Food Cops Aim Below The Belt

Most strategies shift to a “Plan B” when the original plan disappoints. The food cop agenda is no different: If you can’t scare people from eating the foods they love, disgust them. Just as a football team starts to run the ball when the passing game just won’t work, nutrition activists focus on a different kind of “running” when their original message fails to deliver results.
Last week, the grossly misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lost an appeal of its lawsuit against nine milk companies. In the suit, PCRM’s animal-rights lawyers demanded two specific warnings on all milk containers: “Warning — If you experience diarrhea or stomach cramps after consuming milk, you may be lactose intolerant” and “Warning — Lactose intolerant individuals may experience bloating, diarrhea, or other gastrointestinal discomfort from consuming milk.” The group’s scare tactics against dairy products hadn’t influenced consumers’ habits, so PCRM was counting on the “yuck” factor to drive down sales.

Thankfully, the courts saw through the scam. Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh—who wrote the D.C. Circuit’s unanimous dissenting opinion—simply drew upon common sense to throw out the PCRM suit:

A bout of gas or indigestion does not justify a race to the courthouse. Indeed, were the rule otherwise, a variety of food manufacturers as well as stadiums, bars, restaurants, convenience stores, and hot dog stands throughout the country would be liable to millions of would-be plaintiffs every day. 

But that’s exactly what food activists want. Lawsuits are a key part of their business plan. And no group illustrates that better than the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) whose executive director has publicly asked that “the lawyers will get involved and sue a few of these [food] companies.” Last year, the group threatened to sue Pepsi over … well, flatulence. CSPI’s director of litigation Stephen Gardner justified the legal action to the New York Journal News: “[Y]ou should not soil yourself on a date because you had potato chips.”
Descriptions like “deadly” and “toxic” did little to influence the diet of the American public, so CSPI added “anal leakage” to its arsenal of verbal attacks. But like most food cop smear campaigns, the potato chip lawsuit was unfounded. The FDA has already determined that olestra—the ingredient drawing CSPI’s ire—doesn’t require special labeling. In fact, the product’s effects are similar to those of beans or any high fiber food. So where’s the class-action lawsuit against pinto farmers? We doubt that the PCRM vegans will file it any time soon.

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