Debating CSPI

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 "healthier" 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 where other alternatives won't work.

Should have video in about a week.

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of Reason.com or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  • Franklin Harris||

    the Retirement Living channel



    The what????

  • ||

    Did you get to ask whether CSPI was actually a center? The rest of their name is rife with wild inaccuracies. If they are nonetheless a center, it would restore some of my faith in humanity.

  • ||

    Buncha freakin' killjoys. Don't eat this, don't drink that. Just graze.

  • Guy Montag||

    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,

    I believe they got it from the same place that some Anorexia group got their number of young women keeling over dead annually from eating disorders. Hit: you can get arrested for looking at that location in Maine.

    Also, on their true objective, I don't think that anybody's health is it. I suspect a much more Lenninist motovation, or at least a "useful idiot" connection.

  • ||

    The CSPI is what a PAC founded by Juanita would look like.

  • old dude||

    I remember when fast food came in paper wrappers and cardboard boxes. Then the green fanatics worried that McDonald's was going to deforest the world so pressure was brought to bear. Now everything is in styrofoam containers, which is going to ruin the environment so we need to change back to paper wrappers . . . . .

  • ||

    Radley,
    Well done!! I have been waiting for someone to bring that up to an official from CSPI for a long time.

  • ||

    And she did, blaming your partially hydrogenated oils for some 50,000 deaths per year. I have no idea where they got that number,...

    I do. Pulled it out of their collective asses.
    The CSPI, doesn't have the honesty to say SWAG, guesstimate, or I duuno, but it must be a lot. They throw out these fabricated figures and the MSM laps it up like starving kittens. I no longer give CSPI any credence whatsoever.

  • Guy Montag||

    J sub D,

    Have any independant insight into their motovation? Something other than our health maybe?

  • stuartl||

    They throw out these fabricated figures and the MSM laps it up like starving kittens. I no longer give CSPI any credence whatsoever.

    You might also want to ignore the MSM when they quote figures on anything. It is amazing to see the obviously bogus numbers they fall for.

  • stuartl||

    Guy, they do care about our health, but only if the solution involves suffering and making people give up things they enjoy. Animal fats are tasty? You must give them up. Problems with the replacement? Give that up too. Nothing easy like using no-calorie products such as olestra.

  • TallDave||

    I was hoping she'd bring up trans-fats. And she did, blaming your partially hydrogenated oils for some 50,000 deaths per year.

    That's nothing. DHMO has killed millions of people, yet because of the powerful DHMO lobby the deadliest chemical on Earth is still widely available (even to children!).

    STOP DHMO NOW!

    http://www.dhmo.org/truth/Dihydrogen-Monoxide.html

  • jv||

    Its my understanding that there has no research to support the idea that anything about trans-fat is inherently unhealthy. Its just acts the same way as saturated fat in the body because its fatty acid tails are straight as opposed to kinked. Big fucking deal.

  • Neu Mejican||

    I have no idea where they got that number

    Most likely from the New England Journal of Medicine

    http://content.nejm.org/cgi/content/full/354/15/1601

    "On the basis of reported relations between trans fat intake and CHD events in prospective studies (Figure 4), which may account more satisfactorily for the total effects of trans fatty acids, 10 to 19 percent of CHD events in the United States could be averted by reducing the intake of trans fat. Thus, given the 1.2 million annual myocardial infarctions and deaths from CHD in the United States,82 near-elimination of industrially produced trans fats might avert between 72,000 (6 percent) and 228,000 (19 percent) CHD events each year."

    Just because the Transfat ban is silly, doesn't mean that there is no reason to reduce transfat.

  • TallDave||

    No, they really are bad for you.

    Partially hydrogenated vegetable oils have been an increasingly significant part of the human diet for about 100 years (particularly so in the latter half of the 20th century), and some deleterious effects of trans fat consumption are scientifically accepted, forming the basis of the health guidelines discussed above.

    The exact biochemical methods by which trans fats produce specific health problems are a topic of continuing research. The most prevalent theory is that the human lipase enzyme is specific to the cis configuration. This enzyme can hydrolize the cis double bond, resulting in two lower molecular weight fatty acids that can be further metabolized. The human lipase enzyme is ineffective with the trans configuration, so trans fat remains in the blood stream for a much longer period of time and is more prone to arterial deposition and subsequent plaque formation. While the mechanisms through which trans fats contribute to coronary heart disease are fairly well understood, the mechanism for trans fat's effect on diabetes is still under investigation


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Trans-fats

    That's the wiki summary, but read the supporting studies and decide for yourself.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Radley,

    That article, btw way, took about 15 seconds to find.

    It seems ironic that you blame the CSPI for lack of support for their claims...given that you haven't bothered to even look into whether or not there is evidence to support their claim.

    Just saying.

  • Neu Mejican||

    In otherwords,

    When you compare the CATO publication on this issue (authored by Radley) to the CSPI publication it is the CSPI publication that is more in-line with current research.


    Which "think" tank is pulling shit out of their ass again?

    CSPI seems to have changed their position based on scientific evidence.

    Again, that doesn't make the transfat ban a good idea...but come on.

  • Neu Mejican||

    To be fair to Radley...

    CSPI doesn't do a good job of citing sources, so he would actually have to work a little to find out where they are getting their numbers.

  • Neu Mejican||

    From the CSPI website

    Vegetable oil, usually a liquid, can be made into a semi-solid shortening by reacting it with hydrogen. Partial hydrogenation reduces the levels of polyunsaturated oils - and also creates trans fats, which promote heart disease. A committee of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) concluded in 2004 that on a gram-for-gram basis, trans fat is even more harmful than saturated fat. Ideally, food manufacturers would replace hydrogenated shortening with less-harmful ingredients. The Institute of Medicine has advised consumers to consume as little trans fat as possible, ideally less than about 2 grams a day (that much might come from naturally occurring trans fat in beef and dairy products). Harvard School of Public Health researchers estimate that trans fat has been causing about 50,000 premature heart attack deaths annually, making partially hydrogenated oil one of the most harmful ingredients in the food supply (see discussion of salt below).

    http://www.cspinet.org/reports/chemcuisine.htm#phvo

  • Neu Mejican||

    Reason,

    (Not) working hard to maintain their reputation for lazy science reporting...

  • Neu Mejican||

    That was a free drink post...

    Given the health benefits of moderate alcohol consumption (1 to 2 drinks per day)...


    ;^)

  • Guy Montag||

    That's nothing. DHMO has killed millions of people, yet because of the powerful DHMO lobby the deadliest chemical on Earth is still widely available (even to children!).

    As a proud member of the MilitaryIndustrialComplex, I can verify that we utilize a vast underground network for DHMO distribution.

  • Fluffy||

    Neu -

    But the fact that CSPI changed their position means that their previous position was bullshit.

    But they were perfectly happy, at the time, to agitate for legislation based on their bullshit position.

    Once you spend a period of time agitating for legislation based on bullshit, I simply don't want to see you coming around looking for different legislation based on new bullshit.

    Especially when your new position is in some respects the opposite of your initial position.

  • J||

    What Neu said.

  • J||

    Not that I don't hate their "solutions" though.

  • Radley Balko||

    Neu --

    Where did I say trans-fats are good for you, or aren't unhealthy? If you read the Cato article, I actually stated twice that there's good evidence that they're bad for you, but that consuming them in moderation probably won't kill you.

    My point was that we should be hesitant to support government regulation of nutrition and diet because the people pushing for said regs have been wrong in the past (that, in addition to the general principle that what we eat is none of the government's damned business).

    That, and that if trans-fats really are killing 50,000 people per year, CSPI's promotion of them 15 years ago in place of animal fats bears some responsibility.

    Also, that 50,000 number climbed from the 30,000 CSPI was touting just a few years ago.

    This would also be the same public health industry that claimed for several years that 400,000 people die each year from obesity, a number that they had to revise down to 100,000--15,000 or so when you account for the protective effects of being moderately overweight.

    I'm not disputing their claim that trans-fats are unhealthy. I'm disputing their calls to ban them--and more generally their predilection for dictating dietary habits via government fiat.

  • Jennifer||

    So what did she say when you mentioned CSPI's previous culpability in the TransFatMenace?

  • ||

    "their previous position was b.s."
    yeah, and if they were a big corporation, they'd be having their ass sued off for failure to warn. Do you think a corporation wins a personal injury lawsuit when they clain "gee we didn't know it was harmful; now we do so please acquit."??

  • Paul||

    Radley, it's C"S" "P I"

    But I know you know it.

  • Paul||

    trans fats might avert between 72,000 (6 percent) and 228,000 (19 percent) CHD events each year."

    'Might' is THE watchword upon which so much bad legislation is based. You ought to know better, Neu.

  • ||

    True, Paul. Whenever you see the word "might", you should immediately insert the words "or might not" immediately after.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Radley,

    Where did I say trans-fats are good for you, or aren't unhealthy?

    You didn't...and I never claimed you did.

    You do, however, state:

    CSPI makes the ridiculous claim that trans-fats kill 50,000 people per year (in an op-ed just two years ago, CSPI's founder Michael Jacobson put the high end of his estimate at just 30,000 -- that a lot of added death in just two years time).

    You call their numbers "ridiculous" without any attempt to refute them, find their source, debunk the numbers, etc...Essentially saying that they are making them up...without bothering to find out if your gut reaction has any basis in fact. Bias is bias whether it is CSPI's or yours.

    How can you claim the numbers are ridiculous if you don't even take the time to find out where they come from? The validity of the message is not dependent upon the messenger.

    That is what I am criticizing you for...lazy journalism is lazy journalism, even in an opinion piece.

    Also, that 50,000 number climbed from the 30,000 CSPI was touting just a few years ago.

    New research perhaps?
    Is it too much work for you to find out?

    I already noted that they do a poor job of citing their sources...and you shouldn't let them get away with that sloppiness. But when you display even less willingness to back up your own position it makes a pretty piss-poor case against them. It took me about 5 minutes to find their citation of Harvard School of Public Health...another 5 would probably reveal the exact study. And a raft of additional materials would emerge in the effort.

    I'm not disputing their claim that trans-fats are unhealthy.

    That's disingenuous. Calling the specifics of their claim ridiculous is equivalent to disputing their claim. No?

    I realize that you work for an ideologically driven political organization that is directly opposed to the positions of the CSPI, but this post (and the CATO article) are poorly crafted propaganda...regardless of whether or not the Transfat ban is bad policy. If it is good for CATO, how can you criticize CSPI?

    CSPI may advocate for wrong headed policies...but they will continue to kick your ass on these issues unless you get your act together. CATO's tactics and CSPI's seem exactly equivalent. And your work here provides a nice example.

    Paul/RC Dean,

    "might" is indeed the word that was used...common in science which deals with attempts to more closely approximate truth.

    You need to be even more highly skeptical of scientific studies that don't recognize the limitations inherent in the process and instead make claims using the language of certainty.

    Fluffy,

    Sure thing, I have already stated that I don't support the CSPI legislative agenda here...

    It is possible, of course, that their past position was based on the best available science at the time. Incorrect, sure, bullshit? Harder to tell.

    I have no problem with Radley's attempt to point out that aspect of the issue, btw. But the wrongness of their previous position and the wrongness of their current position are not based upon their ability to critically assess the science. Something they are at least as good at as CATO.

  • ||

    Out of sheer curiosity, I'd love to know where the CSPI gets the bulk of their funding.

  • Neu Mejican||

    Radley:

    It's probably also worth noting that despite all of the dire warnings about our increased intake of trans-fats over the last 20 years, heart disease in America has been in swift decline -- and life expectancy has been up -- over that very period. Indeed, national health statistics show that in the era of fast food and obesity, death rates from heart disease had declined from 492.7 per 100,000 in 1970 to 321.8 by 1990, a 33% drop. The spread of transfat and Starbucks didn't change that trend, with the death rate dropping nearly another 30%, to 232.2, by 2003. So, if they're killing us, they're not doing a very good job.

    Citation?

    You don't even go as far as CSPI does with their citations.

    Are you making those numbers up?

  • Neu Mejican||

    Mediageek,

    http://cspinet.org/about/funding.html

  • ||

    Neu,
    Funny, took me 5 seconds..
    Of course were in meta-goose-gander territory, so I think I will stay out of this.. :)

  • Neu Mejican||

    anomdebus,

    Yeah, I got side-tracked in their newsletter instead of going to the resources link...

    Didn't Meta-Goose-Gander open up for the Pere Ubu on their last tour?

  • ||

    Neu Mejican,

    From the post

    Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s, the organization put public pressure on the fast food industry to adopt "healthier" trans-fats in place of animal fats.

    Got that???

    Why do we have trans fats widely used today. Because idiots like CSPI pushed for people to use trans fats.

    Now we have the CSPI threatening restaurants who followed CSPI's recommendations and switched to transfats.

    What a bunch of ignorant, hypocritical tools.

  • Darth Chaos||

    http://findarticles.com/p/arti.....i_6482599/

    From CSPI's own Nutrition Action newsletter. They helped create the crisis, and they don't have the balls to apologize to everybody whose lives were affected by trans fats. CSPI's actions led to people developing heart disease and dying. They should be held at least liable - if not criminally negligent - in court.

    And the primary source of funding? The Rockefeller Foundation. They're pretty much owned by the same network that owns Monsanto. That's something that you will never hear in the corporate media.

    http://www.politicalfriendster.....ch-Brigade

GET REASON MAGAZINE

Get Reason's print or digital edition before it’s posted online

  • Video Game Nation: How gaming is making America freer – and more fun.
  • Matt Welch: How the left turned against free speech.
  • Nothing Left to Cut? Congress can’t live within their means.
  • And much more.

SUBSCRIBE

advertisement