Nanny State Group Questions Michelle Kwan’s Dual Roles as Both Member of the President’s Council on Fitness and Coca-Cola Ambassador

Policy Group Calls Attack on Kwan’s Role “Absurd,” Says Food Police Groups Undermine Fight Against Obesity by Being Too Absolutist

Washington, D.C. – Today the National Center for Public Policy Research put out a call for food police groups to shift their focus away from radicalized attacks on the food industry, to instead being part of a broader discussion that should be taking place about how to address obesity, with a focus on helping consumers.

The latest foray from food police group Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) comes in the form of an attack on Olympic figure skating champion Michelle Kwan, who is a member of the President’s Council on Physical Fitness and who appears in ads for Coca-Cola.

A CSPI press release says “the dual roles for the five-time world champion skater cannot be reconciled, since Coca-Cola and the President’s Council communicate opposing messages when it comes to sugar drinks.”

“This absolutist view is not only absurd, it undermines public health by suggesting that people who enjoy an occasional sugary beverage cannot be active, athletic, and healthy,” says New York-based Jeff Stier, Senior Fellow of the National Center for Public Policy Research and director of its Risk Analysis Division.

“In fact, the President’s Council on Fitness does not recommend eliminating sugary drinks. Instead, it cites the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which states, ‘More than two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese, often as a result of unhealthy diets and a sedentary lifestyle. To improve our nation’s health, the Dietary Guidelines recommend reducing [emphasis added] a range of ingredients, foods, and beverages, including sugary soda.'”

Stier adds: “Michelle Kwan’s Coca-Cola endorsement does not suggest consumers drink too much soda. If anything, it conveys that people who do enjoy soda, can do so in moderation while also avoiding a sedentary lifestyle.”

“This latest campaign against food and beverage manufacturers further supports the conclusion that when it comes to addressing obesity, the most prominent public health activists are intent on turning the discussion about obesity into a war, rather than a solvable problem,” Stier continues. “Any notion that CSPI’s message is moderate, mainstream, or scientific was shattered when Michael Jacobson slipped and showed his underlying ideology in a piece for the Huffington Post where he derided the notion of a balanced diet by actually putting the word ‘balance’ in scare quotes.”

“Balance and moderation are central concepts not only to addressing obesity, but a healthier overall lifestyle. Public health groups who reject these messages should be rejected themselves,” Stier concludes.

Last year, CSPI fell flat on its face when it criticized a Coca-Cola TV commercial that recognized that sugary drinks should play a role in the broader discussion about obesity. Stier wrote about the issue here.

New York City-based Jeff Stier is a Senior Fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., and heads its Risk Analysis Division. Stier is a frequent guest on CNBC, and has addressed health policy on CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC, as well as network newscasts. Stier’s National Center op-eds have been published in top outlets, including the Los Angeles Times, the New York Post, Newsday, Forbes, the Washington Examiner and National Review Online. He also frequently discusses risk issues on Twitter at @JeffaStier.

Stier has testified at FDA scientific meetings, met with members of Congress and their staff about science policy, met with OMB/OIRA officials, and submitted testimony to state government legislative hearings. Most recently, he testified before the science committee of the New York City Council about e-cigarettes and submitted testimony to the Oklahoma and Rhode Island legislatures on the same matter.

Stier previously worked in both the office of the mayor and in the corporation counsel’s office during the Giuliani administration in New York City. His responsibilities included planning environmental agency programs, legal analysis of proposed legislation, and health policy. Mr. Stier also is chairman of the board of the Jewish International Connection, NY. While earning his law degree at the Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, he served two terms as editor-in-chief of the Cardozo Law Forum.

The National Center for Public Policy Research, founded in 1982, is a non-partisan, free-market, independent conservative think-tank. Ninety-four percent of its support comes from individuals, less than four percent from foundations, and less than two percent from corporations. It receives over 350,000 individual contributions a year from over 96,000 active recent contributors.

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The National Center for Public Policy Research is a communications and research foundation supportive of a strong national defense and dedicated to providing free market solutions to today’s public policy problems. We believe that the principles of a free market, individual liberty and personal responsibility provide the greatest hope for meeting the challenges facing America in the 21st century.