The Politicalization of Diets

In “Death by Food Pyramid“, Dr. Eades provides an excerpt from Death by Food Pyramid, written by Denise Minger, that explains how the US government politicized what we eat.

For instance, I always wondered why Senator George McGovern, who represented the cattle-raising state of South Dakota, would come out so forcefully for what amounted to a vegetarian diet. Why would he rebuff his own constituents when he had the opportunity to bow out gracefully after his crushing defeat at the hands of Richard Nixon in 1972? Why instead did he choose to redouble his efforts to fundamentally alter the American diet?

Denise Minger tells us.

McGovern’s Folly

It all started in 1968, when McGovern was deeply moved by a television documentary on starvation in America. As a member of the Committee on Agriculture, the very next day he

marched into the Senate with a mission. He would leverage his political clout for the welfare of the nation, launching a committee dedicated to abolishing America’s hidden hunger. He had no trouble gathering the support he needed. The documentary’s shocking–and, for the country’s price, disgraceful–exposure of hunger in our land had been enough to galvanize both the public and Congress into action.

A few months later, McGovern was named chair of the soon-to-be Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs…

From his perch on this committee, McGovern worked tirelessly to eradicate hunger in the United States. [1] As he was beginning to experience success, he decided to run for President. As we all know, he went down to crushing defeat in 1972. After a few months of licking his wounds, he resurfaced and resumed his mission to stamp out hunger.

Along the way, McGovern ran into ultra-low-fat guru, Nathan Pritikin, who became his new dietary inspiration. Under Pritikin’s influence, McGovern became convinced that the ultra-low-fat diet was the key to the health of the nation. Almost overnight he veered from saving Americans from starvation to saving Americans from heart disease, diabetes, and obesity through he agency of the low-fat diet. The ultra, ultra low-fat diet.

McGovern commandeered his Senate Select Committee on Nutrition and Human Needs to

re-engineer the American diet — no longer to curb hunger, as their original mission might indicate, but to combat the killer diseases terrorizing the nation. And their weapon of choice was a seventy-two page report now synonymous with the low-fat movement: Dietary Goals for the United States.

The Dietary Goals would become the first major effort to heal Americans by telling them to eat less instead of more.

All did not go smoothly during the creation of this document. Experts were questioned and hearings were held. Many scientists did not quietly fall into line. Some realized this change in government policy would end up making millions of Americans unwitting subjects in a giant experiment, the hypothesis of which was that the low-fat diet would better the health of the citizenry, and the skeptical scientists begged for a delay in the publication, so that more research could be done. You can see McGovern’s arrogant and overbearing response at 0.31 mins in this film showing one of the hearings.

All this would be just so much government meddling and wasting of money except for the fact that under McGovern’s direction, the Dietary Goals for the United States ultimately morphed in 1980 into the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are updated every five years. As concocted, these guidelines were based on very little science, but they were written so that significant amounts of hard science would have to be mustered to change them. Consequently, the most recent Dietary Goals for the United States published in 2010 aren’t that much different from the ones published in 1980.

Many might ask, Who cares what these documents say? No one pays attention to them. I’m not going to eat what the government recommends, if I don’t like it. I’m going to eat whatever I want to eat, whenever I want to eat it. So what’s the big deal? Bill O’Reilly asked me that very question when I was a guest on his show back in 2001, right after the 2000 Dietary Guidelines for Americans has been published. You can see his question and my answer at about 3:15 in this video of my appearance on The Factor.

The long and the short of it is that the US Government is required by law to adhere to these guideline for all the people it provides food for. And the US Government is the largest food provider on the planet, feeding 53 million people daily (that was in 2000 when I last looked it up — God only knows how many it’s feeding now). How does Uncle Sam feed so many people? School lunches, the military, commodities programs, prisons, etc.

So the Dietary Guidelines for Americans serve as the basis for the Federal food and nutrition education programs. It is not some obscure document the government spends a ton of taxpayer dollars on then hides it away. It is the law of the land.

[1] Here we see the absurdity of the interventionist mindset. Let us grant that there was “hunger” in the US in 1968, what would be the obvious first step to investigate such a problem? Clearly, it would be to determine if there exist any government policies that increase the price of food. Of course, McGovern being from a state that has looted non-farmers of untold billions over the years in various farm welfare schemes, didn’t ask the obvious.

If any member of the US government claims a poverty problem in the US, they have a moral obligation to fight to eliminate all farm welfare schemes. Why has this not been done? The obvious answer is that farm welfare and food welfare create two constituencies that will get out the vote on election day. So instead of fixing a perceived problem by eliminating an immoral government program, the interventionist creates a new program to steal more money from the hapless taxpayers.

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