WASHINGTON - Texas doctors with the nonprofit Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed a legal complaint on March 13 to stop the Texas Beef Council from publishing false and misleading health claims about beef products.
Despite clear scientific evidence linking red meat to an increased risk for heart disease, the Texas Beef Council publishes brochures claiming that beef is a safe choice for patients with high cholesterol and other cardiac conditions. The Council then distributes the brochures to Texas physicians and their patients.
The doctors’ complaint alleges that the brochures violate the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act, which forbids false, misleading, and deceptive business practices, including promoting products with false benefits they do not actually have.
“Using inaccurate medical advice to sell beef to heart disease patients, at the very moment they’re in their doctors’ offices to heal, is a new low,” says Physicians Committee dietitian Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. “The Texas Beef Council’s misleading health claims are dangerous and can undermine these patients’ ability to get healthy.”
Studies show that beef and other red meats, which are packed with fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, and calories, can increase the risk for heart disease.
In its brochures, the Texas Beef Council mischaracterizes studies, focusing significantly on one industry-funded study suggesting that beef-containing diets lower cholesterol just as much as the DASH diet—a diet designed not for cholesterol control, but for blood pressure control. The brochures fail to disclose that the study’s beef-containing diets did not lower cholesterol significantly and that other diets, such as the plant-based Ornish diet, can successfully lower LDL cholesterol over a one-year period by 37 percent.
“As a cardiologist who has worked with patients to undo years of damage caused by harmful foods like beef, I am dismayed to see an industry group—whose sole purpose is to increase beef sales—pushing these faulty claims,” says John Pippin, M.D., F.A.C.C. “I’ve seen patients routinely control their heart disease by focusing on foods like fruits, vegetables, grains, and beans. But I’ve also seen bad outcomes for patients who continue to eat beef."
Plant-based diets free of beef and other animal products have been shown to lower cholesterol, reduce blood pressure, lower triglycerides, control body weight, and reduce the risk for heart disease overall.
The Texas Beef Council is an industry association funded by mandatory fees paid by Texas beef producers. The group “targets Texas consumers with information, promotion and research activities designed to market U.S. beef products.”
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 and medical training.