Washington, DC – The drive against fat took another wrong turn today when the self-described “food police” at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) announced plans to file a lawsuit against Kellogg’s and Viacom. CSPI, which is pursuing litigation to prevent food companies from directing certain types of advertising toward kids, claims that its lawsuit is for the protection of children. But the group’s frequent threats of litigation seem to be more about curtailing our food choices.
In the past, CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson has teamed with trial lawyer John Banzhaf to threaten ice cream companies with litigation unless they provided more nutritional information. CSPI has also advocated lawsuits against convenience stores because they have the audacity to offer large soda sizes. Neither of these cases involved the protection of children.
This lawsuit, like most of CSPI’s work, fails to address the true cause of obesity in children today—a lack of physical activity. While the “food police” enjoy making outlandish claims about the dangers of the food we eat, more and more scientific data suggests that obesity among the young is more a matter of calories out, than calories in. The prestigious British medical journal Lancet found in 2005: “results suggest that habitual activity plays an important role in weight gain, with no parallel evidence that energy intake had a similar role.”
“CSPI’s lawsuit will clog up the courts, but it won’t slim down children,” said Center for Consumer Freedom Dan Mindus. “Individuals and parents should be trusted to make their own decisions about what they and their families eat and drink.”
CSPI has long been a champion of the idea that food advertising leads to childhood obesity. But the leading voices on the issue have never demonstrated such a relationship.
Following the recent release of a major study on childhood obesity and advertising, the former director of the National Institutes of Health, Bernadine Healy, stated, “Let’s be clear at the outset. [December’s] report on marketing food to children from the National Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Medicine does not say that Madison Avenue is making our kids fat, a widespread interpretation. (It states repeatedly that evidence is insufficient to claim ‘a causal relationship from television advertising to adiposity.’)”