War of Press Releases Between CCF and PCRM

The Center for Consumer Freedom has been going after the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine lately as the animal rights group continues to try to reposition itself away from issues of medical research and instead concentrates on dietary and nutrition issues.

Neal Barnard is trying to insert himself into the ongoing national debate over whether obesity should be treated as a public health problem. Barnard has written a book claiming that certain foods are “addictive” and apparently is giving depositions as an expert in nutrition as part of ongoing lawsuits against fast food companies.

On June 4, the following CCF press release was posted to PNNOnline, a web site devoted to news about nonprofits,

‘Food Addiction Experts’ Censured by American Medical Association

Misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine

An animal-rights front group claiming to be a medical charity is promoting a dubious new book suggesting that certain foods are “physically addictive.” Before policymakers and judges give a second thought to the recommendations of author Neal Barnard and his misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), they should know more about them, says the Center for Consumer Freedom.

PCRM has received over $1.3 million in funding from extremist animal rights organizations, including People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), to promote research designed to influence or scare consumers into its strict vegetarian lifestyle. The opinion of the respected American Medical Association is unequivocal, saying that “the recommendations of PCRM [are] irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.” In a separate public censure, the AMA “continues to marvel at how effectively a fringe organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health.”

Surprisingly, PCRM President Neal Barnard has given depositions as a nutritional expert in the latest in a series of lawsuits against restaurants and the food industry by trial lawyers seeking to cash in on hysteria over the nation’s “obesity epidemic.” Not surprisingly, the only foods that are not labeled as addictive in Barnard’s book of “ammunition” against food companies are those that conform to a strict vegan diet offered in the book’s recipes.

“Barnard’s lawsuit ‘ammunition’ for the trial lawyers is a dud,” Richard Berman, Executive Director of The Center for Consumer Freedom, said. “When it comes to information on nutrition and health, consumers are better served by advice from the AMA than someone that fronts for PETA.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a non-profit coalition supported by restaurant operators, food and beverage companies, and concerned individuals, working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.

A few days later, the site published a response from PCRM Communications Director Simon Chaitowitz (emphasis added),

We’d like to set the record straight regarding inflammatory and misleading comments made about our organization in a news release recently posted to your Web site and newsletter.

First, readers should realize that news release was written and distributed by the so-called “Center for Consumer Freedom,” a junk-food lobby group. Run by Rick Berman, a tobacco, alcohol, and fast-food lobbyist, Consumer Freedom was originally founded with more than three million dollars of Philip Morris money.

Over the past few years, the group has tried to discredit the work of many highly respected public health organizations including the Centers for Disease Control, Mothers Against Drunk Driving, and Center for Science in the Public Interest. In a 1999 interview with Chain Leader magazine, a restaurant industry trade publication, Berman admitted that his strategy in attacking nutrition authorities was to “shoot the messenger” by trying to damage their credibility. His employees clearly cannot defend their positions with scientific arguments.

Berman’s group routinely antagonizes any nutrition advocates who dare to point out the health risks associated with the alcohol, meat, and junk food products they represent. They have even fought against school officials who are trying to keep soda machines out of elementary schools.

As to Consumer Freedom’s charges against PCRM, here’s the truth. PCRM is indeed a bonafide 501(c)(3) health charity, one that fully meets the guidelines of the Council of Better Business Bureaus. We both conduct clinical nutrition research and help educate the public about preventive medicine, especially the multitude of health benefits possible with a vegetarian diet. We also tackle controversies in both human and animal research.

Our physicians, dietitians, and scientists are leaders in their field. They publish their work in peer-reviewed academic journals, present their findings before scientific conferences, and sit on prestigious government panels. Regularly featured in major media outlets, from Newsweek to the Today Show, they are an influential force in the field of human health. Our president Neal D. Barnard, M.D., the popular author and nutrition researcher, has been called a “brilliant visionary” by renowned diet expert Dean Ornish for his work educating people about nutrition. His newest book, Breaking the Food Seduction, explains the science behind food cravings and takes a provocative look at the how the food industry — aided by the USDA — purposefully manipulates these cravings for their own financial gain.

Yes, we have had past disagreements with the American Medical Association, particularly over AMA’s links with industry and its promotion of animal testing, but no, AMA’s censure process has never been applied to PCRM. And PCRM works with organizations promoting human rights and protection for animals, as well as with major universities, environmental organizations, consumer groups, and others on various campaign and research projects.

We invite your readers to visit our Web site to learn more about PCRM or to call our office at 202-686-2210, ext. 309. And anyone who would like the unsavory details about Consumer Freedom might want to visit the PR watchdog Web site.

From psychologist to “popular author and nutrition researcher”, eh? (I suspect here that Chaitowitz is using very loose definitions of “popular” and “researcher.”)

CCF fired of the latest round in late July with a press release criticizing PCRM’s latest anti-meat campaign,

Anti Atkins ‘Physicians’ Group Is A Front For Animal Rights

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine Censured by the American Medical Association

Washington, DC — Today the Center for Consumer Freedom called on the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) to come clean about its animal-rights motive for attacking diets that feature any meat or dairy foods. PCRM, an animal rights front group claiming to be a medical charity, launched a media campaign this week featuring reckless charges about health risks supposedly connected with eating meat.

“This misnamed ‘physicians committee’ represents a tiny fraction of America’s doctors who place animal-rights ideology above their patients’ health,” said Center for Consumer Freedom research director David Martosko. “PCRM has asserted itself as a home for anti-meat, pro-vegan nutritionists who are committed to removing beef, dairy, poultry, and other animal products from the American diet for good.”

The established medical community has soundly rejected PCRM’s dietary advice in the past. The American Medical Association has written that it “finds the recommendations of PCRM irresponsible and potentially dangerous to the health and welfare of Americans.” In a separate public censure, the AMA marveled at “how effectively a fringe organization of questionable repute continues to hoodwink the media with a series of questionable research that fails to enhance public health.”

PCRM has long-standing ties with People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), which has funneled over $850,000 to its medical front group. PCRM president Neal Barnard, a non-practicing psychiatrist, co-chairs the PETA Foundation with PETA co-founder Ingrid Newkirk.

Martosko added: “Most Americans are too smart to knowingly take dietary advice from PETA. But when animal rights activists put on the sheep’s clothing of the medical profession, it becomes harder to know who’s credible. Force-feeding animal rights propaganda to Americans doesn’t sound very ‘responsible’ to me.”

The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices. To learn more, visit www.ConsumerFreedom.com.

Martosko’s comments are especially germane given the lengths that PETA and PCRM go in order to hide the fact that the two are not only ideologically but also financially intertwined. It’s amusing to see PCRM and other groups complain that CCF receives money from and lobbies on behalf of companies that sell alcohol, fast food, etc.

Whatever else you may think of CCF, at least it is upfront about its ideological position and goals. It doesn’t try to distance itself from its core ideology as PCRM does, nor does it set up layers of nonprofit front groups to funnel money to it in order to hide its origins. Why is PCRM so afraid to stand up and say it is an animal rights group that receives funding from PETA?

Sources:

‘Food Addiction Experts’ Censured by American Medical Association Press Release, Center for Consumer Freedom, June 3, 2003.

Anti Atkins ‘Physicians’ Group Is A Front For Animal Rights. Press Release, Center for Consumer Freedom, July 23, 2003.

PCRM Responds to Claims by Center for Consumer Freedom. Letter, Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, June 6, 2003.

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