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Is that Right? Facebook disses dairy?

I enjoy reading the e-mails I receive from the Center for Consumer Freedom, a group that rails against regulation and taxation and argues that consumers should be left to make their own decisions about what they put in their mouths. One of the Center's chief bugaboos, for instance, is the move toward imposing a tax on sweetened soft drinks as a means of combating obesity. The group describes itself as "a nonprofit coalition of restaurants, food companies, and consumers" dedicated to "promoting personal responsibility and protecting consumer freedom." Agree with them or not, they always have something interesting to say.

So I was intrigued by a recent mailing noting that the social networking site Facebook appeared to have a grudge against dairy products. At first glance, it seemed that perhaps Facebook was making a political statement by prohibiting the promotion of dairy products on its site.

As the Center for Consumer Freedom's site noted:

Facebook's guidelines state that no promotions are permitted if the "objective is to promote any of the following product categories: gambling, tobacco, dairy, firearms, prescription drugs, or gasoline." An additional policy also prohibits awarding promotional prizes that include dairy products.

"It's dumbfounding, and just plain dumb," said CCF Research Director David Martosko. "Why would anyone lump milk with cigarettes and prescription painkillers? Does Facebook believe cottage cheese and yogurt should be controlled substances?"

The Center said it had asked Facebook to comment but hadn't heard back yet.

As with so many matters in the "Is That Right?" realm, there was indeed more to the story. I (and, as it turned out, several other members of the media) contacted the Facebook press office and received the following statement from Andrew Noyes, the company's manager of public policy communications:

We're all big fans of strong bones at Facebook and we will soon revise our promotions guidelines to lift the complete ban on dairy and simply prohibit giving dairy away as a prize. The rules, which govern the publicizing or administering of sweepstakes, contests, competitions or similar offerings on our platform, initially banned dairy promotions due to individual state laws that impose penalties for distributing dairy at a discounted rate. We're sorry for the confusion.

The Center for Consumer Freedom got the same answer and updated its information accordingly.

The incident served as a useful reminder that sometimes things that appear to reflect ill intent or a biased agenda or some other unsavory stance aren't as they seem. It's always worth digging a bit deeper -- and it's always worth giving folks the benefit of the doubt until the facts get sorted out.

By Jennifer LaRue Huget  |  December 18, 2009; 7:00 AM ET
Categories:  Is That Right? , Nutrition and Fitness  
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