In 1954 cigarette manufacturers ran an historic "advertorial" in over 400 U.S. newspapers called the "Frank Statement to Cigarette Smokers" in which they stated their overriding concern for public health and promised to "cooperate closely" with authorities over concerns that cigarettes caused cancer. Instead, cigarette companies followed the ad with decades of deceitful actions that cost millions of lives. Today, the food industry appears to be following the tobacco industry's playbook on how to respond to concerns that its products cause harm. The strategy's main features include cultivating fears that government action infringes on personal freedom; focusing on personal responsibility as the sole cause of unhealthy diets; characterizing studies that hurt the industry as "junk science"; promoting the idea that there are no good or bad foods (thus no particular foods should be targeted for change); vilifying critics by portraying them as "food police" and leaders of the "nanny state"; forming front groups to advocate industry positions; engaging in self-styled "corporate social responsibility" programs and promoting self regulation as the best answer to the public's concerns. Will the food industry choose to take real actions that promote public health, or will it "supersize" past tobacco industry strategies?
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