Networks Eat Up More Restaurant Mandates

     If you ordered a “Colossal Burger,” pizza skins, fried mozzarella, or a pasta dish laden with a cream sauce and Wisconsin cheese, wouldn’t you know the food will be high in calories and fat?

     The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) doesn’t think that’s enough so they are pushing for federally mandated nutrition information on restaurant menus. ABC’s “World News with Charles Gibson” and the CBS “Evening News” ate it up on February 26.

     “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.”

      The ABC and CBS story aired the same day as CNN’s “American Morning” extreme eating segment devoted one minute 46 seconds to Hurley compared to 10 seconds with Johnson and a statement from UNO Chicago Grill.