Video: Food industry fights back

NBC News correspondent
updated 7/6/2005 7:40:01 PM ET 2005-07-06T23:40:01

High-protein or low-carb? Non-fat or low-fat? The information on diets is confusing, even as the warnings about obesity grow louder.

"There is clearly an (obesity) epidemic," says Michael Jacobsen, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"If obesity is a disease, it is the only one that I am familiar with that you can cure by taking long walks and keeping your mouth shut," counters Rick Berman, of the food industry-funded Center for Consumer Freedom.

Berman is on a mission to fight what he says are scare tactics being used to take the fun out of eating.

"You've heard the term 'junk science?'" asks Berman. "These people use junk science ad nauseum."

With bigger portions and rich desserts available at just about every turn, there's little denying that Americans are getting heavier. But the question remains: Who's to blame?

Berman says it’s about time people take personal responsibility for their culinary choices.

"People know the difference between a banana and a banana split," he says. "And if you need a warning sign, everybody's got a warning in their house. It’s called a mirror."

The Center for Consumer Freedom's ad campaign pokes fun at just how out of hand things can get, with a person on a scale while waiting in line for food being told, "Oh, so close — salad line." Then, when a second person comes up and weighs in, sirens go off and that person is told, "No food for you! Come back when you're thinner."

Jacobsen says Berman twists statistics to distract from what almost everyone agrees on. "I think everybody knows intuitively that obesity isn't good for us. And that it increase rates of heart attacks, strokes, cancers, arthritis."

Dr. David Ludwig, who runs the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston, agrees. "What level of personal responsibility does Consumer Freedom want a 5-year-old to have in the face of endless advertising of fast food?" he asks.

"Kids are not driving themselves to McDonalds," says Berman. "It's not about kids and their choices. It's about parents and their choices."

It’s all become a loud debate over obesity, weighing heavily on a public which is increasingly weary about who decides what's for dinner.

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