In an op-ed hitting newspapers on both coasts, San Francisco State University professor Ramon Castellblanch penned a particularly pernicious piece of opinion journalism blaming “the profit-driven behavior of food manufacturers and sellers” for much of America’s “obesity epidemic.” He complains that trial lawyers don’t have enough power to sue food makers and restaurants, and the “indifference” of the U.S. Department of Agriculture leaves people to diet on their own. Pretty standard obesity epidemic hype, really.

Castellblanch’s anti-free-market bias is pretty shameless (perhaps unsurprisingly, he has worked for three labor unions), but he should be embarrassed to have repeated a scary-sounding statistic that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has itself dismissed. With apparently no regard for the current state of science, Castellblanch recklessly waves around the claim that obesity kills 400,000 Americans annually.

Trouble is, that number has been set aside by the CDC in favor of a much lower figure. And when Castellblanch says he got his figure from the American Journal of Public Health, surely he wasn’t referring to the September 2004 article in that journal criticizing the methodology of the 400,000-deaths study as hopelessly out of date? If he doesn’t keep his facts straight, just what is this health policy professor teaching his students?

As for Castellblanch’s knee-jerk criticism of the profit motive, one columnist responded by pointing out that it is exactly what empowers consumer freedom:

What kind of evil corporation is driven by a need to make profits? As far as I know, every one.

It’s a part of what we in the West call free enterprise. Entrepreneurs come up with an idea, they raise the capital to start a business and then try to sell their goods to the public. If the public wants what the capitalists are selling, the entrepreneurs get rich. If the public shuns the product, the capitalists go broke.

If there were a screaming demand for carrots in the marketplace, McDonald’s would slap a McBunny Happy Meal on the menu tomorrow.

That’s the glory of a free-market system: We get what we want.