Center for Science in the Public Interest wants regulation, not public health

By Jeff Stier, Senior Fellow, Consumer Choice Center

Letter to the Editor – Re “They Took On the Food Giants — and Won” (Personal Health, Jan.1):

While the Center for Science in the Public Interest (C.S.P.I.) has made important contributions to public-health discourse, Brody’s piece presents both a rosy version of the group’s ideologically-tainted record, as well as gross misrepresentations of his critics. I write as one who has publicly debated Dr. Jacobson and his group countless times over the last two decades.

C.S.P.I. wasn’t mired in controversy because, as Brody sympathetically implies, it “takes on a multi-billion dollar industry.” Rather, its problems stemmed from campaigns fueled by a pro-regulation bias, rather than measured policy-making. Sure, industry often fought the group, but their critics included scientists and policy experts with legitimate positions, which included concerns about rushed scientific conclusions and unintended consequence of over-regulation.

Interestingly, Brody quickly glosses over C.S.P.I.’s role in pushing food manufacturers to replace saturated fats with trans fats in the 1980s, a move that illustrated the risk of over-hyped scare campaigns based on a rushed assessment of emerging scienceThe group changed its tune on trans-fats but hasn’t learned the broader lesson.

Perhaps that’s because Jacobson never saw past his politics. He told Brody, “We advocate a public health approach and government intervention, while the conservative approach is personal responsibility and no government involvement.” 

Dr. Jacobson’s successors should ban this straw-man argument and acknowledge that critics like myself seek science-based and appropriate regulation. Because paternalists don’t have a monopoly on public health, the public interest would be served by a more honest debate.


Jeff Stier

Senior Fellow

Consumer Choice Center

New York


WATCH: Jeff Stier on the CSPI’s Sinister Soda Strategy

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