Junk Food Tries the Tobacco Strategy

"The similarities between what is shaping up to be the food wars and the tobacco wars are obvious: The food industry is accused of being a major contributor to a public-health crisis in much the same way as the tobacco manufacturers have for decades now," observes PR Week. "What is not so obvious is what PR tactics and lessons the food industry will borrow from the tobacco companies this time around." Indeed, tobacco lobbyist Rick Berman's Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) is cited in the piece as "the industry's main lobbying group" which "seems to be in a 'give no ground' mode that is reminiscent of the early days of Big Tobacco's fight." CCF's Mike Burita opposes nutritional labeling of restaurant foods, claiming that it would somehow interfere with consumers' right to choose what they eat. Asking the industry to put warning labels on foods, Burita says, "is like asking car manufacturers to place warnings that driving 80 miles per hour is very dangerous." (Apparently Burita has never noticed that streets and highways do post speed limits.) Tom Lauria, the former tobacco industry flack who went on subsequently to work for Berman, is also quoted in the piece, advising that food companies should, in the words of PR Week, "take some cues from Big Tobacco, and maintain a united front as the attacks heat up."