Tuesday, February 12, 2008

The Obesity Society President Elect in Bed with Big Food?

The flying pig that flew by my window yesterday morning appeared to be crying.

Apparently Dr. David B. Allison, a professor of biostatistics at the University of Alabama and incoming president of the Obesity Society, testified on behalf of Big Food in the Big Food vs. New York City lawsuit on mandatory calorie labeling.

Somehow not only did he argue that there is no credible evidence that providing customers with calories on menus would affect choice or obesity, he went further to state that placing calories on menus,

"would be ineffective and possibly even deleterious"
Allison's testimony was reportedly paid testimony which according to the Centre for Science in the Public Interest's Integrity in Science Watch newsletter, would be par for the course for Dr. Allison. They provided a link to 3 paged, single spaced document highlighting all of Dr. Allison's conflicts of interests with monies paid to him by Big Food and Big Industry as a whole. For shock value, I'll add the list below this post.

That there's no research to confirm that posting calories on menus will help is not a shock since it has only been over the course of very recent history where this has been suggested let alone tried. That it could be "deleterious" to provide consumers with information about calories is to my mind at least, a jaw-droppingly bizarre statement, and when coming from the future president of the Obesity Society, a dangerous one. Let me ask you Dr. President-elect - if there's no evidence to suggest that posting calories on menus would affect choice or obesity how is there enough evidence for you to make the flying leap that their posting would be, "ineffective", and possibly even, "deleterious"?

Can any readers out there give me some examples of how being more informed before making a decision lead to a potential for harm? While posting calories on menus certainly isn't going to eliminate overweight and obesity in one fell swoop, if you're concerned about your weight and notice that your appetizer has more calories than your main, or that your main has more calories than 3 Big Macs, it may in fact influence your decisions, may in fact give you a grounded education on calories and may in fact help you with your weight. More importantly, if consumers are interested in Calories, that of course will put pressure on Big Food to at the very least have some lower calorie menu options which again, those interested in watching their calories may choose.

My friendly, governmentally sourced email tipster (who forwarded me the newsletter) also included their own thoughts as to Dr. Allison's testimony. They stated that from the CSPI document it appeared as if Dr. Allison likely,
"isn't anti-calories on menus, he's pro-expert witness fees in lawsuits"
A sad day indeed.

The following are the companies that Dr. Allison has signed in a document listing them as conflicts of interest due to received grants, monetary donations, donations of product, payments for consultation, contracts, honoraria or commitments:

Air Canada
Alabama Agricultural Land Grant Alliance (AALGA)
Allegheny University
American Bakers’ Association
American Dietetic Association
American Oil Chemists Society
American Psychological Association
American Society for Parentaral and Enteral Nutrition
Archer Daniels Midland
Bristol Myers Squibb/Mead Johnson
Campbell Soup Company
Catalyst Communications, Inc
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ciba Foundation
Consumers’ Union
Corning HTA/Covance
Current Drugs Ltd
Cytodyne Technologies, Inc.
Decision Resources
Elsevier Science Publisher
Eon Labs Manufacturing, Inc.
Ergo Science
Federal Bureau of Prisons
Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Federation of American Societies of Experimental Biology
Fertin Pharma A/S
Fisons Corporation
Fleishman Hillard, Inc
Food and Drug Administration
Gardiner-Caldwell Communications Ltd
General Mills
Genetics Institute
Genome Canada
Genome Explorations
Genome Therapeutics
Gerber Foundation
Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP
Grey Health Care Group
Health Learning Systems
Henry A. Murray Research Center at Radcliffe College
Hoffman La-Roche
IBC UK Conferences
Institute for the Future
International Association for the Study of Obesity
International Food Information Council
International Life Sciences Institute
InvaCare, Inc.
ISL Healthcare Group
J P Morgan
Jenny Craig
Johnson & Johnson
Knoll Pharmaceuticals
Kraft Foods
Lawrence Erlbaum Publishing
Lee, Smart, Cook, Martin, & Patterson, Attorneys at Law
Life Measurement Instruments
Ligand Pharmaceuticals
Lilly Research Labs
Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins Publishers
M&M Mars
Many Universities, hospitals, and not-for-profit research organizations (list available on request)
Marcell Dekker Publishing
Maynard, Cooper & Gale, P.C., Attorneys at Law
McGraw-Hill Publishing
McKenna & Cuneo, L.L.P., Attorneys at Law
Medical Economics (Thomson Healthcare)
Mediva Pharmaceuticals
Medlab, Inc.
Millennium Pharmaceuticals
National Alliance for Research on Schizophrenia and Affective Disorders
National Institutes of Health
National Science Foundation
New York State Department of Health
Noonan/Rosso Communications, Inc.
North American Association for the Study of Obesity
North Atlantic Treaty Organization
NutraSystems, Inc.
Nutratech, Inc.
NutriPharma (Scan Diet; Nutralet)
Original Marketing, Inc.
Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceuticals
Parenti, Falk, Waas, Hernandez & Cortina, Attorneys at Law
PAREXEL International Corporation
Paterson, MacDougall, a Toronto, Canada law firm
Pfizer Central Research
Porter Novelli
Proctor & Gamble
Queens University, Canada
Rand Corporation
Research Testing Laboratories
RW Johnson Pharmaceutical Research Institute
Servier Amerique
Slim America
SlimFast Foods Company
Spadoro & Hilson, Attorneys at Law
Sugar Association
SuperGen, Inc
Terrapin Technologies
The Cortland Group
United Soybean Board
United States Postal Service
V2, Inc.
Veteran’s Administration
VimRx Pharmaceuticals
W.B. Saunders Publishing Co.
Weight Control Digest
Weight Watchers International
Wellcome Trust
Wheat Foods Council
Wilentz, Goldman, & Spitzer, Attorneys at Law
Zeneca Pharmaceuticals

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  1. Radcliffe5:44 am

    I wonder if his status as pres-elect of OS is a strategic move to make his list longer/fatter.

    Radcliffe at Radcliffe's Weight Journal

  2. blueiris1:18 pm

    I'd love to learn your take on calcium supplementation. In reading John Robbins book 'The Food Revolution' I was astonished at his statement that there was no peer reviewed research behind the dairy industry assertion that more calcium will make your bones stronger. In fact he quotes a study co-authored by Tom Lloyd of Pennsylvania State University, published in the American Academy of Pediatrics in 2000, "calcium intake, which ranged from 500 to 1,500 mg/day... was not associated with Bone Mineral density at age 18 year or with total body bone mineral gain." Is there still no scientific link between increased calcium intake and reduced osteoporosis?

  3. Hi there blueiris,

    I've touched on dairy and weight loss many time before and specifically on osteoporosis in one of my posts from the Food Guide series.

    If you'd like to read it, simply click here.

    Short version, Big Milk are great marketers.

  4. Anonymous2:22 pm

    You are right - I think people would be shocked to discover the calorie contents of appetizers and entrees in sit-down restaurants. We are constantly warned against the dangers of "fast food" but what about a night out at the Keg or Milestones? Why doesn't anyone warn us about that? In all honesty, fast food looks pretty healthy compared to some dine-in restaurants.

    Would be people expect French Onion soup from the Keg to contain more calories than a Big Mac? Well, at 773 Caloires, it does (as per the Keg's website). And that is an appetizer for most people.

    A meal from the Keg consisting of French Onion Soup, an 8oz Sirloin Steak and Baked Potato with Butter Spread contains almost 1900 calories. That meal is MORE THAN THREE Big Macs (like you said) and more calories than a lot of people need in an entire day. Throw in a caesar salad on the side and you are up to 2300 calories in one meal.

    I think this would be shocking to most people. That is why this information is needed on menus.

  5. If you're curious about the Keg and Milestone's calories, click here to watch the CBC Marketplace piece I helped out with regarding this very topic - calories on menus where Milestones and the Keg were among the restaurants studied.

  6. Beauzeaux7:12 pm

    Maybe we need an Anti-Obesity Society instead of what seems to be shaping up as a Pro-Obesity Society.

    I looked at the Marketplace piece about the chain restaurants. The guy from the restaurant society was a pre-programmed zombie and came off very badly. What a disappointment these officials turn out to be. I'm a recent immigrant to Canada and I love it here but these business associations appear to be the usual thieves and scoundrels.

  7. Obviously he was chosen to lead Canada further into Obesity. Rah, rah! And obviously, too, he'll take money from anyone.

    Again, how did he obtain this new position?

  8. Recently i visited a grocery store in a Philadelphia, PA suburb- Wegmans. It's cafeteria features signs over the salad bar and prepared foods case that indicates the proper portion size and calories for each item. This was suprising and pleasing, and as far as I know they did it willingly. Hopefully more stores will pick up on this.