Quick, Name the Surgeon General ... Didn't Think So

Mark Bittman on why we need a strong one again

By Mark Russell,  Newser Staff

Posted Feb 21, 2013 1:30 PM CST

(Newser) – With Americans' terrible diets responsible for millions of premature deaths along with soaring health-care costs, the country needs a strong surgeon general more than ever to fight "the obfuscation and confusion sown by Big Food," writes Mark Bittman in the New York Times. But, sadly, the essential job of America's top doctor has been "eviscerated," he writes, with scientific information regularly "vetted and censored for political reasons."

Leroy E. Burney in 1957 and Luther L. Terry in 1964 were important for educating people about the link between smoking and lung cancer, and C. Everett Koop spoke forcefully about AIDS in the 1980s. But since then the position has been rendered impotent, and the current surgeon general, Regina Benjamin, has been typically ineffective. Instead of attacking Big Food for marketing dangerous refined sugar products at children, Benjamin has mostly blamed the "victims"—that is, us—for falling prey to it. "A strong statement by America’s doctor decrying this, and calling for control of what amounts to a controllable substance, might assure Regina Benjamin of a place in history equal to those of Burney, Terry and Koop," writes Bittman. Click for the full column.

A file photo of surgeon general Regina Benjamin.
A file photo of surgeon general Regina Benjamin.   (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)
Sugar-sweetened drinks on display. Mark Bittman wants the surgeon general to target Big Food and the refined sugar industry to protect Americans' health.
Sugar-sweetened drinks on display. Mark Bittman wants the surgeon general to target Big Food and the refined sugar industry to protect Americans' health.   (AP Photo/Toby Talbot)
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