Filed Under: Food Police

Diet Patrol With Side Orders of Tax and Scare

This week the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is embarking on a major effort to assert its position as the world champion of food policing. CSPI leader Michael Jacobson will present an ambitious wish list to the U.S. Senate Finance Committee tomorrow. (Its list of demands has just been made available online.) In less than 24 hours, CSPI will ask Congress to forcibly remove half the salt from all packaged and restaurant foods. It’s a request so heavy-handed that the group is laying the groundwork one day early with its own sodium study. But as we’re telling reporters today, it doesn’t take a diet expert to see why CSPI’s new salt report isn’t worth a grain of it.

Taking a page from New York City Health Commissioner Thomas Frieden, CSPI is wants a congressionally mandated overhaul of restaurant and packaged food recipes. If implemented, the plan would cut half the salt out of those meals and snacks over the next ten years. But as some of the nation’s leading health experts have been warning, such a drastic reduction of Americans’ salt intake could be a public health disaster in the making. CSPI’s salt report is a desperate attempt to scare Americans into believing otherwise.

The CSPI paper offers plenty of scary statistics by documenting sodium levels in the saltiest restaurant meals Jacobson’s staffers could find. What it doesn’t offer, however, is anything new.

CSPI merely looked through the nutrition information already provided by restaurants and republished the data for five meals per establishment: four meals containing the highest levels of sodium and one meal with the lowest.

This lazy cherry-picking methodology represents the first step in CSPI’s one-two punch this week. Taxing Americans for eating their favorite foods? That’s the second. If CSPI’s Michael Jacobson gets his way, look out for his half-baked anti-salt scheme and a tidal wave of federal tax hikes on alcohol and non-diet sodas.

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