The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has long used hyperbole to discourage the public from consuming sugar and sugar alternatives—or really, any foods that taste good. (This is the group that deemed fettuccine alfredo a “heart attack on a plate,” after all.) Now CSPI is using the same tricks to frighten consumers away from a new no-calorie, stevia-based sweetener. The Wall Street Journal reports that CSPI is concerned that this sweetener may cause cancer, but the research CSPI cites apparently took place before the specific sweetener was even developed. But why let small details get in the way of yet another “maybe it’s carcinogenic” claim?
If this refrain sounds like a familiar tune, you might recall that last year CSPI also linked 4-methylimidazole (caramel coloring used in some soft drinks) with cancer. The news media was quick to pick up the story, but often failed to notice what CSPI conveniently omitted– that researchers gave the rodents an ultra-high doses of the chemical when determining carcinogenicity. According to a biochemistry professor at Vanderbilt University, for people to reach the same level of intake they “would have to drink more than 1,000 sodas a day.” If you’re drinking 1,000 sodas a day, you probably have bigger problems than a chemical in the caramel coloring.
And let’s not forget the hype that CSPI created over the artificial sweetener saccharin. In another big flop the nutrition nannies also linked saccharin to cancer, only to see the National Toxicology Program and the Environmental Protection Agency later recognize that the sweetener is not a health risk.
So why continue to play the boy who cried “cancer”? We suppose it’s harder to get reporters to call you by saying “everything’s probably safe.” But more than that, many so-called “public interest” groups playing the cancer card have a hidden agenda. CSPI masquerades itself as a group of concerned scientists, but its leaders seem more interested in taking the pleasure out of eating.