Big Cheese Meltdown – Dr. Sigal’s Testimony Before USDA


Every five years the federal government publishes “Dietary Guidelines for Americans,” a series of recommendations on what we should eat. It’s a controversial list heavily influenced by industry lobbyists, leading to recommendations based on economics, not science. This is why Americans have grown so frustrated about “whether eggs are good or bad this week” – different reports, with different agendas, gain attention and often promote the opposite advice.

On January 14, 2014, Dr. Mona Sigal had the opportunity to present in front of the committee working on the 2015 guidelines. Her speech, which you can read below, excoriates the USDA for providing money to Domino’s to market their pizzas and use more cheese.

Commonly referred to as the “cheese pushing scandal,” the NY Times published a detailed journalistic investigation of the issue. There was justifiable outrage. Directly against their own recommendations, the organization mandated with safeguarding Americans’ health, had funded marketing that promoted not just eating cheese but also increasing daily intake of saturated fats. So much for the anti-obesity efforts of the same agency.

Call it karma or poetic justice, but following Mona,
the next presenter was announced: Jill Nicholls, representing the National Dairy Council.

The audience burst into laughter.

Dr. Mona Sigal’s Speech:
“My name is Mona Sigal, and I am Board certified emergency Physician. I have been in medicine for almost 30 years. In 2012 the USDA celebrated its 150th anniversary, after being founded by President Lincoln in1862. In his final annual message to Congress in 1864, President Lincoln called the USDA “The People’s Department”.

Is the USDA really The People’s Department?

In 2009, Domino’s Pizza’s domestic sales slumped. It then teamed up with a company named Dairy Management, which proceeded to devise and pay for a $12 million marketing campaign featuring pizzas with 40% more cheese. The campaign was a soaring success.

Dairy Management is a marketing creation of the USDA. It has an annual budget approaching $140 million dollars, financed by the dairy industry and the Agriculture Department. Dairy Management spent millions on research to support a 4-year national advertising campaign promoting the notion that people could lose weight by consuming more dairy products, even though other independent researchers found no such weight loss benefits.

Americans are now eating an average of 35 lbs. of cheese a year, nearly triple the 1970 rate – and probably more, because someone must be eating my share.

Cheese has become the largest source of saturated fat in the American diet.

Dairy lobbying groups have billions of dollars at their disposal and are being aided and abetted by the USDA, convincing the population and nutrition professionals for years that dairy is an essential part of a healthy diet and the only reliable source of dietary calcium.

But the fact is that dairy is the highest dietary source of:

  • Saturated fat.

And a significant source of:

  • Naturally occurring hormones which are detrimental to human health.
  • A source of infective agents, which are not destroyed by pasteurization.
  • Bacteria.
  • Blood and pus cells, whose numbers are defined by the so called somatic cell count, regulated courtesy of the USDA.

Dairy consumption has been linked to:

  • Certain cancers like prostate and testicular cancer in men and possibly ovarian and breast cancer in women.
  • Increased incidence of childhood diabetes Type 1.

So why is the USDA in bed with the dairy lobbying groups?

Because it’s their job.

What are we going to do in order to protect the public?

One possibility might be to move dietary guidance into a more independent federal agency like the NIH or CDC. Another way might be to recognize the ways in which corporate lobbyists corrupt our food system and do something about election campaign laws. One thing is for sure: We must have change. Now.

I left my work back home. I paid my own way to Washington, in order to stand before you today to make my voice heard. Why? Because I owe it to the patients I swore to take care of and protect.

Thank you.”

*Read the full NY Times article about the “cheese pushing scandal