Food Cops: Eat Crow

Food-police representatives from the Canadian branch of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) met with more than 140 other nongovernmental organizations in New York this week ahead of the United Nations’ summit on noncommunicable diseases (NCDs) to discuss, among other things, the food industry’s role in ending obesity. And, no surprise here, CSPI completely discounted both restaurants and consumers’ ability to make healthier choices for themselves. (We dare not ask what was served for lunch in the cafeteria.)

In a summary published in U.K.’s The Lancet, this all-star group of public-health busybodies wrote the following:

“There are clear conflicts for the corporations that contribute to and profit from the sales of alcoholic beverages; foods with high fat, salt, and sugar contents; and tobacco products—all of which are important causes of NCDs”, explain some of the NGOs in their Correspondence, published Online First in The Lancet. …

The authors are concerned about the impact of the private sector on public-policy making relating to the prevention and control of NCDs, and warn that if key conflicts of interest are not addressed at this crucial informative stage: “Policies and recommendations will invariably be weakened to suit the interests of the powerful corporations…As a consequence, the public’s health, workforce productivity, and the economy will be undermined by prioritising the interests of the food and beverage industries, as well as the pharmaceutical, technology, and treatment companies, over the public good." 

If this sounds like CSPI boilerplate to you, it does to us, too. But coincidentally enough, news came out earlier this week of a major restaurant operator that is voluntarily making healthy options more prominently available on its menus – all with First Lady Michelle Obama’s blessing.

From the Chicago Sun-Times:

First Lady Michelle Obama on Thursday highlighted a move by Darden Restaurants–which operates Red Lobster, Olive Garden, LongHorn Steakhouse and Bahama Breeze–to sign a "a binding, legal agreement" to cut calories, offer healthier fruit and vegetable side dishes, reduce sodium and give free refills of one percent milk to kids.

The announcement was the latest deal signed by the Partnership for a Healthier America, the non-profit created to operate Mrs. Obama's "Let's Move" anti-childhood obesity drive.

Mrs. Obama lauded the chain for serving "healthier side dishes" as the standard on kids meals. …

From Darden: "Darden is committing to reduce its calorie and sodium footprints, and to provide greater choice and variety to families through changes to its kids' menus. Across the entire Darden portfolio of brands, the company is working toward a 10 percent reduction of calories and sodium over five years and a 20 percent reduction in calories and sodium over 10 years. On kids' menus, fruits or vegetables will become the default side option and 1-percent milk will be the default beverage choice with free refills. Changes to the kids' menus are starting now and will be fully implemented by next July.

What was that about major food corporations having a secret agenda to sell only bad-for-you foods? Somehow we think we’ll be waiting a while for CSPI to admit they were wrong.

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