WASHINGTON—The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced on Oct. 11 that it would purchase $20 million of cheddar cheese and distribute it to food assistance programs, a decision denounced by the Physicians Committee—a nonprofit of 12,000 doctors—which recently asked the White House to block the USDA’s plan to buy 11 million pounds of cheese.
“The current administration has vowed to tackle childhood obesity and to fight for a healthier America. But dumping 11 million pounds of cheese on children and economically disadvantaged people will aggravate the problems they are already struggling with,” said Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee, and author of the forthcoming The Cheese Trap. “Food assistance programs need healthful foods—fruits, vegetables, beans, and whole grains.”
In September, Agustina Saenz, M.D., M.P.H., director of nutrition education and policy for the Physicians Committee, told Morning Consult: “The U.S. government is actually promoting the consumption of foods that the Dietary Guidelines recommend cutting back on, like cheese, which is a leading source of saturated fat in the American diet. The Guidelines say that ‘strategies to increase vegetable intake include choosing more vegetables — from all subgroups — in place of foods high in calories, saturated fats, or sodium such as some meats, poultry, cheeses, and snack foods.’”
Typical cheeses are 70 percent fat and are among the foods highest in cholesterol and sodium, which all exacerbate obesity, heart disease, and diabetes.
“Our country has a big cheese problem: Last year most Americans ate more than 30 pounds of cheese,” says Dr. Barnard. “Now the government is foisting even more of the fatty stuff on citizens who often have the most trouble accessing healthful foods.”
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.