What the Media Are Saying About the Center for Consumer Freedom
by Larry Gabriel
"Richard Berman owes a debt of gratitude to the living wage movement. He also owes gratitude to efforts to ban smoking in public places, Mothers Against Drunk Driving and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control — to name a few.
"The Washington lobbyist and public relations man has made millions of dollars running demeaning corporate public relations campaigns against them."
by Rick Nichols
March 26, 2009
"[David Martosko, research director of the Center for Consumer Freedom, said that] the center wasn't really founded by consumers ... it was a 'business-proposed group.' ... [F]ood and beverage companies, restaurants and food marketers. ... [A] lot of chain restaurants. ... The companies don't want their names out in public. ... [T]he hand of the food chains themselves is hard to detect behind the phony banner of 'consumer freedom.'"
'Can the Food Industry Play a Constructive Role in the Obesity Epidemic?'
Journal of the American Medical Association
by David S. Ludwig, Marion Nestle
"The activities of the industry-sponsored group, Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), merit particular attention. With an annual budget exceeding $3 million, the CCF lobbies aggressively against obesity-related public health campaigns, legislation to regulate marketing of junk food to children, and scientists who advocate for healthier diets. The CCF boasts that '[our] strategy is to shoot the messenger . . . We've got to attack [activists'] credibility as spokespersons.' According to the Center for Media and Democracy, the CCF is funded primarily through undisclosed donations from companies such as Coca-Cola, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and Wendy's, allowing them to support unsavory lobbying practices while claiming to be responsible corporate citizens. Is the food industry simply not to be trusted?"
US News & World Report
by Adam Voiland
"9. The food industry funds front groups that fight antiobesity public health initiatives.
Unless you follow politics closely, you wouldn't necessarily realize that a group with a name like the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF) has anything to do with the food industry. In fact ... , this group lobbies aggressively against obesity-related public health campaigns—such as the one directed at removing junk food from schools—and is funded, according to the Center for Media and Democracy, primarily through donations from big food companies such as Coca-Cola, Cargill, Tyson Foods, and Wendy's."
San Francisco Chronicle
by Dick Rogers
"Clearly expressed or not, the center's message is engulfed in fog if we don't know where it's coming from and whether it's true to its evidence. ... The center isn't alone among interest groups across the political spectrum with coy and opaque titles that obscure their purpose."
by Susan Jones
Edward J. McElroy, the president of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT), ??? calls Berman "an ethically challenged attack dog" and "a shameless lobbyist who has shilled for pesticide, alcohol and tobacco companies."
According to McElroy, "Berman uses "hidden funders to attack groups that contribute a great deal to society. ... Teachers and the public deserve to know which businesses are bankrolling Berman's despicable tactics, but he is too much of a coward to reveal the source of his funding," McElroy said.
by Sharon Begley
January 24, 2008
"*The Center for Consumer Freedom also claims that 'by definition, it's not possible for anyone to exceed a reference dose with a single week's worth of exposure.'
"Someone needs to go back to 4th grade math. A single can of albacore tuna exceeds the weekly reference dose for a 60-kg woman (180 g x 0.36 ppm = 65 1/2g of mercury, and the allowed dose is 42 1/2g.)
"*The Center for Consumer Freedom also claims that you???d have to exceed the allowed dose by 10-fold every day for your entire life to be at risk.
by Gayle Dean
April 8, 2007
"Simply put, the Center for Consumer Freedom is a front group for the restaurant, junk-food, alcohol and tobacco industries, and they regularly run elaborate media campaigns opposing the efforts of scientists, doctors, health advocates, and animal and environmental groups, because these groups all threaten the bottom lines of the CCF's corporate sponsors. The CCF says 'consumer freedom,' but they mean 'freedom to choose from our sponsors' products.'"
by Tom Chamberlain
August 24, 2006
"If you smelled a rat, you're right. ..."
"People who work for a living deserve better than to be mocked by corporate lobbyists like Berman, who rakes in $10 million a year."
"Rick Berman is one great guy with more vigor than a pack of cigarettes, 10 beers, and a fish full of mercury and Rick should know because maybe no one else in America has done more to fight for Big Tobacco, drunk driving, and mercury poisoning than Rick."
KGO-TV (ABC Affiliate) San Francisco
by Mark Matthews
May 3, 2006
"Martosko himself is no part scientist. He was a music major in college and then an AM radio talk show producer before becoming chief researcher for the Center for Consumer Freedom which is headquartered inside the lobbying offices of Richard Berman, a lobbyist for the restaurant and beverage industry."
by D.L. McCracken
March 28, 2006
“Humane Society spokesperson Kathleen Kessler … accuses the Center for Consumer Freedom of being in reality a ‘front group for the tobacco, alcohol, and hospitality industries.’ Kessler stated that the Center has in the past targeted such high-profile groups such as Mothers Against Drunk Driving, the American Medical Association and Harvard School of Public Health.
“Kessler added, ‘The Center for Consumer Freedom is not a center and it’s not for consumers or freedom. The CCF [Center for Consumer Freedom] has [a] history of launching error-ridden and rhetoric-laden attacks against these organizations.’”
by Greg Dawson
March 20, 2006
“Why are consumers so cynical about the business community?
“Because of insulting charades such as the one that arrived on my desk this week. It featured a glossy pamphlet with the headline, ‘Why Soda Bans Don’t Fight Childhood Obesity.’
“It came from the Center for Consumer Freedom. In smaller, italic print at the bottom of a separate sheet was the truth about these freedom fighters:
“‘The Center for Consumer Freedom is a nonprofit coalition supported by restaurants, food companies, and consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.’
by Jim Motavalli
“Berman can often be found on op-ed pages across America, especially when fast-food or chain restaurants are impugned. He denounced the documentary Super Size Me for ‘serving up a flawed premise, that we’re powerless to stop Big Food from turning us into a nation of fatties.’ As The American Prospect put it, ‘From his offices a block from the White House, Berman wages a never-ending public-relations assault on doctors, health advocates, scientists, food researchers and just about anyone else who highlights the health downsides of eating junk food or being obese.’”
by Joel Wendland
February 20, 2006
"Berman has a long record of taking corporate money in order to target community and public advocacy groups, making outrageous and even dangerous claims. ... Given this sordid record, how could anyone trust anything Richard Berman has to say?"
The New York Times
by Marian Burros
February 15, 2006
“Among those who want people to eat tuna, no matter what its mercury content, are those who process it and put it in cans. Sometimes they say so directly through the United States Tuna Foundation, and sometimes they pay others, such as the Center for Consumer Freedom, to say it for them.”
by Onnesha Roychoudhuri
February 17, 2006
"Richard Berman is not in the business of finding solutions. He's a generator of PR smear campaigns to benefit the many corporations to which he is beholden. Indeed, Berman himself stated in a restaurant trade publication, 'Activists drive consumer behavior on meat, alcohol, fat, sugar, tobacco and caffeine, so our strategy is to shoot the messenger.'"
The New Standard
by Catherine Komp
February 7, 2006
"Among the Center's other priorities is fighting against healthy-eating and anti-smoking campaigns."
by Seth Lubove
September 23, 2005
"Founded in 1995 by Washington lobbyist and corporate public relations man Richard Berman, and funded originally with $600,000 from Phillip [sic] Morris—now Altria Group—to fight legislation that banned smoking in restaurants, the CCF has since morphed into all-around critic of anyone who infringes on the rights of Americans to eat and drink themselves silly. To enter the CCF's Web site is to travel in a parallel universe, where talk of an obesity epidemic is 'hype,' and where animal rights activists are 'putting animals ahead of human beings.'"
by Patrick Johnson
"On their Web site they present themselves as a consumer-minded libertarian group that exists to 'promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices.' Upon closer examination, however, it becomes evident that the CCF is an advocacy group for restaurants and food companies, who have as much to gain by the threat of obesity being a myth as the pharmaceutical industry does by the danger being dire."
by Gary Ruskin and Juliet Schor
August 12, 2005
"A related ploy is to deny the nutritional status of individual food groups, claiming that there are no 'good' or 'bad' foods, and that all that matters is balance. ... Of course, if fruits and vegetables aren't healthy, then Coke and chips aren't unhealthy. ... Industry has also bankrolled front groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom, an increasingly influential Washington outfit that demonizes public-health advocates as the 'food police' and promotes the industry point of view."
The New York Times
by Verlyn Kinkenborg
July 24, 2005
"[T]he language of the Center for Consumer Freedom is as Orwellian as it is possible to get. Its basic linguistic strategy could have been taken directly from George Orwell's 'Politics and the English Language,' still the most important single essay on how to lie without seeming to. It would hardly work for C.C.F. simply to tell the truth—to say to consumers, on behalf of the food and beverage industries, 'Activists and watchdog groups are trying to stop us from selling you anything we want to sell you.' Much better to say, 'These groups are trying to prevent you from buying anything you want to buy.' Then it becomes a matter of sustaining freedom, protecting individual rights and keeping the prairie of consumer choices unfenced. ...
"Is it hypocritical for C.C.F. to attack PETA? Since its basic rhetorical strategy is hypocritical, the answer is almost certainly yes."
The New York Times
by Paul Krugman
July 8, 2005
"Today's food ... industry's companies proclaim themselves good guys, committed to healthier eating. Meanwhile, they outsource the campaigns against medical researchers and the dissemination of crude anti-anti-obesity propaganda to industry-financed advocacy groups like the Center for Consumer Freedom."
The New York Times
by Paul Krugman
July 4, 2005
"The Center for Consumer Freedom, an advocacy group financed by Coca-Cola, Wendy's and Tyson Foods, among others, has a Fourth of July message for you: worrying about the rapid rise in American obesity is unpatriotic. ... It sounds like a parody, but don't laugh. These people are blocking efforts to help America's children."
Virtual Suffolk—Editor's Blog
Suffolk News Herald
by Andy Prutsok
July 4, 2005
"The Center for Consumer Freedom is ... much like the Partnership for a Drug Free America a nice sounding name to be sure, but it's actually the fully funded lobbying arm of the liquor and prescription drug industries who don't want any competition when it comes to getting Americans high."
The New York Times
by Melanie Warner
June 12, 2005
"'They make a lot of noise, but nobody in academia takes their arguments seriously,' said Dr. David Ludwig, director of the obesity program at Children's Hospital in Boston and an occasional target of Mr. Berman's group. 'They stand for food industry freedom, not consumer freedom.'"
Atlanta Journal Constitution
June 8, 2005
“Nevertheless, armed with what it considered good news that being a little overweight is better than being thin, the folks at the Center for Consumer Freedom—a front for the restaurant industry—jumped on the latest CDC study. They paid for advertisements in newspapers around the country claiming that Americans had been ‘force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths by the food police.’
“It’s enough to make you gag on a big breakfast burrito.”
Los Angeles Times
by Barbara Ehrenreich
June 6, 2005
“The longevity-fighting Purple Heart, though, goes to the Center for Consumer Freedom, funded by the tobacco and restaurant industries, which bravely battles restrictions on indoor smoking, repressive limits on blood-alcohol levels for drivers and the relentless liberal bad-mouthing of salt, fat, sugar and meat.”
by Dr. Risa Lavizzo-Mourey
May 21, 2005
“The Center for Consumer Freedom (with backing from undisclosed sources) quickly responded with full-page newspaper ads dismissing the notion of an obesity epidemic as 'hype'. This is a myopic and dangerous stance, particularly where our children are concerned.”
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
May 19, 2005
“Berman’s Benediction: Work toward removing the non-profit tax-exempt status of an organization whose message of ‘ethical treatment’ for animals can not be impugned, so that fat-cat (Republican) lobbyists and their financially friendly industries can continue making big profits from the unethical treatment—and death—of animals.”
The New Hampshire Union Leader
by Michael Fumento, Guest Commentary
May 9, 2005
“[T]he food and beverage front group Center for Consumer Freedom practically gloated itself to death with an obese $600,000 newspaper advertising blitz declaring ‘Americans have been force-fed a steady diet of obesity myths.’ . . . But believe what you will as the Grim Reaper bears down on you while you try desperately to waddle away.”
by Mel Seesholtz, Ph.D.
May 19, 2005
“One of the latest well-financed inquisitions to slither out of Pandora’s Box is the Center for Consumer Freedom’s attack on PETA, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals. …
“CCF … had absolutely nothing to say about the millions of defenseless animals brutally killed every day by the meat industry (not to mention the unethical treatment the animals suffer before being slaughtered: things like debeaking young chickens, cutting the tails off young pigs, removing their teeth and ripping out their testicles, all without anesthesia). Could CCF’s silence be because the organization—run by lobbyist Richard Berman—is a front group for the industries that perpetrate such unethical treatment of animals?”
May 4, 2005
“Every group is entitled to its opinion, but it would have been nice if readers knew straight off that the center is heavily funded by restaurants and food companies—industries with a huge stake in battling concerns that Americans are eating themselves to death.
“Maybe the group should change its Web site from ConsumerFreedom.com to FatforProfit.com. . . .
“A rose by any other name may smell as sweet. A special interest group with a deceptive name? That just stinks.”
The Washington Post
by Caroline E. Mayer and Amy Joyce
April 27, 2005
“Berman is also president of Berman & Co., a public affairs firm that in 2003 received more than $1.1 million in compensation from the nonprofit group—more than a third of its revenue that year, according to its most recent tax returns.”
Journal Times Online
April 21, 2005
“Our favorite reaction was from the Center for Consumer Freedom, a very nice title for what is essentially a food industry and restaurant lobbying group. According to news reports, they demanded to know ‘where the CDC stands on this greatly reduced number and whether obesity is truly worse than the Black Death, as you have stated.’
“The Black Death? We must have missed that CDC announcement or else the food group is engaging in hyperbolic overkill.”
by Nancy Goldstein
March 17, 2005
“Rick Berman doesn’t give a damn about you or AIDS research. But you’d never know that from the full-page ad his DC-based PR firm placed in the New Yorker last month.”
The American Prospect
by Greg Sargent
January 3, 2005
“[Berman] stands out, if only for the sheer, unparalleled audacity with which he’s straddled his dual roles as consumer ‘advocate’ and industry lobbyist.”