It’s been a busy week, but this article by Reason magazine’s Katherine Mangu-Ward in the October 14 Washington Post deserves mention because it gets so much right. You’d think the food nannies, with such names as the Center for “Science” in the Public Interest (CSPI), would base their diagnoses of the so-called obesity “epidemic” and proposals to fix it on, well, science.
Turns out, a lot of their proposals don’t make sense. Mangu-Ward notes that USDA studies show that 93 percent of residents in so-called “food deserts” have access to a car. If that’s not enough, Mangu-Ward shows that an Archives of Internal Medicine study showed that proximity to a grocery store did not increase consumption of “healthy” food. So if that’s the case, why do journalists and food scolds think that supermarket subsidies will make desert-dwellers svelte?
Of course, it’s not only on fat taxes and “food deserts” where our nannies fly in the face of science. Some assert the nutritional benefits of “organic” foods, despite considerable evidence that no such benefits exist. Going a bit further back, the National Toxicology Program found that the artificial sweetener saccharin poses no cancer risks in humans, drawing howls of outrage from CSPI. Well, now even the EPA recognizes that the sweetener is not a health risk, and nobody even bothered to comment in opposition. Sometimes hype is just hype.
So if science isn’t the guiding principle of the Center for “Science” in the Public Interest, what is? CSPI’s executive director had this from a column in The Atlantic that made us double-take:
[CSPI-favorable] organizations need to climb out of their silos and start collaborating with one another to make faster progress. Health groups should work with farm-animal welfare groups. Anti-hunger activists should work with sustainable agriculture advocates. Nutrition advocates should work with environmentalists.
That doesn’t sound like open inquiry and sound science. It sounds more like collaboration among progressive activist groups to restrict consumer choice. We don’t get the impression that that’s in the “public interest.”