Do-Gooder Double Standards

In the ‘80s, Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) sold several posters featuring information about nutrition and exercise to health-conscious consumers. But in recent years, that activity has fallen by the wayside. The reason? During a Washington, DC television interview yesterday, CSPI executive director Michael Jacobson explained that his group doesn’t issue them anymore because “the internet is replacing all printed materials”—a notion conveniently ignored in his attacks on restaurants
Activist organizations aren’t the only ones aware of this trend. Restaurants also realize that Americans are more “plugged in” than ever before. And they cater to that. Through websites, toll-free numbers, and a range of other options tailored to modern lifestyles, most popular restaurants provide consumers with a wealth of nutrition information. But contradicting the very policy adopted by his own group, Jacobson pushes for government-mandated calorie labels on restaurant menus by arguing that online nutrition facts are not “accessible information.”
Another example of Jacobson’s doubletalk centers on the packaged food labeling debate. Jacobson often boasts that “back in 1990, we got a law passed that has led to the nutrition facts label, which is very useful to millions of people.” In yesterday’s interview, however, he changed his tune: “I admit that the labels are confusing.” The show’s host followed up by asking for Jacobson to name the “single most important thing a person should look at on a food label.” Though he named “fat” and “fiber” without missing a beat, he never even mentioned calories—the one nutrition fact demanded by menu labeling bills.
In summary: Even though the chief of the food police recognizes:

America’s dependence on the internet;

the confusion associated with government-mandated nutrition labeling; and

the relatively high importance of other nutrients compared to calories;

Jacobson and other anti-obesity activists continue to operate along a “do as I say, not as I do” philosophy, expecting businesses to adhere to the very policies that they reject.

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