Fox falsely links voluntary NYC-led salt reduction initiative to federal health care reform
Research ››› ››› TOM ALLISON
Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that a New York City-led initiative to encourage reduced salt intake would allow the government to "decide how much salt is in our diets," tying the voluntary guidelines to "some sort of government-run health care," repeating a consistent pattern of Fox personalities distorting voluntary guidelines as illustrating government mandates that would exist under health care reform. However, as the New York City government makes clear, the program "is a voluntary initiative, not a regulatory measure."
Fox & Friends suggest voluntary initiative is government mandate
Doocy: "[O]ne other component to that" is "the more they take over on our health care, the more they're going to crack down on the stuff we eat." Introducing a segment discussing the initiative, co-host Steve Doocy commented: "So far, they've regulated trans fats and they've battled high calorie counts and fast food, but this time, New York City health officials are going national, issuing guidelines to restaurants and food manufacturers across the country to cut our salt levels down 25 percent over the next five years. But the big question is: Should the government be able to decide how much salt is in our diets, what we really eat?" Doocy subsequently stated:
DOOCY: [T]here's one other component to that and that is there are some critics of this who say, hey, look, we're getting closer to some sort of government-run health care and the more they take over on our health care, the more they're going to crack down on the stuff we eat. First it was trans fat, then it's calories, now it's salt.
Next thing you know, they're going to say, OK, you know, if you drink too much, that could be bad, you could get into a car wreck, so we're going to limit you to one Schlitz a week.
Fox guest: Mayor Bloomberg is "slowly but surely regulating New Yorkers' diet." During the discussion, Center for Consumer Freedom senior research analyst Justin Wilson commented: "I think Mayor [Michael] Bloomberg fancies himself to be a big brother. You know, he's slowly but surely regulating New Yorkers' diet towards being just plain old bland. And I think it's just inappropriate for the government to mandate how much salt that we can eat, especially when you consider that not everyone needs to have a low-salt diet. In fact, only about 30 percent of people with high blood pressure actually need to reduce their salt intake. And the problem is that this is a one-size-fits-all policy for a very small proportion of the population and then the rest of New Yorkers end up with bland food." Wilson also stated: "You know, I think there's a lot of people out there that would say they should keep the government out of their bedroom, and I'm the guy that says we need to keep the government out of our kitchen, too."
Fox & Friends echoing Limbaugh. During his nationally syndicated radio show, Rush Limbaugh similarly stated: "It's none of their business. It is none of their business how much salt I eat. Salt is necessary. They're going to cause more problems, getting more people frightened to eat any salt, and you have to have it. Once they get health care, this is the kind of stuff -- and even worse -- that's going to be coming down the pike. This will be the new norm. Everything we do will be in the context of health care and the expense that it will cost to protect us, and to cure us, and to make us well once we get sick. This is just a harbinger." [Premiere Radio Networks' The Rush Limbaugh Show, 1/11/10]
NYC program "is a voluntary initiative, not a regulatory measure"
Initiative fact sheet repeatedly makes clear targets are voluntary. In a National Salt Reduction Initiative (NSRI) fact sheet, the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene states, "Targets are voluntary, not mandatory, so they cannot force products off the market." The initiative fact sheet also states: "As a first step, the NSRI has worked with industry to set salt-reduction targets that are significant, voluntary, achievable and measurable. The next step is to measure progress over time in a public and transparent fashion to ensure a gradual reduction in sodium across a wide range of food categories." Concerning the effect of the initiative on nutritional labeling, the NSRI fact sheet states: "The NSRI is a voluntary initiative, not a regulatory measure. It is modeled after a successful initiative developed in the United Kingdom. It will not affect federal, state or local nutrition labeling laws."
WSJ: The "salt-lowering initiative is voluntary." The Wall Street Journal -- owned by Fox News' parent company, News Corp. -- reported: "New York City, leading a group of cities and health organizations, on Monday announced voluntary sodium-reduction targets for restaurants and food makers. It wants to lower Americans' salt intake by at least 20% by 2014, but unlike the city's ban on trans fat in restaurant food or rules requiring eateries to post calorie info, the salt-lowering initiative is voluntary." [Wall Street Journal, 1/11/10 (subscription required)]
Fox previously claimed nonbinding health recommendations amounted to government rationing
Fox News hosts repeatedly claimed nonbinding health guidelines illustrated government rationing of health care. Fox news personalities Glenn Beck, Sean Hannity, Keith Ablow, and Marc Siegel repeatedly cited nonbinding guidelines that some women get fewer breast cancer and cervical cancer screenings as representing government rationing of health care that would be implemented under health care reform legislation, with Hannity claiming, "[T]his is where the greatest danger lies with government health care." In fact, neither the United States Preventive Services Task Force nor the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists issued binding recommendations.