New York University Nutrition Professor Marion Nestle has co-authored a rebuttal to claims that U.S. Rep. Aaron Schock (R-Ill.) made about a bill (H.R. 1572) which would prohibit the use of federal money “for print, radio, television or any other media advertisement, campaign, or form of publicity against the use of a food or non-alcoholic beverage that is lawfully marketed under the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.” Schock introduced the measure, titled the “Stopping Taxpayer Outlays for Propaganda Act” or “STOP Act,” on April 15, 2013. In a Politico essay two days later, Schock claimed, “Using taxpayer dollars to attack the beverage and food industry might seem like a good idea to New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, but it’s this exact type of harmful government spending that we can ill afford and serves no purpose in the overall wellness debate—other than to be critical of domestic companies that employ thousands of hardworking Americans.”
According to Schock, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—allocated funds under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act to award grants for wellness initiatives—granted them to recipients that have used them “to run ads attacking and singling out legal American products and industries.” Schock claims that these federal dollars have been used “to run advertisements against ‘sugary products’ or other food and beverages” that grant recipients “believe have an adverse impact on the health of American citizens, regardless of the quantity consumed. We are talking about hundreds of millions of tax dollars that are being used to discourage the consumption of lawfully marketed American-made products.”
In her rejoinder, “Twinkie insanity hits the House,” Nestle asserts, “This bill ignores some basic realities.” She cites statistics purportedly demonstrating that sugar-sweetened beverages “are among the most significant contributors to diseases related to obesity,” and observes that soda is sold to children using branded cartoon images and sports and entertainment celebrities. “It’s difficult for us to believe that Schock seriously thinks that these billion-dollar companies and their Madison Ave. advertising agencies require protection from public health advocates who point out that Froot Loops and supersized sodas are bad for kids’ health.” The article also contends that Schock’s jobkilling point “is a specious argument. It assumes that jobs can’t also result from creating healthy products instead of unhealthy ones.”
The article concludes, “The real propaganda comes from companies that market sugar-sweetened breakfast cereals as healthful. The job of the Centers for Disease Control is to assess the key threats to our health and assure that people have the best, most accurate information possible. That’s not propaganda; it’s public service.” See Politico.com, April 17 and May 3, 2013.