Debating CSPI

Monday, April 21st, 2008

This morning, I debated a rep from CSPI for the Retirement Living channel on the topic of public health.

I was hoping she’d bring up trans-fats. And she did, blaming your partially hydrogenated oils for some 50,000 deaths per year. I have no idea where they got that number, but I did point out that if it’s true, CSPI’s activism is partially to blame. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the organization put public pressure on the fast food industry to adopt healthy trans-fats in place of animal fats. In response to one early study citing the dangers of trans-fats, one CSPI rep wrote in a newsletter, “trans-schmans!”

The restaurant industry caved, and now CSPI is demanding they switch back, at least when it comes to foods were other alternatives won’t work.

Should have video in about a week.

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10 Responses to “Debating CSPI”

  1. #1 |  Nando | 

    Huh?!? Partially hydrogenated oils are responsible for 50,000 deaths per year? I’d really like to know where they get this number from. It probably goes something like this:

    A person dies.
    CSPI asks:
    1. Was he overweight?
    2. If he wasn’t overweight, did he eat fast food at least once a month?
    3. Did he die of natural causes?
    4. Was the death related to the heart in any way (including strokes)?

    If these questions are all yes, then PH oils are at least partly to blame. It’s kind of what they do with tobacco, isn’t it?

  2. #2 |  Fred | 

    But what about second hand transfat deaths? We need a $50 million government funded study STAT!!!

  3. #3 |  David | 

    If these questions are all yes, then PH oils are at least partly to blame. It’s kind of what they do with tobacco, isn’t it?

    Pretty much, and all these studies seem to start with a presumption of immortality that is jeopardized by use of whatever is being studied. It’d be more honest if the used “potential years lost” but that wouldn’t be as dramatic.

    If I were more conspiracy-minded, I’d think what CSPI did with trans-fats was to deliberately create a “damned if you, damned if you don’t” scenario with the end result being that people would stop eating (or serving) fast food and start living as the CSPI thinks they should.

  4. #4 |  Jerry | 

    CSPI – Can kiss my ass, as well as all those other Nannies. There is such a thing as quality of life versus quantity.

  5. #5 |  Garrett J | 

    Keep up all the good work.

    What you point out is perhaps the biggest practical problem of both government over-regulation and over-zealous interest groups. Our understanding of nutrition- like all science, is constantly evolving making it an inappropriate subject for sound bite worthy pronouncements. Even when they don’t harness the force of law, these pressure groups do a disservice to everyone with their exaggerated claims. The purpose of science is the ever evolving understanding of the world around us- the purpose of groups like the Center For Science In the Authoritarian Interest is to scare people about what “Big Food” is selling.

  6. #6 |  Against Stupidity | 

    I don’t believe anyone at the CSPI really knows what science is. It’s just a fancy sounding word in there title.

    They frequently abuse statistics and wouldn’t know scientific methodology if it bit them on the ass. They certainly don’t the purpose of our constitution.

  7. #7 |  FWB | 

    Actually, and please please don’t get upset, birth begets death.

    Question: Does anyone here know what a “trans-fat” is?

    When an unsaturated fat is hydrogenated, two isomers are produced, the cis and the trans.

    Me, as a professor of chemistry, I stick with animal fats for much of my cooking, I do happen to be an animal. I will die someday because I was born. Maybe today, maybe tomorrow. Until then, I can worry myself to death or I can enjoy all the great things out there.

  8. #8 |  Lloyd | 

    The other laugh is that the big threat to the public’s health in the 70’s and 80’s was supposed to be the ‘tropical oils’ (palm and coconut oil) that were used in packaged cookies, crackers, etc. Now that hydrogenated oils are verboten, guess what companies are quietly putting back into some of the foods that have the emblem “0 grams trans fat”?

  9. #9 |  David | 

    It’s interesting the Retirement Living TV had you on to discuss this matter. I just saw a press release that the network has launched a new portal with lots of useful public health information and communities where (mostly older web surfers) can sound off about things like trans-fats, etc. Worth a look:

  10. #10 |  Jim Collins | 

    Anybody care to guess what the total mortality rate is? 100% When are they going to admit that they don’t have a clue?