Tourists won't find the Junk Food Hall of Shame on a typical Greyhound bus trip around Washington. So it isn't likely that many of them will see the display that opened yesterday at Ralph Nader's Public Citizen Visitors Center, 1200 15th St. NW.
The diorama of "food industry abuses" was unveiled by Nader and its creator, Michael Jacobson, who directs the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
The display contains examples of highly processed, sugared, salted and/or greasy foods and describes what happens to people who eat too much of them: heart disease, diabetes, cancer, diverticulitis, obesity.
"General Foods gets a special award," Jacobson said, because of the junk food they sell: Kool-Aid, Pop Rocks, and Jell-O. He said the company "is the leading food advertiser in the nation, with an advertising budget of $300 million a year."
Coca-Cola has a place of honor because "it is 10 percent sugar by weight and 100 percent sugar by calories." It was accompanied by a tooth which had been submerged in a glass of Coke and had left part of its enamel behind.
The high cost of turning a nutritious, 25-cent potato into greasy, salty potato chips costing over $2.50 was documented. And there was a display of Froot Loops, 50 percent of which are sugar.
The opening of the Junk Food Hall of Shame followed the Agriculture Department's proposal to ban certain junk foods from schools. Ironically, most of what Jacobson and Nader classify as junk food would still be permitted under the USDA proposal.
Even products with the smallest amount of nutrients would be allowed, Jacobson said: "Vitamin-fortified cupcakes, soda pop . . . candies, even grease balls." He called the USDA regulation "a farce, a cruel joke on children."
Nader criticized Carol Foreman, assistant agriculture secretary for food and nutrition, for her part in the regulation. "I don't know how Carol Foreman allowed this one to go through," he said.
Jacobson said he would like to see a museum with displays like the Junk Food Hall of Shame in places where there are a lot of tourists, but, he said, "Consumer groups don't have the means to put a museum on the Mall."
Jacobson said the Smithsonian had turned down a Junk Food Hall of Shame for its food technology exhibit, which will open in three years. The Smithsonian project will be underwritten by the food industry and the Chamber of Commerce. CAPTION: Picture, Jacobson and Nader at the Hall of Shame; by Tom Allen -- The Washington Post