Filed Under: Food Scares Snacks

Center for Scaremongering Pseudo-science, Inc.

In this month’s Reason magazine cover story, Jacob Sullum profiles the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), the undisputed leader of the food police that is “proud of finding something wrong with practically everything.

“The typical CSPI report,” Sullum concludes, “takes one or two plausible concerns, blows them way out of proportion, and throws in several dangers that are trivial, unlikely, or highly speculative, all in an effort to scare people into the one course of action CSPI knows to be right.”

Sullum chronicles CSPI’s long history of using pseudo-science to scare Americans away from just about everything that tastes good.

Sullum finds that at the bottom is CSPI’s “suspicion of pleasure without pain, of enjoyment unencumbered by fear. That suspicion is the thread that runs through CSPI’s uneasiness about artificial sweeteners and caffeine, its dire warnings about fat and salt, its campaign against the fat substitute olestra, its hysteria about acrylamide in French fries, its discomfort with food irradiation, its condemnation of the imitation-meat product Quorn, and its opposition to alcohol consumption as a way of preventing heart disease.

Restaurant critic Robert Shoffner adds simply: “They want us in a state of perpetual Lent.”

Gosh. Is there anything CSPI would allow us to eat? At least fruits and vegetables, right? “Naturally, you should eat lots of them, because they’re good for you. Just keep in mind that they may be killing you,” Sullum writes.

CSPI urges consumption of these foods while at the same time arguing (without proof) that pesticide residues could cause cancer in thousands of people a year. How odd: in their rush to attribute carcinogenic properties to foods, the food police forgot that they actually like fruits and veggies.

To learn more about the group that would outlaw potato chips and banish Ronald McDonald, visit

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