Washington, D.C. – As Congress debates a “public option” for health insurance, public health activists and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) are proposing a different kind of public option: placing Americans’ weight under government control.

“Whether it’s taxes, product bans, or other regulations, the public health community appears to be dead set on making our weight a matter of government regulation,” said Center for Consumer Freedom Senior Research Analyst J. Justin Wilson. “Fundamentally, extra pounds are a personal problem that demands a personal solution, not a government takeover.”

The CDC’s record of dispassionately measuring the burden of overweight and obesity is unbelievable. In 2004 the agency released a headline-grabbing report claiming that overweight and obesity were responsible for 400,000 preventable deaths each year, which put it on pace to surpass tobacco as Public Health Enemy Number One. But the result incorporated basic mathematical errors and the study’s methodology was flawed. Only after pressure from the Center for Consumer Freedom and other groups did the CDC revise its statistic — first to 365,000, and finally to 112,000. The actual yearly number of premature U.S. deaths related to obesity is likely much lower still.

“No one believes that being morbidly obese is healthy. But it’s no surprise that the CDC released this report in the midst of the health care debate,” continued Wilson. “Suggesting that obesity ‘costs’ Americans is a clear illustration of where the so-called public healthcare option will lead us. As soon as public health activists decide a lifestyle choice ‘costs’ taxpayers, the government will target it for regulation.”

During CDC Director Frieden’s tenure as New York City’s Public Health Commissioner, he pushed a regulation requiring the city’s restaurants to list calorie information on menus. But documents obtained in a subsequent lawsuit indicate that he attempted to rush publication of a study that the editor of the CDC’s Morbidity and Mortality Weekly medical journal called “problematic.” Frieden responded, “we can agree to disagree.”

For further information or to arrange an interview please call Allison Miller at 202-463-7112.