Physicians' Group Responds to Smear Tactics by American Meat Institute and Tobacco/Meat Industry Front Group
Criticisms Are False and Anti-Public Health
Washington—The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) responds to news releases published recently by the “Center for Consumer Freedom” (CCF), a group funded by the tobacco, meat, and junk food industries, and the American Meat Institute (AMI), a meat-industry organization that promotes consumption of processed meats and other unhealthful products.
Both organizations, which are funded by the meat industry, aim to confuse consumers about the genuine health risks posed by processed meats. Those risks are supported by extensive scientific research, including a recent landmark report from two prestigious cancer organizations—the American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) and the World Cancer Research Fund. The AICR report concluded that when it comes to colon cancer, there is absolutely no amount of processed meat that's safe to eat. In fact, according to researchers, just one 50-gram serving of bacon, sausage, deli meats, or other processed meat daily increases our risk of colorectal cancer, on average, by 21 percent.
Other cancer organizations, including the American Cancer Society and the National Cancer Institute, have also flagged processed meats as a cancer risk and recommend that consumers avoid processed meats or reduce their consumption of these products.
According to exposés in major media outlets, CCF was founded by tobacco lobbyist Rick Berman with more than $3 million from Philip Morris and continues to receive funding from industries that market unhealthful products. Through CCF and other front groups, Berman has fought against stricter limits on legal blood-alcohol levels, improvements in minimum wage, health information for consumers, and other progressive efforts that his commercial clients view as contrary to their interests.
Over the past few years, CCF has escalated its attacks against organizations that warn the public about the health risks associated with alcohol, meat, and other junk food products. Berman has admitted publicly that his MO is to “shoot the messenger” by trying to disparage the credibility of his opponents. His employees do not attempt reasoned discussion of the scientific issues about health. The long list of public health advocates in CCF’s line of fire includes former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani for speaking out against drunk driving, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for tackling food safety, the World Health Organization for addressing obesity, and Mothers Against Drunk Driving.
As to CCF’s and AMI’s false statements about PCRM, here’s the truth. Founded more than 20 years ago, PCRM is a nonprofit 501(c)(3) organization working to promote good nutrition and higher standards in both human and animal research. PCRM conducts clinical nutrition research and helps educate the public about preventive medicine, especially the multitude of health benefits possible with low-fat and vegetarian diets. PCRM also opposes unethical research. PCRM exposed experiments in which short, healthy children were to be injected with a genetically engineered growth hormone in an attempt to make them taller. PCRM also exposed the practice of using massive estrogen doses to suppress height in tall adolescent girls. In addition, PCRM vigorously promotes alternatives to the use of animals in medical education and research through a variety of innovative programs.
PCRM’s physicians, dietitians, and scientists are leaders in their fields. They publish their work in peer-reviewed academic journals, present their findings before scientific conferences, and serve as consultants on government panels. PCRM’s president Neal Barnard, M.D. (www.NealBarnard.org), for example, is a respected nutrition researcher whose research has been funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in major peer-reviewed journals. PCRM experts are also popular with lay audiences. PCRM doctors and nutritionists are frequent guests in the national and international media and popular writers in the lay press.
These industry organizations sometimes mistakenly charge that the American Medical Association (AMA) disagrees with PCRM’s nutrition policies or with vegetarian diets. This is patently untrue. PCRM did have disagreements with the AMA in the early 1990s (PCRM favored vegetarian diets, while the AMA was initially skeptical), but in February 2004, the AMA released a statement saying that its previous criticisms of PCRM’s stance on vegetarianism do not represent current AMA opinion or policy (www.pcrm.org/news/statement040218.html). There is no longer any acrimony between the groups. Many PCRM members are also AMA members. PCRM president, Neal D. Barnard, M.D., is an AMA Lifetime Member.
CCF and other meat-industry organizations also allege that PCRM acts as a “front” for other groups. This is another unfounded and defamatory claim. While CCF is indeed an industry front, PCRM is an independent, nonprofit organization, and has been since its founding in 1985. PCRM works with a wide range of organizations promoting human health, scientific research, medical education, and protection of animals in laboratories, as well as consumer groups, hospitals, universities, corporations, and other health charities. For more information about PCRM or an interview with one of our senior staff, please call PCRM’s Communications Department at 202-686-2210, ext. 316.
Exposés and other background information about the Center for Consumer Freedom:
Background information about processed meats and cancer risk:
- The National Cancer Institute: “Red meat and processed meat are associated with an increased risk of colorectal cancer, and there is also suggested evidence for some other cancers, such as prostate cancer.”
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.