How do lobbies affect the way we eat?
Marion Nestle is a consumer activist, nutritionist, and academic who specializes in the politics of food and dietary choice. Nestle received her BA, PhD, and MPH from the University of California, Berkeley. In 1988, Nestle was appointed Chair of New York University’s Steinhardt School of Nutrition, Food Studies, and Public Health. She held that position until 2004, when she became the Paulette Goddard Professor in the same department.
Nestle is the author of numerous books, including "Food Politics," which explored the way corporations influence our nutritional choices, and "What to Eat," an survey of how to navigate the modern American supermarket. Aside from her books and teaching, Nestle writes a popular blog for the Atlantic Food Channel.
Marion Nestle: Well during that period when I was working on that report, which was to come out with a set of dietary recommendations, every single food industry that was likely to be affected by the report sent droves of lobbyists to the office to discuss issues related to the report with the people . . . the staff who were working on the report. I was protected. I was so low down on the federal hierarchy that I was protected from a great deal of that. But I did get to experience some of it on my own, particularly with the cattlemen. The cattlemen were very concerned that the report was going to say, “Eat less meat,” because meat is such a large source of saturated fat in the American diet. And saturated fat raises blood cholesterol. And blood cholesterol raises the risk of heart disease. And so saturated fat is something you don’t wanna eat way too much of. And they were very concerned that the report was going to come out and say, “Eat less meat,” and they let everybody in the office know about that very clearly. They brought in people to come talk with reams of information about how healthy meat was, and meat’s enormous contribution not only to the American diet, but also to the national economy. You know every state in the union has cattle in it of one kind of another, and every state has two senators. And so they have a great deal of political power. And so I got to see that in action, and eventually the report came out and stated recommendations and euphemisms. And almost immediately after I left government and went into the private sector again, the Department of Agriculture and Health and Human Services . . . Well actually the Department of Agriculture’s food pyramid came out, and there was an enormous scandal about that in 1991 because the cattlemen protested against the way that the pyramid was likely to go, and the Department of Agriculture withdrew it. And so it’s very difficult for federal agencies to give any kind of dietary advice that indicates that people should eat less of anything, because eating less is very bad for business
The government can't recommend you eat less of anything, Nestle says.
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