The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)—better known as the “food police”—is well-known for despising and protesting anything and everything that tastes good. Over the years CSPI has demonized such a wide variety of drink choices that it seems like the only “acceptable” drinks are water (plain, not flavored or enhanced) and low-fat milk. According to CSPI’s Foods of Poor Nutritional Quality pamphlet, soft drinks, sports drinks, sweetened iced teas, fruit-based drinks with less than 50 percent real fruit juice or juice with added sweeteners, beverages containing caffeine, and whole or 2% milk are all drinks to be avoided. Go down the list, and you’ll see the absurd lengths CSPI has gone to in vilifying nearly every drink imaginable:
Coffee – Coffee obviously falls under CSPI’s beverages-containing-caffeine rule, so it’s no surprise that CSPI co-founder Michael Jacobson complains about people socializing over coffee. CSPI’s in-house food policies are so strict that Jacobson once reportedly intended to get rid of the office coffee machine—until one-third of his employees threatened to quit.
Milk – “[T]he beginnings of clogged arteries, an early sign of heart disease, are seen in children as young as 10 years old!” CSPI warns as part of its anti-2% milk campaign. CSPI claims it’s arguing for variety– when at the same it is arguing against serving students any milk other than plain low-fat milk. (How have those flavored-milk bans been working out, CSPI?)
Juice – In its newly released Nutrition Action Healthletter, CSPI launched an attack on juice, claiming the health and nutritional information on labels is misleading. Many kid-friendly favorites are named and “shamed” for promoting the health benefits associated with its contents. CSPI apparently thinks some juice is acceptable, but will still gripe about juice anyway.
Alcohol – The group’s Healthletter also has asserted that “the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones.” CSPI wants hefty increases in beer taxes, increased restrictions on adult-beverage marketing, and even poster-sized warning labels placed in restaurants. George Hacker, who leads CSPI’s anti-alcohol effort, has even accused winemakers of “hawking America’s costliest and most devastating drug.”
Soda – In a further effort to restrict student’s choices, CSPI wants to ban soda in schools. CSPI also promotes the flawed idea that soda taxes are the way to fight obesity, and it wants to put warning labels on soft drinks it dubs “liquid candy”.
So what exactly can we drink? If you follow the strict and often flawed rules of CSPI the answer is practically nothing. Maybe wheatgrass shots make CSPI’s list. Coming from a group whose founder said that “a pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots per day” is “basically a wonderfully healthy diet,” we can’t feign surprise.