‘Tis the season — for eating. But while the holiday season offers us an excuse to indulge in our favorite culinary fantasies, some activist groups are killing the joy with doomsday proclamations about our food. It’s time to carve up their myth-making and set the record straight about which dietary do-gooders deserve to be on Santa’s “Naughty” list.
Just in time for holiday feasts, a new report spotlights spinach, eggs, cheese, tuna and even tomatoes as some of the supposed top 10 “riskiest” foods regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. The report’s author is the notorious Center for Science in the Public Interest, commonly known as the self-anointed “food police” for its overzealous prosecution of any food, drink, or ingredient that might possibly be bad for us.
Interestingly, some of the foods CSPI now deems “risky” were previously featured by CSPI in a top 10 list of “Super Foods for Better Health.” So a food is good for us until CSPI decides it’s actually bad for us and can breathlessly fuel a media scare campaign saying so. Flip-flopping CSPI surely will find coal in its stockings.
It’s not the first time CSPI has been a dietary Scrooge. In the mid-1980s, CSPI launched an all-out assault on fast-food restaurants and encouraged them to drop saturated fat-laden oil and replace it with partially hydrogenated oil containing trans fats. Not long after, however, CSPI’s executive director, Michael Jacobson, was calling for restaurants to dump them.
But CSPI isn’t alone in its holiday food fear-mongering. A group calling itself the Cancer Project sued restaurant chains in October for serving grilled chicken without warning customers that grilled meats lead to cancer. (They don’t.) The same group filed a lawsuit in New Jersey against hot dog manufacturers this summer, seeking a cancer warning on packages.
But the “Cancer Project” isn’t very frank about its motives: The group is an offshoot of the radical animal rights group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine that in turn is financially linked to the loony wing nuts at People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
PCRM shares the vegan agenda with PETA, meaning no cheese, no dairy and definitely no hot dogs or grilled chicken.
In reality, however, PCRM is only dressed up as a respectable group of doctors: Less than 4 percent of the “Physicians Committee” members graduated from medical school. PCRM president Neal Barnard ridiculously writes that “to give a child animal products is a form of child abuse” and has hysterically argued that cheese is tantamount to “morphine on a cracker.” (If these vegans had a little eggnog, they might not be such Grinches.)
But is cooking a tofu pot roast and giving Santa soy milk and eggless cookies any healthier? No compelling evidence points to that conclusion. In fact, a study published this spring in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that vegetarians had a higher risk of colo-rectal cancer compared to meat eaters.
Food activists aren’t only frosty about meat. Some scare mongers have made high-fructose corn syrup, commonly used in holiday staples like cranberry sauce and Graham crackers, into bogeymen by blaming it for obesity rates.
But this corn sugar is nutritionally no different than table sugar. The American Dietetic Association stated last December that corn sugar “is nutritionally equivalent to sucrose (table sugar).” And as a set of five studies last winter in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition helped make clear, corn sugar isn’t a unique cause of obesity. The American Medical Association agrees they are the same.
The gingerbread man is still a cookie, whether it has one kind of sugar or another. Sugar is sugar.
Don’t let the holiday season magic be tainted by activists’ food curses. One thing we can be thankful for is our ability to ignore them.