Quick Fact: Fox's straight news also misrepresents NYC salt initiative
Research ››› ››› JOCELYN FONG
After 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," Fox's purportedly straight news programs Happening Now and Special Report also covered the salt-reduction initiative without reporting that the proposed targets are entirely voluntary. Indeed, Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson falsely claimed that the initiative involves "passing a bill that would require food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt that is in food."
Happening Now, Special Report suggest NYC-led initiative regulates salt levels in foods
Brian Wilson: "There is talk in New York City" of "passing a bill that would require food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt that is in food." In a report for Happening Now, Fox News correspondent Brian Wilson asserted, "There is talk in New York City, as you say, about passing a bill that would require food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt that is in food." Wilson's report also included video of Chef Ann Cashion stating that "the only thing that could really persuade me to stop using salt would be if people started insisting that I not use salt, i.e. my customers, not the government."
Jane Skinner: "Should the government actually be regulating our eating habits?" Introducing Wilson's report, Happening Now co-host Jane Skinner stated, "New York City is trying to crack down on what you eat." Noting that "[s]ome food manufacturers say they've already been cutting back on their own," Skinner stated, "[T]he question is do we really need the government to step in and tell us what to not eat?" Following Wilson's report, Skinner stated, "We would like to know what you think. Should the government actually be regulating our eating habits? FoxNews.com, you can take this poll. It's un-scientific. So far, 96 percent of the respondents say 'No, I want to be able to choose what I eat and how much salt I consume.'"
Special Report asks, "Salt Regulation?" Teasing a segment on the New York City salt initiative, Special Report host Bret Baier stated, "[W]hy you could soon have a problem getting enough salt for your taste in one major American city. All that plus the FOX all-stars, right here, right now." A report by Wilson stated, "In New York City, the health commissioner says we need to slash 25 percent of the salt from our foods." Wilson's report included video of Justin Wilson from the Center for Consumer Freedom stating, "I think consumers who really just enjoy food that tastes good should make their voices be heard. And if not, they should probably stock up on the salt shakers." While quoting an FDA commissioner praising the New York initiative, Special Report aired the following on-screen text:
Fact: Salt reduction program "is a voluntary initiative, not a regulatory measure"
NYC announced "Proposed Targets for Voluntary Salt Reduction." 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." A January 11 city press release announced, "Health Department Announces Proposed Targets for Voluntary Salt Reduction in Packaged and Restaurant Foods."
NYT: "The plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation." The New York Times reported on January 10 that "[t]he plan is voluntary for food companies and involves no legislation. It allows companies to cut salt gradually over five years so the change is not so noticeable to consumers." The Wall Street Journal -- owned by Fox News' parent company, News Corp. - also 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 & Friends previously suggested voluntary initiative is government mandate. Fox & Friends co-host Steve Doocy claimed that the 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," which repeats a consistent pattern of Fox personalities distorting voluntary guidelines as illustrating government mandates that would exist under health care reform.