Filed Under: Food Scares

Don’t Tell Anyone, But CSPI Just Lost a Major Lawsuit

If you've been following the fun-loving rascals at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) recently, you've probably noticed the wall-to-wall coverage about their lawsuit against McDonald's. CSPI's fast food frivolity was covered in most major newspapers, by all three cable news networks, and on countless blogs.

So why is it that when a major CSPI lawsuit over salt gets dismissed, almost no one notices?

A state appeals court has upheld the dismissal of a lawsuit pitting lodged by a Tinton Falls man against the Denny's fast-food chain. …

"Neither plaintiff nor the putative class he claimed to represent asserted any physical injury or harm as the result of defendant's failure to disclose the sodium content," the court wrote.

DeBenedetto was represented by the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a health, nutrition and food-safety advocacy group, as well as local attorneys.

That update appeared in Central New Jersey’s Courier News. As of this writing, we can only find three other news outlets that have even mentioned the outcome of the litigation, all of them local to New Jersey. In stark contrast, CSPI's announcement of the lawsuit received attention from at least a dozen major media outlets, including Fox News and the Los Angeles Times.

New Jersey's judicial system just laughed CSPI out of the courtroom. Isn’t it worth letting the public know?

Unfortunately this kind of thing happens far too often. Back in the 1990s, CSPI's relentless campaign against the sweetener saccharin garnered substantial press attention. When the National Toxicology Program de-listed saccharin as a harmful substance in 2000, CSPI simply claimed the agency was wrong. That resulted in many well meaning (but wrong) articles during the next decade, wondering if saccharin really was safe.

When the Environmental Protection Agency quietly announced last year that saccharin wasn't harmful, the last serious beachhead of opposition to the sweetener collapsed. But the decision received little press attention, and so far we’ve only heard the sound of crickets on CSPI’s end.

CSPI and many other professional food hysterics have learned that it isn't accuracy that matters: it's crafting a good press release. The media shouldn’t be encouraged to simply cover a CSPI anti-food claim or lawsuit, then pack up and go home. Whatever happened to investigative journalism? Someone needs to stick around, hold CSPI accountable, and let people know that its pronouncements should be taken with a grain of salt.

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