Big Tobacco & Big Food — the analogy continues.

With the same lawyers who brought “Big Tobacco” to its knees

I grew up in Greenville, on the big river, about 150 miles south of Memphis.

When I was a young boy growing up in Mississippi, smoking tobacco was ubiquitous. Almost everyone smoked cigarettes: farmers, executives, mechanics, ministers and doctors. Smoking was cool and every movie star of the day could be seen lighting up on a regular basis. But that was all before people realized that smoking could kill you.

As news spread about tobacco’s  scientific link to cancer and other deadly diseases, the legal profession began a forty year campaign to get rich by putting the tobacco industry out of business. From a recent article in the New York Times (see link below):

Don Barrett, a Mississippi lawyer, took in hundreds of millions of dollars a decade ago after suing Big Tobacco and winning record settlements from R. J. Reynolds, Philip Morris and other cigarette makers. So did Walter Umphrey, Dewitt M. Lovelace and Stuart and Carol Nelkin.

Ever since, the lawyers have been searching for big paydays in business, scoring more modest wins against car companies, drug makers, brokerage firms and insurers. Now, they have found the next target: food manufacturers.

Someday, we may see similar “messages” about our meat & dairy western diet.

So, it turns out, most of the lawyers didn’t really care about our health, they were just looking for a big payday. They found one with cigarette smoking and were instrumental of driving positive change.

And although the tobacco companies are still in business, they are a mere shadow of their former self—and smoking is no longer considered cool by most people.

Fast forward fifty years. Now we have an eerily similar situation with big food—but this times it’s a lot more serious. Not only is it a much bigger mountain to climb, the consequences of our not making sweeping changes in our human food model—could be devastating for the entire human race.

First, why is it a bigger mountain to climb?

  1. The food industry controls our schools of nutrition. As such, there are only a handful of nutritional scientists who clearly see the link between our western diet and many chronic diseases.
  2. Most people, including the brightest and best-educated people across all walks of life genuinely believe that we “need” to eat at least some animal protein to be healthy. No one ever truly believed that they actually “needed” to smoke.
  3. Eating is essential to life whereas smoking is more of a recreational habit, more similar to drinking alcohol than eating food.
  4. Our entire “system” of politics, medicine, government, media, pharmaceutical industry will resist any drastic changes—and they will do their best to maintain the status quo.

Conagra Foods World Headquarters.

Secondly, why are the consequences of not changing our diet so much greater? As I wrote in another blog a few days ago, there’s just so much more at stake.

For starters, by consuming the western diet, we’re not only promoting chronic disease for ourselves and our families, but we’re also contributing heavily to global warming, world hunger, water shortages and a host of other environmental horrors that will affect every living creature on this planet.

Further, by teaching this harmful, wasteful and unsustainable diet-style to the next generation, we’re contributing heavily to the long-term unsustainability of the human race. 

Meanwhile, at least the legal battle has begun—and in addition to forcing some good changes within the food industry, it will also raise the awareness of the larger issues mentioned here. Here’s a status report from the article:

More than a dozen lawyers who took on the tobacco companies have filed 25 cases against industry players like ConAgra Foods, PepsiCo, Heinz, General Mills and Chobani that stock pantry shelves and refrigerators across America.

The suits, filed over the last four months, assert that food makers are misleading consumers and violating federal regulations by wrongly labeling products and ingredients. While there has been a barrage of litigation against the industry in recent years, the tobacco lawyers are moving particularly aggressively. They are asking a federal court in California to halt ConAgra’s sales of Pam cooking spray, Swiss Miss cocoa products and some Hunt’s canned tomatoes.

PAM, which is 100% oil, and therefore 100% fat, claims that each serving contains zero fat and zero calories.

The legal games have begun but the real battle is unfortunately many decades down the road. Right now, they’re focusing on minor things like Pam cooking spray. Just wait until they realize that the casein in cow’s milk is the most powerful carcinogen ever discovered.

The good news is that you don’t have to wait for the lawyers, the media, the scientists or anyone else. You can take charge of your own health today.

Handy 4-piece take-charge-of-your-health kit—from

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J. Morris Hicks, working daily to promote health, hope and harmony on planet Earth.

For help in your own quest to take charge of your health, you might find some useful information at our 4Leaf page or some great recipes at Lisa’s 4Leaf Kitchen.

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Blogging daily at…from the seaside village of Stonington, Connecticut – Be well and have a great day.

—J. Morris Hicks, board member, T. Colin Campbell Foundation

About J. Morris Hicks

A former strategic management consultant and senior corporate executive with Ralph Lauren in New York, J. Morris Hicks has always focused on the "big picture" when analyzing any issue. In 2002, after becoming curious about our "optimal diet," he began a study of what we eat from a global perspective ---- discovering many startling issues and opportunities along the way. In addition to an MBA and a BS in Industrial Engineering, he holds a certificate in plant-based nutrition from the T. Colin Campbell Center for Nutrition Studies, where he has also been a member of the board of directors since 2012. Having concluded that our food choices hold the key to the sustainability of our civilization, he has made this his #1 priority---exploring all avenues for influencing humans everywhere to move back to the natural plant-based diet for our species.
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8 Responses to Big Tobacco & Big Food — the analogy continues.

  1. Thanks, Jim Hicks — I just pointed the “New Atkins Diet” book con thread, started by Dr. Campbell in March 2010, to your post today:

    Approximately nine “voters” there do not agree or want to hear negative evaluations of the Atkins high fat, high protein diet that has worked best for them. And they never address the harms to the planet or that they can do Atkins without animal products.

  2. Your readers should also read I’m Fat, Help Me. As one reader described, “it’s a no holds bar approach that inspired me to take accountability. If you want something warm and fuzzy, it is not your book, but it works.”

  3. huracan says:

    This entertaining clip highlights the insanity involved in “fat free” labels….

  4. barbaraH says:

    Another excellent post. A minor comment – Is it technically accurate to call casein a carcinogen? Isn’t it more of a cancer promoter? I thought Dr. Campbell’s studies showed that rats who were already exposed to aflatoxin, which is a potent carcinogen, would develop cancer if fed more than 10 or 20% of casein in their diets. Without the aflatoxin, casein on its own didn’t cause cancer. Since most of us are exposed to carcinogens in the form of pesticides and other chemicals, or have genetic factors that might lead to the development of cancer, we don’t want to pull the trigger by adding casein to our diets – but the casein itself, in the absence of carcinogens, doesn’t cause cancer. Someone correct me if I’m wrong.

    • J. Morris Hicks says:

      Hi Barbara. Thanks for your question. I have asked Dr. Campbell that same question. The answer is that “promoters” of cancer (like casein) are now called carcinogens. And according to the official definition along with his own scientific findings, casein is one of the most powerful carcinogens ever discovered. Wonder how long it will be before we start hearing that kind of information on the evening news? Be well, Jim Hicks

  5. Leo S. says:

    We don’t have to wait for lawyers to sue companies or legislators to pass laws to “protect” us. We should learn the ingredients of items we purchase for food and not buy them if we learn they are detrimental. Manufacturers will stop making products if they cannot sell them and make a profit. Remember to say to yourself “I know what is is CALLED, but WHAT IS IT?” before you buy something.

    Years ago a company was sued because their peanut butter was “mislabeled” as it did not meet the standard of 70% peanuts and 30% added fat and sugar. Their product was 100% peanuts. Today you can find and choose either one, if you know and care that there might be a difference. The choice is yours with many products offered. If you don’t know, or care, why should the manufacturer? Sales, and not consumer health, is the primary reason for making many products.

    Heinz ketchup sells products with similar labels but one contains HFCS (high frructose corn syrup) and one does not. Which would you choose, if you knew there was a difference. Unless you read the label you’d nnever know you had a choice.

    • Nathan says:

      Caveat Emptor, Buyer Beware.
      For those of us who are better informed, this is simple. For the vast majority, it’s going to take official federal condemnation before people start to decide to maybe cut back on processed and animal foods.

  6. Nigel Richardson says:

    The surgeon general’s report on smoking came out in 1964, and it is now almost fifty years later. We have reduced smoking considerably, but the monster is still “alive and kicking” if not so much in North America then in other parts of the world. We also had our suspicions about tobacco way before the report. About sixty years ago our father offered each of his four children 100 pounds if they had not smoked by the time they were 21; we all collected.
    We simply do not have fifty years to reduce the consumption of animal protein to where it will have a significantly beneficial effect on oursleves, our fellow creatures and the enviroment we all rely on. It is a dire prospect. Although the lawyers are challenging big food their efforts at the moment are insignificant. I hope they pick up the pace and get to the really serious threats to our health.

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