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?

“We could go on a campaign to create a Mediterranean diet, but that would be one hard fight,” she says. “We’re not talking about switching from steak to flounder. We’re talking about getting both off the plate and replacing them with [simple] pasta.”

But Dr. Walter Willett, chairman of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, says studies have proven that only saturated fat leads to disease and that a low-fat diet is not necessarily the best way to fight obesity.

The low-fat obsession by the center and the government, he says, reflects “a paternalistic idea that the public is not smart enough to distinguish between types of fat. I think we should tell people the facts and give them options. Fat in the diet, fat in the body–it’s not the same.”

Yet Willett figures he and people like Liebman and Jacobson, whom he admires for taking on the food industry, follow a similar diet. “The difference is I have a bottle of olive oil on the stove and on the table because it makes things taste better.”

If Bonnie Liebman is the office scientist willing to take on the forces at Harvard, Jayne Hurley is the head detective–the office Sherlock Holmes.

Senior nutritionist Hurley, 38, can read any label in a grocery store and detect exactly what’s in a package–the good, the bad, the artificial. For the summer edition of the newsletter she recently assessed 125 bottled juices, teas and quenchers. Orange juice received the highest score because it’s loaded with vitamins and minerals. Apple and grape juice landed at the bottom of the juice barrel. “We like to score things for nutritional values,” she says.

Hurley also writes a column in the newsletter that routinely slams specific products. For example, a few years ago she went after “Lunchables,” an Oscar Meyer lunch product that originally had round pieces of fatty meat, squares of cheese, fat-laden crackers, a candy bar and sugary drink all in one package. “Lunchables,” according to a company spokesman, represents $250 million in annual sales. “I gave them a ‘food porn,’ ” she says, of the newsletter’s worst rating, “but before I could have any effect, or stop it, several companies copied Oscar Meyer.”

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