watching too much advertising … a ban on advertising is impractical, ineffective, and illegal.” Impractical, he argued, because children watch plenty of advertising on adult television. Ineffective, because banning ads oriented toward children — as the Swedish example makes clear — doesn’t slim them down. And illegal, because of a little thing called the First Amendment. Muris also noted that when the FTC considered a similar ban more than 25 years ago, the Washington Post editorialized that such a policy would turn the agency into a “national nanny.” The editorial added that “a flat ban on commercials involving, as it would have to, certain judgments a government shouldn’t be encouraged to make and enforce, would make parents less responsible, not more.”

Like a bad food cop working outside the law, CSPI’s Margo Wootan coldly responded to the FTC chairman’s concerns: “People are just hiding behind the First Amendment.”

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