Attendees of the annual American Public Health Association (APHA) convention this week are getting more than they bargained for. In addition to the usual presentations on everything from AIDS prevention to asthma epidemiology, the APHA is offering seminars on subjects usually reserved for the animal rights crowd and the food police.

This is hardly a surprise. The public health field in general has been invaded by social-change activists of various stripes in recent years. The APHA actually has a “socialist caucus” that sponsored more than 300 meetings and papers at this year’s conference, including a business meeting with the ominous (and false) title: “Corporate Greed is Destroying the Health of People Worldwide.”

Yesterday, APHA conference-goers were offered a seminar on “Antibiotics in U.S. Agriculture” led by a team of three activists.

These include Tamar Barlam, who works for the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI); David Wallinga, who attacks industrial agriculture from his post at the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP); and Ellen Silbergeld, whose department at Johns Hopkins University recently spawned the anti-business Center for a Livable Future (CLF), using six-figure donations from a scientifically illiterate socialite.

CSPI and IATP both participate in a public-relations stunt called “Keep Antibiotics Working,” whose goal is to convince an unsuspecting public that their meat and poultry could harbor dangerous antibiotic residues. Johns Hopkins’ CLF isn’t a member (yet), but its benefactress Helaine Lerner has enrolled her other pet project, the Global Resource Action Center for the Environment.

This morning, the APHA conference is presenting a panel discussion called “The Obesity Crisis: Challenging the Fast Food Culture.” The APHA’s president, Faye Wong, is scheduled to moderate this session personally, signaling its relative importance within the organization.

The speakers are a “who’s who” of the soda wars, including:

“natural” food maven Marion Nestle, who writes in her recent book Food Politics that food producers should “attract the same kind of attention as purveyors of drugs or tobacco”;

Occidental College’s Robert Gottlieb, whose Urban and Environmental Policy Institute convinced the Los Angeles Unified School District this year to ban soft drinks from schools;

Andrea Margolis, who advocated punitive taxes on soft drinks as a consultant to the Health and Human Services Committee of the California Senate — and whose bosses, state legislators Deborah Ortiz and