Do They Enjoy Really Being Dinner Party Don’t-Invite-’ems? : They Pointed Out the Perils of Popcorn, Chinese Food, Even the Unassuming Tuna Salad Sandwich. But What Really Goes On Inside the Center for Science in the Public Interest?

This man who got his start working for Ralph Nader seems to have no problem pushing dietary concerns to uncomfortable levels to counterweight a consumer culture in which 704 new salty snack foods are introduced in a single year (1994) and companies spend $25 million a year advertising a single candy bar.

In the past decade, America has caught up with Jacobson’s concerns about diet and health. Instead of being a voice in the wilderness, the center has become part of the mainstream, campaigning against fat and salt alongside such forces as the U.S. surgeon general and the American Heart Assn.

“Washington is a finely balanced town,” says Food and Drug Administration Commissioner David Kessler. “And when that balance is not there, things tend to go awry. [The center] has served as a very important balance to the food industry.” Kessler also confesses that since the assault on Chinese restaurants, he eats more rice with his chicken.

But as the center’s profile has grown, so has the list of its detractors in unofficial but nevertheless influential circles.

There are the scientists who question why the center sticks with the Establishment view that all fats–not just saturated fat in meat and dairy products–are health hazards. Many dietitians take issue with the center’s radical position that the public should avoid so-called “bad” foods rather than recommending that people try to strike a healthy balance in an overall diet.

Food company executives don’t give these public advocates a lick of credit for changes in their $450-billion business, which now devotes 15% to 25% of its sales to reduced-calorie foods.

“Foodies”–critics and cookbook writers–blame Jacobson for taking the fun out of eating by injecting paranoia into one of the most important human pleasures. Jacobson counters by saying that most of us don’t love food. “The average person kind of just gobbles down the same dozen meals and doesn’t really think much about food.”

Yet few of Jacobson’s critics, except for the officials at the meat, milk and grocery associations, are willing to openly run him down.

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