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The Physicians Committee

NEWS RELEASE June 16, 2003

Health Advocates Condemn Proposed Bill to Shield Junk Food Industry

Neal Barnard, M.D., to Submit Testimony on the Addictive Power of Unhealthy Foods

WASHINGTON—A proposed bill to absolve the restaurant, junk food, and fast-food industries of any responsibility for America’s obesity crisis threatens consumer rights, says the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. The nonprofit is submitting testimony this week against H.R. 339, the “Personal Responsibility in Food Consumption Act.” Introduced by Rep. Keller (R-FL), the bill seeks to protect the food industry from lawsuits holding it liable for the negative health effects of their products. A hearing will be held on Thursday, June 19, on Capitol Hill.

“What if the tobacco industry had conned Congress into passing legislation protecting it from legal action?” asks nutrition researcher and PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D. “We shouldn’t grant Big Food the kind of immunity we wouldn’t give Big Tobacco. We’ve long known that meat, cheese, and other unhealthy foods dramatically increase the risk of heart disease, cancer, and diabetes and are just as detrimental to public health as tobacco. But we’re just now discovering how the food industry exploits our addictions for these foods. This bill will literally rob consumers of their ability to seek legal recourse.”

Ever since last summer when a lawsuit was filed against McDonald’s on behalf of a New Yorker suffering from diet-related illnesses, the food industry has tried to defend itself by claiming that food—unlike tobacco—is not addictive. However, a growing body of literature—including a new book by Dr. Barnard—argues that food is addictive. In Breaking the Food Seduction, Dr. Barnard reviews little-known scientific studies showing that cheese—along with meat, chocolate and sugar—are similar to drugs in that they cause the release of opiate-like compounds that stimulate the brain’s pleasure center.

The food industry has a history of using legislation and lobbying to squelch criticism of its products. In the 1990s, for example, the food industry convinced 13 states to pass the infamous veggie-libel or “food-disparagement” laws, which prohibit citizens from speaking out about the problems of unsafe foods. PCRM believes H.R. 339 is just as dangerous to consumer protection.

Founded in 1985, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine is a nonprofit health organization that promotes preventive medicine, conducts clinical research, and encourages higher standards for ethics and effectiveness in research.

Media Contact:
Jeanne S. McVey

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