Food Police Group Bashes Restaurants, CBS Eats it Up

Network website runs CSPI report including accusation and calls for regulation. promoted a restaurant attack by the pro-regulatory food police group the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) Jan. 16, without noting the agenda of the group or providing other points of view.

The online story that regurgitated CSPI’s annual “Xtreme Eating” report released that day, favorably called the group a “watchdog” and essentially ran the group’s entire report with no industry response. The CBS article included a slideshow (with CSPI’s own images) depicting each food item that CSPI criticized, with its nutritional content. Both the article and the slideshow linked back to the original CSPI report.

CSPI’s director Michael F. Jacobson accused the chains of intentionally making people obese or diabetic. "It's as if IHOP, The Cheesecake Factory, Maggiano's Little Italy, and other major restaurant chains are scientifically engineering these extreme meals with the express purpose of promoting obesity, diabetes, and heart disease," said Jacobson. (Emphasis added)

Nowhere in CBS’s story is there a response from any of the restaurants slammed by CSPI’s report, or any mention of personal responsibility and choice. It is no guarantee that because a restaurant offers a large amount of food the person who chooses it will eat it all in one sitting. Ultimately the decision about what and how much to consume is up to the individual, much to CSPI’s dismay.

Jacobson is accusing the restaurant industry of intentionally jeopardizing the health of their patrons for the sake of turning a quick buck. According to him, “restaurants don’t care if customers are trying to shape up. Their goal: boost the bottom line. And if that means serving up a 2,000-calorie order of macaroni & cheese, a 1 lb. slice of chocolate cake, or a milkshake that contains a slice of apple pie, well, whose problem is that?”

As they have in the past, CSPI called for government intervention, specifically wanting 2010 legislation that they say has been “stalled” by the FDA. The legislation would require restaurant chains to include calorie amounts next to menu items, something many restaurants have already done. CSPI brags in its “List of Accomplishments,” that the initial legislation was passed after a ten-year campaign by its group.

All but one of the restaurants listed in the report, include their nutritional information on their websites. Many of them also include designated lower-calorie options on their menus, for people that want that.

Some of the foods listed by CSPI are so obviously high in calories that someone ordering them couldn’t be under some other impression, even without nutritional information included on the menu. Johnny Rockets Bacon Cheddar Double cheeseburger ordered with a milkshake or a full rack of Baby Back Ribs with Shiner Bock BBQ Sauce from Chili’s don’t exactly scream “health food.”

CBS gave no hint at CSPI’s extreme anti-food agenda, scary warnings, or its long history of calling for regulation. In fact, CSPI has warned that practically every kind of food is dangerous including water, milk, coffee, bread, eggs, sugar, salt and many others in addition to pushing a pro-regulation and taxation agenda. CSPI also promotes taxes on what it considers “unhealthy” foods in order to subsidize fruits and vegetables.

This isn’t the first time the CBS has cited them without providing an alternative point of view, or recognizing the bias of the group.