This was first published in Scientific American Food Matters on February 26, 2015


I’m not really sure when I first started hating freedom. Ever since I can remember, I’ve loved controlling people, interfering with their lives, and keeping them from having any fun.

That’s why I went into public health.

For years, people like Michelle Malkinand Richard Berman have been warning you about the meddlesome food police—determined to take away your cookies and shove broccoli down your throats. Today, after reading some of thepublic comments objecting to the recently proposed 2015 USDA Dietary Guidelines, I figured it’s time we come clean:

It’s all true.

Anonymous Commenter #1358 wrote: “The concept of sitting around deciding how Americans should eat is repulsive… The nanny state is planning our dinners for us… You are all idiots and you deserve to lose your jobs over this fascist behavior.”  Commenter #1358 is right on, but the USDA Dietary Guidelines are only the tip of the fascism iceberg.

Below are a few other things the public would probably want to know about us.

1. We have secretly co-opted nearly the entire scientific community.

The scientific evidence is overwhelming. Almost every reputable, peer reviewed study examining diet-related health issues supports a general consensus that the Western diet, characterized by overconsumption of nutritionally deficient, energy dense foods, is responsible for a suite of preventable illnesses, like heart disease, type II diabetes and cancer. In its review of the literature, the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee “found remarkable consistency in the findings and implications . . . for the questions examining dietary patterns and various health outcomes.”

The  World Health OrganizationThe Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, theInstitute of Medicine, the American Public Health Association, the American Medical Association, the US Department of AgricultureThe Lancet, and many, many other organizations confirm this consensus, and recommend dramatic, multi-level, multi-sectorial interventions in order to prevent the rise of chronic disease, inflating health-costs, increased suffering of billions of people worldwide, and economies burdened beyond their capacity.

Source: Wikimedia Creative Commons

Of course, this is all made-up. All of this so-called science is actually a massive plot designed to interfere with the profits of the food industry, and infringe upon the average citizen’s personal freedom.

Pulling this off took a lot of time and work, so I hope no journalist ever finds any record of the vast number of emails, phone calls, billions of dollars in bribes and incentives, and back-room meetings that were necessary to orchestrate a conspiracy of this scale. I think we’ll be okay though. We’ve been pretty good at covering our tracks, and have learned a lot fromthe folks who made up climate change.

There are, of course, exceptions. Some researchers, to our chagrin, have had the integrity to stand up to Big Science. Folks like Carol O’Neil, PhD, who’s funding from the freedom fighters at the American Confectioners Association, allowed her to perform some real science. She found that “candy consumption does not adversely affect the health of children. Richard Forshee, PhD, was able to conclude that “the association between sugary beverage consumption and BMI was near zero, based on the current [2008] body of scientific evidence.” This was thanks to the generosity of the public servants at the American Beverage Association.

The food industry cares so much about the wellbeing of Americans that it has sought out those few researchers not caught up in our web, and offered them the resources they need to do the real work of the people. We find this somewhat troubling, but as you can see, we’ve managed to get the bulk of science behind our cause.

2. It’s not about the money, we just hate freedom.

How else could you explain why we do the things we do? It’s certainly not about the money. Public health is not exactly the most lucrative field. If you were to follow the money in most of the controversies surrounding diet-related public health interventions, you’d find that the economic advantage clearly lies with food industry interests. And as we’ve established, the food industry is very concerned with the public’s welfare, so you’ve got that going for you.

Coincidentally, the causes of freedom and self-determination happen to align nicely with the industry’s bottom line. No doubt, freedom is so important to the industry that even if the cause threatened its profits, it would still do the right thing and expend the necessary resources to support basic human rights. Just ask Cargill, orHershey.

No, it’s not about the money. Sure, many of us support taxing zero-nutrition products like sugary beverages. But this isn’t because of the evidence that demonstrates that economic disincentives can reduce unhealthy behavior. Nor is it because taxes can raise revenue for cash-strapped health programming that otherwise would have no chance to compete with industry marketing dollars. We like taxes simply because we know they infuriate so many people.

3. Our goal is to replace food with chalky, green nutrient wafers made from ground-up humans.

I’m not sure how sustainable this is from a conservation of energy perspective, but it will always be the dream:

If the wafers don’t catch on we’re willing to settle for more of a colorless, foamy sludge that tastes like liquefied cardboard. Either way, you get the idea.

If you ask others in public health about any of this they’ll deny it. They’ll likely say something about how the scientific community, applying the same method of inquiry that led to the development of cancer drugs, nuclear power, space flight, and the creation of silly putty, began to look into the myriad sources of various chronic diseases. As evidence mounted that Americans’ diets were contributing to morbidity and mortality, these public health researchers, advocates, and policy makers responded by recommending changes in what and how we eat.

They’ll claim that the food industry, happy with what and how we eat, and the money it brings in, pours billions of dollars into lobbyingpublic relations,  and marketing, as well as its own so-called experts, who obfuscate the science in an effort to maintain the status quo.

There will be some line about how most public health professionals are very aware of the ethical concerns about paternalism and the tension between the public good and personal freedom, and that this is carefully considered and wrestled with when developing public health policies.

The person who tells you this will profess that he or she had some personal connection to some health problem—maybe a family member with type II diabetes, or a personal struggle with weight. This experience supposedly led this person to eschew a more profitable field like finance, marketing, or fossil fuel extraction, and instead dedicate his or her life to systematically studying and eliminating the preventable diseases that effect about half of all adults, or 117 million people, in the U.S.

None of this is true. Would you really believe that this person went into public health to help people? That he or she can objectively and competently examine the available evidence to conclude that a serious change is needed in the way Americans eat?  This person, just like me and all the other food police out there, went into public health to meddle in people’s private lives. Just because that’s what we like to do.

I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, maybe it’s the kale juice talking. I’ll have to leave it here—I need to run to the co-op to get some more incense for my Chairman Mao shrine.

1 Comment

  1. Mara
    June 4, 2015

    Brilliant. Humorous. Right on.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.