Empty calories. Liquid candy. Junk food. Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), has been credited with inventing these phrases--and, in doing so, he has helped shape the national dialogue on food and public health for the past four decades.
Jacobson co-founded the CSPI in 1971 and has been its director since 1978. He has spearheaded efforts to stop or reduce the use of food additives like trans fats, salt, and food dyes; ban the marketing of junk foods to children; lower consumption of sugary drinks; improve the country's food safety mechanisms; and get healthier foods into schools. In turn, the food industry (and sometimes the press) has dubbed Jacobson "chief of the food police."
This year, the CSPI has organized Food Day, its "most ambitious project ever," a day of education and advocacy featuring hundreds of local events that will be held on October 24. Here, Jacobson discusses dietary supplements, how young people are changing America's food systems, and why we shouldn't spend so much time talking about high-fructose corn syrup.
What do you say when people ask, "What do you do?"
I'm an advocate, first and foremost. I advocate to improve our diets and create better food policies to ultimately prevent hundreds of thousands of unnecessary diet-related deaths each year. CSPI identifies problems backed by scientific research that are receiving inadequate attention. We then pull out all the stops to solve those problems--from education to litigation to congressional funding of studies by the National Academy of Sciences.