An investigative report that appeared over the weekend in The New York Times reveals how the U.S. Department of Agriculture has been funding a marketing agency designed to get Americans to eat more cheese while simultaneously urging people to eat less saturated fat. Dairy Management has worked with restaurants including Domino’s Pizza to increase the amount of cheese in servings and has made dubious health claims such as that dairy consumption can help people lose weight.
“I read this article with absolute fascination,” says ACSH’s Dr. Elizabeth Whelan. “But I have mixed feelings about it. Cheese is a good food that provides essential nutrients. People who don’t drink milk can get calcium from cheese. However cheese is very caloric, especially when you pound it into pizza. It seems like the government was complicit in crafting a deceptive marketing campaign.”
“Despite the clear evidence that cheese consumption has skyrocketed over the past 30 years, many so-called nutrition experts continue to blame sugary sodas for obesity. In fact, neither of these simplistic targets is the sole, or even the major, cause of obesity,” asserts ACSH’s Dr. Gilbert Ross. “Further, it is disconcerting at best to read this portrayal of the USDA at war with itself, and the war’s victim is the American public.”
Dr. Ross did quibble with one element of the article: a bland description of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as a “physicians’ group.” In truth the group has few physicians, has close ties to PETA and its members are “rabid vegans,” Dr. Ross says. The group did blow the lid on Dairy Management’s deceptive weight-loss claims, however, by filing a petition with the Federal Trade Commission.