New York Times reporter Michael Moss has exposed the USDA’s secret alliance with the fast food industry. According to Moss, Dairy Management — the people that brought you Domino’s Pizza with six cheeses, Pizza Hut’s Cheesy Bites pizza, Burger King’s Cheesy Angus Bacon cheeseburger, and Taco Bell’s steak quesadilla with cheddar, pepper jack, and mozzarella — is the marketing creation of none other than the USDA.
Yes, the USDA, the same federal agency promoting a nationwide anti-obesity drive discouraging people from mindlessly devouring the same cheese-laden foods the USDA’s Dairy Management is aggressively promoting.
Dairy Management wasted no time denying Moss’s claims, even as Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, Chairwoman of the FDA and Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee, confirmed in a press statement that “The USDA’s role in Dairy Management is a perfect example of how the department’s conflicting missions could be detrimental to protecting public health. The USDA should not be providing approval for food companies to promote products that are contributing to the obesity epidemic,” DeLauro said.
Dairy Management accused The Times and other media outlets of lying. “Much of the reporting is fundamentally wrong. Contrary to the myth that has been perpetuated, Dairy Management Inc. was not created by USDA, nor is it an agency of USDA. It is a private, non-profit corporation created and run by America’s dairy farmers who established it to unify national and local dairy promotion efforts.”
But Moss claims Dairy Management receives several million dollars a year from the USDA which appoints some of its board members, approves its marketing campaigns and major contracts, and periodically reports to Congress on its work. The million dollar funding from the USDA is separate from Dairy Management’s annual budget of nearly $140 million, financed by a government-mandated fee on the dairy industry.
In 1995, the government created Dairy Management — also known as Innovation Center for U.S. Dairy, American Dairy Association, National Dairy Council, and U.S. Dairy Export Council — as a nonprofit corporation with a defined mission to increase dairy consumption. Dairy Management has worked with restaurants to promote cheese-laden products on their menus, and with Domino’s to increase cheese consumption.
Dairy Management created the “Got Milk?” campaign, and spent millions of dollars on research to support a 4-year national advertising campaign promoting weight loss propaganda with the Orwellian suggestion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products. And Dairy Management received $5.3 million in 2009 from the USDA to promote dairy sales overseas.
Dairy Management recently spent $12 million on marketing to promote Domino’s new line of cheesier pizza; the Domino’s Wisconsin has six cheeses on top and two more in the crust.
Pizza Hut began putting cheese inside its crust after holding development meetings with Dairy Management. Derek Correia, a former Pizza Hut product innovations chief, said Dairy Management also helped find suppliers for the extra cheese. “We were using four cheeses, if not six, and with a company like Pizza Hut, that is a lot of supply,” he said in an interview.
Moss also reports that Dairy Management has worked large food companies to expand the use of cheese in processed foods and home cooking. USDA figures show up to a double digit increase in sales of cheese snacks in stores where Dairy Management has helped grocers design and promote their dairy aisles. Dairy Management has also created cheese marketing campaigns at Wendy’s and Burger King, boosting cheese sales by “nearly 30 million pounds,” says Moss.
Taxpayer Funded Chocolate Milk Promotion
MilkPep, another USDA-administered program, spent up to $1,000,000 on a “raise your hand for chocolate milk” campaign, defying nutritional advocates who opposed sugar saturated products in school diets. MilkPep’s campaign rhetoric suggested that if chocolate milk was omitted from a child’s diet, “kids won’t drink milk” at all, thus depriving kids of the nutrients in milk, creating what MilkPep called a “milk deficit”.
USDA Subsidizes Fast Food
Americans now consume nearly three times as much cheese per capita as they did in 1970, and thanks Dairy Management, Domino’s Pizza sales of their new line of pizzas — with 40 percent more cheese — have climbed by double digits.
The USDA promotes the same food industry it is suppose to regulate. The USDA’s role was meant to be a food industry watchdog, and anti-obesity advocate, discouraging us from eating fast foods — not a fast food industry sales representative, controlling industry marketing boards like Dairy Management, who conduct marketing campaigns for the fast food industry by promoting pizzas with six cheeses, cheeseburgers, and cheese-laden quesadillas.