Many public health professionals are shifting their focus from preventing the spread of contagious diseases to fretting about what’s on your dinner plate. The theme of this year’s annual meeting of the American Public Health Association (APHA) — which we previewed in October — was “Behavior, Lifestyle and Social Determinants of Health.” (Translation: public health officialdom wants to control your life.) Read on to watch video highlights from the dozens of presentations on obesity and food choices.
Public Health Institute lawyer Edward Bolen promoted very specific — and draconian — policy proposals. He called for tobacco-style restrictions on food including price controls; minimum age requirements to buy certain products; limiting the number, density, and location of fast food restaurants and convenience stores; and even outright product bans. (click here for video)
Kelly Brownell, father of the “Twinkie tax,” argued that his fellow food cops should focus on children first because “then you get away from these arguments about personal responsibility.” (click here for video) Margo Wootan of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) echoed Brownell, declaring: “We have got to move beyond personal responsibility.” (click here for video) And Skip Spitzer of the radical Pesticide Action Network chimed in: “I just wanted to add that the idea of personal responsibility is a cultural construct.” (click here for video)
As CEO of the $3.4 billion California Endowment, Robert Ross has the power to make big changes in society. So defenders of consumer freedom should be very concerned that he used some of the meeting’s most heated language. Speaking at a session titled “Is Childhood Obesity the Next Tobacco?” he asked: “Do we go out for all out holy war against industry from day one?” (click here for video) Perhaps answering his own query, Ross said: “I think the data shows that the most prolific weapons of mass destruction in this country are a cheeseburger and a soda.” (click here for video)
We were pleased to discover that the food nannies view the Center for Consumer Freedom as the primary force preventing them from achieving their goals. California State Senator Deborah Ortiz said of her soda-ban and menu-labeling bills: “We got caught in the middle of the Foundation [sic] for Consumer Freedom. Oh my gosh. You all ought to know this person. Trust me, Kelly [Brownell] and I do, Andrea [Margolis] and others. We all know that website.” (click here for video)
And it turns out that Marion Nestle has a love/hate relationship with CCF. At a session sponsored by APHA’s Socialist Caucus she complained: “The Center for Consumer Freedom. Oh, they make me so unhappy. And they love making me unhappy. They have a website, ConsumerFreedom.com. Go take a look. They’re the personal responsibility people…And they’re quite clever and they’re funny, so they’re very dangerous.” (click here for video)