Over the weekend I read an enlightening, if disturbing, article in the New York Times about cheese. Everyone can agree that cheese tastes delicious, but with its high concentration of saturated fat and close to 100 calories per square inch (and really who stops at a square inch of cheese?), it’s a treat best consumed in moderation.
However, it turns out we eat about three times more cheese than we did in 1970—we also weigh an average of 30 pounds more than we did back then too. And while the United States Agriculture Department—a government agency—is fighting obesity with one hand, it turns out it’s using the other to shove cheese down our throats.
You see, through an organization called Dairy Management, the government is actually funding large-scale campaigns to get Americans to eat more cheese. Dairy Management is a marketing creation of the Agriculture Department that does things like pay $12 million to promote Domino’s Pizza’s new cheesier pie: with 40 percent more cheese, a slice of this stuff contains over two thirds of the daily recommendation for saturated fat.
So why is the government pushing Domino’s on us? Some explanations:
Urged on by government warnings about saturated fat, Americans have been moving toward low-fat milk for decades, leaving a surplus of whole milk and milk fat. Yet the government, through Dairy Management, is engaged in an effort to find ways to get dairy back into Americans’ diets, primarily through cheese.
Then there’s this:
In 2007, the department highlighted Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites pizza, Wendy’s “dual Double Melt sandwich concept,” and Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger and TenderCrisp chicken sandwich. “Both featured two slices of American cheese, a slice of pepper jack and a cheesy sauce,” the department said.
These efforts, the department reported, helped generate a “cheese sales growth of nearly 30 million pounds.”
So once again we are faced with an insurmountable irony, not dissimilar from the one we find in the beauty industry: The very people who are supposedly policing consumer health are also playing ad agency to the crappy food that’s making us sick. Conflict of interest much?
What’s more is that they also seem to be actively deceiving consumers—sounds familiar again—with false health claims. Dairy Management mounted a major campaign around the idea that cheese actually helps with weight loss, despite the fact that research they funded couldn’t even support such claims.
I highly suggest reading the whole article, but suffice to say this stuff seriously pisses me off. I’m not mad at cheese, but how do you think kids growing up on Domino’s new “Wisconsin” pizza—the super-cheesy slice that Dairy Management helped conceived and promote—are going to turn out? With obesity rates already through the roof, and the cost of treating it as daunting, it’s not hard to guess.
Well, probably not all on their own—generally weight is influenced by a variety of factors including diet, exercise, sleep and genetics. But a new study has linked the ever-controversial BPA (found in cans, among other things), along with certain phthalates commonly used in your beauty products, to obesity. From Environmental Health News:
Researchers identified two common environmental chemicals – bisphenol A and benzyl butyl phthalate – that can modulate the signals controlling the number of fat cells produced and the uptake and storage of fats in those cells.
Cute right? Especially since these hormone disruptors are already tied to a host of other terrible things. Canada is looking to ban BPA, and Europe has already eliminated the phthalates in question from their beauty products. So what gives America? Would you support a ban?
Super cool can image via National Geographic