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“Nothing for you!” the Soup Nazi shouts at an overweight customer. “Come back when you’re thinner!” You might recall this scene, which appeared in a 2004 television ad sponsored by the Center for Consumer Freedom. The non-profit group used the spoof of the Seinfeld character to question whether the war on obesity had gone too far.
Now the Center for Consumer Freedom (www.consumerfreedom.com) has launched a $600,0000 newspaper ad campaign warning consumers that they have been “force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the ‘food police,’ trial lawyers, and even our own government.”
The ad campaign by the CCF, with a tagline that reads “promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choice,” is part of a strategy to criticize the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which had to revise a March report concerning the number of obesity-related deaths per year in the United States. It reduced its original estimate of 400,000 down to nearly a quarter of that, or 112,000. The Center for Consumer Freedom implies that the CDC intended to deceive people. But look closely and guess what you find? The Consumer Freedom group is backed by restaurant and fast food companies that say they want the government to quit belly aching about the adverse affects of eating mounds of crappy food until your eyes roll back in your head. That’s where the consumer choice comes in.
So, what exactly is the Center for Consumer Freedom? According to its website and a recent story in the Washington Post, the non-profit group was founded about 10 years ago with tobacco-company and restaurant money to fight smoking curbs in restaurants. Back then, the group called itself Guest Choice Network. But it changed its name in 2001, as it shifted its focus to food and beverage issues, raised by concerns about obesity, mad cow disease and genetically modified products. It now calls itself “a coalition of restaurants, food companies and consumers” who only have the mission of “defending enjoyment.”
The Washington Post story added about the group’s “PRWatch that as a non-profit critic of the public relations industry, (it) lists what it claims are the Center for Consumer Freedom’s sponsors on its website. Those companies include Brinker International; RTM Restaurant Group, the owner of Arby’s; Tyson Foods Inc.; HMSHost Corp.; and Wendy’s International Inc.” It also runs a host of other websites uncovering what it calls “scams,” such as CSPIScam.com. If you recall, CSPI, or the Center for Science in the Public Interest, is the non-profit advocacy group that began dissecting food a number of years ago and called Fettuccini Alfredo “heart attack on a plate.”
In addition to the obesity issue, the Center has bellied up to the bar on other matters. For example, a quick trip to its website reveals that PETA kills animals. Who woulda thunk it? Click on the link called “obesity debate,” and you find the group calling it “big fat lies.” Wow, guess we’re all svelte and healthy after all. We also read how “the Sierra Club has become an anti-growth, anti-technology group that puts its utopian environmentalist vision before the well being of humans.”
As Seinfeld would say, “Yada, yada, yada.”