The USDA has now given us a poster child for the food industry’s good intentions in helping to improve the American diet. The agency’s new fact sheet on dietary fiber documents how the food industry has used technology to add fiber and whole grains to processed foods. Even so, the total amount of fiber and whole grains available in the food supply just doesn’t seem to budge. Why not? The USDA says the grain-based food industry isn’t giving the agency the data it needs to demonstrate increases and that “a collaborative working relationship” is needed to get better data. Getting more data from the food industry–especially about food composition–would be nice but isn’t going to help people eat more fiber-rich foods. For that, how about eating unprocessed foods!
New York City’s calorie labeling proposal, which seemed to be heading for menu boards at the end of March, is now back in litigation thanks to the NY State Restaurant Association. CSPI filed an amicus curiae brief on the previous round of litigation and is working with Public Citizen on a new version. The saga continues.
CSPI has just completed its investigation of the extent of food marketing in the Montgomery County, Maryland, school district. Guess what? There is plenty of it, even in elementary schools:30% of elementary schools use candy, baked goods, soda, fast food, or restaurant food at fundraisers. Guess what? Most of the marketing in junior high and high schools is also for junk foods. And all this is still happening despite excellent wellness policies. We have work to do!
Eating Liberally has been following this week’s discussion of the Center for Consumer Freedom (see comments to my previous post) and asks: What’s the story on that group? The group denies that the tuna industry funds its pro-methylmercury campaign. OK. Who does fund it?
If you would like to know how the Center for Consumer Freedom operates, here is an e-mail message that I just received from David Martosko, who identifies himself as the Director of Research for the Center. I reproduce it here in its entirety (Here’s the post he refers to. For more information about how this group operates, follow the links on one of my previous posts). I should add that Mr. Martosko called me at 3:00 p.m. today to say “I don’t care how famous you are. We intend to take legal action.” I didn’t think I was so famous. I guess I should be flattered. Here’s the written threat:
Dear Dr. Nestle,
In a blog posting on January 24, you wrote that “the tuna industry is fighting back through its public relations agency, the Center for Consumer Freedom.” You also wrote that “Every word CCF says is paid for, and some tuna association pays it to say that methylmercury is not a problem.” (source: http://whattoeatbook.com/2008/01/24/methylmercury-in-big-expensive-tuna/ )
These statements are false, and they seem calculated to do harm to our reputation.
You are free to speculate about the sources of support that our public-education efforts receive. You are not free, however, to assert things that are not true in an attempt to discredit our work. The above examples have clearly crossed the line into libel territory, and could lead to legal action.
If you have documentation that you believe substantiates your claim, I would be very interested to see it. But I am quite certain that you do not. I advise you to either post a correction or withdraw your January 24 piece entirely.
Director of Research
Center for Consumer Freedom
cc: Richard Berman, Executive Director
Readers of the New York Times have lots to say about last week’s methylmercury-in-sushi article. One point is that Blue Fin tuna, the largest and therefore the most contaminated kind, are hugely overfished and disappearing from the oceans. This is another reason not to eat this fish (vote with your fork) but also a reason to call for a moratorium on catching this fish (vote with your vote).