A coalition of restaurants and other food-industry interests is dismissing activist group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine as "phony" and a "front" for the animal rights movement after the physician organization issued a report on airports offering vegetarian cuisine.
The Washington-based Center for Consumer Freedom, funded and supported by food companies and what the group calls "consumers working together to promote personal responsibility and protect consumer choices," says that PCRM is "misleading" the public by "suggesting that airport restaurants serving meat and dairy foods are 'unhealthy.'"
The coalition, in a press release issued Friday, calls PCRM "a home for anti-meat, pro-vegan nutrition zealots who are committed to removing beef, dairy, poultry and other animal products from the American diet for good." The group notes that PCRM President Neal Barnard, M.D., is a board member of animal-rights organization People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals and says that PETA has given PCRM $850,000 in funding.
On Friday, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine published a report on healthy food options available in the nation's 15 busiest airports. It credits airport eateries for having at least one breakfast, lunch or dinner entrée item that is "low in fat, high in fiber and cholesterol-free."
Among the "wholesome" options cited is Taco Bell's bean burrito at Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport.
In a statement accompanying the report, PCRM dietitian Brie Turner-McGrievy says, "Travelers looking for healthy food should choose non-dairy vegetarian options, which will naturally be lower in fat and cholesterol and higher in fiber."
Center for Consumer Freedom spokesperson Mike Burita says "PCRM has a history of running smear campaigns about dairy and meat."
The purpose of the food-industry campaign, he says, is to "try to bring some balance to these reports that come out from groups that people know nothing about."
PCRM and PETA officials did not immediately respond to requests for comment.