Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy organization supported largely by the 850,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI is a key player in battles against obesity, cardiovascular disease, and other health problems, using tactics ranging from education to legislation to litigation. Jacobson has written numerous books and reports, including Nutrition Scoreboard, Six Arguments for a Greener Diet, "Salt: the Forgotten Killer," and "Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans’ Health."
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D., is co-founder and executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy organization supported largely by the 850,000 subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. CSPI is a
Blog Post List
October 17, 2013
If you know a child with ADHD, you know hyperactivity can make it difficult for parents trying to raise happy, healthy children. And you know that the day after Halloween is one of the most disruptive days of the year! But did you know that many food and candy companies use unnecessary ingredients that trigger hyperactivity, adding additional stress to families already coping with ADHD? Petroleum-based artificial food dyes are found in everything from cereal, yogurt, and granola bars to candy, chips, and even children’s medicines! Numerous scientific studies have demonstrated that dyes cause...
October 10, 2012
When it comes to making people feel good about a brand, no one does it more skillfully than Coca-Cola. Picture a perfectly multicultural, sun-dappled chorus wanting to teach the world to sing . Or “Mean Joe Green” tossing his jersey to a young boy who offered him a Coke. The company circulates videos of its vending machines “dispensing happiness” in the form of balloon animals and free pizza in one instance, and soliciting hugs in another. The message is that Coke equals happiness. That’s pretty close to Pepsi’s message too. Soda might have been a source of happiness when it was served...
September 17, 2012
Food Day is a nationwide celebration and a movement toward more healthy, affordable, and sustainable food. Created by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), it is powered by a diverse coalition of food movement leaders, organizations, and people from all walks of life. Food Day takes place annually on October 24 to address issues as varied as health and nutrition, hunger, agricultural policy, animal welfare, and farm worker justice. Last year, in the inaugural year of the Food Day campaign, over 2,300 events took place in all 50 states. Getting involved with Food Day is easy,...
April 19, 2012
Pink slime was a wake-up call. Americans were mortified to see news footage of slabs of fat traveling along a conveyer belt, destined for a spin in a centrifuge and a spritz of ammonia before being mixed into fatty ground beef. The resulting “lean finely-textured beef” (the euphemism for the slime) is safe, but the unappetizing controversy was many Americans’ first glimpse into the high-tech world of industrial food production. And they clearly didn’t like what they saw. Similarly, Americans were recently stunned to learn that the innocent-sounding “caramel coloring” in their Coke and Pepsi...
November 17, 2011
Think of all the things that food manufacturers could be doing to improve the nation’s health. They could reduce the amount of salt in packaged foods to help prevent blood pressure from rising. They could make healthier foods for school lunches. And they could use their billions of advertising dollars to encourage children (and their increasingly overweight parents) to eat healthier foods. But the truth is that the food industry’s single biggest priority is preserving its ability to market junk food to young kids. If you don’t believe me, ask the Grocery Manufacturers Association. “There is...
November 11, 2011
In case you haven’t already heard the news, Food Day 2011 was a huge success! With over 2300 events in all 50 states, we were thrilled that so many organizers joined the movement for "real food" across the country on October 24. Mark your calendars for Food Day 2012, which will again take place on October 24. Celebrities and luminaries—including Morgan Spurlock, Marion Nestle, Mario Batali, and New York City's health commissioner—plus several dozen local food activists—celebrated with a delicious Eat In in NYC’s Times Square . Our guests paused to admire the giant video screens bearing Food...
September 6, 2011
The “Big Gulp.” Free Refills. 20-ounce single servings. 2 liters for 99 cents. Soda vending machines just about everywhere. During the past 40 years or so we’ve opened the spigot of sugary drinks, roughly doubling our consumption. It shows in our bulging waistlines and widening bottoms, but equally so in the health care and economic sectors, where obesity is generating huge, unsustainable costs and reducing workplace productivity. The fattening of America—and its associated diseases—is sickening our children and threatens to cut their life expectancy to less than that of their parents. Many...
May 5, 2011
Cue the music ; the gauzy, soft-focus ads ; and the focus-grouped fridge magnets : Coca-Cola turns 125 this week. Never a slouch in the self-promotion department, high-flying CEO Muhtar Kent had himself serenaded by a red-shirted “Coca-Cola 125th Anniversary Young People’s Chorus” to celebrate. Photos of the occasion have a vaguely authoritarian hue, as if the world’s biggest sugar water manufacturer subcontracted out its visuals to one of Pyongyang’s finest public relations firms. Kent has something of a Ten Year Plan for the company, first floated in a chilly manifesto called “2020 Vision...
April 15, 2011
“April 15” fills many Americans with anxiety as tax returns become due (though this year Uncle Sam has given us until April 18th). I recently remembered that April 15 has another grim association: the opening, 56 years ago, of Ray Kroc’s first McDonald’s franchise in Des Plaines, IL. (Now is as good a time as any to disclose that my organization has hauled Ronald McDonald to court to try to stop the predatory practice of using toys to lure children to disease-promoting Happy Meals.) With the possible exception of Coca-Cola (itself a McDonald’s menu mainstay), I can’t think of another food...
April 5, 2011
It’s time to fix our broken food system. Over the course of the next six months, we hope to create what will be a huge grassroots mobilization for changing what Americans eat—and what the food industry produces—for the better. Let me introduce you to Food Day, which will be celebrated on October 24.
February 16, 2011
Food marketers have long had a special knack for euphemism. (If you didn’t believe me I’d offer you a Rocky Mountain oyster.) But even as someone who has watched the food industry closely for 40 years, sometimes even I can get taken by surprise. One such case is an innocent-sounding ingredient that appears on Coca-Cola, Pepsi, and other soft drinks: “ caramel coloring .” Now, I’ve long urged Americans to drink less soda. It’s a nutritionally worthless beverage that provides nothing of benefit to the diet, but whose sugar, in the form of high-fructose corn syrup, promotes weight gain, obesity...
November 22, 2010
Monday, November 29 is our last best hope for the Senate to pass food safety reform. That’s something I hope we can be thankful for next week. Part of the point of Thanksgiving is to appreciate the incredible bounty of foods we enjoy and often take for granted. Imagine what the Pilgrims who landed on Plymouth Rock would have thought had they walked into a modern supermarket … filled with an eye-popping variety of exotic fruits and vegetables from all over the world; abundant meat, poultry, and eggs; and what would likely have surprised them the most—the thousands of boxed, canned, and frozen...
June 29, 2010
Would you like some disodium 6-hydroxy-5-((2-methoxy-5-methyl-4-sulfophenyl)azo)-2-naphthalene-sulfonate in your yogurt? Well, you won’t find that mouthful of mumbo-jumbo on food labels. But you will find it listed with the friendlier name of Red 40. You might pass up a macaroni and cheese that contains the slightly foreboding-sounding tartrazine. But if it (I’m looking at you, Kraft) has Yellow 5—with its reassuring official government number—surely all of us can be sure that these colorings have been exhaustively tested by the government and have been found to be safe. Right? Wrong. It’s...
June 22, 2010
Dangle a toy in front of a child’s eyes, and you can bet the child will do just about anything to get it. And that’s exactly what McDonald’s (and other restaurants) do, using everything from TV commercials to signs in windows to the Internet in order to get kids to pester their parents to take them to the restaurant. It used to be that parents warned kids to run away from strangers offering candy, but companies have made an end run by laundering their perfidy through electronic media. Now kids absorb countless commercials touting premiums based on their favorite characters—Shrek, Batman,...
April 22, 2010
I love black beans generally and black bean soup in particular. Filling and inexpensive, beans are high in dietary fiber, low in unhealthful fats, and hospitable to garlic, onion, red pepper, and spices. If you were having lunch at a restaurant, black bean soup could be the healthiest thing on the menu. Or, it could be a bowl of stroke du jour. If you’re at all skeptical of whether the federal government should regulate the amount of sodium in processed or restaurant food, consider Chili’s. A bowl of black bean soup at Chili’s contains 1,480 milligrams of sodium. For fully 70 percent of the...
March 25, 2010
By Michael F. Jacobson, Executive Director Center for Science in the Public Interest A lot of parents notice that the foods our kids eat affect their behavior. Some of those effects are subtle, some less so. Most dads and moms know that sugar and caffeine can have a dramatic impact on behavior, but most parents are unaware that artificial foods dyes —like Red 40, Yellow 5 and six others—have also been shown to cause hyperactivity and other behavioral problems in children. It’s time to rid our food supply of these unnecessary and discredited chemicals. Since 2008, the Center for Science in the...