CNN's Rick Sanchez Assails Food Industry for 'Manipulating' Consumers

Are you gonna eat that? According to CNN host Rick Sanchez and one of his May 7 guests, your answer is being decided for you by food industry "manipulation."

"Here's a question that you've probably never thought of when reaching for that next bag of chips or that can of soda. Is it you who's actually deciding what to eat or how much to eat? Or is someone really deciding for you?" Sanchez asked before introducing Dr. David Kessler, former chief of the Food and Drug Administration and author of The End of Overeating.

Sanchez summarized Kessler's argument saying "you and I are being programmed, kind of like manipulated like Pavlov's dog" for profit. No representative from the food industry was brought on to rebut Kessler's claims.

"You suggest the nation's food industry is intentionally creating adult baby food. What does that mean," Sanchez asked Kessler.

Kessler replied, "Much of our food that we are eating is predigested. It's pre-fried, it's bathed in sugar and fat ... Today the food goes down in one or two chews. It's a woosh, you get that a sensory hit and you just reach for more."

Later Kessler laid the blame completely on businesses. "The food industry knows exactly what happens in your mouth. They understand the cheese melt, but the main drivers of consumption are sugar, fat and salt. We used to think that we ate to satiate ourselves - that we ate for nutrition. We're eating for stimulation."

Sanchez not only sided with Kessler and left out the opposing viewpoint Sanchez also built up the author's credibility saying, "He's just telling you something about the system that he uniquely knows because of his former position." Sanchez also called Kessler "Doctor," throughout the segment.

The closest Sanchez got to advocating personal responsibility was his suggestion that people should "internalize and externalize" the information, but he quickly resorted to advocating government intervention.

"Internalizing this I would think that there are things we need to do, rather than the blame the other guy for what he's doing to us, what can I do to protect myself against this. And externalizing it I'm thinking: maybe we can also do something as a group or as a government would be to put a little pressure on these guys to stop doing that crap to us."

Kessler defined the government's "role" as "disclosure and education."

J. Justin Wilson, senior analyst for The Center for Consumer Freedom, told the Business & Media Institute, "Kessler's conspiracy theories aren't helping anyone get healthy. Restaurants offer a wide variety of menu options because that's what customers are asking for. Americans are getting the message that exercise and dietary moderation are the keys to health and fitness - not scare tactics or food paranoia. All Kessler has proved with his blame-game routine is that he's way behind the curve."

"Farmers, food producers and restaurants just want to make affordable food that tastes good. If that's too much for Kessler's delicate palate, so be it. He's welcome to choose the low-fat arugula okra lentil couscous salad. It's a free country," Wilson continued. "It's not a cook's fault that we like sweet, savory, or salty foods - that's human nature. Kessler calls it ‘the rise of hyper eating,' but most Americans call it ‘delicious.'"

Kessler has supported the work of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a liberal food police group that has warned against eating all kinds of food (including water, bread, eggs and fresh produce) and advocated government regulation and taxation of "bad" foods. According to CSPI's Web site, Kessler gave the group the FDA's highest honor in 2007.

Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour
Julia A. Seymour is the Assistant Managing Editor for the MRC's Business and Media Institute.