A nutritional activist group has sent a petition to President Barack Obama that would ban junk food items from White House photo ops.
The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, a vegan nonprofit based in Washington DC, argues that cabinet members as well as Mr Obama's family should only be publicly seen eating healthy items as America's role models.
'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?' PCRM nutrition education director Susan Levin, M.S., R.D. said in a statement this week.
Petitioned: President Barack Obama seen eating a hot dog with Britain Prime Minister David Cameron in March is one of several fast-food sightings that has launched a petition against such White House meals
Unhealthy: Seen eating burgers in 2010 with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, left, the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine wants to ban this kind of public meal display
'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,' she said.
The petition criticized previous photo ops of the president showing him '...eating a hot dog at a basketball game with British Prime Minister David Cameron, eating cheeseburgers with Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, and stopping at a D.C. burger restaurant to share a cheeseburger with a reporter, among other similar instances.'
The group said they also plan to write a separate letter to Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney encouraging him to follow the same meal guidelines while on the campaign trail.
The group's suggested and dubbed Power Plate guideline cuts out meat entirely and sticks to fruits, grains, legumes and vegetables.
As of Thursday night, the petition sent to the White House had garnished nearly 1,400 signatures, still short by approximately 23,600 signatures to reach their goal of 25,000 aimed for June 8.
Role model: The vegan nonprofit group says Obama's cabinet, as well as family, should not eat fast-food meals in public, like Five Guys Burgers, shown, to set a good example
The Center for Consumer Freedom, a nonprofit that describes itself as 'promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer choice,' criticized the PCRM petition Thursday, calling it a media stunt.
'PCRM is just another animal-rights group created to spread fear about perfectly safe food that’s not PETA-approved,' said J. Justin Wilson, CCF’s Senior Research Analyst in a statement while mentioning the vegan group, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
'PCRM’s Petition for Executive Action should be laughed right out of the White House,' Mr Wilson said.
Speaking to the Boston Herald, a clerk at Murdick’s Fudge in Martha's Vineyard, a known summer vacation spot for the Obama family, agreed that any business by the president seen by the public would bring a boost to their sales, but argued it not being a bad thing.
Lead: After the president publicly visited a Five Guys restaurant in 2009, their sales boost by 70 per cent as noted by the PCRM. One of their cheeseburgers seen in assembly
'People think if Obama, the president, eats fudge, then it’s OK for them, too,' said Carlene Douglas. 'I don’t think there’s anything wrong with it. He’s just a human being. For him to eat junk food, I think that’s his choice. I guess it relaxes him.'
Following a surprise stop by Mr Obama at a DC Five Guys Burgers and Fries restaurant in 2009, the franchise's sales grew by 70 per cent, as the PCRM points out in their petition.
They also attribute President Franklin Delano Roosevelt's public eating of a then-unpopular hot dog as boosting the item to an American meal.
They report 7 million hot dogs now consumed by Americans between Memorial Day and Labor Day each year, in relation to that public meal.
Political pressure: The PCRM, seen outside the White House, said they will also write to Republican Presidential Candidate Mitt Romney to encourage his healthy eating in public as well
Arguing the PCRM's qualifications in dietary restrictions, the CCF argued that 'only 10 per cent of its members graduated from medical school, and not all of those even have degrees relevant to nutrition.'
According to the Wall Street Journal, PCRM reported having around 125,000 members, 10,000 of whom are doctors.
'When it comes to the First Family’s dinner choices, the Center for Consumer Freedom suggests that they trust experts, not evangelical vegetarians who don lab coats to assume credibility,' Justin Wilson, CCF’s Senior Research Analyst said in a statement.
'The president can eat what he likes in private,' Dr Levin said, 'but at orchestrated public events, our leaders are role models.'
A request for comment from the White House by the Boston Herald was not immediately responded.
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