Food and Nutrition

U.S. Government Helps Fast Food Companies Sell Junk Food

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is supposed to recommend healthy foods to the American public, which it does, but the USDA is also actively involved in the Dairy Checkoff.

The Dairy Checkoff is a "product promotion fund" created by Dairy Management, which funds "programs aimed at promoting dairy consumption and protecting the good image of dairy farmers, dairy products and the dairy industry."

The New York Times reported in 2010 that Dairy Management "is a marketing creation of the United States Department of Agriculture — the same agency at the center of a federal anti-obesity drive that discourages over-consumption of some of the very foods Dairy Management is vigorously promoting."

According to a new report by public health lawyer Michele Simon on EatDrinkPolitics.com:

The federal government mandates the collection of industry fees for “checkoff programs” to promote milk and dairy. Far from being just a privately-funded program, U.S. Department of Agriculture employees attend checkoff meetings, monitor activities, and are responsible for evaluation of the programs. The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld the legality of the checkoff programs as “government speech”, finding: “the message … is controlled by the Federal Government.”

Simon notes that McDonald’s, Taco Bell, Pizza Hut, Starbucks and Dominos have all benefited from the Dairy Checkoff program, which has been involved in developing and marketing those corporations' products.

According to Simon, the federal government has also assisted in promoting chocolate milk to children in public schools with campaigns such as: “Chocolate Milk Has Muscle” and “Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk."

Mother Jones recently asked USDA spokesman Cullen Schwarz how the USDA can recommend limiting fast food, but also promote fast food restaurants and their products.

"Check-off programs are not USDA initiatives, they are completely initiated, funded, and implemented by agricultural producers so they can join together to advertise their products," Schwarz said in a statement. "USDA only has the power to ensure these industry efforts are conducted in accordance with the law, and any changes in USDA's authority over these programs would have to come from Congress."

But Schwarz failed to mention the active part that the USDA plays in promoting and developing fast food, and how the funding by "agricultural producers" is mandated by the federal government.

Schwarz also did not mention that the USDA tallies the Dairy Management's success (in its reports to Congress) by the millions of pounds of dairy products sold.

Sources: Mother Jones, Dairy Management, The New York Times, EatDrinkPolitics.com

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