‘Say Cheese!’ Government and Corporations Urge

[cheeseburgers stacked with five or six patties]

Cheese appears to be addictive because of the casein it contains, and it definitely contains a lot of fat. So why does the government collude with corporations that want to stuff more of it down our throats?

In a 2003 article, Dr. Neal Barnard traced some of the history of the movement to push cheese, which was already well underway. In 1996, a federal program helped Subway with a plan to sell an extra 70,000 pounds of cheese. Dr. Barnard says that in 1975 the average American consumed 15 pounds of cheese per year. By 1999, enabled by the federal government, the cheese industry had raised that number to an average of 30 pounds per year.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture made a special report to Congress in 2000 which included mention of how the government had helped the cheese manufacturers in convincing fast-food franchises “to make sure that cheese was prominently displayed in menu items.”

Millions and millions

In the same year, a program officially sanctioned by the government helped Wendy’s sell 2.25 million pounds of cheese in a special promo program for the Cheddar Lover’s Bacon Cheeseburger. Another government-enabled campaign for the Ultimate Cheese Pizza, a Pizza Hut creation, helped that corporation peddle 5 million pounds of the stuff in six short weeks.

Then there was the Cheese Forum, to which a Dairy Management Inc. executive brought a visual presentation about how to get the retailers on board, which Dr. Barnard describes like this:

One slide asked the question ‘What do we want our marketing program to do?’ and then gave the answer: ‘Trigger the cheese craving.’ Mr. Cooper concluded with a cartoon of a playground slide with a large spider web woven to trap children as they reached the bottom.

Four years later the Dairy Council touted cheese as the country’s #1 snack food.

In 2011, nothing had changed and the government was still on both sides. About this conflict of interest, body builder and personal trainer Kevin Richardson wrote:

The recent revelation that the US Department of Agriculture had been working with fast food restaurants to increase the amount of cheese that people eat in pizzas while the administration talks [about] fighting a war against obesity is a classic example…. Our tax dollars subsidize everything from price supports to marketing and food promotion programs.

And how is the egregious conflict of interest faring today? A March 2014 AlterNet article by Martha Rosenberg describes the USDA “marketing creation” known as Dairy Management, which employs 162 people, all determined to induce Americans to eat more cheese. She says this about the efforts of our very own Department of Agriculture on behalf of the “double your cheese” team:

Dairy Management … received $5.3 million from the USDA during one year, for an overseas dairy campaign, which almost equals the total $6.5 million budget of USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion — the group that cautions us about fatty foods like cheese. Yes, the government is talking out of both sides of its mouth when it tells the public what to put in its mouth.

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “Breaking the Food Seduction,” PCRM.org, 2003
Source: “The Economics Of Obesity: Why The Food Industry Needs Us To Overeat,” NaturallyIntense.net, 05/11/11
Source: “Americans Are Huge: 5 Surprising Reasons Why We May Be Getting Fatter,” Alternet.org, 03/12/14
Image by Jim Wall

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