Physicians Group Demands White House Ban Photo Ops of President and Family Eating Unhealthy Food

Posted on May 9, 2012

President Obama at Rudys Hot Dog Restaurant

A nonprofit physicians group, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, is demanding that the White House issue an executive order banning any staged photo opportunities that show the president, the first family, the vice president, and members of the president's cabinet eating unhealthy foods in public. President Obama is eating a hot dog with Toledo Mayor Michael Bell at Rudy's Hot Dog in Toledo, Ohio in the photograph above.

President Obama -- like every other politician of both parties -- is frequently photographed eating items like hot dogs and hamburgers in public to seem more in touch with the common man. During election season, candidates will partake of local fare such as corn dogs at the fair or suffer the consequences of being labeled a snob in the media. We all remember the media firestorm after John Kerry ordered an authentic Philly cheesesteak and asked for Swiss cheese to be substituted for the usual American Cheese, Cheez Whiz or Provolone. But it got worse -- he then asked that no one take his photo while he ate. The photographers ignored him, and got shots of him daintily nibbling at the messy, hearty sandwich. It was a PR disaster. After that, all the presidential candidates heartily tucked into whatever calorie-laden treats were handed their way -- at least when a photographer was present.

Of course the irony here is that President Obama is not a big junk food or sweets eater. Remember during the campaign when he visited the chocolate factory and tried to get out of eating chocolate by saying he was watching his waistline? The two ladies with trays of home made chocolates looked quite puzzled that a candidate didn't want any delicious chocolate. We seem to recall that he eventually relented and took a tiny piece.

The PCRM doesn't care. It says that the president is a role model and shouldn't be seen eating junk food in public. "The White House would never set up a photo op showing the president buying cigarettes, so why is it okay to show him eating a hot dog?" says PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. "Processed meats like hot dogs kill more Americans each year than tobacco does, and they cost taxpayers billions of dollars in healthcare. As role model to millions of Americans the president has a responsibility to watch what he eats in public."

The press release issued by the group says that just such a presidential photo op led to America's love affair with processed meats: "Widely publicized photographs of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt eating a hot dog are credited with popularizing what once used to be a widely disliked food. Now Americans consume 7 billion hot dogs between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year."

President Obama was photographed eating a hot dog at a basketball game with British Prime Minister David Cameron. The PCRM says that "A recent study from the Harvard School of Public Health says that a daily serving of processed meats, like hot dogs, sausages, and bacon, increases the risk of premature death by 20 percent."

Election season is upon us. We don't think the White House is going to issue such a ban any time soon.

Photo: Official White House Photo by Pete Souza

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