Filed Under: Food Police Food Scares

CSPI’s Latest Decree: Your Diet Is Unhealthy

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is guilty of many things, but pulling its punches isn’t among them. The legendary nutrition nags, best known for condemning practically every food and beverage that Americans might otherwise enjoy in peace, has finally come out and declared war on all things yummy.

Last month CSPI president Michael Jacobson sent a letter to the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment, arguing (as he has on other occasions) that the chemical acrylamide, which forms naturally when certain foods are cooked at high temperatures, should garner special warning labels when it shows up in coffee, cookies, bread, and other items. Never mind that acrylamide poses no risk to people unless they eat literally hundreds of pounds of French fries or breakfast cereal every day. And recent science indicates that acrylamide might actually protect the human body against some types of cancer.

Jacobson closed his letter with a stunning admission of CSPI’s overall agenda:

While some breads and cereals could be part of a healthy diet, there is no reason to believe that french fries, coffee, potato chips, and cookies are part of a healthy diet. [See page 5.]

There you have it, right from the horse’s mouth. If you drink coffee, have an occasional cookie, or (gasp!) eat a French fry or two, there’s “no reason to believe” your overall diet is healthy. Stray for just a moment from CSPI’s definition of gastronomic purity, chew just one potato chip or drink a single cup of coffee, and you’re destined for dietary purgatory.

It’s this kind of inflexible fanaticism that prompted us to run our own truth-in-labeling advertisement in The Washington Post this month, warning the public about the ingredients in a typical CSPI message: heavy concentrations of junk science, scare tactics, sanctimony, and self-righteousness, without a hint of balance or fairness.

And for those keeping track, here’s what the Food and Drug Administration has to say about an acrylamide warning label:

FDA believes that warning language for acrylamide in foods could confuse consumers, by creating unnecessary public alarm about the safety of the food supply and by diluting overall messages about healthy eating.

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