Is there any food that isn’t blamed by one study or another for causing obesity, cancer, or some other malady? It seems we spend almost all our time debunking them. To cite just a few examples, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) issued a report condemning acrylamide (found in French fries, potato chips and many other foods), even though the average human would have to eat 180 pounds of fries a day for life to get sick. Johns Hopkins University professor Roland Griffiths declared that caffeine was a
“psychoactive drug” after a study that examined a grand total of seven people. And then there was the media frenzy over a study that found teeny, tiny amounts of chemicals in farmed salmon. Health officials dismissed the report, saying: “There’s no reason to change eating patterns.”
What’s in the limelight now? Fruit juice. We kid you not. A new study supposedly links fruit juice to childhood obesity. Almost immediately the headlines were blaring that parents have been unwittingly turning their little Peters and Pollys into porkers. (In fact, the study found that juice had no effect on normal weight children, and that even for overweight children it didn’t matter whether they drank one or five glasses of juice. That’s hardly convincing.)
Should we yank fruit juice out of schools? Anti-obesity zealots already want to remove soda from schools — although their plans rather bizarrely eliminate diet soda as well. And CSPI has also launched a campaign against 2% milk in schools. Where does it end?
Even more frustrating are the food cops’ contradictory and ever-changing demands. Take trans fat. In the 1980s CSPI launched a crusade to get rid of beef fat in cooking oil. Knowing that French fries would still have trans fat if they got their way, CSPI proclaimed: “All told, the charges against trans fat just don’t stand up.” Then CSPI flip-flopped. And now they want to
ban trans fat altogether.
It seems you can’t even eat the CSPI-approved food options. For example, CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson keeps an apple on his desk, saying “that’s fat free enough for me.” But even Jacobson’s apple could cause cancer, if you believe the hype from the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Environmental Working Group. And while CSPI basically thinks biotech crops are safe to eat, listen to Greenpeace and you’ll think tofu made from genetically modified soy will turn you into a Frankenstein monster.
If our modern food supply is so deadly, why are we living longer than ever before? Life expectancy has risen by more than six years since 1970. It seems the food cops can’t be concerned with such minor details. They’re too anxious to condemn people’s food choices. Here are a few examples:
At a recent Food and Drug Administration hearing, the president of the PETA-affiliated Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, Neal Barnard, called cheese “morphine on a cracker” and “dairy crack.”
CSPI’s Jacobson told a national TV audience that if you’re going to eat ice cream, “just know that you’re going to kill yourself.”
Harvard’s Walter Willett says about soft drinks: “Anyone who cares about their health or the health of their family would not consume these beverages.”
Yale University’s Kelly “Big Brother” Brownell sums up this soup of food scares very simply: “I
recommend we develop a militant attitude about the toxic food environment, like we have about tobacco.“
If we lived our lives according to these scaremongers, we’d eventually be stuck sucking down nothing more than steaming hot bowls of organic air.