Networks Eat Up Food Police Message on Trans Fats
KFC announced it is cutting the trans fats from much of its menu, and the media celebrated not chewing the fat as ‚Äúanother giant step in the movement to make America‚Äôs food healthier.‚ÄĚ
But that ‚Äúgiant step,‚ÄĚ as ABC anchor Charles Gibson referred to it, was simply another step toward control of what Americans eat. That attitude was embraced by the October 30 evening newscasts on ABC and NBC. The networks trotted out a parade of anti-industry commentators trying to make the nation march to their tune.
NBC‚Äôs Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman actually compared obesity to smoking. ‚ÄúI think fat is the new tobacco,‚ÄĚ she told ‚ÄúNightly News‚ÄĚ anchor Brian Williams. Snyderman grouped fat in with ‚Äúasbestos,‚ÄĚ ‚Äúoverdrinking‚ÄĚ and ‚Äúexposure to cigarettes‚ÄĚ as ‚Äúanother toxin we should take out.‚ÄĚ
Both reports cited Dr. Marion Nestle, a food industry critic and former adviser to the anti-industry group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Nestle, who once criticized healthier versions of snack foods as foods people ‚Äúshouldn‚Äôt be eating at all,‚ÄĚ was eager to claim trans fats could be ‚Äúeasily replaced,‚ÄĚ though the National Restaurant Association says otherwise.
According to a restaurant association press release: ‚ÄúThere simply is not currently enough oil available for some restaurant chains.‚ÄĚ
ABC‚Äôs Nancy Cordes also quoted Nestle comparing food to tobacco. ‚ÄúThe ways in which foods are marketed are very similar in which cigarette companies marketed their products. And I think that‚Äôs a point of vulnerability ‚Äď is marketing to children.‚ÄĚ
But Cordes went even further, introducing another anti-food industry spokesman with this misleading comment: ‚ÄúBut many public health officials say the food industry isn‚Äôt abandoning trans fats out of the goodness of it‚Äôs heart, or for the goodness of consumers‚Äô hearts.‚ÄĚ
She didn‚Äôt follow that statement with a ‚Äúpublic health official‚ÄĚ ‚Äď she followed it with another anti-industry speaker ‚Äď Kelly Brownell, who has a long history working with CSPI and serves as the director of the Yale Center for Eating and Weight Disorders.
In June 2000, Brownell co-authored a report with CSPI Executive Director Michael Jacobson, urging a new food tax be instituted. ‚ÄúSmall taxes on soft drinks, candy, gum, and snack foods are a sensible way to fund health-promotion programs,‚ÄĚ said Brownell. ‚ÄúThose programs could result in better health and lower health-care costs.‚ÄĚ
This time Brownell gave full warning of the food police agenda. ‚ÄúThe issue is much bigger than trans fat. And it‚Äôs true the industry is running scared. They have a lot to lose here.‚ÄĚ
Ironically, CSPI hasn‚Äôt always opposed trans fat, as BMI has previously reported. Nutritionist Mary Enig slammed CSPI for pushing fast food companies to adopt partially hydrogenated cooking oils in the late 1980s and early 1990s. ‚ÄúIn 1988, CSPI published a booklet called Saturated Fat Attack, which defended trans fatty acids and partially hydrogenated vegetable oils and called for pejorative labeling of ‚Äėsaturated‚Äô fats,‚ÄĚ Enig wrote in an article entitled ‚ÄúThe Tragic Legacy of Center for Science in the Public Interest.‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúThe booklet contained a section called ‚ÄėBiochemistry 101,‚Äô which claimed that only tropical oils were dangerous when hydrogenated.‚ÄĚ