New Conflicts Revealed in USDA Dairy Promotion
PCRM Calls for Impartial Investigation of Milk-Mustache Petition; FTC Refuses
WASHINGTON—Government officials selected for investigating charges of misleading advertising in the milk-mustache campaign are the same officials who administer the dairy promotion, reveals the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) in a letter recently sent to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
PCRM called for the investigation last July when it filed a petition with the FTC detailing the many false health claims made by the federally run "milk mustache"/"got milk?" campaign. Unfortunately, the FTC referred the case to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for investigation.
"It's a classic case of the fox guarding the henhouse," says PCRM attorney Mindy Kursban, referring to Ken Clayton, associate administrator of the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service, and Richard McKee, deputy administrator of Dairy Programs. "No wonder the FTC hasn't suspended these deceptive ads yet. Those in charge of investigating our charges are the very same people who work with the dairy industry to implement the milk-mustache campaign."
Given such an inherent conflict of interest, PCRM asked the FTC to pull responsibility for the investigation from the USDA and appoint an independent scientific panel. The FTC refused. Although the USDA says it has assigned a panel of experts to review PCRM's petition, it refuses to make those names public. "With its long history of pandering to the meat and dairy industries, the USDA is unlikely to come up with anything close to an impartial scientific review," says PCRM president Neal Barnard, M.D.
PCRM argues that many of the milk-mustache ads, including ones featuring Elton John, Marc Anthony, and Britney Spears, violate federal law by misleading the public with false health claims. Some of the ads, for example, make health claims for heart-clogging, high-fat products. Others claim that milk prevents osteoporosis, despite studies such as the Harvard Nurses' Health Study which showed just the contrary. What's more, all ads fail to disclose even one of the many health problems associated with dairy consumption. Studies link dairy consumption with higher rates of many diseases, including prostate cancer, heart disease, and diabetes.
The dairy industry spends approximately $180 million per year on its milk-mustache/got milk? campaign.
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.