The White House & junk food photo ops

It’s time for President Obama and the first family to ditch the junk food in photo ops.

At least that’s the opinion of the Washington, D.C.-based Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine.

The nonprofit group filed a petition May 10, asking the White House to issue an executive order banning staged official photo ops that depict the family, first family, vice president and members of the president’s cabinet with unhealthful foods.

The petition, filed on the White House website, says, “the photos often present foods that contribute most strongly to cancer, obesity, and premature mortality in a favorable light. A typical photo op depicts a president entertaining a foreign dignitary, with both stuffing processed meats or hamburgers into their mouths for the assembled cameras.”

“The White House would never set up a photo op of a president with a cigarette, so why show him eating foods that cause cancer?” said Susan Levin, committee director of nutrition education, in a news release. “Hot dogs, hamburgers, and other unhealthful foods kill more Americans each year than tobacco, and they cost taxpayers billions of dollars in health care. The president can eat what he likes in private, but at orchestrated public events, our leaders are role models.”

The news release went on to cite different instances in which the president was caught eating unhealthful foods, like hot dogs, hamburgers and sausages.

His predecessors, including George W. Bush, Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan have also posed with unhealthful foods at official photo ops, the group notes.

The group argues White House food-oriented photo ops receive massive publicity (think product placement in movies) and drown out the government’s health messages (think USDA dietary guidelines), thus contributing to ignorance about health and nutrition.

The online petition needs 25,000 signatures by June 8. So far, it only has 1,534.

Is the physicians’ group right? Do the White House photo ops send a bad message?

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