Monday, November 8, 2010

USDA wants you to eat more fast-food cheese

So, cheese is delicious! But a USDA partnership with fast-food restaurants to develop and market crappy, cheese-crammed, heart-attack inducing foods? Something stinks and it ain't Limburger.

The New York Times published an investigation this weekend of the USDA's own Dairy Management, which pushes Americans to buy more cheese (in return for dairy industry lobbying funds) even as the department preaches healthy eating and funds anti-obesity initiatives. We eat more than three times the amount of cheese now than in the 1970s. Here it is, in case you missed it.

The USDA is behind such gems including Pizza Hut's Cheesy Bites pizza, Wendy's Double Melt, Burger King's Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger and an extra cheesy Domino's pizza. All are packed with calories and saturated fat.

Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics, wrote on her blog today that we shouldn't be so shocked, as after all, the USDA has always worked hand in hand with the dairy industry -- that was its purpose. "Only in the 1970s, did the USDA pick up all those pesky food assistance programs and capture the 'lead federal agency' role in providing dietary advice to the public."

The USDA's double-dealing is hardly shocking, of course, given the flood of industry lobbying dollars within every federal nook. But the implications at the intersection of poverty, health, food access, nutrition and race (fast-food restaurants target low-income areas and those in low-income struggle most with obesity and access to affordable, healthy foods) makes this feel somewhat indicative of what food activists are up against.