tonight on "crossfire." welcome to "crossfire." i'm sally kohn on the left. >> i'm newt gingrich on the right. in the "crossfire" tonight guests on opposite sides of this country's food wars. it is a legitimate concern to wore be the health of the american people. michelle obama's done all of us a favor by starting a conversation about nutrition. but the food labels she unveiled today are nothing more than symbolic liberalism. >> we're overhauling these labels to make them easier to read and understand. >> we've been ignoring government labels for 23 years. so now we're going to spend an immense amount of money on a multi-year process to rearrange the information, make it larger and add even more that you'll never read or use. because it makes liberals feel good. it is pure symbolism. >> actually, it's not symbolic at all. it makes us liberals thinner and that's our secret trick to living longer, then winning more
elections. that's what you won't see on your food labels. >> you do lead a rich fantasy life. >> in the "crossfire" tonight, director of nutrition at the center for science in the public interest and rick berman. rick, let me start with you. obesity accounts for as much as $146 billion in health care costs in this country. from my perspective that makes it not just a personal issue. this is an issue that affects all of us. certainly as taxpayers. don't you think there's some government responsibility to do something about this crisis? >> first of all, there's always been thin people and there's always been fat people. now you're suggesting because we have obama care and the government is saying it is now our responsibility to keep everybody healthy they can bootstrap themselves into telling people what to do to stay healthy. >> this isn't a new thing. the first george w. bush, we all had to exercise with arnold s z schwarzenegger. >> exercise is fine. but when you start to do the
things i'm now hearing from michelle obama. when you start to hear people saying we're going to control what you eat as opposed to encouraging people to exercise, you're going a bridge too far. we're either going to control the availability of foods, we're going to tax certain foods, we're going to sue people because they're selling certain foods. that's a bridge too far. >> is that just speculation or is that what's happening? >> rick wants to make it sound like the government will storm into your home and take the doritos out of your cupboard. that's not what's being proposed. michelle obama is updating a policy that went into effect under the bush administration. it's 20 years old. science has evolved. time to emphasize some nutrients, taking some off. this is tweaking with what americans are used to and use pretty regularly. >> come back for a second. because the government can come storming into your home. >> not to take your doritos. >> well, there was an amish farmer who created a buying group very similar to the dallas
buyers club for whole milk. it's illegal to sell raw milk in pennsylvania. not legal to take it across the border. he had customers in maryland. the federal government attacked his farm in order to stop him. if you the look at the dallas buyers club, which is up for the oscars this coming sunday, the whole point of the movie is, here's a guy who is about to die who wants to take some vitamins who is told by the fda he can't take them because they might be dangerous for his health and this is -- the government has raw power that is different than just advice. recently some idiot at the fda decided that memolet cheese is inappropriate. there's no cases of bad health. that french cheese is no longer allow in the united states. >> no, the kind of nutrition policies that the first lady is working on are things that most parents want and applaud her for. getting junk food out of schools. over the last two years, there
have been more improvements to the nutritional quality of the school lunch program than in the last decade. we're already investing $15 billion a year in this nutrition program. the food should be nutritious. it's a nutrition program. >> at the end of the day, forgetting school lunches for a minute, what we're talking about here is whether or not it's the government or people like margot whose group represents some people who think that everything put out by food companies is bad. we're talking about people who are trying to control over people's behaviors, other people's desires, other people's choices. at the end of the day, the labels are meaningless. as newt said, these labels have been around forever. so you make the labels bigger, you make the colors a little bit different. at the end of the day, people are not responding to these labels. >> that's not true. >> wait a minute. a study in new york after bloomberg put in his own set of requirements, people were now getting the amount of calories, the amount of grams of sodium,
the amount of fat and were people's behavior changing? yale and new york university said that the labels meant nothing. >> you got two studies in, her turn now. >> if you look at the totality of evidence, there are a couple of small studies which don't have enough statistical power to pick up the kind of public health effects that you see from policy change, but the good well designed big studies on menu labelling show that people do change what they eat. not everybody, but about one in six people reduce their calorie intake in a fast food lunch by about 100 calories. from a public health standpoint that makes a difference. >> 100 calories in a day -- >> it makes a difference. >> childhood obesity has gone down by 43% for the first time in history. that is a result of -- >> ah, certainly not the result of those labels. >> you will give this credit to coca-cola? >> actually coca-cola voluntarily pulled a lot of sodas out of schools.
>> after we sued them. >> no. >> after they were embarrassed for makie ining them on high fre corn syrup. >> high fructose corn syrup and sugar have the same amount of calories. >> rick and i agree on something. >> the high fructose corn syrup is ridiculous. people who say dairy is equav lent to crack. the hysteria around food has gotten to the point where the conversation is totally dysfunctional. that's why we can't have a logical conversation about health in this country. >> let me ask you a question. we've had these particular labels for 23 years. obesity has gotten worse. >> 1991. >> 1994. >> okay. obesity has gotten worse. >> but that started. >> let me give you an example of why i distrust this stuff. this is chunky monkey one pint. in the original version for 20
years the u.s. government told you that a serving of this was one-fourth of a pint. the number of americans who ever got a pint and ate one fourth -- i will say they're slightly to more honest. the fda's about to become a little more hoens because they're actually saying it's two servings, which may be close. my only point is you go back and look, vitamin a and vitamin c were vital. for 20 years the government told us they're vital. they're apparently dropping them in the new proposal. >> they're still essential nutrients but people are getting enough vitamin a and c, they're not the most important to list. if a company wants to list them, they can voluntarily. but zud studies show that vitamin d and potassium are nutrients that people aren't getting enough of. >> this is crazy. >> that's not changing nutrition advi advice. >> so as people go in and buy this pint of ice cream, they're
not going to look at the label and say, i'm only allowed to eat a quarter of this or i can only eat a half of this. they're going to eat as much of this as they want to. this stuff about putting a label on here and telling you what to eat is ridiculous. >> as someone who looks at food labels, i disagree with you. the american public wants this. let's put up numbers. 60% want to show calories at chain restaurants. 55% want to ban unhealthy food ads for kids. they do want this and shouldn't the people you work to, shouldn't they make the customer happy? >> at the end of the day, if you ask people the right question that you've just been asking and you ask it the right way, people will say, yes, i'm supportive of that. if you say to people, are you going to change your behavior because of this? whatever they say on a survey is meaningless. the question is what do they actually do? margo said small surveys don't count.
if the small survey reversed the results she would be out here parroting it. >> it was a small study that lacks statistical power. >> this is yale university and new york university and all of a sudden these people don't know how to do a survey. >> i said the statistical power in those studies was not big enough to pick up the level of effect. >> you're a nutritionist and a dietitian. they take smart people from nyu and yale and you're saying they don't really know how to do a survey. >> i didn't say that. i am a scientist. that's my field of study. you have to look at the totality of this evidence in order to know what the effect is. you're cherry picking one study. >> we've learned that tends to pick the studies that they like but it doesn't actually get to the essential issues here which we'll come back to in a second when i ask rick just how hands off he wants the government to
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corn syrup. we pay factory farms to produce the very things that make us fat. by comparison we spend just $289 million sub sid sizing apples, even less on vegetables. i'm not against subsidies. we won't get into that. but i am against a stupid policy that make us obese. you got to wonder why our government spends its resources these ways. well here's a hint. the food industry spends $30 million a year lobbying for unhealthy investments just like this. in fact a lot of those investments frr coca-cola, tyson foods, arby's, companies, sir, that you represent. what's your thought on this? >> my thought on all of that? >> your thought of why is it -- >> what's the question? >> you attacked ms. wootan for her interests. now you're a lobbyist for the food corporations that would be hurt by the kinds of nutrition policies michelle obama is promoting. are you putting those corporate interests ahead of public interests? >> because you're asking it of me personally, what you need to
understand is that i have a very libertarian perspective on all this. and i do believe that consumers are entitled to make their own choices. now, if it turns out that somebody wants to drink a coke or wants to drink a pepsi or wants to buy a hamburger at arby's, it's fine. if they want to eat too much of it, they're going to do themselves harm, and that's their problem as well. i do believe that if companies are offering products that people want, that it's the capitalistic system, the free market system, the american system and there's nothing wrong with that. if the food is unhealthy, per se, if it's toxic, per se, we have a different issue, then we need to have government agencies -- >> what about when those costs, though, those companies, some of the companies you represent are purposefully trying to push unhealthier food options on the american public and we end up paying the cost of that in health care costs? >> i don't know what you're -- there is nothing unhealthy about a soft drink. there's nothing unhealthy about a hamburger. >> in a 40-ounce portion.
>> if you drink it all day long. >> i'd like to hear from the nutritionist on this not the corporate lobbyist. >> that's a person issue as to whether you abuse a product. it's okay to drink alcohol as long as you don't abuse it. okay to smoke a cigar as long as you're not smoking them all day long. >> but rick wants to make it sound as if the food companies don't have policies themselves. the real nutrition nan ny in ths country are coke, pepsi, mcdonald's, the food companies policies and practices have more impact on how much people eat and what people eat than the government by far. the government at least when they adopt a policy, they put it out for public comment. there's a vote in the congress. the people have some say. but corporate policies, practices, promotions are pushing people, upselling huge portions that people didn't eat 50 years ago. >> so this is like people are morons and -- >> that's not it. >> coca-cola wants to sell them
a drink that these morons are going to buy it even though they don't want it? >> how can you make an informed choice without information? >> let me ask you a question. the fact is if you're on food stamps, women are significantly more likely to be obese than if they're not on food stamps. if the government wants to reflect on a place to avoid obesity, they'd profoundly rethink the food stamp system. there's a clear data base that's big enough even you would agree, that it's something we should be looking at. not an nyu or yale study, a fact that women on food stamps are more likely to be obese than not on the food stamp program. the food stamp system has fed into poor neighborhoods having grocery stores with very few vegetables very little fruit. it's been a very real problem. >> one interesting comparison to food stamps is looking at the wicc program which is a nutrition program for women and
young children. they've added fruit and vegetable vouchers to the program since 2009. we've seen a very positive effect on the diets of will and children and we've seen it affect the neighborhoods because now these smaller stores are carrying fruits and vegetables because people have money to buy them. >> if you want people to have money to buy good food, maybe they should have better wages. let's talk about that. >> when you talk about neighborhoods, it reminds me of something. colorado is the thinnest state in the country. >> maurijuana. >> they may soon be fatter. >> they're the least fat states. >> they have the smallest percentage of obese people. louisiana is the fattest state. used to be mississippi. the question is when you're attacking hamburgers and soft drinks which are sold? fast food restaurants, it's interesting that colorado has more fast food restaurants per
capita than either louisiana or mississippi. if the people in colorado are making different choices but not because these companies are put a fast food restaurant on every corner. >> i like hamburgers as much as the next gal. i'm not attacking hamburgers but i'm agreeing with margo that government should have a role in deciding and not just leave it to corporations. >> first you demonize it. >> i didn't demonize it. >> that's where the labels -- >> it's value neutral information. >> come on, now, you have supported color coding. >> the nutrition fact label -- >> red is very bad. >> once you get something demonized enough, we see it more. >> you're making a whole set of asemptions. i do want to know where you would go with this because among other issues and you brought them up yourself. issues like smoking and like drinking. you've said that parents should decide what's good for their children and not government.
so, do you for instance think we allowed cigarette advertising with joe camel to kids. cigarette smoking declined. should we allow kids to buy cigarettes, again? >> tobacco is an unusual product. very unusual that we still allow tobacco to be sold. tobacco is not hamburgers, it's not soft drinks and it's not pizza or cakes or cookies. when you start to confuse the issue. >> let's cask a related one the. lower the legal blood alcohol level for driving. do you think people should drive drunk, again, if they want to? >> i think people should have a glass of wine and drink and drive as well as they are within the legal limit and none other than candy lobbied with me and said the very same thing that she was against drunk driving but not against alcohol and not against people drinking responsibly prior to driving. no less a person than the
founder of madd. >> let's assume, just for a minute that the new wave of nutrition information is not dramatically more effective than the old wave. what's the next step for government to do? should the government, for example, should obamacare charge more or give you a lower subsidy if you're obese? should airlines charge more if you weigh a lot more? you know, i brought this along the japanese government is now apparently actually measuring people's waistlines. so, should we now have the obama waistline measurement test, which, but from your perspective which level would you tolerate to get people to what you think is appropriate? >> the kind of policy, the policy that was proposed today to provide people with information so they can make their own choices is not labeling a food as bad. it's giving people information so they can make their own choices. and another big thing that i
work on is getting junk food out of schools. >> we stay here and we want you at home to weigh in on today's fire back question. should government have a role in reducing obesity? tweet yes or no. we'll have the results after the break. we also have the outrage of the day. mine comes from illinois where your records for obama care were under the control of a terrorist. [ sneezes, coughs ] i've got a big date, but my sinuses are acting up. it's time for advil cold and sinus. [ male announcer ] truth is that won't relieve all your symptoms. new alka seltzer plus-d relieves more symptoms than any other behind the counter liquid gel. oh what a relief it is.
i'm outraged that a bill to help america's veterans died in the united states senate today because republicans can't even once set aside their own narrow partisanship to do something for the good of america. this bill would have improved veteran access to health care services and expanded educational and job trainings for vets. we can all agree that's a good thing, right? well, republicans who are bent on packing political landmines into the bill literally sacrificed our veterans for their own partisan agenda. that is sad, that is irresponsible and it is outrageous. >> once again, harry reid's dictatorship has failed to deliver for the american people. i'm outraged on behalf of all of you who want to feel secure in obama care's ability to protect your confidential health information. let's look to illinois for a case study. they arrested a woman who has been canceling applicants. she had taken part in several
bombings in israel, including an attack that killed two students. she served two years before israel freed her. she lied on her immigration papers and passed an fbi background check which found she committed no criminal offenses. that should make everyone feel really secure, your health records will be just fine under obama care. let's check on our feedback results. should government have a role in reducing obesity? right now, 52% of you say yes. 48% say no. what do you all think? >> it's the way it's worded. government should play a role along with parents and schools and communities and all of us. >> rick, quickly. >> i look to converting to 52% to a more -- >> thank you to margo and rick. the debate continues online at cnn.com/crossfire, as well as facebook and twitter.
>> join us tomorrow for another edition of "crossfire" aaron burnett "outfront" starts right now. next, the president gets personal about in america. getting high and the shooting deaths of trayvon martin and jordan davis. plus the former head of the cia warns vladimir putin may be on the verge of going on the extreme. will he use military force? response to our interview with ted nugent. will the texas gubernatorial candidate ever campaign with nugent, again? he answered. let's go "outfront."