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CSPI

KeepYourLaws“The Food and Drug Administration announced Thursday it is taking the first step toward banning dangerous trans fats that are found in a variety of processed foods. The agency said in a statement that the fats, used in a number of products from margarine and coffee creamer to frozen pizza, are a major health concern for Americans despite lower consumption of the dangerous, artery-clogging fats over the last twenty years.” [Chicago Tribune, our earlier coverage] More: Julie Gunlock, IWF; Scott Shackford, Reason; Michelle Minton, CEI (logic of removing ingredient from GRAS list based on long-term cumulative health effects could point toward regulating salt, sugar).

From comments: “Trans fats are pretty rare in my experience at this point outside of, ironically, military rations.” [L.C. Burgundy] More: Via Jacob Grier, Olga Khazan at The Atlantic recalls the days when the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) denounced restaurant chains for using saturated fat. The ensuing pressure campaign resulted in a widespread switchover to supposedly healthier trans-fat.

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London Mayor Boris Johnson on the Jon Stewart show. [Telegraph] Meanwhile, @pourmecoffee notes that “Each winning player gets time with Stanley Cup to do anything they want with it, except drink sugary drinks if you’re in NY.” Per Michael Jacobson of the CSPI, soft drinks are the “single biggest source of calories in the American diet.” Really? [ACSH] More: “Soda jerk: Bloomberg’s proposed ban is about power, not public health” [Shikha Dalmia, The Daily]

This just in: NYC Board of Health members also eye size limits on movie theater popcorn and milkshakes.

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The promotional claims that General Mills makes about its snack product seem to be accurate enough, but the busybody Center for Science in the Public Interest says the company should be calling attention to other, less positive nutritional facts too. Stephen Richer wonders whether dating profiles are going to have to begin listing the candidate’s less appealing qualities. [WLF Legal Pulse]

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… you may want to know more about the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s “caramel coloring” cancer scare (earlier). Pediatric Insider and Abnormal Use provide some needed perspective.

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It’s long been known that the processes by which food is browned, whether in the frying pan, grill, rotisserie or stewpot, generate a variety of chemicals with alarmingly hard-to-pronounce names. David Oliver thinks the flap over 4-methylimidazole in the familiar cola ingredient, “caramel coloring,” is likely to go the same way as the flap over supposed cancer risk from acrylamide in French fries, potato chips and many other foods.

P.S. Per commenter Jerry, I’ve jumped to conclusions, and the “caramel coloring” found in sodas is generated by other chemical processes, not by caramelization.

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July 11 roundup

by Walter Olson on July 11, 2010

  • Update: Australian judge tells Men at Work to pay 5% of royalties to “Kookaburra” owner, far less than was demanded [Lowering the Bar, earlier here and here]
  • McDonald’s CEO pushes back vs. ogrish CSPI’s anti-Happy Meal campaign [Stoll, Mangu-Ward] “Milk, Coke and the Calorie Police” [Jason Kuznicki, Cato]
  • “Lawyer sues basketball star LeBron James, alleging he is his father” [CNN, BLT] Update: judge tosses suit.
  • Small business tort liability costs estimated at $133 billion [NERA study (PDF) for Chamber's Institute for Legal Reform (press release) via PoL]
  • Crawlers, robots.txt and fear of litigation: “Some closure on my collision with Facebook” [Pete Warden]
  • Now what was Citizens United supposed to open the floodgates for, exactly? [Bainbridge]
  • DOJ “entered into undisclosed agreement with Amex to freeze out the employment of exec who ultimately was cleared of wrongdoing” [Podgor, Kirkendall via Steele]
  • Easter egg in financial regulation bill could result in new pressure for gender, ethnic quotas across wide sectors of economy [Diana Furchtgott-Roth, Real Clear Politics; Mark Perry with some figures on the degree of gender balance in Dodd's and Frank's committees]

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Salt reactions

by Walter Olson on April 23, 2010

  • The report in the Washington Post that the Food and Drug Administration intends to work toward mandatory limits on salt in processed food provoked some negative public reaction, and now the agency has issued a public statement not exactly denying the story, but complaining that it “leaves a mistaken impression that the FDA has begun the process of regulating the amount of sodium in foods. The FDA is not currently working on regulations nor has it made a decision to regulate sodium content in foods at this time.” Emphasis added to point out the cagey phrasings: there is no denial that the agency’s leadership intends to do all these things in the future, exactly as the Post reported.
  • In what is known as coordinated publicity, the trial balloon, if a trial balloon it was, was sent up to coincide with the release of a large National Institute of Medicine report pushing for salt reductions. More: WSJ Health Blog;
  • In more coordinated publicity, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Ct.) and Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Ia.) held a conference call with reporters demanding that the agency move faster to regulate salt. “I don’t want this to take 10 years. … This is a public health crisis,” said DeLauro (via Carter Wood at ShopFloor, who comments and in a separate post points out some CSPI lawyer angles);
  • Welcome listeners from Ray Dunaway’s morning show on WTIC Hartford, where I discussed these issues this morning.
  • And here’s an apparently new group calling itself “My Food, My Choice” that has come up with a good epithet for NYC Mayor Bloomberg’s squad of food regulators: “bland-lords“.
  • More: Stanley Goldfarb, Weekly Standard.

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Nation’s Restaurant News (via Russell Jackson): “A New Jersey Superior Court judge dismissed a lawsuit Tuesday accusing Denny’s Corp. of perpetrating fraud by not disclosing the amount of sodium in its food. The lawsuit, the first sodium-related case against a restaurant company, was filed this summer by a New Jersey man with help from the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a Washington-based consumer advocacy group.” Earlier here and here. Update/clarification: judge gave leave to amend, so action is expected to continue.

The odium of sodium

by Walter Olson on August 7, 2009

Hans Bader isn’t impressed by the numbers slung around by the Center for Science in the Public Interest in its lawsuit charging that the food at Denny’s restaurants is too salty. [Washington Examiner, earlier]

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Denny’s as “Public Health Enemy No. 1″, over-salty food as “silent killer” — yes, they really do talk that way at the uber-nannyish (and litigious) Center for Science in the Public Interest [AOL Slashfood, Consumer Law and Policy, Greg Conko/CEI "Open Market"]

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The former FDA chief and inveterate nanny-state advocate, David Kessler, has a new book arguing that chain restaurant food is excessively palatable, to the point where it effectively addicts the chains’ customers. Jacob Sullum at Reason accords Kessler’s theories all the respect they deserve.

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Mike Cernovich thinks the plaintiff suing over the sugar-laden beverage might have spared himself a lot of trouble by, you know, reading the label.

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In the same world where chocolate and peanut butter supercollided to give us the peanut butter cup, it is not surprising that it would eventually not be sufficient to desire either a prepackaged a) drink that contains alcohol or b) energy drink. We must have both, and at the same time. While we have been blessed with a range of such delectable, ready-made beverages, like most things good and tasty they have rubbed the Center for Science in the Public Interest–the nanny state group that has had both alcohol and caffeine in its litigators’ sights for years–in all the wrong ways.

As reported here earlier this year, CSPI whined for months about caffeinated alcohol beverages–which it labels “alcospeed”–before eventually pressuring Budweiser to drop its offering and then suing Miller to stop it from selling Sparks Red. CSPI, which got support from few if any drinkers but a host of apparently underworked attorneys generals who can’t wrap their pointy heads around the notion that caffeine/alcohol combos like the Irish coffee, rum and Coke, or Red Bull and vodka are hardly a new concept, is (with the AGs) blindly claiming the company’s ATF-approved Sparks drink is bad hooch. Just last week, under pressure from the AGs, Miller agreed to postpone the launch of its Sparks Red.

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Public Citizen’s blog announced that CSPI plans to sue the beverage sellers, asking for disgorgement of profits from flavored malt beverages, unless they agree to take them off the market. Their theory? By making flavored alcoholic beverages that taste good, they are effectively marketing to children. (Because, after all, adults don’t like beverages that taste good.) CSPI also claims that it violates FDA rules to sell alcoholic beverages that contain caffeine, which would be a surprise to every restaurant that offers Irish coffee.

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Let them not eat cake

by Walter Olson on September 25, 2007

“Wearing signs reading: ‘They’re Carbs not Contraband,’ ‘Give Us our Just Desserts’ and ‘We’re Old Enough to Choose,’ a dozen senior citizens picketed outside [a Mahopac, N.Y. senior center] protesting a recently imposed ban on the sugared treats at Putnam County-operated nutritional sites.” For years supermarkets and bakeries have donated day-old pastries to senior centers, but last month the county called a halt to the program, saying that the treats violated federal nutritional standards for the elderly and might pose safety dangers. The AP story carried this classically sensitive and humanistic quote from Michael Jacobson of that group of untiring busybodies, the self-proclaimed Center for Science in the Public Interest: “Senior citizens can walk down to the store and buy doughnuts. Nobody’s stopping them”. [Putnam County Courier; Westchester Journal-News; Associated Press]

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Updates – June 20

by David Nieporent on June 20, 2007

Updating a few earlier stories we’ve discussed here…

  • Two weeks ago we noted that a new online attorney rating site, Avvo.com, was being threatened with a lawsuit by John Henry Browne, a disgruntled Seattle criminal defense attorney. (Jun. 10). Well, whatever the merits or weaknesses of Browne as an attorney, one thing you can say about him is that he doesn’t make idle threats; last week, he filed suit against Avvo. The suit, designated a class action, contends that Avvo’s ratings are flawed. From all accounts, that’s almost certainly true, but as I mentioned in my previous post, it’s not clear that this presents a valid cause of action; Avvo is entitled to rank lawyers differently than John Henry Browne wants them to. In an attempt to get around this problem, the complaint trots out various “consumer protection” arguments using notoriously vague and broad statutes that don’t require that the plaintiffs identify any consumers who have been harmed. (Illustrating perfectly the phenomenon Ted discussed on Jun. 18).

    Oh yes, and Browne also claims in the complaint that “at least two clients” of his fired him (in less than a week!) because of his “average” rating on Avvo. Let’s just say I’m rather skeptical of Mr. Browne’s ability to prove such a claim.

    The law firm handling this class action case? Overlawyered multiple repeat offender Hagens Berman. (Many links.)

  • Remember that lawsuit where Illinois Chief Justice Robert Thomas sued the Kane County Chronicle for defamation? (Apr. 2, Nov. 2006) Well, when last we heard, the libel award — originally an absurd $7 million — had been reduced to $4 million by the trial judge. Not surprisingly, the Chronicle still is unsatisfied, and does not feel it can get a fair shake from the very Illinois court system headed by Thomas; it has now filed a federal lawsuit claiming its constitutional rights have been violated. Named in the suit are Thomas, the trial judge who heard the case, and the rest of Thomas’s colleagues on the state Supreme Court.
  • Kellogg’s bows to threats of frivolous litigation coming from the Center for “Science” in the “Public Interest”; agrees to limit advertising of its cereals to children.

    Of course, this is portrayed as an issue of advertising, but as Michael Jacobson of CSPI admits, this litigation strategy is simply an attempt to drive products he disapproves of from the market. And now that Kellogg’s has capitulated, certain politicians are trying to force other companies to do the same.

    Originally: Jan. 2006.

  • We had previously reported (May 17) that the unfair competition lawsuit between Equal and Splenda had settled. Turns out that the two sides are still fighting, with each side accusing the other of reneging on the deal. (LI)

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Steve Chapman finds that the “science” of the misnamed Center for Science in the Public Interest in its KFC suit isn’t actually the sort that should be relied on too heavily, and observes:

…the health dangers of an occasional Extra Crispy drumstick are anywhere from negligible to nonexistent. But letting CSPI decide what’s best for all of us? Now, that’s risky.

(“Extra crispy chicken and deep-fried panic”, syndicated/Tracy (Calif.) Press, Jun. 19).

Meanwhile, carried along on a tide of credulous press coverage, CSPI says it’s thinking of suing Starbucks over its overly calorie-laden wares (“Starbucks May Be Next Target of Fatty-Fighting Group”, Reuters/FoxNews.com, Jun. 19). Amy Alkon is not impressed (Jun. 19), while Radley Balko (Jun. 17) picks up on perhaps the ripest absurdity in the report:

The union contends that Starbucks staff gain weight when they work at the chain. They are offered unlimited beverages and leftover pastries for free during their shifts.

“This is why organized labor is so important,” he adds. “Otherwise, who’s going expose Starbucks’ exploitive practice of giving its employees free stuff?”

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