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NEWS RELEASE June 18, 2004

PCRM Petitions USDA to End Oreo Cookie, Junk Food Promotions

Demands Feds ‘Get Serious’ about Fighting Obesity Epidemic; PCRM Ad: “Uncle Sam Wants You…Fat” to Appear in June 20 “Outlook” Section of Washington Po

WASHINGTON—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) today petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture to stop promoting Oreos and other junk foods through its controversial agricultural “check-off programs,” urging it to “get serious about fighting the obesity epidemic” in the United States.

Through the dairy check-off, the USDA is currently partnering with Nabisco to push kids to eat more Oreos and Chips Ahoy cookies and to drink more milk. The recently completed “Dunk and Win” cookie contest, which awarded $1 million to the holder of a “special Oreo cookie” that, when dunked, turned milk blue, was touted by the dairy industry as “the most successful retail milk promotion ever conducted under the check-off program.” By airing commercials on kid-friendly networks such as Nickelodeon and the Cartoon Network, the USDA aims to induce kids to push their parents to buy even more milk and cookies.

Because of the success of the “Dunk” contest, the USDA, the dairy industry, and Nabisco launched a new promotion in June: Spell M-I-L-K with specially marked Oreo cookies and win $100,000. A third milk-and-cookies sweepstakes—this one aimed at school children—is set to kick off in August.

More than two-thirds of American adults and one in five children are overweight or obese. Milk is the number-one source of total and saturated fat in the diets of American children.

“Pushing children to eat even more high-fat and high-calorie junk foods will only fuel the obesity epidemic,” says PCRM President Neal Barnard, M.D.

“We keep hearing that the federal government has declared war on obesity. Apparently, someone forgot to tell the USDA,” Barnard added.

As part of its campaign to get the USDA to start worrying more about America’s waistline and less about the meat and dairy’s industries’ bottom lines, PCRM is running an advertisement in the June 20 “Outlook” section of the Washington Post. The ad features Uncle Sam holding a plate of cookies. The headline reads: Uncle Sam Wants You…Fat!

The livestock and dairy check-offs, which were created by Congress at the behest of industry and are administered by the USDA to boost the consumption of milk and meat and reduce surpluses, are two of the most active USDA marketing programs.

In addition to partnering with Nabisco, the USDA has also partnered with McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, and many others. Through check-offs, the USDA has promoted Subway’s BBQ Rib Patty Sub (840 calories/38 grams of fat), Dunkin’ Donuts’ Steak, Egg, and Cheese Sandwich (640/26), and Taco Bell’s Steak Quesadilla (540/31). The McRib and Cheddar Lovers’ Bacon Cheeseburger tip the scales at 490 calories with 25 grams of fat and 690 calories and 40 fat grams, respectively.

Copies of the USDA petition letter were sent to Dr. Richard H. Carmona, U.S. Surgeon General; Dr. William Dietz, Director of the Division of Nutrition and Physical Activity, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention; Tommy Thompson, Secretary of Health and Human Services, Tommy Thompson and President Bush.

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

Uncle Sam Wants You...FAT!!

Download the “Uncle Sam
Wants You…Fat” ad (PDF)

Read the Petition Urging
the Department of
Agriculture to Stop
Promoting Junk Food (PDF)

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