We haven’t heard much from the self-anointed “food police” at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) in a while, and we were starting to worry that their constant fretting and overzealousness about tasty food had given them a panic attack. But never fear—CSPI is back to its usual food-scold tricks, this time with a new campaign attacking soda and other sugar-sweetened drinks, backed by such notable groups as the “Idaho Division of the Federal Highway Administration.” And it isn’t any more credible than…well, other CSPI scare campaigns.
CSPI’s press release announcing its new initiative contains this laugher: “And unlike any other food or beverage, only sugary drinks have been shown to have a causal role in promoting obesity…”
Actually, any food or drink with calories can cause obesity. Weight gain comes down to a simple equation: Your calories “in” from food exceeding your calories “out” from physical activity. Calories from soft drinks are not any more fattening than calories from anything else. Drinking or eating too much of anything can cause weight gain.
We’re not saying everybody should chug soft drinks with abandon. It’s all about moderation, balancing calories, and yes, enjoying what you eat and drink. For some folks, that may mean reducing the number of sugary drinks they consume, although recent research from the National Institutes of Health found soft drink consumption accounts for less than six percent of the average person’s daily calorie intake.
But when CSPI says it wants people to drink “fewer” soft drinks, what it really means is “don’t drink any.” After all, CSPI is comparing its new campaign to the anti-tobacco push. No credible person thinks beverages are analogous to cigarettes—everyone needs calories to live. It’s just that in the view of CSPI’s executive director, what’s “basically a wonderfully healthy diet” amounts to something similar to what peasants ate in the 1600s: “perhaps a pound of bread, a spud, and a couple of carrots per day.” We’re not joking.
CSPI’s latest initiative seems poised to build up to the group’s October “Food Day” event. But, predictably, it’s looking more and more like “Anti-Food Day.”