Forget reefer madness. Health activists are now saying that the real gateway drug is caffeine. On Sunday, Boston Globe contributor (and high school English teacher) Ron Fletcher offered his expert medical opinion on adolescent caffeine consumption, claiming that "it’s a vicious cycle that can start subtly and lead to major problems, including illicit use of prescription drugs such as Ritalin." Yes. And 99 percent of Vicodin abusers were formerly big carrot-eaters as well.
Like most other selective targets on the food-activist hit list, only a few caffeinated products are subject to scorn. While the food police fret over the growing popularity of coffee and soda, they conveniently ignore an assortment of teas (green, black, white, chai, and iced), chocolate drinks, and other centuries-old, all-natural sources of the stimulant. And now energy drinks — the latest caffeine-containing products — have come under attack, with the Center for Science in the Public Interest counting them among the anathemas denounced during its three decades-long crusade.
But an energy drink’s appearance in a CSPI press release is hardly unique. In fact, it’s difficult to come up with a short list of foods over which the organization has not petitioned the FDA or cautioned the public. During the past 30 years, CSPI has preached about the alleged health dangers lurking in nuts, food coloring, hot dogs, oysters, eggs, cake mix, cooking oil, microwave popcorn, and ice cream — just to name a few. While CSPI contends that each of these foods is "more dangerous" than the last, scientific research continues to debunk most of the group’s alarmist claims.