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Commodity promotion programs -- What's the beef?

Boston -- Checkoff programs; even if you don't know what they are, you've probably felt their impact in recent years. Does "Got Milk?" sound familiar? How about "Pork. The other white meat?" These advertising campaigns are the result of government-sanctioned promotion programs, known as checkoff programs. The campaigns aim to increase consumption of commodities such as dairy, beef, and pork. But, according to an opinion piece authored by Parke Wilde, PhD, a food economist at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University, the messages sent out by these advertising campaigns are inconsistent with the federal government's Dietary Guidelines for Americans.

"The [checkoff] programs are established by Congress, approved by a majority of the commodity's producers, managed jointly by a producer board and the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and funded through a tax on the producers," Wilde writes. "The largest food commodity checkoff programs are for meat and dairy products," he continues.

The 2005 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, published jointly by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recommend that most people consume more whole grains, fruits, vegetables, fish, and low-fat dairy products and, overall, moderately reduce the total number of calories consumed. Checkoff programs, on the other hand, promote consumption of beef, pork, and dairy products. Particular checkoff programs, Wilde points out, have promoted such calorie-heavy foods as bacon cheeseburgers, barbecue pork ribs and butter.

"The most striking feature of the revised Dietary Guidelines for Americans, released in January 2005, is the publication's increased emphasis on obesity prevention," Wilde writes. "At the same time," he says, "federal support for promoting fruits and vegetables is small compared to federal support for pork and dairy."

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Contact: Siobhan Gallagher
617-636-6586
Tufts University
19-Dec-2006


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