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 âanother giant step in the movement to make Americaâs food healthier.â
But that âgiant step,â 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.
NBCâs Chief Medical Editor Dr. Nancy Snyderman actually compared obesity to smoking. âI think fat is the new tobacco,â she told âNightly Newsâ anchor Brian Williams. Snyderman grouped fat in with âasbestos,â âoverdrinkingâ and âexposure to cigarettesâ as âanother toxin we should take out.â
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 âshouldnât be eating at all,â was eager to claim trans fats could be âeasily replaced,â though the National Restaurant Association says otherwise.
According to a restaurant association press release: âThere simply is not currently enough oil available for some restaurant chains.â
ABCâs Nancy Cordes also quoted Nestle comparing food to tobacco. âThe ways in which foods are marketed are very similar in which cigarette companies marketed their products. And I think thatâs a point of vulnerability â is marketing to children.â
But Cordes went even further, introducing another anti-food industry spokesman with this misleading comment: âBut many public health officials say the food industry isnât abandoning trans fats out of the goodness of itâs heart, or for the goodness of consumersâ hearts.â
She didnât follow that statement with a âpublic health officialâ â she followed it with another anti-industry speaker â 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. âSmall taxes on soft drinks, candy, gum, and snack foods are a sensible way to fund health-promotion programs,â said Brownell. âThose programs could result in better health and lower health-care costs.â
This time Brownell gave full warning of the food police agenda. âThe issue is much bigger than trans fat. And itâs true the industry is running scared. They have a lot to lose here.â
Ironically, CSPI hasnât 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. âIn 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 âsaturatedâ fats,â Enig wrote in an article entitled âThe Tragic Legacy of Center for Science in the Public Interest.â âThe booklet contained a section called âBiochemistry 101,â which claimed that only tropical oils were dangerous when hydrogenated.â