Like the tobacco industry, as bad press mounts here in the U.S., the Atkins Corporation is exporting their product overseas. August 2004, for example, they hired a PR firm to “invade Latin America.”
Australia seems to be the only nation in which action to counter this move is being taken at a State level. The Victorian Health Minister, supported by the Australian Heart Foundation and the Australian Medical Association, issued a warning to alert people to the dangers of the Atkins Diet and other high-fat fad diets. The government is warning the public about the potential short-term effects–constipation, dehydration, bad breath, low energy and poor concentration–and potential long-term effects such as the increased likelihood of cancer, heart disease, depression, and osteoporosis. “When we know something is bad for people, like smoking,” the health minister explained, “then we let people know what the health risks are.”
Initially, the government will distribute educational materials in doctors’ waiting rooms, gyms and universities, probably followed by advertising in bus shelters and in the media. Australia’s chief physician urged all governments to follow suit.
The Atkins empire said that this was the first government to launch a public health campaign against them. Health Canada did propose to ban “low-carb” product claims and the British government did issue a warning against low carbohydrate diets, saying they were “bad for your health” though it didn’t specifically name Atkins. The “US Federal Government officials,” Atkins corporate representatives said, “had a much more positive response…” Perhaps “low carb” foods aren’t a \$30 billion dollar business down under.