Obesity Lawsuit Conference IV: This Time, It’s Personal

The Public Health Advocacy Institute‘s annual litigation conference always draws the best of the nation’s worst trial lawyers, academics, and activists together to compare notes on how best to clamp down on consumer choice. Last year’s conference included such wisdom as “The dairy industry is going to go the way of big tobacco” and “Junk food is the gateway drug,” and this year’s did not disappoint. As with the last two conferences, the Center for Consumer Freedom was there to get the story.

Saturday’s keynote address was given by top food scold Marion Nestle, who railed against businesses attempting to market foods on the basis of health. Eye-opening quote: “Don’t market to kids. Period. … That means no cartoons on carrots.” Summarizing her nutrition rules from her lengthy tome What to Eat (which we reviewed in May), Nestle let slip a surprising endorsement of the idea that parents are responsible for what their kids eat: “If you don’t want kids eating junk food, don’t buy it.”

On the subject of trans fat bans (as recently proposed in New York City and New Jersey), food cop extraordinaire Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest shared his personal domino theory, saying that such bans are “going to spread like wildfire.” Sitting next to Jacobson, another panelist praised the virtues of 1960s-era price controls on food and floated the possibility of licensing supermarkets.

An afternoon panel entitled “The ‘Choice’ Mantra” featured a litany of speakers who were less than jazzed about America’s cultural focus on personal free will. One panelist lamented: “What is missing is a conceptual alternative to personal responsibility.” Another delighted the audience by saying: “There is a bigger problem than the obesity epidemic — the choice epidemic.” A third didn’t like the term “obesity” itself, since it applies to individuals and not situations.

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