Lobbyistic Nonsense


Recently, Childhood Obesity News looked at the activities of the consumer protection organization known as the Center for Digital Democracy (CDD). Today we consider an example of the type of resistance the CDD and other advocacy groups have been up against for years.

Shortly after the turn of the century, the Institute of Medicine decreed that there was not enough evidence to surmise a causal link between TV ads and juvenile adiposity, aka childhood obesity. Attempts to regulate advertising were scorned as a “quick fix” that would not address the real problem. The real problem was the government, which makes too many prohibitive rules. This viewpoint was vehemently espoused by Beth Johnson, former USDA official turned lobbyist, in a piece written for The Washington Times.

Among other things, Johnson says that by denying advertisers unlimited rights, the government “stymies our opportunity to learn about new products that can help us put together a healthy diet for our families.” She also speaks of “empowering consumers with more information,” which is lobbyist-speak for letting corporations pour as much nonsense as they want into the ears and eyes of children.

But that wasn’t even the most surreal part of Johnson’s argument. Here it comes:

Moreover, of the 100 most commonly consumed foods and beverages in America (as reported by the NPD Group Inc.) 88 would fail the federal working group’s proposed standards, leaving only fresh fruit and vegetables and nonfat yogurt. Though these are healthy foods, they don’t provide enough nutrients to constitute a healthy diet.

What is this industry apologist even talking about? Fresh fruit, vegetables, and nonfat yogurt may indeed be insufficient to “constitute a healthy diet.” But does she suggest that the other 88 products — the ones that would fail the proposed standards — would somehow make up for that deficiency? It doesn’t even make any sense, but that’s how industry spokespeople keep their jobs.

It gets worse

As if that weren’t bad enough, the piece was subtitled, “New federal rules would place most common fare off-limits for kids,” a line that needs a reprimand, because many people use news aggregation services, or just scan their social media timelines, and the title and subtitle are the only parts of a news item they see.

First of all, there was no new rule; there was a proposed rule, which is a totally different and separate thing. “Most common fare” in this context simply means junk food. And to suggest that the government intended to somehow make this “fare” unavailable to children is just an outright untruth.

Nobody was talking about yanking bottles and packages from grocery store shelves to be destroyed. Nobody was even talking about putting a “Must be 21 years of age!” sticker on the toaster waffles.

In Johnson’s first sentence, the issue is explained more accurately:

The federal government is pursuing a plan that will effectively ban advertising of some of America’s most popular and nutritious foods because they have been deemed unhealthy for kids according to strict standards created by the federal government.

So the government desired to ban, not junk food, but the advertising of junk food to humans of certain ages, at certain times, and in certain places. Which is kind of a different thing, isn’t it?

Your responses and feedback are welcome!

Source: “JOHNSON: Enough to make you lose your appetite,” WashingtonTimes.com, 08/05/11
Image by richcat/123RF Stock Photo

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About Dr. Robert A. Pretlow

Dr. Robert A. Pretlow is a pediatrician and childhood obesity specialist. He has been researching and spreading awareness on the childhood obesity epidemic in the US for more than a decade.
You can contact Dr. Pretlow at:


Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the American Society of Animal Science 2020 Conference
What’s Causing Obesity in Companion Animals and What Can We Do About It

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the World Obesity Federation 2019 Conference:
Food/Eating Addiction and the Displacement Mechanism

Dr. Pretlow’s Multi-Center Clinical Trial Kick-off Speech 2018:
Obesity: Tackling the Root Cause

Dr. Pretlow’s 2017 Workshop on
Treatment of Obesity Using the Addiction Model

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation for
TEC and UNC 2016

Dr. Pretlow’s invited presentation at the 2015 Obesity Summit in London, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s invited keynote at the 2014 European Childhood Obesity Group Congress in Salzburg, Austria.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2013 European Congress on Obesity in Liverpool, UK.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2011 International Conference on Childhood Obesity in Lisbon, Portugal.

Dr. Pretlow’s presentation at the 2010 Uniting Against Childhood Obesity Conference in Houston, TX.

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