For More: alcoholinformation.org

Michael Jacobson and his Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI)

by David J. Hanson, Ph.D.

Michael Jacobson established the Center for Science in the Public Interest(CSPI) in 1971, along with two lawyers from one of Ralph Nader's activist groups. Both lawyers soon dropped out so now, as Executive Director, Mr. Jacobson now operates his own activist group.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest isn't a science organization but a special interest advocacy group for public policy. Although it assumes the mantle of science in order to obtain legitimacy for its activities and programs, 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 Michael Jacobson and his Center for Science in the Public Interest.

"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."

American Council on Science and Health. 16

Michael Jacobson calls for heavy taxes on foods of which he disapproves, numerous prohibitions, lawsuits against food producers, beverage producers, and convenience restaurants, to intimidate or force them into complying with his demands. He takes pride in being called the head of the food and beverage police.

Mr. Jacobson once said that "CSPI is proud of finding something wrong with practically everything.” 1 Indeed, there are dozens and dozens of victims of Mr. Jacobson and his group's questionable "scientific" studies and political attacks. 2 They include:

  • alfalfa sprouts
  • beer
  • berries
  • cantaloupes
  • clams
  • distilled spirits
  • eggs
  • fat-free ice cream
  • fruit juice
  • garlic bread
  • lettuce
  • melons
  • milk
  • salads
  • shellfish
  • wine

The list goes on and on. However, "alcohol, even when consumed in moderation, is perhaps CSPI's most hated product. The group's Health letter 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. 3 Michael Jacobson says "they really should develop an alternative for people to socialize -- a real fun coffeehouse. Maybe a carrot-juice house.” 4

Although drinking continues to decline on American college campuses, Jacobson's CSPI describes it as a "growing problem," and although so-called binge drinking also continues to drop, the CSPI falsely asserts that "binge drinking has reached epidemic levels in college communities across the country.” 5

"Jacobson is a vegetarian and sits on the national board of the animal-rights-oriented "Great American Meatout." And he won't touch a cookie. Indeed, Jacobson will not tolerate any of his employees eating "bad" foods. CSPI's in-house eating policy is so puritanical that Jacobson once planned to permanently remove the office coffee machine -- until one-third of his 60 staffers threatened to quit. 6

The Center for Consumer Freedom notes that under Mr. Jacobson's leadership and direction 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.” 7

Of course, one could argue that, by leaving it on the web site without correction, people would believe the falsehood. Ironically, Michael Jacobson and his Center for Science in the Public Interest attack the integrity of others, while at the same time they appear to display a lack of integrity themselves. 8

Michael Jacobson denies that the four grants CSPI received from Reynolds family interests have had any influence on him or his organization. 9 Perhaps they haven't, but there is a conspicuous lack of any tobacco page on the CSPI web site, or of any reports, press releases, "studies" or any other evidence of CSPI interest in reducing the serious health hazard of smoking. 10 This is hard to understand, given the fact that smoking is the country's biggest threat to health and the leading cause of death. 11 And while Jacobson and CSPI try to link cancer to alcohol, they ignores the proven role of smoking! 12

Michael Jacobson’s Center for Science in the Public Interest warns of the health dangers of C-reactive protein but conveniently chooses not to report that moderate drinkers have only half the levels of the dangerous substance found in alcohol abstainers. Presumably because of its anti-alcohol stance, CSPI somehow feels justified in withholding this important health information that might save people's lives. So much for the interest of the public! 21

 

References
  • 1. CSPI Scam main page, cspiscam.com
  • 2. CSPI Victims. CSPI Scam, cspiscam.com/victims.cfm
  • 3. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Overview. Activist Cash web site.
  • 4. Washingtonian magazine, February 1994. Cited in CSPI Quotes. CSPI Scam web site.
  • 5. Center for Science in the Public Interest: Not Scientific and Not in the Public Interest (http://www.alcoholfacts.org/CSPInoSciencePubInterest.html)
  • 6. Michael Jacobson Biography. Activist Cash web site.
  • 7. Center for Consumer Freedom web site, (consumerfreedom.com/activistcash/org_blackeye.cfm?ORG=ID=13)
  • 8. Center for Science in the Public Interest web site, "Integrity in Science: A CSPI Project" (cspinet.org/integrity); consumerfreedom.com/headline_detail.cfm?HEADLINE_ID=483)
  • 9. Jacobson, Michael "Tobacco Money" Doesn't Influence CSPI. Detroit News, January 27, 2000, p. A08. Letter to editor.
  • 10. Center for Science in the Public Interest web site, cspinet.org/.
  • 11. National Center for Chronic Disease Prevention and Health Promotion web site, "Targeting Tobacco Use: The Nation's Leading Cause of Death" (cdc.gov/tobacco/overview/oshaag.htm).
  • 12. New battle about evil spirits. Insight on the News, 1999, 15(4), 40. For more on the issue of integrity, see Michael Fumento's article, Quorn Flakes (techcentralstation.com/112602C.html). The brief report reveals some of the conflict of interest and blatant favoritism shown by Michael Jacobson and the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  • 13. Duplantier, F.R. A Bronx cheer for professional scolds. Behind the Headlines, June 15, 1998. americasfuture.net/1998/june98/987-0615a.html
  • 14. Drownowski, A. Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Health Week. n.d. pbs.org/healthweek/featurep3_421.html.
  • 15. Hastie, V. Soda Poses National Health Risk, Study Says. Daily Tar Heel, Nov. 30, 1998.
  • 16. American Council on Science and Health. Deceptive Practices Undermine Credibility of Consumer Group. American Council on Science and Health press release, June 22, 1998. acsh.org/press/release/deceptivepractices062298.html
  • 17. Messenger, B. "Pizza bashing at CSPI one more reason why Americans cannot take this outfit's whining jags seriously," The Morning Cup, May 21, 2002. Michael Jacobson claims that it is his Judaism that encouraged him to engage in the behaviors that have led him to be called a food Nazi (S. Davidson. Michael Jacobson: CSPI crusader for healthier, safer eating. angelfire.com/poetry/SusieD/Jacobson.html). While it is both ironic and offensive for a Jew to be labeled a Nazi, given the almost unspeakable crimes committed against millions of Jews by the Nazis, the term nevertheless seems especially appropriate. "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." Substitute Jacobson's name for Himmler's and the statement appears to be just as appropriate (John Cornwell. Hitler's Scientists. NY: Viking, 2003, p. 196). Michael Jacobson's actions are clearly consistent with the Nazi slogan, "Food is not a private matter," with which he would presumably agree (Robert N. Proctor. The Nazi War Against Cancer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999, p. 120). 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 Center for Science in the Public Interest. For details, see "The Campaign Against Alcohol," pp. 141-153 in Robert N. Proctor. The Nazi War Against Cancer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999.
  • 18. Limbaugh, Rush. (rushlimbaugh.com), 7-24-03.
  • 19. Price, J.H. New battle against evil spirits. Insight on the News,1999 (Feb. 1), 15(4), 40-41.
  • 20. Robert N. Proctor. The Nazi War Against Cancer. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1999, p. 120.
  • 21. Social Issues Research Centre. Of Public Interest? (Available at sirc.org/articles/public_interest.shtml)
Readings
  • As the titles of Michael Jacobson's books indicate, he tends to use such words as shocking, risky and crisis in what many call his fear mongering:
    • Michael Jacobson and Jayne Hurley. Restaurant Confidential: The Shocking Truth about what You're really Eating when You're Eating Out. NY: Workman, 2002.
    • Michael Jacobson and Bruce Maxwell. Marketing Disease to Hispanics: The Selling of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Junk Foods. Washington: Center for Science in the Public Interest, 1989.
    • Michael Jacobson et al. Safe Food: Eating Wisely in a Risky World. Las Angeles, CA: Living Planet Press, 1991.
    • Michael Jacobson and Catherine Lerza. Food for People, Not for Profit: A Source Book on the Food Crisis. NY: Ballantine, 1975.
Other Readings
  • American Heart Association. In Response to the Center for Science in the Public Interest's Report on Trans Fatty Acids. (Available at ://216.185.102.50/Whats_News/AHA_Science_Advisories/tfacspi.html) the American Heart Association takes issue with some of the unscientific assertions of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  • Bennett, J. and DiLorenzo, T. Food and Drink Police: Center for Science in the Public Interest Wants Government to Control Our Eating Habits. Washington, DC: Capital Research Center, 1998. Michael Jacobson favors strong government action to limit the food and beverage choices of the American public. (Available at heartland.org/archives/health/may02/police.htm)
  • Bonvie, L., and Bonvie, B. Strong-arming an innocent herb. Providence Journal, May 10, 2000. (Available at stevia.net/article.htm) Demonstrates the Center for Science in the Public Interest's lack of even-handedness in selecting the targets it selects to attack. Ironically, Michael Jacobson and the Center for Science in the Public Interest make a big issue of integrity....not its own but the alleged lack of integrity of those with whom it disagrees.
  • Duplantier, F.R. A Bronx cheer for professional scolds: There's nothing scientific about the Center for Science in the Public Interest, nor does the Center have any interest in the interests of the public. America's Future, April 15, 1998. (Available at americasfuture.net/1998/june98/98-0615a.html)
  • FTC: malt beverage ads don't target minors. Alcoholism & Drug Abuse Weekly, 2002 (July 17), 14(24), 6-8. The FTC found no evidence that malt beverage ads target minors as charged by Michael Jacobson's Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  • Fumento, M. Food fight. Forbes, November 11, 2002. (Available at fumento.com/nutr/quorn.html) Is Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest dishonest or simply incompetent? Or could Mr. Jacobson simply be incredibly careless with research methods and data?
  • Jacobsen, Michael., Hacker, G., and Atkins, R. The Booze Merchants: The Inebriating of America. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest Books, 1983. This book is an excellent case study of deception. It also documents that decades ago Michael Jacobson and his colleagues at the Center for Science in the Public Interest were insisting that alcohol ads "target" young people. Although the federal government has found no evidence to support that claim, Center for Science in the Public Interest continues to make the assertion to this day.
  • New York Seafood Council. Is Seafood the Leading Cause of Foodborne Illness Outbreaks? (available at nyseafood.org/breakingnews_archive_1.asp) Excellent example of apparently intentional deception by Michael Jacobson’s Center for Science in the Public Interest that may have the unintended effect of harming public health.
  • Nonprofit paycheck: The Center for Science in the Public Interest. Science & Government Report, 2001 (March 15), 31(5), 5-7. Reports the pay and benefits of Michael Jacobson and others of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  • Royko, M. Attacked by a killer egg roll. Reader’s Digest, 1994, 145(872), 27-29. Michael Jacobson and the Center for Science in the Public Interest continuously issue reports of questionable scientific validity attacking a wide range of foods and beverages.
  • Witchalls, C. Fungus the bogyman. The Independent (U.K.), 11-10-03 (://newws.independent.co.uk/uk/health/story.jsp?story=462354). Describes some of the inconsistencies and factual errors in the Michael Jacobson/Center for Science in the Public Interest arguments and attack on Quorn, a food product that has been sold in Britain for many years.