The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) continues to embarrass itself by denying the facts.

At a press conference yesterday in Washington, CSPI head Michael Jacobson, accompanied by well-known burger and potato hater Dr. Walter Willet, presented a 54-page “citizen petition” to the Food and Drug Administration asking the agency to encourage the food industry to voluntarily reduce (read: regulate) sugars in foods, in part by setting targets for lower added-sugar levels.

The problem is, most of the things CSPI demands are already being done—voluntarily by the beverage and food industries.  While the CSPI dismisses industry data as simply crisis management, it’s important to consider the facts.  The beverage industry offered up this list of what they’ve already done to offer people more choices.

  • Today about 45 percent of all non-alcoholic beverages purchased have zero calories and the overall average number of calories per beverage serving is down 23 percent since 1998.
  • Beverage companies voluntarily removed full-calorie soft drinks from all schools and replaced them with lower-calorie choices, resulting in a 90 percent reduction in beverage calories shipped to schools since 2004.
  • Beverage companies voluntarily added calorie labels to the front of all their packages, making it easier than ever for consumers to know how many calories are in their beverage choice before making a purchase.
  • Americans are consuming 37 percent fewer calories from sugar in soft drinks and other sweetened beverages than in 2000, according to the CDC.

Look, Jacobson and his crew of know-it-all obesity experts firmly believe adults behave just like the recently deceased woman in New Zealand who maintained a 2-gallon-a-day soda habit (yeah, I bet drinking massive amounts of soda was her only bad habit). But clearly this woman was the exception. In fact, soda consumption is down in this country and has been for over a decade now.  The fact is, people have more choices—including healthier choices–in what they drink and eat.  

But that’s the real problem, right? The fact that consumers have a lot of choices.

What Jacobson and his regulatory pals like Willet and Robert Lustig, and Marion Nestle, and sugar-lover (as long as it’s used in his recipes) Mark Bittman really want is for these products to be taken away from people. They can’t stand that these products are available to people and because they have so little faith in adults to make good food and beverage decisions, they think government should just step in and take away the options.

It’s baffling that these so-called obesity experts miss the latest data that shows consumers are demanding healthier food products and more importantly, that industry is responding and see it as good for their bottom line. 

A just-released study from the Hudson Institute and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation demonstrates that healthy food is good for business.  Among the findings, the study showed that in chain restaurants, lower calorie items were the key growth engine for both foods and beverages and that those restaurants that grew their low-calorie food options saw in increase in sales while those that did not saw a decline in sales. 

There are serious consequences associated with regulations; unemployment being the most obvious—particularly as the economy continues to sputter along. At a time when families are desperate to make it to the next paycheck, do these food nannies really think the American public will get behind efforts to regulate the food they love—especially when such regulations will amount to nothing more than higher food prices?

These organizations and food nannies could really make an impact by encouraging greater individual responsibility and by educating people on how certain food and beverage decisions impact their health. But by pushing for the government to control people’s food decision, they are alienating people and becoming far less effective.