Random PR Thoughts

Where the Hell Was the Sugar Lobby?


Yesterday was a red-letter day for the American people.

First, the FDA released its quinquennial update of its dietary guidelines and, not surprisingly, they came down pretty heavily on sugar. According to the Feds, the average American oops down 22 teaspoons of sugar every day. That number, by the way, hasn’t changed since 2009, the furthest back I bothered to check. Anyway, the FDA recommends cutting that number in half, which, if one is an average “user,” one could easily do by eliminating exactly one can of high-octane Coke from one’s daily diet. But I digress.

The independent panel charged with updating these guidelines also recommended that we significantly reduce the amount of red meat that we consume, but oddly enough, that recommendation was nowhere to be found in the final report issued by the FDA, which had done a little editing. Concurrent with the release of the guidelines, the North American Meat Institute issued this statement:

“It is clear the agencies took great care in reviewing the science as well as comments on the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee report to develop a common sense policy document that all Americans can use to help them make healthy food choices.”

What the hell is the North American Meat Institute? According to its website, the NAMI “is a national trade association that represents companies that process 95 percent of red meat and 70 percent of turkey products in the US and their suppliers throughout America.” Its mission is “…to be a catalyst for continuous innovation and improvement; a strong advocate for the meat and poultry community before consumers, policymakers and media; and a vehicle for members of all sizes to develop positive, constructive and long lasting relationships.”

In other words, NAMI is just another lobbying group fighting to ensure that you do something everybody knows is a bad idea – in this case, eating red meat seven days a week – in order to preserve its members’ way of life at the potential cost of yours. No breaking news there.

Meanwhile, yesterday in Vermont, Governor Peter Shumlin for the second year in a row used his entire State of the State message to address the heroin crisis gripping Vermont (and much of New England). In a subsequent interview, he said, “I think that the federal government and the FDA are partners with the pharmaceutical industry in creating the opiate crisis. Let’s just look at history, because that’s quite a charge. We all thought we learned about abuse of OxyContin, and there was huge pressure on industry to make it tamper-resistant. If the drug is tamper-resistant, it turns to gel when you crush it. When it isn’t, you can shoot it, you can snort it, and that leads to pure heroin.”

He went on to say, “Just a year and a half ago, the FDA advisory board recommended that the next drug, what I call OxyContin on steroids, Zohydro, not be approved. The FDA not only ignored them and approved it, they didn’t make it tamper-resistant so you can snort it and you can shoot it. So, I’m unconvinced that the FDA is partnering with us to try and solve this epidemic.” (Italics mine)

It’s hard not to be cynical about the FDA, although its flaccid, industry appeasing ways are nothing new. Apparently, however, America’s sugar refiners haven’t been spreading the “sugar” around enough to forestall the FDA from recommending that we slash their earnings by fifty percent. Now our trusty regulators can declare victory for another five years and move on.

But save a little cynicism for the Environmental Protection Agency, which according to yesterday’s New York Times has for years declined the opportunity to take a more aggressive stance toward DuPont. The company for years sullied the groundwater in Parkersburg, West Virginia even after its own data showed significant reason for concern. The contamination led to inarguable increases in cancer and other maladies among the townspeople. Even when this evidence was presented to the EPA, it took no substantive action in the face of massive DuPont resistance.

Can you believe that a respected corporation would knowingly and repeatedly contaminate a town’s drinking water, leading to a host of serious – even deadly – consequences and take no action because it would cost too much?

Sure you can.



Categories: Random PR Thoughts

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