Assault on the Great American Cookout
Whatâs on your menu this Memorial Day weekend?
If you thought about grilled steaks, barbequed chicken, burgers, hot dogs, baked beans, potato salad, deviled eggs, chips, cake, soda or beer, think again.
âWe canât broil and grill anymore?â replied âTodayâ co-host Ann Curry after a nutritionist said grilling is dangerous. She was talking to Joy Bauer, who said people need to avoid salty foods, grilling, frying and whole milk dairy products.
If the media had their way, Americans would be dodging apples and oranges at holiday parades instead of catching candy, and roasting tofu over the campfire instead of making sâmores. Cookouts would be out of the question.
â[Y]ou want to avoid having meats that are cooked at high temperatures, and thatâs because when you grill or broil, we create these dangerous compounds called heterocyclic amines,â Bauer told Curry on NBCâs âTodayâ April 5.
âYouâre kidding,â responded Curry.
Bauer warned that at the very least for would-be grillers, â[y]ou donât want to have this charring on here,â and should scrape it off. Bauer did not advocate moderation in her segment, just avoidance of foods that could âincrease the riskâ of cancer. No industry representatives or opposing views were included.
Journalists constantly attack the foods Americans eat and the companies that make them â Oscar Mayer, Tyson, Spence & Co. Ltd. and others. Reporters hype food dangers, complaining about the obesity âepidemicâ and bringing on âconsumerâ experts who try to scare viewers from eating just about everything. They also rarely include any comments from the very companies or industries they attack.
But unlike Bauerâs statement about the dangers of heterocyclic amines, the American Council on Science and Health (ACSH) has urged consumers to put such studies and statements into perspective.
âAs far as dangers from consuming meats â or, indeed, any other foods â are concerned, consumers should keep in mind that the risk of bacterial illness is considerably higher than the risk posed by heterocyclic amines,â said ACSH.
Even the media have warned about food poisoning, specifically cautioning against rare burgers, but âTodayâ did not include that perspective on April 5.
Just One Cookout?
Memorial Day weekend is a time to remember those who died to protect the freedoms we enjoy. With freedom comes responsibility, of course, and that includes personal responsibility for what we put in our bodies. Americans have countless options. But the media donât seem to want you using your freedom of choice when it comes to food â even for just one meal.
â[Y]ou should think twice about going on an occasional binge, because even one bad meal can hurt your body,â warned CBSâs Harry Smith on the Aug. 9, 2006, âEarly Show.â âResearchers say that by eating one high-fat meal, it can actually start you on the way to clogged arteries and heart disease,â he added.
The âEarly Showâ Healthwatch story was one-sided, with Dr. Emily Senay talking about one study of the dangers of saturated fat. No counter argument was made by a physician or industry.
But the âEarly Showâ host is not the only food scaremonger in the media. Newsweekâs latest cover story is all about food safety, and networks have recently attacked food marketing to children, and promoted allocating more money to the FDA for food safety.
Rarely do the media provide a perspective like that of Dr. Elizabeth Whelan, president of ACSH and an adviser to the Business & Media Institute. Whelan has said, âThere are no good or bad foods, only good or bad diets.â
The media clearly have a beef with red meat.
Even though she wasnât reporting any study that linked red meat to cancer, Ann Curry said, âoh, red meat â thatâs an issue, isnât it, for cancerâ in the same April 5 âTodayâ segment that said grilling is dangerous.
Time magazine has also attacked steak and burgers for having a bigger impact on global warming than a BMW.
If you decide to cut out the red meat from a summer cookout, that leaves chicken, but the media havenât been big fans of the bird either.
Alfonsi said in her one-sided story that scientists want âmore testingâ on poultry, but didnât contact the National Chicken Council or government experts for more information.
Barbequed chicken also presents another danger according to NBC: fat and calories.
â[T]he problem is youâve got the skin on it,â said âTodayâ show host Matt Lauer on June 12, 2006. Although the segment was all about how to cut calories at the barbeque, the featured expert advocated making âgood choicesâ instead of avoiding foods completely.
Ironically, Madelyn Fernstrom of the University of Pittsburgh showed âTodayâ show viewers plates of good food choices including many with the same grill âcharringâ that came under attack by âTodayâ less that a year later.
And letâs not forget the bird flu scare the media continued to hype despite the relatively low number of human deaths. âWeâve fanned the flames of fear about this stuff,â admitted CNNâs Jack Cafferty on âIn the Moneyâ March 18, 2006.
In a discussion of how the scare depressed Tyson Foods (NYSE: TSN) stock, co-host Jennifer Westhoven still couldnât believe how calm the American public was: âIâm amazed that Americans at this point are really fairly unconcernedâ about bird flu and mad cow disease, Westhoven confessed.
The National Chicken Council has stressed that American poultry is safe to eat, despite the mediaâs uneasy coverage.
There Goes the Rest of the Picnic
Red meat or chicken is just the main course. But your side dishes arenât safe, either. From baked beans and potato salad to chips, desserts, soda and beer, media reports have said we shouldnât eat and drink.
âAnd, you know, it would be bad enough at a barbeque if we just ate the main course and a little side dishes in here. But, you know we also have drinks and we have desserts,â added Lauer on June 12, 2006.
Drinks have been under attack for keeping children overweight, potentially causing cancer, and for using funny advertising.
Âˇ CBS âEarly Showâ warned on April 24 that aspartame, used in diet soda and other foods, may cause cancer. A January 4 segment also reported diet soda may cause weight gain.
Âˇ The New York Times stacked a March 2006 story full of anti-alcohol industry experts complaining about a âRooftopâ Bud Light ad that aired during the Super Bowl. The Beer Institute president was the only pro-alcohol industry spokesman in the article
The media campaign against snacks has taken the form of commending schools that ban âjunk foodsâ and glowing profiles of nutritionists changing school lunch menus, like Juju Changâs âNightlineâ report.
âShe is an unlikely general waging a daily war against junk food,â Chang declared on ABC âNightlineâ Nov. 28, 2006. Chang was talking about Ann Cooper, a celebrity chef turned lunch lady who is changing cafeteria food in Berkeley, Calif.
But the Center for Consumer Freedom showed this animosity toward junk food may not be entirely correct. The group cited a Harvard study that found snack food and soda did not contribute to childhood obesity.
âThey found âno statistical significant relationship between the percentage of calories from ice cream, baked goods, candy or chips and BMI [Body Mass Index] scoreâ for adolescent girls,â wrote CCF back in 2004.
BMI has also exposed the mediaâs love for the food police group Center for Science in the Public Interest, which is a left-wing, pro-tax and regulation group that says it âtakes more than willpowerâ to make healthy eating decisions.
ACSH president and BMI adviser Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan explained that CSPIâs solution to the âobesity crisisâ is to âTax soda, ban its sale in schools, mandates that restaurants carry detailed nutrition labels on menus, and sue McDonaldâs for luring children âŚâ
Itâs clear that when it comes to personal responsibility and food freedom, the media wonât leave us alone in our own backyards.