CSPI: Still Flinging Shit


Last year the FDA lifted its requirement that foods containing the fat substitute olestra carry a daunting warning about "abdominal cramping and loose stools." It explained: "FDA concluded that the label statement was no longer warranted because 'real-life' consumption studies of products containing olestra showed olestra caused only infrequent, mild gastrointestinal (GI) effects. In fact, a 6-week study with more than 3,000 people showed that the group consuming olestra-containing chips experienced only a minor increase in bowel movement frequency compared to those people who consumed only full-fat chips."

But as Ruth Kava of the American Council on Science and Health notes, the Center for Science in the Public Interest, the group mainly responsible for linking olestra to ghastly gastrointestinal symptoms, is still banging the toilet against the fake fat. This time CSPI objects to Frito-Lay's decision to rename its olestra-containing Wow! potato and tortilla chips, which will now be called Light.

CSPI warns that the chips are still "fried in the infamous, diarrhea-inducing fake fat known as olestra." It worries that "the move increases the odds that unwitting consumers will experience the cramps, diarrhea, bleeding, stained underwear, or incontinence associated with olestra."

Presumably Frito-Lay's name change is part of an attempt to shed the feces-stained image that CSPI has worked so hard to promote. But the new name also accurately reflects the fact that chips cooked in olestra have a lot fewer calories than ordinary chips. Given CSPI's frequently expressed concern about obesity, you might think that's an advantage it would welcome. But as I explained in Reason last year, CSPI's priorities don't make sense even from a strictly health-oriented perspective.