June 13

Consumer Freedom verses CSPI

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Melanie Warner writes about the ongoing battle between Michael Jacobson, leader of the notorious Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), and his nemesis Rick Berman, who heads up the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a “consumer’s” advocacy group. At issue is the right and moral obligation of manufacturers to either sell or quit selling junk food. Katherine Flegal, a researcher at the CDC, recently lobbed a hand grenade into this fight with her study published in JAMA seeming to show that a little obesity is a good thing, at least as far as longevity is concerned.
In this article is a box that you can access by clicking on the title: You Say Tomato. The box contains a sampling of the differing views of the above protagonists. I gave the various categories some thought; here’s how I (MRE) weigh in on the issues.
OBESITY
CSPI: Still a big deal
CCF: Was never that big of a deal
MRE: Is still a huge deal. In my opinion anyone who says obesity isn’t an issue in this country is blind. And an idiot. Anyone who is obese is at risk for a host of diseases, all of which shorten life.
WHO’S RESPONSIBLE?
CSPI: Corporations
CCF: Individuals
MRE: I’m with CCF on this one. Sort of. If I had to give a one word answer as to whom I think is at fault, I would say: Government. The government lays out the nutritional guidelines, the manufacturers make stuff that more or less hews to these guidelines. When the government pushed low-fat, the manufacturers accommodated. If people didn’t buy it, however, manufacturers wouldn’t make it, so there is an issue of personal responsibility.
JUNK FOOD
CSPI: Food porn
CCF: Convenient foods, snacks
MRE: Depends on your definition of junk food. If it’s jerky, I say its convenience food or snacks; if it cupcakes, I say food porn. Or, as a good friend of mine once said, there is no junk food: there is junk and there is food.
SODA
CSPI: Liquid Candy
CCF: Soft drinks, soda
MRE: I’m firmly in the CSPI camp on this one. In fact, I think soft drinks are worse than candy. With the candy—at least if it’s chocolate—you get some nutrition; with soft drinks all you get is a quarter of a cup of high-fructose corn syrup. And that’s in the 12 ounce variety—God only knows how much you get in a Super Sized monster cup with multiple refills. Remember, fructose is what researchers give lab animals to make them develop high blood pressure, high triglycerides, and the whole metabolic syndrome. Is it any wonder these problems are showing up in kids now.
ALCOHOLIC BEVERAGES
CSPI: Alcopop
CCF: Adult beverages
MRE: Wine, in moderation, has been shown in multiple studies to increase health and longevity. I drink wine and beer and whiskey and, when I can get it, hard cider. And for the most part, with notorious exceptions that my family makes sure I never forget, I drink them in moderation, so I guess I’m with CCF here.
LISTING OF DONORS
CSPI: Full disclosure
CCF: Anonymous
MRE: I have no donors. I am a donor.
WHAT THEY CALL THE OTHER SIDE
CSPI: Bogus consumer group
CCF: Food police, nutrition nannies
MRE: CCF is definitely not a consumer group; it is an advocacy group for food manufacturers and the restaurant industry. The CSPI, in my opinion, is a low-fat, high-carb advocacy group that delights in attacking and condemning those with whom it disagrees, including yours truly and anyone else who doesn’t buy into the low-fat way of life. CSPI wields a fair amount of power because its press conferences and press releases—virtually all of which attack a particular industry, food, or restaurant—can cause severe economic damage to its targets.


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