The Checkout

No Longer Making Light of Olestra

There are a lot of people who don't like the Center for Science in the Public Interest. How do I know? Every time I write about this consumer-advocacy group, I get lots of e-mails and
telephone calls complaining that the group is just a bunch of officious scaremongers, an obnoxious team of food police who are trying to curb our free choice to eat what we want when we want. One caller always leaves a message that I should identify the group as leftist liberal--and he does not mean that in a complimentary way.


Say what you will about CSPI, but I'll say this: In the past few years, the group has repeatedly eked out one victory after another as it fights for more healthful food and clearer labeling on food it doesn't consider so healthful. Its most recent win: Frito-Lay will now post more prominent labels on its line of Light chips (Ruffles Light, Lay's Light, Doritos Light and Tostitos Light) to make it clear they contains olestra (or Olean), the controversial fat substitute that CSPI says causes diarrhea, cramping and other unpleasant symptoms in a small percentage of consumers.

Since 1998, when Frito-Lay first introduced Olestra to its chip lines (which were first labeled WOW!, then renamed to Light in 2004), CSPI has been loudly warning consumers about the potential side effects of Olestra. Initially, the Food and Drug Administration required food makers to post warning labels on food that contained Olestra, but in 2003, the agency dropped that requirement.

CSPI has argued that Frito-Lay deliberately changed the WOW! name to light to deceive people into thinking the product was new, Olestra-free and of course, low-calorie. The group says more than 3,700 consumers have posted reports on the CSPI Web site about adverse reactions; the FDA, it says, has received more than 20,000 reports.

So far, the FDA has not moved to accept the CSPI's request and order the warning label be reinstated. But in a settlement announced last week with CSPI, Frito-Lay agreed to prominently display an oval-shaped Olean logo and banner reading "made with olestra" on the front of its packages. On the back of the packages will be a short statement noting the presence of olestra. The agreement came after the CSPI threatened a class-action lawsuit against the snack maker. (See my earlier item on this.)

Frito-Lay spokeswoman Aurora Gonzales said the company is making "minor packaging changes" even though the current version complies with all federal requirements. The changes "will make it a little easier" for consumers to recognize when products are made with olestra, she said.

The Frito-Lay agreement will almost certainly mean more threatened lawsuits from CSPI. In the past year, the group has moved from asking the federal government to act on a variety of causes, including junk food practices, to filing the suits in Massachusetts. The consumer protection laws in that state are considered the most pro-consumer in the country.

CSPI threatened to sue soft drink manufacturers for selling sodas in schools and the group is now crediting that threat to the May agreement, brokered by President Bill Clinton, in which soda makers announced they would pull sugary drinks out of schools. CSPI has also announced plans to sue Kellogg and Viacom/Nickelodeon for marketing junk-food to children under 8. That suit's on hold while CSPI and Kellogg discuss the matter. More litigation, "is more coming down the pike" says group spokesman Jeff Cronin.

In other words, watch this space.

By  |  June 8, 2006; 6:37 AM ET Legal Battles/Settlements
Previous: Toy Industry Will Delve Into Magnets | Next: Begging to Serve Myself

Comments

Please email us to report offensive comments.



A few years ago, before I realized that some products contained Olestra, I bought some ice-cream, thinking I was getting my usual "normal" ice-cream. The first time I had some of it at home, I suffered unbelievable cramps and diarrhea. It took a while for me to determine the cause of my medical condition, partly because I couldn't believe that something available in a food-store could HAVE such a reaction, but after having a SECOND experience a week later, I checked the ice-cream packing and sure-ehough, it had Olestra. I threw it out, and will never even TRY anything else containing the stuff.

Posted by: Bill Houghtaling | June 8, 2006 8:10 AM

I switched to Tostitos Light (olestra) hoping that olestra would be kinder to my acid reflux than regular oil is. (I only eat a handful of chips with my lunch.) It's kind of hard to gauge whether it's made a difference. Also, it could just be psychological, but the olestra version doesn't seem to taste quite as good as the oil version, kind of like splenda vs. sugar.

Posted by: Acid | June 8, 2006 8:29 AM

I think Frito Lay ought to market the improved Olestra forumlation, put a blazing slogan on the front of the chip bag:

"Made with Olestra, now with less anal leakage" or something like that.

Posted by: JD | June 8, 2006 8:39 AM

I'm all for the olestra logo on the package. I thought they stopped making chips w/ olestra, and I liked 'em. Good taste, lower caloric content, and for me no side effects. Of course, in the wisdom of my mid-20's I've decided I no longer want to eat mystery chemicals, so I probably won't be buying them anyway even now that they're clearly marked for my shopping needs.

Posted by: E | June 8, 2006 9:07 AM

When the chips with Olestra first came out, they were offering sample bags at the subway. I took one, ate half of it at lunch, and suffered MISERABLY for the rest of the day and the entire next day. I'm 100 percent for better labeling!

Posted by: Arlington | June 8, 2006 9:09 AM

We wouldn't have any of these problems if you fat, lazy Americans would just stop eating so much and exercise a little bit so you wouldn't have to avoid real food and eat bizarre artificial inventions.

Posted by: Fred | June 8, 2006 9:10 AM

I **love** CSPI! How can anyone say they are a leftist liberal group? I've gotten their newsletter for years and never noticed anything leftist about it - it's about how to eat right and be skeptical of consumer labels. Since when did trans-fat become a political issue? Is it that conservatives want people to eat trans-fat? I just don't get it.

Posted by: CSPI supporter | June 8, 2006 9:11 AM

Whole family has been using this product for years and years with NO side affects. Don't know anyone who has had adverse effects from this product and will look for other products that have Olestra in them. I think you will find a small percentage of people will have a adverse reaction to anything in the market place. Where is the science behind the claims of this group. PC police are everywhere and into everthing,no Coke or Pepsi in the schools. Give me a Break!

Posted by: Henry | June 8, 2006 9:19 AM

So "asking a corporation to act in the public interest" equates to "leftist liberal"? I quote Confucius who wrote, "Slack-jawed moron should beware knee-jerk reaction."

Posted by: Areader | June 8, 2006 9:25 AM

CPSI is good and bad like everything else. At times they screech a bit more than necessary. This time they hit the bullseye.

Posted by: Steve | June 8, 2006 9:35 AM

As if no unprocessed foods ever caused a reaction! Should every can of beans contain a warning? How about cabbage, or jalapeño peppers, or dairy products, for that matter. If everyone who ever had a gastrointestinal reaction to lactose reported it to the FDA, the government would shut down there'd be so many of them. To be fair, CSPI has some reasonable educational offerings on their website, and praise for some (but few) commercial products, but overall they are anti-corporate and anti-profit, and their agenda is political, not scientific.

Posted by: Watercao | June 8, 2006 9:39 AM

Watercao, you say "As if no unprocessed foods ever caused a reaction!" as if that's reasonable. It's easy to keep track of allergies and reactions to whole foods. It's harder to keep track of all the various artificial ingredients in processed foods. Seems reasonable that you should be able to buy potato chips or ice cream without being surprised by symptoms that are like food poisoning.

I WOULD like to take more personal responsibility for what I eat. That's why I support greater information and labeling on products. Why do people think labels are such a bad thing? If you don't like them, don't read them!

Posted by: Chrissy | June 8, 2006 10:08 AM

Watercao, you see anti-corporate, anti-profit; I see pro-consumer. What exactly is 'anti-profit' in your opinion, and what examples that demonstrate this can you draw from CSPI's website?

Posted by: Areader | June 8, 2006 10:09 AM

I don't see the problem with olestra - people eat products containing this chemical in order to consume less calories. If you happen to get diarrhea, you will lose even more weight. Win win!

Posted by: hanky | June 8, 2006 10:19 AM

I like the idea that any organization that seeks to inform the consumer is political. When did consumer advocacy become a liberal thing? I think that says some pretty scary things about conservative values. After all, a corporation is not good or bad, it exists to make money. That's fine, that powers the world economy and has many, many great benefits, but it by nature does not have your best interest at heart. It's not a liberal thing to keep an eye on them.

Posted by: Will | June 8, 2006 10:27 AM

I would have no problem with CSPI if they were simply an informational organization, but, from the beginning with their first victory over McDonald's french fries, they have assumed the role of the food police, lobbying the nanny state to CONTROL consumer choice in the foods we eat.

Think about it, CSPI didn't just alert us to the fact that McDonald's french fries contained beef tallow, they undertook a campaign of intimidation to force McDonalds to remove the beef fat from their french fries. They've never tasted the same since, and, it turns out, never got any healthier because the beef fat was replaced with transfats, which are just as unhealthy.

If CSPI had their way with Olestra, it would be banned by the FDA. Not just warning labels.....banned.

This organization has over the years undertaken tactics that resemble those used by Scientology to force their version of healthy eating upon the consumer landscape.

If they were simply an educational organization alerting me to the hidden fats and other dangers in foods I wouldn't have a problem with them. But when an organization arrogantly decides it knows what is best for me in my food choices and then uses tactics like threatening class action lawsuits to force manufacturers to limit my choices, it becomes a political entity.......and I have a problem with that.

Posted by: Jaredd | June 8, 2006 10:30 AM

Jaredd

You sound terribly Republican....or maybe Libertarian.

Ideally, your position is well founded if Adam Smith's theories were allowed to operate in ideal frame of reference.

I don't know if you've noticed, but the world doesn't work that way.

When agencies like FDA, EPA, Bureau of Mines etc operate as de facto promotional arms for industry and the Greater Glory of the Vice President's stock portfolio, it's nice to have some organization willing to stand up and say something.

After all, if I follow your logic, your premise presumes that I have the intelligence and right to evaluate the statements of organizations like the CSPI in light of market conditions. (hopefully without oversight by the NSA)

Posted by: everyman | June 8, 2006 10:41 AM

FYI, when you use phrases like "nanny state," you reveal a bias that you think it's a business's right to do whatever they want, and we need to just roll over and take it because we're personally responsible, even if we're living in ignorance about what businesses are doing. You'd be more convincing if you didn't use emotionally charged phrases that mean different things to different people.

Be reasonable. We're responsible for ourselves, but we have a right to have safe food on the shelves and information if a processed food contains a known allergen. How else can we take the personal responsibility you so fervently want people to take? Grow our own food and raise our own livestock? We're no longer an agrarian society. Informed decisions are critical.

And I'm not terribly concerned if an organization is bullying fast food companies into making the food more healthy. It's pretty warped to fight for the right to be fed garbage at a fast food place, but not the right to eat healthful foods in those same establishments.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 11:04 AM

But everyman, they're not just standing up and saying something. They're bullying, threatening, and preying on our worst fears about food.

Take, for instance, one of their more recent press releases on 7-Up. The brand has recently run ads saying it has gone all natural. Well, they still contain high-fructose corn syrup (which I don't believe is natural, but apparently there is no formal standard set by the FDA). Instead of blowing the lid off this charade in the media, what do they do? They issue a press release, with the primary purpose of announcing a lawsuit against Cadbury-Schwepps. If they truly cared about the consumer first they would have tried a public shaming to force consumer pressure on the company, but NO, litigate first.

And to suggest that people aren't intelligent enough to make decisions that are in their best interest and should therefore abdicate that responsibility to the government sounds horribly elitist and a bit Marxist if you ask me.

For the record: I have no problem with CSPI warning me about the hidden dangers in food, and when they make announcements like that the media listen and do a good job of disseminating that information.

It's when they try to force their own vision of what goes into my food that I have a problem. I mean c'mon, no matter how many strawberries you put into that yogurt it will never be as pretty a red as you can get from those ground up insects.

Posted by: Jaredd | June 8, 2006 11:06 AM

My problem with CSPI is related to the trans-fats issue. Years ago, when food companies used coconut oil and palm oil, which are perfectly healthy ingredients, CSPI intimidated the industry into switching to hydrogenated versions of other vegetable oils. Hydrogenation causes the formation of trans-fats, which are definitely harmful. Then CSPI went after those, but they haven't backed off on coconut and palm.

Posted by: Julie | June 8, 2006 11:07 AM

From Olean's web site. "The Olestra molecule is larger in size and has more fatty acids than triglicerides, making it unable to be broken down by the body's enzymes. So it's not digested or absorbed by the body and therefore contributes zero calories and zero fat." So obviously, some people will experience diarrhea, cramping and anal leakage from a glob of undigested fatty acids transversing their GI tract. It's no big mystery.

As for the CSPI, I believe they're mistake with trans-fat also includes movie popcorn. I remember when there was this huge campaign against the fat content in movie butter, all but forcing movie theaters to switch to a trans-fatty alternative making movie butter even more deadly than it was before.

But this was also before we knew the perils of trans-fatty acids, so we really can't blame them too much. (Just think of all the times you used margarine instead of butter thinking you were doing something good for your body).

Posted by: Kevin | June 8, 2006 1:16 PM

Jaredd

Once upon a time I would have had more sensitivity towards your position.

Having worked in the service of the public close to a seat of significant political power, one quickly realizes that manipulation of information, research, and popular opinion to favor a specific intiative for legtimate political purposes (or with less savory intentions to promote an intiative intended to benefit a specific industry or contributory benefactor) is ordinary currency.

It did not start with the current administration, but they have fine tuned the technique and perfected the process.

Influence and pressure brought by groups, which may seem on its face objectionable, is absolutely necessary to balance the behind the scenes political back slapping and influence manipulation-take my word for it happens and often is very mean spirited.

If a group like CSPI is full of it, I want to make that informed decision.

From my political sojourn I also learned that often the seemingly wildest, nonsensical and illogical scenarios arise from time to time, and that they must be evaluated with the same deliberation as scenarios that seem to prima facie make sense.

More often than not the nonsensical ones are right on the money in fact. The logical ones are smoke screens.

I request your indulgence with my cynicism. But until you have been the little boys room during breaks in political negotiations and listen in on the cell phone calls about next steps, strategy planning, anonanon, your don't appreciate the value of the "daylight" a group like CSPI brings to the Democratic process.

I do want to hear what groups like CSPI have to say.

Posted by: everyman | June 8, 2006 1:29 PM

I think that products with Olestra should also have a single dose of Xenical includeed as well.

As far as the debate above, I like having more information about what I buy for my family. If knowing more about your food is wrong, then I don't want to be right.

Posted by: Tom Canick | June 8, 2006 1:41 PM

And I propose that I use a spell checker in the future!

Posted by: Tom Canick | June 8, 2006 1:42 PM

Everyman, I am so sorry for you. Exposure to power late in life can lead to cynicism.

Having lived just outside of DC my entire life I have been in constant exposure to every type of grass roots advocacy campaign out there (not to mention having spent much time behind the scenes in the DC public relations and association industry) I understand that to accept the altruistic nature of ANY purported advocacy organization is sheer folly. The longer these groups exist, the less it becomes about actually doing any good and more it becomes about creating the appearance of tangible victory in order to maintain relevance, power, ego and funding.

I understand your logic from the power side of the equation, but realize the advocacy side is just as flawed.

Posted by: Jaredd | June 8, 2006 2:52 PM

everyman said:

"one quickly realizes that manipulation of information, research, and popular opinion to favor a specific intiative for legtimate political purposes (or with less savory intentions to promote an intiative intended to benefit a specific industry or contributory benefactor) is ordinary currency. "

The issue here is that CSPI does that as much as anyone else. It's wrong to suggest that companies that market processed foods are unbiased; it's also wrong to suggest that CSPI is unbiased. They have an interest supported by their own loud hyperbole: it helps drive some of the $16 million in revenue they earned last year, and helps pay Michael Jacobson's $192,000 annual salary. Also, the louder they proclaim their moral righteousness, the more morally righteous they feel.

This doesn't mean that they're right or wrong; rather, it means that for them to point fingers at the food lobby and scream "you're biased and you have an agenda!!!" is just the pot calling the kettle black.

Posted by: larousse | June 8, 2006 3:37 PM

"I **love** CSPI! How can anyone say they are a leftist liberal group?"

Because they want to protect us from ourselves. Not everything that is unwise or harmful - such as greasy hamburgers, hang-gliding, smoking, fireworks etc. - should be prohibited. I have a teenage son who has begun developing an eating disorder. Believe me, I'd rather have a son who is overweight, but happy, well adjusted, and free of hang-ups about food, than one who is obsessed (as mine is becoming) with avoiding any fat and making sure every bite that goes into his mouth is high fiber "healthy" food. (And no, I'm not reacting to a child who just wants to eat right - he's dropped 40 pounds in the last six months and is being weighed ever two weeks by a doctor who's trying to help us deal with the problem.)

Posted by: Older Dad | June 8, 2006 3:38 PM

"And to suggest that people aren't intelligent enough to make decisions that are in their best interest and should therefore abdicate that responsibility to the government sounds horribly elitist and a bit Marxist if you ask me."

Who suggested this? Where? When? I see people wanting to take more responsibility by making informed choices, instead of trusting the food producers to keep them safe.

"It's when they try to force their own vision of what goes into my food that I have a problem."

But your food is my food, too. And I'd rather have CSPI force their vision on my food than you, or a food processor whose primary concern is NOT my health, force your vision on me. Why do you think the current way is the best way? Why do you have so much invested in keeping people ignorant about what goes into their food and keeping the worst possible products in the food we eat?

Listen, my family eats mostly whole foods, so I AM taking personal responsibility. But I'd like to have the confidence that when I do give my daughter a scoop of ice cream that I'm hoping has less saturated fat than the average chip, that she's not not going to have the squats for the next 24 hours.

Do you know that I cannot find a whole wheat bread that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in my local Giant or Safeway? In your view of the world, my personal responsibility, the benevolent food producers, and a laissez faire government all mean that I should have that option. But I don't. OTH, if the "bullying" CSPI had their way, I might actually be able to buy the healthier food without spending my entire paycheck at Whole Foods.

And why does new scientific data disproving old data make a group serving the public interest a bad thing?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 3:40 PM

I should add... whenever I hear someone come across as if they're on the side of the angels, red flags start flying in my mind and sirens go off. Doesn't matter if it's Pat Robertson trying to "save" me from the evils that would ensue if my brother were to be able to marry a man, or if it's Jacobson trying to "save" me from free choice as a consumer.

Posted by: larousse | June 8, 2006 3:41 PM

"But your food is my food, too. And I'd rather have CSPI force their vision on my food than you, or a food processor whose primary concern is NOT my health, force your vision on me."

Nope - my food is not your food. If you want to eat baked Lays, fine. My eating barbeque flavored fried pork rinds (which are actually quite good, in a greasy sort of way) isn't going to mess your diet up a whit.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 3:46 PM

Well if the government won't regulate, than hurray for consumer advocates that do.

America is obese and disgusting in its slovenly, low energy ways... and people wonder why our productivity and exports are lacking compared to the rest of the industrialized world... We're fat and lazy.

Posted by: Yay for consumers! | June 8, 2006 3:46 PM

Well if the government won't regulate, than hurray for consumer advocates that do.

America is obese and disgusting in its slovenly, low energy, gluttonous ways... Fake food enables that behavior, lulls consumers into thinking their choices have no ramifications, and lends creedence to the future hope of an "anti-fat pill"

And people wonder why our productivity and exports are lacking compared to the rest of the industrialized world... We're fat and lazy.

Posted by: Yay for consumers! | June 8, 2006 3:48 PM

"But I'd like to have the confidence that when I do give my daughter a scoop of ice cream that I'm hoping has less saturated fat than the average chip, that she's not not going to have the squats for the next 24 hours."

Then read the nutrition label on the back - it's not all that hard. It's silly to require manufacturers to have "Olestra" printed all over the front of the package in screaming neon letters two inches high. At some point we've GOT to take some responsibility for ourselves. As long as we require an ingredient list on back, we should be golden.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 3:48 PM

"And people wonder why our productivity and exports are lacking compared to the rest of the industrialized world... We're fat and lazy."

Actually, our productivity is pretty durn good. The trade balance is a problem, but that's another issue . . .

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 3:50 PM

"And I'm not terribly concerned if an organization is bullying fast food companies into making the food more healthy. It's pretty warped to fight for the right to be fed garbage at a fast food place, but not the right to eat healthful foods in those same establishments."

It's not at all warped to fight for the right to eat the food I want at those establishements - whether you think it's good for me, or not.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 3:52 PM

Every now and then I crave a salty snack. Every now and then I buy a box of Pringles made with Olestra. I munch them contentedly with a nice cold diet coke. No problems. I like them.

If you don't like them, don't buy them for Pete's sake.

Posted by: Doug Keyworth | June 8, 2006 4:10 PM

Older Dad, you've got it backwards. If the average food product were healthful and nutritious, we wouldn't be facing an obesity epidemic or eating disorders in people who are trying to counteract the affects of all the crap we eat.

It's not the CSPI's fault your son has an eating disorder. The options aren't overweight and happy--which I assure you is infrequently the case as overweight people are the subject of cruelty from the personal responsibility contingent--or an eating disorder. The default option should be a healthful environment and if you want to eat crap, breathe crap, and drink crap, then you should have to go out of your way to do so, not the other way around.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 4:16 PM

"Do you know that I cannot find a whole wheat bread that doesn't have high fructose corn syrup in my local Giant or Safeway? In your view of the world, my personal responsibility, the benevolent food producers, and a laissez faire government all mean that I should have that option. But I don't. OTH, if the "bullying" CSPI had their way, I might actually be able to buy the healthier food without spending my entire paycheck at Whole Foods."

Well, personal responsibility generally requires a little more sacrifice and hard work than ceding control over your life to a bureaucracy or (worse) an organization that pretends to have your best interest at heart but really cares more about their annual revenue stream and whether or not they'll have to clout to score tickets to the Bloomberg after-party of the White House Correspondents annual dinner.

But seriously, worried about finding whole wheat bread without high-fructose corn syrup? Talk to the manager at Giant or Safeway. If they won't help you, go to Whole Foods......their basic whole wheat bread isn't any more expensive than what you'd pay for TRUE whole wheat bread (and not just wheat bread) at any grocery store. Or, go get a bread machine and make it yourself.

I grew up on the Feingold diet, so I know a diet free from artificial flavors, colors and sweeteners (we only used honey in my house) is possible on a budget without government regulation.

But, it will require you start taking personal responsibility for what you put in your mouth and learn to start cooking your own food.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 4:17 PM

"It's not at all warped to fight for the right to eat the food I want at those establishements - whether you think it's good for me, or not."

There is no dearth of garbage for you to eat at fast food places. I hardly think your rights are being threatened by people wanting more healthful choices.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 4:21 PM

"There is no dearth of garbage for you to eat at fast food places. I hardly think your rights are being threatened by people wanting more healthful choices."

There's nothing wrong with requesting more healthy food be added to a menu, market forces will prevail. But threatening lawsuits, a la Scientology, to achieve your ends is ridiculous. Most major fast food outlets already offer healthy alternatives on their menus. Some, like Burger King, though, have discovered that they are LOSING money because no one is buying them. Hence, my BK no longer offers veggie burgers or chicken whoppers. Why? BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT HEALTHY DON'T GO TO FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS. And don't even try to pull to busy family with kids card, because when I grew up McDonalds was a once-a-month treat. It's not that hard to pack a lunch and put a healthy, home-cooked meal on the table. It just takes a little ingenuity, a little planning and a big microwave.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 4:32 PM

"BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT HEALTHY DON'T GO TO FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS"

No need to shout. We can disagree and still be civil to on another.

I do eat healthful foods. My kids eat healthful foods. But if we want to participate in group activities (e.g., after-soccer meals) we end up at fast food places more than we would prefer. I eat those crappy salads, but man, they are awful. I'd rather have a lean burger with a whole grain bun.

When you get heart disease from eating all of your fast food, my huge health insurance premiums will pay for your health care even though I've eaten well my entire life. Why should I subsidize your bad habits? If you are so keen on personal responsibility, then you should opt out of health insurance and pay for your own hospitalization when you have a heart attack.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 4:52 PM

"BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT HEALTHY DON'T GO TO FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS"

No need to shout. We can disagree and still be civil to on another.

Little sensitive? Hope those big bad capital letters didn't hurt your feelings too much :)

Posted by: lardo | June 8, 2006 4:55 PM

"But, it will require you start taking personal responsibility for what you put in your mouth and learn to start cooking your own food."

I do bake my own bread or I buy organic. People keep saying they ARE taking personal responsibility in their food choices in this thread. I don't see why other people keep telling them to. What people are saying is that they want the same number of choices that junk-food eaters have, but whenever we try to persuade grocers/"the market" to provide that, we get people complaining that we shouldn't force our preferences on them.

I don't get why people are so hostile to each other. These people with food related health problems are your loved ones: they are your children, your friends, your family. Are you really so unmerciful? Is you principal of personal responsibility really worth the food industry producing food that makes people sick and fat? Where is your sense of "personal accountability" for the food industry?

By your logic of personal responsibility, drugs should be legal and aggressively marketed to children. It should be personal responsibility for people to remain addiction free so that others can get high. Are you going to start advocating that?

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 5:06 PM

"BECAUSE PEOPLE WHO WANT TO EAT HEALTHY DON'T GO TO FAST FOOD RESTAURANTS"

No need to shout. We can disagree and still be civil to on another.

Little sensitive? Hope those big bad capital letters didn't hurt your feelings too much :)"

I'm coping just fine, thanks for your concern. I just think we can be kinder to one another than that. I guess I'm expecting too much from another human being. Take care.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 5:07 PM

The group says more than 3,700 consumers have posted reports on the CSPI Web site about adverse reactions
--------------------------------
Someone else mentioned this, but natural foods cause reactions in many people and probably to a much greater extent than 3.700 per year.

Dried apricots cause extreme "consternation" for me and many people I know. Why doesn't CSPI have my back on that one. Perhaps becuase there is no giant publicly-traded company (like Frito Lay) associated with the product, so they wouldn't get nearly the David v. Goliath-type press coverage.

It's not exactly my intention to come down hard on CSPI, because I do think that the Olestra campaign is a good cause, and they did "bust" Frito Lay trying to do an end run. That said, CSPI has some ulterior motives in whom they target. As long as everyone is aware of them and admits to them, we'll all be fine.

Posted by: Awal | June 8, 2006 5:21 PM

Jaredd

btw. I did not come into polotics late in life...I was involved when I had to get an alderman's letter to be a life guard...and my whole family ha just about swear fealty to the local ward healer. That was 40 years ago. And you know. The process hasn't changed.

And Larousse...My point exact but less emphatically. It is the game of one interest group against the other. EVeryone has an agenda.

Doesn't matter which political structure it's under-Caesar. The Medici's. The Papacy. The Hapsburgs. Spanish Fascists. Joe McCarthy. Khmer Rouge. Ronald Reagan. Bush 1 or Bush 2.

This is not about Olestra (It gives me the trots anyway). This is about a group's right to speak, influence, cajole, pontificate, whatever in an environment of governmentally sponsored secrecy and favoritism to the current adminstration's cronies.

It's about being able to challenge political agendas and present contrary options and letting people understand their risks and foil bureaucratic and governmental puffery and demagogery.

This entire series of comments demonstrates how important it is to have even groups of all persuasions to be able to join in a conversation without reprisal or being shut down.

nuf said. Thank God that Jefferson, Hancock, Franklin and Adams drove the development of our Bill of Rights and Constitution, instead of Rove, DeLay, Bush and Cheney.

Posted by: everyman | June 8, 2006 5:21 PM

Man, really funny sometimes how seriously people take these comment boards. This is not actually human interaction, have some fun with it :)

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 5:22 PM

I am having tremendous fun with it. It is amazing what sort of commentary a person can draw out by putting up absolutely controversial comments. People make absolutely astute arguments because they know they can...whether the readers like them or not.

And it is very much human interaction. Every comment is one person's voice. And by responding you have disproved you premise. You heard them and got into the fray :-)

Posted by: everyman | June 8, 2006 5:47 PM

"Older Dad, you've got it backwards. If the average food product were healthful and nutritious, we wouldn't be facing an obesity epidemic or eating disorders in people who are trying to counteract the affects of all the crap we eat.

It's not the CSPI's fault your son has an eating disorder. The options aren't overweight and happy--which I assure you is infrequently the case as overweight people are the subject of cruelty from the personal responsibility contingent--or an eating disorder. The default option should be a healthful environment and if you want to eat crap, breathe crap, and drink crap, then you should have to go out of your way to do so, not the other way around."

Don't make too many assumptions - you may not understand the situation you're talking about. My son was not overweight to begin with. My wife is a home economics major who prepares a detailed meal plan each week before she shops, with an eye towards nutritional balance. My point is that a healthy relationship with food is one that is not obsessive. Balance is the key in all things - and balance means understanding that it's fine to eat the slice of cake a party, or the chili dog at the ballpark, just as much as it means you shouldn't eat half a large pizza twice a week.


"It's not the CSPI's fault your son has an eating disorder."

Re-reading this, I resent it. It implies an assertion I never made. What I do claim is that we have some who would, in the interests of public health, become a de facto food police. As Larry Niven and Jerry Pournell once wrote (approximately) "Gluttony is the inordinate concern about the things of the body." My son has developed an inordinate concern about what he eats (for a variety of reasons that I will not discuss in this forum), and it's a very real threat to his health.

"The options aren't overweight and happy--which I assure you is infrequently the case as overweight people are the subject of cruelty from the personal responsibility contingent"

Odd - I have several relatives who are overweight and quite happy.

"The default option should be a healthful environment and if you want to eat crap, breathe crap, and drink crap, then you should have to go out of your way to do so, not the other way around."

Again, I'm feeling more than a little resentful. I never suggested that anyone eat "crap" as you put it. It may well be that we would not agree on what foods, precisely, constitute a form of "crap" - and that's one of the key issues here. The base assumption seems to be that Olestra is harmful "crap" - even though others find it a useful tool in reducing their caloric intake. I don't accept that someone should have to "go out of their way" to buy a bag of chips with Olestra if they think it will help them control their weight. Sure - they should know what's in it. But no one has objected to that.

Posted by: Older Dad | June 8, 2006 6:09 PM

"What people are saying is that they want the same number of choices that junk-food eaters have, but whenever we try to persuade grocers/"the market" to provide that, we get people complaining that we shouldn't force our preferences on them."

That's not what people object to. We object to people trying to use non-market mechanisms to force changes in the foods that are available - particularly when the changes seem to be intended to make the foods we choose less available, more expensive, or simply stigmatized. So, for example, I don't think you'll find any objections to your shopping at Whole Foods, asking your local grocer to add a line of organics, or in general using your grocery dollars to buy what you want. What pushes the hot button are attempts to get companies to take things OFF the market - like putting a "scarlett O" on bags of these low-fat chips.

Posted by: Anonymous | June 8, 2006 6:14 PM

My objections to CSPI is twofold.

1) The use of civil litigation to make these sorts of "gains" is extortion, plain and simple. The US legal system endorses this sort of immoral gamesmanship because its consituents (lawyers) profit from it.

2) The "science" behind these proclamations is marginal at best, and pure hooey in this instance. As a scientist, I am personally offended (but not surprised) at how much total crap is put out in the name of scientific investigation that is actually pure poppycock.

All of you who are defending CSPI in this matter are working under the assumption that your "whole wheat bread without fructose" dietary choices are actually better for you. Newsflash: it ain't necessarily so. If you want to live to 105 by eating yogurt (live cultures, yecch) and granola, be my guest. I am going to have some oreos.

Posted by: BVJ | June 8, 2006 6:52 PM

Let me just say I love the Olestra chips. They're great and only half the calories. I've had absolutely no problems.

Alternatively, I once tried the smart heart butter you see on commercials. I had two slices of toast with butter. In four hours I was vomiting up an oily mucus and remained nauseous for a whole day.

But you don't see me writing my congressman about the dangers of smart heart butter. I just had a bad reaction. It happens. Like some people are lactos intolerant. Or others can't stand spicy food. It's the same with the Olean. A small percentage of people have a negative reaction to it. But that doesn't mean it's an unsafe product.

There are several oother wholly natural products that will give people even worse reactions than Olean chips will.

Posted by: Dave | June 9, 2006 1:55 PM

"1) The use of civil litigation to make these sorts of "gains" is extortion, plain and simple. The US legal system endorses this sort of immoral gamesmanship because its consituents (lawyers) profit from it. "

That may be true, but the absence of effective regulatory systems (at all levels of government) and a toothless news media composed largely of reporters who mindlessly and enthusiastically regurgitate corporate press releases make it impossible for the average citizen to separate fact from fiction.

Thus, the civil courts have unfortunately become the only venue in which individuals can protect themselves against corporations.

I think that in general CSPI and similar organizations tend to overreach when they have gained a certain amount of political power, but the same can also be said of the PACs who represent Frito-Lay's interests. i.e. power corrupts

An apt analogy would be AIPAC, whose positions have been described as more hard-line than even those of the Likud party, and much more so those of mainstream American Jewry, whom they ostensibly represent.

Posted by: jake | June 13, 2006 1:54 PM

In too few areas, CSPI does what the FDA won't, to protect America's food supply. Small blessings on it. My main complaint about CSPI is that it fails to live up to it's name. It should be covering more science than just a few fast food issues.
It also seems to shy away from some kinds of pressure. I am thinking of its once-only decade-old look at urethanes in wine. The Canadians ban it. CSPI has failed to follow up on an initial look at the American wine industry's use and occurrence of urethanes in wine, but won't say why.
It also has not been very active in the most-deadly public-health hazard in the U.S., namely hospital-acquired infections, which kill twice as many people as do auto accidents annually. The conspiracy of silence in the medical profession, and the collusion of state legislatures by their failure to require public annual reporting of the problem by hospital, by department, by doctor and nurse, are appalling. Legislatures have wrongly protected the medical profession from requirements of prompt, full, public disclosure of the occurrences and causes of such infections, by making such dlsclosure criminal, and by passing medical lobbyists' bills giving tort protection to infection perpetrators, on the premise that the medical profession will police itself. Clearly that has not worked. Neither hospitals, nor insurance companies, nor legislatures should allow this silence any more. This is a situation in which the sunshine of swift and full disclosure would go far toward curing the insidious problem of sloppy hygiene in medical practice at all levels, which needlessly causes death, disease, injury, suffering, extended recovery times, egregious expense and more, largely because the medical profession fails to clean its hands and houses. This, too, is science and in the public interest. CSPI fails to look where it should and tell what it should.

Posted by: Jay | June 13, 2006 2:55 PM

I believe people have a right to know what they're putting into their mouths so I'm all for better labeling. Many people's lives have probably been saved with the allergy labeling now on foods which have been processed on equipment shared by peanuts and such as many people who are allergic to peanuts have life threatening reactions to even the smallest amounts.

I do think this group does go overboard sometimes though. Far more people eat peanut butter far more often than they eat KFC and most peanut butter contains partially hydrogenated vegetable oils.
Besides, if you eat fried chicken more than twice a month you really need to read up on healthy diets.

Posted by: JDJ | June 21, 2006 1:54 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 

© 2010 The Washington Post Company