PCRM Petitions White House to End Junk-Food Photo Ops
PCRM is asking President Barack Obama to end a long-standing White House practice of junk-food photo ops. At issue are processed meats—hot dogs, sausage, etc. These products—which have been conclusively shown to cause colorectal cancer—are routinely front and center at events staged for White House reporters. And despite the first lady’s exhortations to Americans to improve their diets, the White House features plenty of greasy burgers in staged events.
Since taking office, President Obama has taken a motorcade with Vice President Joe Biden to Ray’s Hell Burger in Arlington, Va., and made another burger run with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev. Later, the president posed with British Prime Minister David Cameron serving sausages to military personnel, after which the two world leaders posed for the cameras eating hot dogs at a basketball game. The president followed up by giving the prime minister a grill. The president gave the Five Guys Burger and Fries chain a publicity boost when he stopped at one of its Washington outlets in 2009 with NBC news anchor Brian Williams.
Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, and Ronald Reagan have all posed for reporters with similarly unhealthy foods.
The PCRM petition filed in May asks the White House to issue an executive order banning staged photo opportunities that show the president, the first family, the vice president, and members of the president’s cabinet promoting foods that can cause cancer and obesity.
“The White House would never set up a photo op showing the president buying cigarettes. So when obesity and cancer are epidemics, why show him with sausages and hot dogs?” says PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “Processed meats kill more Americans than tobacco and cost taxpayers billions of dollars in health care.”
The petition does not argue with food choices political leaders make in their personal lives. But it notes that official photo ops get more publicity than movie product placement could ever hope to, dwarfing health messages like the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Dietary Guidelines for Americans. Widely publicized photographs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt eating a hot dog are credited with popularizing what had been a less-than-respected food. Today, Americans consume 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year.