New York Times op-ed writer Mark Bittman, who frequently writes about food-related issues and calls for changes in government policy to address over- or unhealthy-consumption problems, has found an ally in City university of New York school of Public Health Professor Nicholas Freudenberg who has authored a new book titled Lethal but Legal: Corporations, Consumption, and Protecting Public Health.”
Freudenberg, who serves as faculty director for the New York City Food Policy Center, apparently explains how the food and beverage, tobacco, alcohol, firearms, pharmaceutical, and automotive industries have used the playbook created by “the corporate consumption complex” of corporations, banks, marketers, and others that purportedly promote and benefit from unhealthy lifestyles. Freudenberg takes issue with what he perceives as their message that anything restricting rights “to smoke, feed our children junk, carry handguns and so on” is un-American.
According to Bittman, Freudenberg’s grouping of these industries “gives us a better way to look at the struggle of consumers, of ordinary people, to regain the upper hand. The issues of auto and gun safety, of drug, alcohol and tobacco addiction, and of hyperconsumption of unhealthy food are not as distinct as we’ve long believed; really, they’re quite similar. For example, the argument for protecting people against marketers of junk food relies in part on the fact that antismoking regulations and seatbelt laws were initially attacked as robbing us of choice; now we know they’re lifesavers.” Bittman suggests that Freudenberg is at his best by calling for a different approach to the discussion of rights and choice. Freudenberg said, “What we need is to return to the public sector the right to set health policy and to limit corpora- tions’ freedom to profit at the expense of health.”
The question that needs to be asked, in Bittman’s view, is not “Do junk food companies have the right to market to children?” but “Do children have the right to a healthy diet?” Freudenberg opines that “[t]he right to be healthy trumps the right of corporations to promote choices that lead to premature death and preventable illnesses.” See The New York Times, February 25, 2014.
Meanwhile, in a post appearing on the Website of Corporations & Health Watch, which Freudenberg founded, he argues that “Washington’s obses- sion with ObamaCare has made the nation lose sight of other strategies for improving health and reducing health care costs.” Claiming that government policies doom “millions of Americans to premature death,” Freudenberg writes, “Corporations and their allies claim that choices around food, alcohol and tobacco are a matter of individual responsibility, not public policy.”