Michael F. Jacobson
Michael F. Jacobson (b. 1943), who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, co-founded the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 1971, along with two fellow scientists he met while working at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. When his colleagues left CSPI in 1977, Jacobson served as executive director. Today, Jacobson sits as secretary on the board of directors of the organization. He has been a national leader in the movement to require nutrition labels on all foods and most beverages to help consumers make informed decisions about what to consume. It was Jacobson who coined the now widely used phrases "junk food" and "empty calorie".
Jacobson sits on the National Council of the Great American Meatout, an annual event sponsored by Farm Animal Rights Movement, that encourages people to "kick the meat habit" for a day. Jacobson and his organization have criticized a wide variety of foods and beverages as unhealthful. He and CSPI frequently use colorful terms to emphasize their opposition to certain foods, for instance referring to fettuccine alfredo as a "heart attack on a plate."
"Soda is the quintessential junk food—just sugar calories and no nutrients," says Jacobson. "Americans are drowning in soda pop—teenagers, in particular. The average teenage boy is consuming two cans of soda pop a day." Jacobson proposes several warning labels, including "Drinking (non-diet) soft drinks contributes to obesity and tooth decay," and "Consider switching to diet soda, water, or skim milk." He once asked a CBS News reporter: "Obesity is an epidemic. One-third of youths already are overweight or obese. Are we just going to sit around and do nothing? Or should we do something—a modest, sensible step of putting a health message on cans and bottles?"
In 2005, Jacobson's organization proposed mandatory warning labels on all containers of sugar-sweetened soft drinks, to warn consumers about the possible health risks of consuming these beverages on a regular basis.
To bring about changes in eating habits, Jacobson advocates higher taxes on unhealthy foods, greater use of warning labels on food and beverage packaging, restrictions on advertising and selling junk foods (“snack foods"), and lawsuits against food producers and retailers whose practices he believes are detrimental to public health. He was instrumental in the passage of a Federal Law that mandated calorie labels on fast food chain menus and menu boards, which was passed in the Health Reform legislation signed into law by President Obama in March, 2010.
Due in part to the zeal he brings to his efforts and in part to his de facto "zero-tolerance" policy, Jacobson's methods have been heavily criticized by the libertarian community, with the Center for Consumer Freedom awarding him "nanny of the year" on three occasions. Some argue that parents have control over their children's diet and can moderate their intake of sugar-sweetened soft drinks. However, Jacobson contends that "kids know about vending machines, and they can go to 7-Eleven and get a big gulp which contains half a gallon—a thousand calories, almost!—of soda pop in a single serving... We've come a long way from the six-and-a-half ounce Coke bottles some 50 years ago."
Works written by Jacobson
- Eater's Digest: The Consumer's Fact-Book of Food Additives, Doubleday & Company Inc. (June 1972) ASIN B000H7GB4K
- Nutrition Scoreboard: your guide to better eating. Center for Science in the Public Interest (July 1973)
- How Sodium Nitrite Can Affect Your Health (1973)
- Booze Merchants: The Inebriating of America. Center for Science in the Public Interest (September 1983), ISBN 0-89329-099-8
- Salt: The Brand Name Guide to Sodium Content. Warner Books; Reissue edition (September 1985) ISBN 0-446-35513-5
- Charles P. Mitchell, Jacobson Tainted Booze. Center for Science in the Public Interest (June 1988) ISBN 0-89329-017-3
- Marketing Disease to Hispanics: The Selling of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Junk Foods. Center for Science in the Public Interest (September 1989) ISBN 0-89329-020-3
- Marketing Madness: A Survival Guide for a Consumer Society. Center for Science in the Public Interest (September 1989) ISBN 0-89329-020-3
- The Fast Food Guide. Center for Science in the Public Interest (December 1991) ISBN 99913-31-76-X
- The Completely Revised and Updated Fast-Food Guide: What's Good, What's Bad, and How to Tell the Difference. Workman Publishing Company; 2nd Revised & Updated edition (January 3, 1992) ISBN 0-89480-823-0
- Safe Food: Eating Wisely in a Risky World. Berkley Pub Group (February 1993) ISBN 0-425-13621-3
- What Are We Feeding Our Kids?. Workman Publishing Company (January 8, 1994) ISBN 1-56305-101-X
- Restaurant Confidential. Workman Publishing Company (May 6, 2002) ISBN 0-7611-0035-0
- A Brief History of the Center for Science in the Public Interest. cspinet.org. Retrieved September 3, 2006.
- CSPI Board of Directors as of 2004. Retrieved September 3, 2006.
- O'Neill, Brendon (November 30, 2006). "Is this what you call junk food?". BBC News. Retrieved June 29, 2010.
- "The Great American Meatout". March 12, 2009.
- Kathryn Masterson. "Food Cop: Love Him or Hate Him". Chicago Tribune. 14 Oct 2007.
- Michael F. Jacobson (2005-07-01). "Liquid candy". Nutrition Action Healthletter. Retrieved 2008-04-02.
- "Warning Labels On Soda?". CBS. 2005-07-14. Retrieved 2008-04-02.[dead link]
- "Letter to Secretary Michael Leavitt: Department of Health and Human Services" (PDF). 2005-07-13. Retrieved 2006-08-12.
- Katherine Mangu-Ward (2008-08-15). ""A five-egg omelet, a bowl of grits, three slices of French toast topped with powdered sugar and three chocolate-chip pancakes"". Reason. Retrieved 2008-08-16.