ABC and CBS Hungry for More Restaurant Regulation

Last night, ABC "World News with Charles Gibson" and CBS "Evening News" devoured a recent report from the food police: Center for Science in the Public Interest. The CSPI report charges casual dining restaurants with serving high calorie and high fat appetizers, entrees and desserts and promotes federally mandated nutrition information on menus.

While both programs did include restaurant spokesmen, the meat of both stories came straight from the CSPI release which is not surprising since CSPI experts frequently appear in network news stories -- most recently on February 20, 21, 22, 23 and then in the "extreme eating" stories on the 26th.

“Some might call them unhappy meals,” Gibson teased as he introduced the ABC report based on CSPI’s latest report “X-treme Eating.”

After mentioning two dishes from Ruby Tuesday and their respective calories, CBS’s Sharyn Alfonsi regurgitated the CSPI press release: “You won’t find any of those big numbers listed on the menu.”

Both networks called CSPI a “consumer advocate group” instead of a litigious organization that constantly promotes more government regulation. CBS’s Alfonsi called CSPI both the “food police” and a “consumer advocate.”

It turns out the networks are quite fond of CSPI experts. A Nexis search located stories on ABC, NBC, or CBS news programs on February 20, 21, 22, and 23 that included the pro-regulatory group even before the two latest stories on extreme eating.

The “Evening News” did include Ruby Tuesday’s CEO Richard Johnson who undermined the CSPI claims. “Nutrition information has been on packaged foods has been on packaged foods in grocery stores for years and during those years the rate of obesity hasn’t gone down, it’s in fact gone up,” he said.

“World News” featured CSPI’s senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley and the CEO of UNO Chicago Grill.

Neither network included a statement from the National Restaurant Association which has opposed this expansive regulation. “Americans enjoy restaurant meals for a variety of reasons – for convenience, as a social activity, to celebrate special occasions, etc. – and they are free to choose what to eat, whether being mindful of calorie and fat intake, or indulging themselves with their favorite dishes. Our research shows that 95 percent of survey respondents feel they are qualified to make their own dietary choices, and more than two out of three (68 percent) say they are tired of the ‘food police’ telling them what to eat.

You can enjoy the full Business & Media Institute story here.

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