ABC News jumped on the obesity bandwagon providing a platform for anti-consumer activists who blame “the food industry” for obesity. Rather than encouraging individuals to take responsibility for their behavior, these groups say restaurants “should be held accountable” — talking up tobacco-style lawsuits against the food industry. Even John Banzhaf of Action on Smoking and Health — a how-to-sue outfit that promises smokers “hundreds of billions [YES, BILLIONS!] of dollars” from lawsuits — uses ABC’s bully pulpit to proclaim: “There is a movement afoot to do something about the obesity problem… to see it in terms of costs.”
The tobacco parallel comes up again and again. Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) claims: “Poor diet and a lack of activity kill as many people as tobacco but people don’t think about it as being as deadly as tobacco.” CSPI wants a tax on every can of soda sold. (There’s much more on these groups at ActivistCash.com.)
It’s always the same few folks calling for regulation. One is longtime food-regulation advocate and CSPI consort Marion Nestle, who last week conceded that “any food is reasonable; just don’t eat too much of it.” But in a bit of classic logrolling, Nestle’s new anti-food industry book is endorsed by the mainstays of the anti-consumer movement, including Fast Food Nation author Eric Schlosser and Joan Gussow of the John Merck Fund-bankrolled Center for Food Safety.
What path will the attack on obesity take? In a report funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation — which also funds CSPI — Deborah Cohen wrote of alcohol: “Consumption by any individual is, in part, a function of the overall distribution of consumption of the community,” arguing that eliminating the availability of a product to the entire community leads to behavioral shifts that reduce the small number of abusers. Now Cohen has called for government intervention in the war on obesity.
That’s not just wrong, it’s rude, writes Miss Manners columnist Judith Martin: “It is being said that illnesses caused or exacerbated by obesity may soon constitute the chief cause of preventable deaths, overtaking the current scourge, which is tobacco… Then came the plague, not just of smoking scofflaws, but of righteous busybodies. Newly empowered with public support, nonsmokers started polluting the atmosphere with unsolicited and insulting health care. Nor have they been intimidated from doing this in regard to the eating habits of those whom they deem to be overweight.”