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Center for Science in the Public Interest

  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a not-for-profit watchdog group headed by Michael Jacobson. Jacobson founded the group in 1971 along with two former co-workers from Ralph Nader’s Center for the Study of Responsive Law. CSPI’s twin missions are to "conduct innovative research and advocacy programs in health and nutrition and to provide consumers with current and useful information about their health and well-being."[1]

CSPI has gained notoriety for threatening to sue businesses that don’t comply with the organization’s strict nutrition guidelines[2], including detailed nutrition labeling, abolishing the use of trans fats, and reducing the amount of sodium in processed foods. The group’s Alcohol Policies Project advocates against what it sees as the adverse societal influences of alcohol. The Project lobbies mainly against alcohol advertising, most notably through its Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV. One of CSPI’s largest projects is its Food Safety initiative. In addition to publishing Outbreak Alert!, a compilation of food-borne illnesses and outbreaks, the Food Safety project supports the establishment of a new Food Safety Administration that would fold the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) into one bureaucratic body.

CSPI became well known for threatening legal action over the purported mislabeling of “low-fat” foods in restaurants. In 2003, the group teamed up with trial lawyer John Banzhaf to pressure ice cream retailers to list the nutritional information of their products on menu boards, or face lawsuits. Most recently, they have expanded that demand to include all chain restaurants, and have helped introduce menu labeling legislation in several U.S. cities and states.

CSPI was also instrumental in convincing fast food restaurants to stop using animal fat for frying in 1989[3], arguing that artificial trans fats were much healthier; they have recently been fighting against the use of trans fats in those same restaurants.

The organization lists its goals as:

  • To provide useful, objective information to the public and policymakers and to conduct research on food, alcohol, health, the environment, and other issues related to science and technology;
  • To represent the citizen's interests before regulatory, judicial, and legislative bodies on food, alcohol, health, the environment, and other issues; and
  • To ensure that science and technology are used for the public good and to encourage scientists to engage in public-interest activities.[1]

CSPI is a section 501(c)(3) organization exempt from federal income tax. CSPI's chief source of income is its 'Nutrition Action Healthletter, which has about 900,000 subscribers and does not accept corporate advertising. [4][5]The organization receives about 5-10 percent of its $17 million annual budget from private foundation grants.


Programs and campaigns

Food Safety

CSPI’s Food Safety Program's goal is to ensure that government regulators, policy makers, and industry work harder to protect American consumers from the threats of food contamination and to reduce the burden of foodborne illnesses. The Food Safety Program lobbies Congress to strengthen current food safety laws and to adopt new laws to protect American consumers. CSPI publishes Outbreak Alert!, an ongoing compilation of product recalls, foodborne illnesses, and outbreaks.

Alcohol Policies Project

The Alcohol Policies Project is part of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Its long-time director is lawyer George Hacker. One of the main activities of the Project is directing the Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV, which seeks a ban on televised alcohol ads in any way associated with college sports.

Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV

The Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV is organized and promoted by the Center for Science in the Public Interest through its Alcohol Policies Project. Mr. Hacker also co-directs the Coalition for the Prevention of Alcohol Problems.

The Campaign calls upon college administrators to sign a pledge that their institutions will prohibit all alcohol advertising on local sports programming, and that they will also work within their athletic conferences and within the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) to prohibit all alcohol advertising from all televised college sports.

The Campaign also seeks congressional support for such a prohibition.

Over 80 national, state, and local groups joined CSPI in launching the Campaign in 2003.


The Center for Consumer Freedom, a non-profit U.S. lobby group funded by the restaurant, food, and tobacco industries,[6] [7] criticizes CSPI through one of its websites. CCF regards CSPI as part of the "food police". It claims that "(CSPI) and its founder, Michael F. Jacobson, are not as nice, sweet, and unbiased as CSPI's name might imply. [CSPI] routinely uses scare tactics justified by 'junk science' and media theatrics as part of their ceaseless campaign for government regulation of your personal food choices."[8] As a result, several critics of CSPI often refer to the organization as being in favor of a nanny state.[9]

The Heartland Institute says that "What makes officious nannies like CSPI so maddening is that they cloak their apparent goal of prohibition in the language of health advocacy. Some of the advice in the group's Nutrition Action Healthletter is perfectly sensible, but the remainder can be highly controversial."[10]

Bob Barr, a former U.S. Congressman and member of the Libertarian Party, has said that CSPI does not conduct research but carries out smear campaigns against scientists who publish research which contradicts its ideas. [11]


  1. ^ a b Mission Statement. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved on 2007-10-02.
  2. ^ Masterson, K: "Food cop: Love him or hate him", Chicago Tribune. October 14, 2007.
  3. ^ CSPI Accomplishments. Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved on 2007-10-02.
  4. ^ Nutrition Action Healthletter. Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  5. ^ Our Funding: CPSI Funding Sources. Center for Science in the Public Interest.
  6. ^ Mayer, Caroline E. and Amy Joyce. ""The Escalating Obesity Wars"", The Washington Post, April 27, 2005, pp. p. E01. Retrieved on 2007-02-12. 
  7. ^ About Us. Center for Consumer Freedom (2007). Retrieved on 2007-02-12.
  8. ^ Retrieved on 2006-09-02.
  9. ^ Holt, Tom. The Rise of the Nanny State. Capital Research Center.
  10. ^ "Food and Drink Police: Center for Science in the Public Interest wants government to control our eating habits". Heartland Institute. Retrieved on 2006-09-02.
  11. ^ Barr, Bob (September 18, 2006). "Scientific Research Ruse". Washington Times.


  • Center for Science in the Public Interest. Project to Empower Students to Transform the Campus Drinking Culture: Survival Skills for the Successful Advocate. Washington, DC: Center for Science in the Public Interest, n.d.
  • Goetz, D. Liquor industry gets stricter on advertising. Louisville Courier-Journal, 10.09.03
  • Campaign for Alcohol-Free Sports TV. A project of CSPI.
  • Hanson, David J.. The Center for Science in the Public Interest: Not Scientific and Not in the Public Interest. Alcohol Abuse Prevention: Some Serious Problems. Retrieved on 2005-09-04. Site critical of CSPI.
  • Profile: Center for Science in the Public Interest. Retrieved on 2005-05-09. Site critical of "radical anti-consumer organizations."
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Center_for_Science_in_the_Public_Interest". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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