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.