A Canadian medical columnist argues this week that the worst examples of junk science and unwarranted scare campaigns come from food fears:

We live in the Age of Science with more scientists practicing today than have ever existed — in total — in the history of the universe. But we live also in the Age of Junk Science with more false inferences, pseudo-explanations and intellectual deceits than ever before …

Junk science comes in protean forms but its most readily recognizable manifestation is the litany of confusing and contradictory “causes” of disease (coffee does, or does not cause cancer of the pancreas or congenital defects or heart disease; alcohol does, or does not cause breast cancer; keeping pets is, or is not, associated with multiple sclerosis and so on ad infinitum) about which we learn almost daily in our newspapers and on the television …

Nearly 10 years ago the prestigious journal Science, in a much-cited article, “Epidemiology Faces its Limits,” observed how “the search for subtle links between diet, lifestyle or the environment and disease is an unending source of fear, but yields little certainty.” The public is exposed to a “mind numbing array of potential disease causing agents from hair dryers to coffee … the pendulum swings back and forth resulting in an epidemic of anxiety.”