Last month, Obesity Society president-elect Dr. David B. Allison delivered a major blow to food cops nationwide when he presented expert testimony to a federal court in New York against mandatory menu labeling. The evidence was damning: Allison’s statement even provoked a response from New York City Health Commissioner Dr. Thomas Frieden, who acknowledged that “we don’t have 100 percent proof that it’s going to work.” (In truth, menu labeling advocates don’t have any proof.)
Not surprisingly, the usual cabal of nutrition nannies was less than happy. A patient the Queen of Hearts in calling for Alice’s head, nutritional heavyweights within The Obesity Society didn’t hesitate to review the facts before demanding Allison’s resignation.
Even Marion Nestle, one of the country’s most hysterical anti-food-industry fanatics, recognized the hypocrisy of this move by “a society that accepts one or two million a year from drug companies.”
On February 29, Allison formally resigned from the presidency of the organization. In an e-mail statement addressed to friends and colleagues, he reminded his peers of the basic tenets of science—remaining skeptical and questioning the evidence. He explained that it was those principles that prompted him to lend a critical voice to the menu labeling debate:
Over the years, I have found that there are few things I enjoy more than exploring data, systematically evaluating evidence, poking around at conventional wisdom, and questioning popular hypotheses. I believe that such questioning is a good thing to do, but it does not always make one popular.
While I stand behind the scientific statements I made, my right to make them, and the manner in which I made them, I realize now that participating in this case while in the presidential sequence in TOS was a serious political error.
Though menu labeling may be popular, it’s not right. Americans must hold health activists accountable for their policies and echo the demands of Allison’s professor and mentor Harold Yuker: “Show me the data.”