Yesterday, I wrote a fairly upbeat postabout the upcoming Food Day Event. This isn't FOODday, the weekly food specific insert our local newspaper publishes. Nor is it the longstanding Oxfam event designed to raise awareness about world hunger. No, this an event modeled on Earth Day – National Day of Awareness – Local events, national message.
I feel conflicted about this. This has nothing to do with raising awareness about food's origins - that kind of consciousness raising is good. Nationally, heroes and inspirations such as Marion Nestle and Morgan Spurlock will be participating. Locally, the Oregon non-profit organization, Farmers Against Hunger, is leading the local charge for Food Day. How could one even be in opposition to a group called Farmers Against Hunger. It would be like being against pictures of kittens on the Internet.
|How Dare you Enjoy That!|
My problem, well with this event anyway, is its sponsor, the Center for Science in the Public Interest. CSPI has very little to do with science – they don't do scientific research in the traditional peer reviewed fashion, they cull info from published studies and tend to cherry pick information, and they have been accused by former researchers of being less than scientific. Their publications are usually alarmist and occasionally speculative. CSPI is a lobbying group, which isn't a problem, people and organizations have a right to petition our government, except they don't even call themselves lobbyist, they imply science and rational thought when they are about as sciencey as Scientologists.
Just to back up a little bit, CSPI was founded in 1971 by a group of former Naderites. This wasn't the post-Gore recalcitrant Ralph Nader, this was the viable and crusading Unsafe at Any Speed, Ralph Nader. At their best, CSPI has lobbied for consistent labeling on products, so that low fat and heart healthy mean something other than marketing slogans. At their worst they have been inconsistent in labeling – with alcohol they feel less information for consumers is better, they, like a lot of 'experts' were for Trans-fats before they were hysterically against them and they unabashedly want to tax butter, soda and 'junk food' (BTW- pizza is junk food to them). CSPI in their righteousness mirrors a self-serving Andrew Breitbart whose corner cutting and truthiness are justified because no one understands as well as they do. This organization has consistently presented skewed information about movie popcorn, Chinese take out, caffeine and beer – better to scare and alarm consumers*. Need more proof: NPR loves to quote them as serious unbiased watchdogs.
I find the CSPI to be scare mongers, food scolds and anti-calorie rather than pro-healthy diet. They are just as bad as all the other voices out there that tell you food is unsafe, it's hard to prepare & who has the time anyway, food doesn't sustain life it kills you, it is joyless. I like butter and the occasional cocktail. I like chips and fries. I am not afraid of these foods - they don't need to be taxed, regulated and treated like forbidden fruit – there are healthy and unhealthy diets, not individual foods. Weight gain is more than calories-in calories-out strategy, let's learn about healthy diets. If we talk about taxing foods, specific foods let's talk about where that money will go to -safe, clean parks, bike lanes, exercise initiatives, because levying a surcharge against the select foods CSPI doesn't like - won't make one person skinny.
Monday's Food Day is not the first time CSPI has tried to launch a National Day of Awareness – originally rolled-out in the mid-70s the project lost momentum and funding. CSPI's founder Michael Jacobson in an interview with the Washington Post wondered where the locavore/Slow Food/organic movements would be today if only Food Day had kept pace with Earth Day. Probably even in worse shape. Fortunately, people like Carlo Petrini, Michael Pollan, Spurlock and Nestle took time to educate people about making more educated food choices instead of scolding, scaring and blackballing select foods.
Enjoy the day, be mindful of the sponsor.
*CSPI's In-house food policies are so strict that founder Jacobson once reportedly intended to get rid of the office coffee machine—until one-third of his 60 employees threatened to quit.