The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is not a science center but, by its own admission, a public advocacy action center. 1 Reflecting this is the fact that one of its web site awards is for being the "Political Site of the Day." Not surprisingly, it hasn't won a single science award. 2 The Center for Science in the Public Interest is much more interested in sound bites than in sound science. 3
Center for Science in the Public Interest distributes its reports without peer review, contrary to the way real science operates. In peer review, an editor or other neutral person submits the report to a number of peer experts in the subject of the research. These authorities read the report to determine if it meets the minimum standards for research. By examining the adequacy of the research methods, the statistical analyses performed, the logic of the analysis, and other essential criteria, approval by peer experts reduces the chances that the findings are erroneous.
Peer review is fundamental to science. Without it, there is absolutely no reason to have any confidence in the findings of a report. Peer review is the major mechanism science uses to maintain quality control. It's a fundamental defense against incompetence, quackery, pseudo-science, and downright dishonesty.
Without peer review, an advocacy report full of erroneous and misleading statistics can be passed off to the public as a scientific report. That's exactly what Center for Science in the Public Interest does.
Most of the CSPI's "science" hardly reaches the level of a high school science project. And high school students don't have a political agenda for which they distort the evidence or misrepresent the facts as does the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"There's nothing scientific about the Center for Science in the Public Interest"
Perhaps that explains why CSPI has such a long history of disregard for truth and accuracy. For example, in trying to get Congress to tax the high calorie foods that CSPI doesn't want us to eat, the organization ran an ad asserting that obesity is responsible for "more than $71 billion a year in added health care and related costs."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest identified the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) as its source for this claim. However, according to the USDA, obesity is just one of the many factors in the incidence of diabetes, hypertension, stroke, osteoporosis, heart disease and some types of cancer. And the USDA estimated that these diseases -- not obesity -- costs the nation $71 billion. 4
Similarly, the CSPI report, Liquid Candy, asserts that teenage males in the U.S. drink an average of more than three cans or bottles of soda drinks per day and that teenage females drink an average of over two cans or bottles per day. However, the actual numbers are only half that; CSPI inflated the numbers by 100%! 5 The Center for Science in the Public Interest also says that some teenagers get up to 25% of their calories from soda pop. However, that figure is also twice the actual amount.
Students taking beginning research methods courses are routinely warned of the completely unscientific nature of surveys in which respondents are permitted to self-select or "pick themselves" to provide information. The top of the CSPI website long carried a call for readers to "pick themselves" to report on any negative experiences they believe resulted from eating a product called Quorn. The Center for Science in the Public Interest assures readers that its "report will be very helpful in understanding the extent of problems caused by Quorn." Of course the CSPI's "survey" provides no such ability whatsoever and can only generate meaningless and deceptive findings.
CSPI tells activists that they can support their claim that alcohol advertising targets children by documenting the location and number of alcohol-related billboards found near elementary, junior high, and high schools. 6 Of course, for many reasons the resulting information is totally meaningless and cannot prove the claim. But such worthless facts can be very useful in deceiving the public.
CSPI spends some of its time chasing imagined conspiracies in strange places. It even sees them in all those swirls, squiggles, and unusual shapes in ice cubes, on bottles, in liquid being poured, and elsewhere in alcohol beverage ads. CSPI insists that "with little imagination, one can see these elements as faces, animals, breasts, penises, death masks, and other forms…” 7 This assertion tells us more about Center for Science in the Public Interest than about the ads.
Most people can easily imagine or "see" faces, animals, and other objects in clouds and inkblots, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest suggests that the "unidentified printed objects" in alcohol beverage print ads are intentionally placed there by advertisers, apparently to subconsciously seduce people to drink. This isn't science but paranoia. Astonishingly, CSPI has actually called for an investigation of these supposedly sinister objects, including having "corporate executives testify under oath on the witness stand.” 8 And while CSPI is at it, perhaps it should call for a Congressional investigation of the secret plots behind clouds and inkblots.
The Center for Consumer Freedom notes that...
CSPI crowed loudly in 1999 when Rosie O'Donnell declined to endorse Frito-Lay's products containing the fat substitute Olestra (CSPI had received over $50,000 from the Helena Rubenstein Foundation to publicly challenge Olestra's safety). When it turned out that Rosie merely had a scheduling conflict, and that food safety issues had nothing to do with the decision, Michael Jacobson (CSPI's president) refused to remove his version of the "truth" from CSPI's web site. "Let's say it's not true," he announced. "In one way, the Web is history and one could argue that organizations should leave a public record of everything they've done and said." 9
Of course, one could argue that, by leaving it on the web site without correction, people would believe the falsehood. Ironically, Center for Science in the Public Interest devotes much time and effort attacking the integrity of others, while at the same time it displays a striking lack of integrity itself. 10
The CSPI’s Alcohol Policies Project is partially funded by the temperance-oriented Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.The CSPI patron has called for increased taxes on alcoholic beverages and advocates policies that would de-normalize even moderate drinking and make it deviant. The National Journal noted Michael Jacobson "would love to see a downturn in alcohol consumption, perhaps by as much as 75 percent.' That would be an astonishing public health victory,' he said." CSPI's Nutrition HealthLetter has also asserted that "the last thing the world needs is more drinkers, even moderate ones." This, in spite of the fact that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with better health and greater longevity than is abstention. See Alcohol and Health.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is an "antidrinking group."
The Prohibition Party's national website lists the Center for Science in the Public Interest as a related site. The CSPI is listed along with the Women's Christian Temperance Union (WCTU), best known for its role in bringing about National Prohibition.
The long-time temperance activities of the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Alcohol Policies Project and its director, activist George Hacker, appear to have been pivotal in the selection of the CSPI by the Prohibition Party.
Similarly, the prohibitionist "Abstinence From Alcohol" website lists the Center for recognition along with the Women's Christian temperance Union.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest, the Prohibition Party (yes, it still exists), and the Women's Christian Temperance Union (yes, it still exists) all work toward the common goal of reducing alcohol consumption by restricting its availability, increasing the taxation of alcoholic beverages, and numerous other neo-temperance measures.
CSPI's Booze News reports that it "updates advocates on alcohol prevention." 29 Note that both CSPI and its Alcohol Policies Project are dedicated to "preventing alcohol" rather than "preventing the abuse of alcohol." They promote neo-prohibitionist rather than public health goals. That's all the difference in the world.
There is overwhelming scientific evidence that the consumption of alcohol in moderation is associated with better health and greater longevity than is either abstinence or heavy drinking. 30 A population that abstains will not be as healthy or live as long as a population that consumes alcohol in moderation. Any program, such as that of CSPI, that successfully promotes "alcohol prevention" in a population actually promotes poorer health and shorter lifespan.
For example, light and moderate drinking in England and Wales has been found to save more lives than are lost through the abuse of alcohol. Scientists at the University of London discovered that if everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher. In the words of the lead author, "alcohol saves more lives than it costs." 31
By attempting to "prevent alcohol" instead of attempting to "prevent the abuse of alcohol," the Center for Science in the Public Interest is unintentionally an anti-public-health organization.
In its “Beware the side effects of alcopops” ad in college newspapers across the country, CSPI equated drinking so-called alcopops (flavored malt beverages or malternatives similar to beer) with obesity and asserts that, in terms of calories, “putting away three on Friday night gives you the equivalent of a McDonald’s Quarter Pounder and a small order of fries.” 32
The Center for Science in the Public Interest "thinks people are just too stupid to make their own choices."
That’s highly deceptive because three alcopops -- or three beers, glasses of wine or shots of liquor (whiskey, tequila, rum, vodka, etc.) -- are much, much less fattening than a Quarter Pounder and a small order of fries.
Consider the facts. A Quarter Pounder with a small order of fries has 31 grams of fat. On the other hand, alcopops, beer, wine and liquor have zero grams of fat. No fat at all. Counting carbs? A Quarter Pounder with a small order of fries has 64 grams. Low-carb alcopops have from 2 to 15 grams, regular beer has 13.1 grams, a light beer has 4.6, a glass of wine has 1.75 and liquor has zero grams of carbohydrates.
But who can eat that burger and salty fries without drinking something? Even a small coke has 150 calories, which is more than a regular beer and its 40 grams of carbs is three times that found in the beer. Of course, substituting a low-carb alcopop, light beer, wine or liquor dramatically cuts both calories and carbs even more. 33
The lack of fat and the low carbohydrate content of alcohol beverages may help explain why so much medical research finds their consumption not to be associated with weight gain in men and some find a slight weight loss among women. See Alcohol and Weight.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is an international leader in promoting nutrition labels on foods and beverages. It has persuasively argued that consumers have a right to know the nutritional and other contents of what they eat and drink. It has even gone to court repeatedly to defend consumers’ rights to have nutritional labeling. 34
CSPI petitioned the US Alcohol and Tobacco and Tax Bureau (TTB) to require label information on all alcoholic beverages. It called for such things as a listing of the alcohol contents, serving size, number of calories per serving, and the ingredients (including additives) from which the beverage is made. 35
That’s a good start, but consumers also want and need information on carbohydrates, protein and fat content in what they eat and drink. However, the Center for Science in the Public Interest adamantly opposes listing such nutrients as protein and fat. CSPI argues that “because alcohol is not a food and most alcoholic beverages contain little, if any, fat or protein, those nutrients should not be listed on the new label.” 36 Unbelievably it argues that providing nutritional information on alcoholic beverages “may even do harm.” 37
Instead of supporting the consumers' right to know, CSPI petitioned TTB to mandate that a special large warning label, consisting of an exclamation point within a triangle, be placed on all beer, wine and distilled spirits sold in the US. That would promote fear rather than knowledge, which is consistent with CSPI's goal of reducing alcohol consumption. The Center for Science in the Public Interest is certain that it knows better than we do what's best for us and it doesn't want us drinking alcoholic beverages, even in moderation.
So CSPI insists that consumers have a right to know the nutritional content of what they eat and drink, except for alcoholic beverages! The real reason the group doesn’t want nutritional information on such beverages is apparently that they compare so favorably to non-alcoholic beverages.
In reality alcoholic beverages tend to have, for example:
As the following list demonstrates, the actual contents of different beverages vary widely. Therefore, it’s absolutely essential that consumers have specific nutritional information on all beverage labels for easy comparison.
|Alcoholic Beverage||Calories||Carbs (grams)||Fat (grams)|
|All distilled spirits (rum, vodka, whiskey, gin, tequila, bourbon, etc.)||97||0.00||.000|
|Non-Alcoholic Beverage||Calories||Carbs (grams)||Fat (grams)|
|Apple juice (unsweetened)||117||28.96||.273|
|Grape juice (unsweetened)||155||37.84||.202|
|Grapefruit juice (unsweetened)||94||22.13||.247|
|Milk (2% fat)||122||11.41||4.807|
|Orange juice (unsweetened)||112||26.84||.149|
|Tangerine juice (unsweetened)||125||29.88||.098|
Consumers want and need nutritional label information on the calories, carbs, protein and fat contained in what they eat and drink, with no exceptions.
CSPI launched a campaign to censor alcoholic beverage ads on college campuses. CSPI ignores the fact that:
CSPI has also launched a campaign to prevent any and all alcohol advertising during televised university sports events. 39 In spite of an exhaustive investigation by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) concluding that there is absolutely no evidence that alcohol producers or advertisers target underage persons, the CSPI continues to insist that “beer marketers are clearly targeting underage drinkers.”
CSPI insists that such advertising targets underage viewers. However, research by Nielsen Media shows that almost 90% of all college football and basketball viewers are of legal drinking age.
CSPI has recruited a group of athletic coaches to ask Congress to pressure the NCAA and its members to stop alcohol beverage ads on college sports broadcasts. Important is the fact that George Hacker, the head of the lobbying effort, asks us and Congress to trust the beliefs of coaches instead of the scientific evidence provided by extensive research.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) alleging that alcohol producers targeting their products to persons under the age of 21.
After carefully conducting a year-long investigation that examined all the evidence, including research by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms that included analyses of internal company documents, surveys of product placement in stores across the country, data presented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and much other evidence from numerous sources, the federal agency found that CSPI's complaint was without merit. It found no evidence "that the products and their advertising are targeted to consumers under 21." 40
A CSPI official said that the group was "angry," not disappointed but angry. Shortly thereafter, the anti-alcohol organization held another a press conference repeating the charge that underage persons are being "targeted." Its press release, "Kids in the Crosshairs of Big Booze," makes the same proven-false allegation. Hacker charged that “beer marketers are clearly targeting underage drinkers.” 41 This, after the federal Commission reported that there is no evidence to support CSPI's charge.
What part of no evidence doesn't Hacker and CSPI understand?
The Center for Science in the Pubic Interest clearly isn't interested in science, facts, evidence, proof or truth; it's only interested in advancing its anti-alcohol agenda.
How can lawyer Hacker not realize full well that he is misrepresenting the facts?
A famous and historically significant award-winning aerobatic airplane was given to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. The airplane won the 1980 World Aerobatic Championship and since 1983 the plane had been sponsored by a brewer and carried the words “Bud Light.” This fact caused CSPI to launch a massive campaign in opposition. It asserted that "the display of the Bud Light plane, covered in gratuitous and blatant beer advertising, send misleading and dangerous messages to millions of children and youth who frequent this premier public museum."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is wrong on at least three two counts. First, the plane is not covered with “blatant beer advertising,” but simply the name of a brand. This indication of long sponsorship is historically accurate and, therefore, appropriate.
Second, the mere name of a beer brand does not send “misleading and dangerous messages” to youth. To the contrary, trying to prevent young people from seeing anything having to do with alcohol beverages sends the message that there’s something enticingly special about them. Alcohol then becomes a highly desired “forbidden fruit.”
The misguided activist group called for alcohol activists to pressure Congress to have the aircraft repainted to cover the “dangerous messages.” And though some legislators actually took the bait, the museum refused to be pressured into modifying the plane and destroying its historical authenticity. 42
It’s incredible that CSPI would squander its donors’ money on such a silly venture. But, after all, CSPI isn’t about science at all.
Although drinking continues to decline on American college campuses, CSPI incorrectly describes it as a "growing problem," and although so-called binge drinking (heavy episodic drinking) also continues to drop to new lows, the CSPI falsely asserts that "binge drinking has reached epidemic levels in college communities across the country." 43
In the same short article, the CSPI contends that "95% of violent crime...on campus is alcohol-related, and alcohol is implicated in 90% of all reported rapes," although these erroneous assertions have been totally discredited in a major and widely-known article by an investigative reporter. 44
The Center for Science in the Public Interest asserts that the highly effective social norms marketing approach to reducing alcohol abuse “skirts problems associated with heavy drinking, ignores underage drinking, and sets a drinking norm that perpetuates high-risk drinking.” 45
It’s unclear how anyone could ever honestly make such clearly false assertions.
First the social norms approach doesn’t skirt problems associated with heavy drinking. To the contrary, it effectively reduces both heavy drinking and the problems associated with it. This has repeatedly been demonstrated by peer- reviewed scientific research
Second, the approach doesn’t ignore underage drinking. To the contrary, it has repeatedly proven effective in reducing underage drinking. No other technique has ever proven so effective.
Third, the social norms approach doesn’t set a drinking norm that perpetuates high-risk drinking. In reality, it doesn’t set any norm at all; it simply measures and truthfully reports the actual norms in a group. Because those norms are invariably much lower than most students originally believed, they no longer feel the need to drink or to drink heavily in order to “fit in.” This technique has repeatedly demonstrated its effectiveness in reducing all levels of drinking, including high- risk drinking. And this fact is proven by the scientific research.
For more on social norms marketing, visit A Proven Way to Reduce Alcohol Abuse.
CSPI also asserts that “A recent report from the Harvard College Alcohol Study found that social norms programs do not significantly reduce college alcohol use.” 46
That much is true. But CSPI had to be aware of the widely publicized fact that the College Alcohol Study was so fatally flawed that its conclusion about the social norms approach simply can’t be believed. To present the clearly faulty assertion as fact is to be disingenuous. That’s a polite way of saying that the Center for Science in the Public Interest knew that it was engaging in deception.
For more on the defective study of social norms, visit Study of Social Norms Deserves “F“ Grade.
CSPI refers to young adults as "kids." But adults who are 18, 19, and 20 are not kids and can legally:
By calling young adults kids, CSPI uses the same linguistic tactics long used by racists to deny African Americans their rightful status in society. For example, racists addressed African American men as "boy." Similarly, some alcohol activist groups refer to young adults as "kids."
Racists also stigmatized African Americans by using the "n" word. This was a very powerful tactic to create and maintain negative attitudes toward other citizens. Today, alcohol activist groups attempt to stigmatize alcohol beverages by regularly referring to them as "booze."
When people call adults "boy" or use the "n" word, we recognize them for what they are -- racists.
When CSPI calls adults "kids" and routinely use the "booze" word, and consistently engages in temperance-oriented activities, we need to recognize it for what it is -- neo-prohibitionist.
When George Hacker testified against alcohol advertising before the New York State Assembly's Committee on Alcoholism and Alcohol Abuse, he further damaged his credibility and that of CSPI by presenting no scientific evidence to support his beliefs. Instead he presented a long series of unsubstantiated assertions, anecdotal comments, and even glossy graphics of ads that he didn't like. But no evidence.
George Hacker is "the undisputed general" of the forces attacking alcohol.
Hacker resorted to these grade school show-and-tell tactics because he can't use the scientific evidence... it doesn't support his agenda. For more, visit Junk Science Congregation.
Similarly, upon publication of a discredited report by another temperance-oriented group on the subject of underage drinking, George Hacker used the opportunity to call for alcohol advertising censorship. 47 Thus, lawyer Hacker used faulty data to promote a policy that would violate the First Amendment of the United States Constitution. 48
Hacker also asserted that alcohol use and binge drinking are alarmingly high and that "the latest National Household Survey data suggest that alcohol use has even increased." It hasn't, although he reports that "previous month alcohol use" among 12-to 17-year olds has increased. 49
That much is true, but look more closely. According to the National Household Survey, the rate to which Hacker refers fell from 50% in 1979 down to 19% in 1998. It continued to drop to only 16% in 2000 (less than 1/3 the earlier rate). Then it increased from 16 to 17% and Hacker sounded his alarm and called for massive federal expenditures to halt the increase. 50
Hacker didn't mention that "previous month heavy use" continued to drop in the 12- to 17 age group, according the federally sponsored National Household Survey. And Hacker didn't mention that the National Institute on Drug Abuse's National Monitoring the Future Study found that "previous month use" dropped among 8th graders, 10th graders and 12th graders. Nor did Hacker mention that the proportion of those who had ever consumed any alcohol also dropped among 8th, 10th, and 12th graders. 51
Hacker apparently didn't think it worth mentioning that the federally-funded PRIDE Survey found the proportion of students in grades six through 12 who reported drinking beer in the past year was at the lowest level in the 15 years that the survey has been conducted. 52
Nor did Hacker mention any of the other improvements. He only reported the one minor negative he could find. That's not balanced reporting.
In a published report, George Hacker insisted that "We never suggested that industry intends to market to underage drinkers." 53
But one year earlier, in "CSPI on Youth-Targeted Booze Ads," he asserted that "the alcohol companies target teens with their ad campaigns" and that their advertising practices "intend to corral illegal booze consumers." 54
About a year before that, in "Alcohol marketers assailed for targeting kinds during super bowl," Mr. Hacker insisted that "Our children are at risk, and it makes no sense for us to allow alcohol marketers to increase the pressure on them to drink." 55
In the same year, George Hacker's Alcohol Policies Project published a document asserting that "Eight in ten (81%) of teens and 57% of adults agree that beer and liquor companies target underage drinkers or teenagers with their ads," that both teens and adults "agree" that companies try to lure young people into trying "alcopops," and ten other similar assertions that alcohol marketers "target" or otherwise intend to market to underage drinkers. 56
And two decades earlier, in The Booze Merchants, George Hacker argued that the alcohol industry targets underage drinkers. 57
The evidence is clear and overwhelming. So how can George Hacker say that "We never suggested that industry intends to market to underage drinkers"? He can't, and the written record proves it.
Can we believe anything George Hacker says? Consider, for example, Hacker's assertion on CNN Crossfire:
Question: Can I ask you a personal question for minute, please?
Hacker: You may.
Question: Were you an underaged drinker?
Normally, I'd take the Fifth on that. But in my day, the drinking age in New York was 18.
Question: Were you underage? A drinker?
Hacker: I might have slipped once or twice, but I never swallowed.
Question: See, and you turned out OK...
Hacker: I never swallowed. 58
When Hacker “slipped,” did he really not swallow?
Michael "Jacobson argues that people can't be trusted to make wise and healthful decisions on their own."
Michael Jacobson, who co-founded CSPI, is a man of irony. He claims that it is his Judaism that encouraged him to engage in the behaviors that have led him to be called a food Nazi. 63 While it is both ironic and distasteful for a Jew to be compared to a Nazi, given the almost unspeakable crimes committed against millions of Jews by the Nazis, the parallels can clearly be drawn. "Like Hitler, Himmler was... fanatical about the banning of artificial ingredients in food, blaming commercial food companies for destroying the natural diet." Himmler said the food companies attacked the population with their products but that "we shall take energetic steps to prevent the ruin of our people by the food industries." 64 Substitute Jacobson's name for Himmler's and the statement appears to be just as appropriate. Michael Jacobson's actions are clearly consistent with the Nazi slogan, "Food is not a private matter," 65 with which he would presumably agree. Judaism teaches the use of alcohol in moderation. On the other hand, most of the Nazi leaders were alcohol abstainers and the party implemented many of the same anti-alcohol policies promoted by Jacobson and his organization. 66
The president of the American Council on Science and Health has pointed out a number of specific problems with CSPI reports and assertions in this letter to Michael Jacobson, the head of the activist organization:
Editor's note: This open letter to Dr. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, informs him of the reasons why, despite dozens of mail appeals, the American Council on Science and Health is not joining his organization.
Dr. Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)
1875 Connecticut Avenue, N.W. #300
Washington, D.C. 20009
Dear Dr. Jacobson:
Re: Your recent mail appeals encouraging me to join CSPI
In the last four months members of ACSH and I have received several mail appeals from you and Stephen B. Schmidt, editor of Nutrition Action Healthletter, encouraging us to join CSPI and become subscribers to your publications.
Because I am intensely interested in issues related to nutrition and preventive medicine, I always give your solicitations particular attention. After much consideration, however, I have decided not to join CSPI, and I wanted to share with you my reasons for this decision:
Regarding the first point, you consistently claim that diet is an underlying cause of chronic disease in the United States. The science of epidemiology however, indicates that this is not necessarily true. Concerning the second purpose, your publications carry the tried and untrue "fountain of youth appeal" that has been around for generations. In claiming to help us avoid "life destroying illness" through diet, you are promising more than you can deliver.
I am puzzled as to why you would include pie or anything else on your list of "bad" foods. If consumed in moderation by a healthy, active American of reasonable weight, I think pie and the other foods you condemn can be considered "good" foods. As a matter of fact, my 15-year-old daughter at this very moment is enjoying one of your "forbidden foods," Haagen Daz ice cream and I do not feel a twinge of guilt, only envy that she can tolerate the calories without gaining weight.
Speaking of pies and other "nasty" foods, I am puzzled as to why you target certain brand names for your nutritional hit list. Sure, Mrs. Smith's Old Fashioned Apple Pies have a substantial portion of their calories in fat, but that is the nature of pies. Consulting Karen J. Bellerson's The Complete & Up-to-Date Fat Book, I confirmed that all commercial frozen pies have a relatively high fat content.
You promise your readers that you will "tell them what they need to know." Rather, it appears to me that you tell them only the news that you deem fit (and fat free) to print. For example, you make it appear that scientists have reached a consensus that high fat diets cause cancer, when indeed this area of epidemiological research is in its infancy. The only proven link of diet and cancer is one of obesity and certain malignancies, including uterine cancer.
I was most intrigued by your claim that, "As a nation it is within our grasp to cut the rate of diet-related disease by at least 50 percent before the year." Wow! Have you shared this discovery with the National Institutes of Health? When will your peer-reviewed articles detailing this breakthrough be published?
I tried to make sense of your 50 percent reduction claim using heart disease as an example. We can think of causation in a pie chart (not Mrs. Smith's).
Our pie chart shows that one-third of preventable heart disease is attributable to each of three causes: cigarette smoking; elevated blood cholesterol; and high blood pressure. Presumably your dietary intervention plan would focus not on cigarette smoking, but on hypertension and high serum cholesterol. Dr. Jacobson, you should realize that the primary effective means of reducing the health threats for most persons in these two risk groups is not through dietary manipulation but by pharmaceutical intervention.
If you were to take all persons with high blood pressure and high blood cholesterol and remove all the fat, cholesterol and salt from their diets, it is to expect that you would even approach your goal of "cutting the rate of dietary-related disease" by 50 percent.
Thus, in promising longer life and good health and virtual freedom from chronic disease by means of dietary changes you are "transmogrifying" (a word you taught me eight years ago when you accused me in your publication Voodoo Science of transmogrifying scientific data to please ACSH supporters) the existing data to meet your funding needs.
I am astonished that a person with a doctoral degree from MIT in microbiology could still believe that trace human exposures to laboratory animal carcinogens pose a health threat. Yet in one of your mailings describing "Food We Should Never Eat," you tell us that there are "still artificial sweeteners on the market that cause cancer." I must tell you that the recent scientific literature dismisses the rodent-to-man extrapolation as predictive human cancer risk. Regarding saccharin, ACSH would be delighted to share with you our summaries of the toxicological and epidemiological literature on this sweetener and the fact that it poses no hazard to human health. You must have missed a recent paper by Dr. Sam Cohen of the University of Nebraska Medical Center. The paper reports that saccharin, the long popular but much maligned artificial sweetener that was declared a "cancer-causing agent" by the FDA more than a decade ago, is not a "real" carcinogen, because it only causes cancer in rats, not other animals. In words, it was not even possible to extrapolate from one rodent species to another, no less to humans.
We stand by to assist you in correcting this error when you do another printing of your appeal.
While we are correcting errors and omissions, we have a few more to add to our growing list. You state in your promotional material for chemical cuisine that BHA is a very dangerous food additive. You do not say why, but I think you have rodents on the brain again. Dr. Jacobson, you should be aware that BHA and other antioxidants are now credited with protecting us from stomach cancer. (In conjunction with the introduction of widespread refrigeration, the use of preservatives and antioxidants like BHA and BHT are now believed to be responsible for our country's low and rapidly declining rate of stomach cancer.)
In revising your material, we hope that in the future you will abandon your tendency to tell only part of the story. For example, in your promotional literature for Nutrition Action you refer to health dangers from poultry. Yes, indeed, there are microbiological threats associated with improper handling, cooking and storage of chicken. Happily there is a wonderful, inexpensive, effective solution to this problem: food irradiation. Why did you not tell us about that solution? Indeed, why are you opposing this innovation, and claiming it is a health hazard when, indeed, it provides a health benefit?
I believe your publications would benefit considerably from a healthy helping of common sense and reality, which are now missing from your appeals. For example, in another mailing regarding "10 Foods You Should Never Eat," you complain that Prego "made with mushroom" tomato sauce has only three mushrooms in a jar. So what? Do you really think that people think they are getting their daily allowance of mushrooms or any other vegetable from spaghetti sauce?
Even more basic, do you ever consider the reality that people eat for reasons beyond nutrition? Everything we eat does not need to be bursting with nutrients. Once we have met our nutritional requirements, there is room for foods that just taste good. Reading your material leaves one with the unpleasant aftertaste of "food as medicine" rather than "food to be enjoyed."
I am not taking you up on your special offer for the "chemical cuisine" because, unlike you, I am not "chemophobic." Your chart seems to make the assumptions that: a) chemicals are bad; b) if you can't pronounce it, it is particularly evil; and c) "natural" is better. Perhaps, to keep things in perspective, the Center for Science in the Public Interest would also like to offer the ACSH Holiday Menu which details the toxins and animal carcinogens in natural foods. But don't panic. We explain in the end that the food is really very safe. Bulk orders are available from ACSH at discount rates.
In summary, I am not joining the Center for Science in the Public Interest because your appeals convince me that your efforts are based on premises that are unfounded, namely that:
government agencies have failed to protect us from dangers in our food supply.
food corporations are out to kill us. (I guess by not joining I will never get the answer to the burning question you raised: "What secrets do the food companies want to keep from you?")
CSPI is the answer to protect us from evil big business and incompetent government.
That's all for now, Dr. Jacobson. Should you take my advice and shape up your organization to bring your statements closer to peer-reviewed mainstream science, I will be pleased to reconsider my decision about joining CSPI.
Elizabeth M. Whelan, Sc.D., M.P.H.
This letter is reproduced by permission of Dr. Elizabeth M. Whelan, president of the American Council on Science and Health.
Dr. "Henry Miller founding director of the FDA's (U.S. Food and Drug Administration's) Office of Biotechnology , says CSPI throws science by the wayside when it makes its flamboyant accusations. Without food scares, CSPI couldn't raise funds."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is "the megabeast of science hype.”
"We take issue with (CSPI's) sensationalist and alarmist tone. Numerous CSPI press releases seem to be 'more of a vendetta than an objective presentation of the facts.'"
"For more than a decade, CSPI has forsworn both common sense and overwhelming scientific evidence in attacking olestra."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest "tends to one-sided. Consumers will have to look elsewhere for a balanced discussion" of food and health topics.
"The center's agenda is essentially prohibitionist."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest has "declared war on alcohol."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is "the mother of all non- governmental NeoDry organizations."
"For 30 years CSPI has injected ideology, politics and fear-mongering into science." The attack group "works to ban wine with million-dollar grants from notoriously prohibitionist trusts" and "unethically fills the public with dread over questionable claims of danger."
George Hacker is "an outspoken anti-alcohol activist."
George "Hacker argues in favor of the whole panoply of neo-prohibitionist restrictions on alcohol."
"Even religious organizations have shunned Hacker."
"CSPI is knowingly engaging in deceptive practices as they attempt to persuade the public and the media" and "if CSPI's efforts were an elementary school science project, young (Michael) Jacobson would have received an 'F' and would have found himself in the principal's office for cheating."
"We have a totally different view on food and nutrition than (Michael Jacobson) does. He takes all the pleasure out of eating by scaring people and using terror tactics."
Michael (Jacobson) has crossed the line from science into show business."
"While Jacobson proclaims obesity and related illnesses such as diabetes, heart disease and cancer cause as many deaths as tobacco," he was not above accepting tobacco family money from the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation for CSPI - a story that even made the pages of Center for Media Democracy's PR Watch.
"Michael Jacobson is an extremist who is out to generate money."
"Head CSPI clown Michael Jacobson is actually a very intelligent man who has all but sucked the credibility out of CSPI," which has sunk into "a cesspool of hysteria and half truths in search of splashy headlines and more contributions from easily-frightened and misinformed Americans."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a very "misleading name" and the head of CSPI, Michael Jacobson , should "go out and get a real job."
"The nannies at CSPI will do and say almost anything" to achieve their objectives.
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is "the nation's leading food terrorist group."
"Scare-mongering is the hallmark of the large majority of CSPI's reports and so-called 'information' booklets."
"The CSPI is a radical organization that fancies itself the food police."
CSPI has a "30-year history of fomenting bogus food scares... to gain publicity for purposes of fundraising tens of millions of dollars. The scam has been very profitable for CSPI," where "'non-profit' doesn't mean that the organization doesn't make money, only that it doesn't pay any taxes..."
"What makes officious nannies like CSPI maddening is that they cloak their apparent goal of prohibition in the language of health advocacy."
"CSPI is a leader of the Puritan pack."
"I'm tired of the attack-and-run tactics of CSPI," which has become an intolerant "pit bull" lunging at any food or beverage choice that doesn't fit with its very narrow views.
"Tony Soprano has nothing on the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is guilty of "character assassination" as well as "myopic vision and irrational knee-jerk judgments."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest demands government control of what we eat, calls for a doubling of the excise tax on beer, and a host of other tyrannical "food Nazi" schemes.
"CSPI puts up a smoke screen of benevolent concern" but it wants to "have your rear end in a sling if you don’t get with the program."
The Center for Science in the Public Interest is a "pseudo-public interest group."
This is the personal web site of Dr. David J. Hanson, who has received no financial support or other consideration from any agency, company, organization, group or person to post or maintain it.