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Campaign-Junk Food Greenwashing
Commercial Alert June 17, 2002
Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson is kicking off a new
"anti-obesity" program for youth today. Following is Commercial Alert's
news release in response.
For Immediate Release: Wednesday, July 17, 2002
For More Information Contact: Gary Ruskin (503) 235-8012 or Tom Adkins
"Obesity Lobby" Will Carry Out CDC's New Program, Commercial Alert
Health & Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson launched a so-called
"anti-obesity" program today for youth that will be implemented by the
very interests that are pushing fatty foods and couch potato habits at
the nation's kids.
The program involves a "partnership" between the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) and elements of the "obesity lobby,"
including corporations such as the Publicis Groupe advertising agencies,
AOL Time Warner, Viacom and Primedia.
The CDC selected the Publicis Groupe's Frankel as the "lead agency"
its anti-obesity advertising campaign. Frankel also advertises for
McDonalds. "This is like asking Jeffrey Skilling to head up the
President's new Corporate Fraud Task Force," said Gary Ruskin, executive
director of Commercial Alert.
AOL Time Warner, Viacom & Primedia all have TV stations that promote
junk food to children and teenagers, and encourage them to watch TV and
play video games instead of exercising. "If these companies were really
serious about doing something about childhood obesity they would stop
doing these things. They would not seek to corral the time of
children. They would not pitch junk food," Ruskin said.
On top of this, the CDC program is going to spend $2.8 million this
school year on advertising to children on Channel One. Channel One is
an ad vehicle disguised as a news show that pitches junk food and soda
pop to kids in the nation's classrooms. Channel One, which is owned by
Primedia, has been foundering in recent years. "This new partnership
will serve to prop up a prime propaganda vehicle for the obesity lobby,"
Commercial Alert sent letters today to three key Members of Congress,
requesting them to investigate requesting them to investigate this
In April, 2002, Henry Kravis of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts, which is the
majority owner of Primedia, gave $250,000 in soft money to the
Republican National Committee, according to the Center for Responsive
Politics. Jack Abramoff, a top Republican lobbyist and fundraiser, is
Channel One's Washington lobbyist.
"Could this be a political payoff to help out a major Republican soft
money donor and fundraiser?" the letters ask. "If Secretary Thompson
were serious about fighting obesity, he would encourage our nation's
schools to ban Channel One, instead of providing it with legitimacy and
The requests for investigation were sent to Senator Joe Lieberman,
Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs; Senator Edward
Kennedy, Chairman of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor &
Pensions; and Representative Henry Waxman, ranking member of the House
Committee on Government Reform.
Commercial Alert also sent a letter today to Secretary Thompson, asking
him whether he would ask media companies and advertising agencies, as a
condition of receipt of CDC funds, to refuse to produce or show ads for
high-added-fat, high-added-sugar foods such as soda pop, junk food and
Last week, President Bush said "There's no capitalism without
conscience; there is no wealth without character." "Media companies and
ad agencies ought to have the character to stop pushing junk food at our
nation's kids," Ruskin said. "And Secretary Thompson ought to have the
character to ask them to do so."
In May, Commercial Alert and a coalition of consumer and public health
organizations and advocates sent a letter to Secretary Tommy Thompson
asking him to support a World Health Organization initiative to curtail
the marketing of junk food, and prevent obesity, diabetes and
cardiovascular disease. He did not respond.
Commercial Alert's mission is to keep the commercial culture within its
proper sphere, and to prevent it from exploiting children and subverting
the higher values of family, community, environmental integrity and
democracy. For more information, see Commercial Alert's website at
Gary Ruskin | email@example.com
Commercial Alert | http://www.commercialalert.org/
Congressional Accountability Project |
phone: 503.235.8012 | fax: 503.235.5073