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The Dirty Secret Behind Dairy Junk Foods

Industry and government work together to promote everything from fast-food pizza to sugary milk in schools

People often ask me, “How does lobbying work?” Last week it was with fat and sugar, when the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) hosted its 32nd annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party. Some 6,000 bowls of ice cream were served up to Sen. Tom Harkin, Reps. Pete Sessions, Robert Aderholt, Jeff Denham, John Shimkus, Ron Kind and Lamar Smith, among others, according to Politico. Dairy lobbyists are ever present in Washington, and their efforts usually pay off. For example, last year when the IDFA implored the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to give dairy foods a pass in the new snack food guidelines for schools, the agency capitulated, opening school doors to even more junk food, such as YoCrunch Lowfat Yogurt with M&Ms.

This is just one of many examples I uncovered in a report I published last month, “Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods” (PDF). The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. The assumption that eating dairy is essential to the diet has obstructed our ability to criticize federal government support for unhealthy dairy products, of which there are many. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

School Food Lobby Flip-flops on Healthy School Lunches

School Nutrition Association includes such Big Food sponsors as PepsiCo, Domino’s and Muffin Town.

Perhaps the most visible advocate for improving school food, Michelle Obama is now defending what shouldn’t be such a controversial idea: adding fruits and vegetables to public school lunches. Ask any nutrition expert what foods Americans — especially kids — need more of in their diet, and the answer would be the same: fresh produce. But some Republicans, such as Rep. Robert Aderholt of Alabama, never seem to miss an opportunity to turn a no-brainer into a political battle, particularly when it comes to school food. (Who can forget the pizza as a vegetable debacle?) And just in time to give them the necessary cover, they got a gift from an unlikely source. The School Nutrition Association (SNA) has asked Congress to approve waiver requests for schools that are struggling to comply with federal nutrition regulations aimed at improving children’s health.

Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Media Coverage for Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

Following is the media coverage so far for my recent report, Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods.

Mother Jones: How the US Government Helps McDonald’s Sell Junk Food

Los Angeles Times: Bad government programs watch: Promoting milk as a health food

Food Navigator: ‘Dairy junk foods’ under fire in report highlighting dramatic shift in dairy consumption patterns

Food Politics: Michele Simon’s latest report: “Whitewashed”

Naturally Savvy: Most Dairy Products Are Junk Foods, Says New Report

One Green Planet: New Report Reveals Shocking Ways Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

The Incidental Economist: The continued power of the milk-industrial complex

Care2: Big Dairy Leans on the Government, Sells Us Junk

 

Whitewashed: How Industry and Government Promote Dairy Junk Foods

coverThe United States is in the midst of a public health epidemic due to poor diet. While much of the focus has been on obvious culprits such as sugary soft drinks and fast food, dairy foods often get a pass. The dairy industry, propped up by government, has convinced us of the health benefits of milk and other dairy products. But the context of how people consume dairy matters.

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Every State Counts: Support GMO Labeling in Oregon and Colorado

The East Coast has been getting most of the attention lately on the state by state effort to label genetically-engineered food. Vermont recently passed a bill and New York State’s bill is now moving. But let’s not forget about the western states, which are also critical to this fight. Right to know advocates in Oregon and Colorado are currently gathering signatures to place measures on the November ballot. Both of these states have a good shot at convincing voters to pass GMO labeling.

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How Food Marketers Spin Nutrition Information

I have a feature story in the current issue of Experience Life magazine. Here is how the editors introduce the article:

It’s no wonder that most of us are confused. Combine this with dubious ads from the food industry — and the fact that some media outlets may not want to alienate food companies that advertise with them — and we end up with even more muddled information. Overwhelmed, frustrated, and resigned, many of us throw up our hands and eat whatever we want. The good news, however, is that understanding where biased health information comes from can help us sift through the latest headlines and become more intelligent news consumers and smarter shoppers.

You can read the entire article here and listen to the podcast interview here.

Big Food Freaking Out Over Fed Up Movie

Am thrilled to be featured in a new powerful film by Laurie David and Katie Couric that features an all-star line-up.

If you search for “Fed Up movie” on Google, the first link you see is not the film’s website, but rather a page from the Grocery Manufacturers Association called “Fed Up Facts“. It’s a silly and desperate attempt by Big Food to respond to the star-power that has Katie Couric appearing all over the mainstream media spreading a message that the food industry doesn’t want you to hear. (GMA denies that “the food industry purposely advertises unhealthy foods to children”. It must happen by accident.)

The film really pulls no punches aiming to dispel the junk food industry’s strongest talking points: it’s all a matter of personal responsibility; we can just exercise our way to health; and we don’t need government regulation. Even Let’s Move is criticized for placing too much emphasis on physical activity and industry partnerships. But as I told the filmmakers, the first lady is in the wrong wing of the White House. (That quote didn’t make the final cut, alas. See this review saying the film lacks policy solutions, which I mostly agree with.)

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Follow the Honey: 7 Ways Pesticide Companies are Spinning the Bee Crisis to Protect Profits

FollowTheHoneyReportCover

Today I am releasing a new report with Friends of the Earth, to bring attention to the dire situation of declining bee populations caused by pesticides. You can find the report here, and read a summary below.

If you like to eat, then you should care about what’s happening to bees. Did you know that two-thirds of our food crops require pollination – the very foods that we rely on for healthy eating – such as apples, berries, and almonds, just to name a few. That’s why the serious declines in bee populations are getting more attention, with entire campaigns devoted to saving bees.

A strong and growing body of evidence points to exposure to a class of neurotoxic pesticides called neonicotinoids—the fastest-growing and most widely used class of synthetic pesticides—as a key contrib­uting factor to bee declines.

The European Union banned the three most widely used neonicotinoids, based on strong science indicating that neonics can kill bees outright and make them more vulnerable to pests, pathogens, and other stressors. Enter the corporate spin doctors.

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USDA’s Proposal on Food Marketing in Schools Could Harm Children

Today, on behalf of Corporate Accountability International and in collaboration with the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, I submitted the following comments to the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding its proposal to require schools to only allow marketing for those foods allowed under the agency’s “Smart Snacks” nutrition guidelines. (See also the excellent comments submitted by Public Health Advocacy Institute on junk food products created for schools.)

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How Big Chicken Took Over America

Last month, an unusual scuffle played out between two federal agencies over a controversial proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the speed of kill lines for poultry in slaughterhouses. But with testing from Consumer Reports last year revealing that 97 percent of raw chicken breasts purchased at retailers are contaminated with harmful bacteria, and with poultry workers already suffering from numerous job-related injuries, advocacy groups are vigorously opposed to the idea. The rule would also reduce the number of USDA inspectors required to ensure food safety, transferring some of that responsibility to the chicken and turkey companies themselves. But as one former inspector (who worked both for the USDA and the chicken industry) warned, plant workers are not properly trained for inspection, and they are too scared for their jobs to speak up. That’s why groups such as Food and Water Watch are taking out newspaper ads calling the proposal the “Filthy Chicken Rule.” Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

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