Food Police Group Pushed for Trans Fats, Now Take Credit for Possible Ban

Wednesday's Example of Media Bias   —   Posted on November 20, 2013

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-Read the excerpt below from Mike Ciandella's post at BusinessandMedia.org.
-Read "Types of Media Bias" in the right column. Then answer the questions.

From a post by Mike Ciandella at BusinessandMedia.org (original post date Nov. 13):
Trans fats may soon be banned by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). But why were they there to begin with? The networks haven’t been reporting that trans fats became popular because of a food police group’s crusade to get rid of saturated fats.

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In the 1980s, the…food activists at Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) campaigned to get polyunsaturated fats out of food – and suggested trans fats as a viable alternative.

Out of nine stories mentioning the potential ban on the morning and evening shows of ABC, CBS and NBC, the networks ignored the connection between CSPI and the presence of trans fats in food.

Yet, CPSI proudly took credit for the FDA’s moves against trans fats. Michael Jacobsen, executive director of CSPI, called [trans fat] a “uniquely powerful promoter of heart disease.” But in 1988, CSPI published a book entitled “Saturated Fat Attack,” in which they argued against companies’ use of saturated and polyunsaturated fats. When companies eventually capitulated, they replaced these fats with trans fats. Before this, trans fats did not have the presence in foods that they do today.

CSPI’s Nutrition Action Healthletter on March 1, 1988, proudly proclaimed that “[d]espite the rumors, there is little good evidence that trans fats cause any more harm than other fats.”

The newsletter continued to promote trans fats rather than saturated ones. They said, “In rat studies, trans fats appear safe. Animals absorb them just as well as they absorb other fats and oils. And rats fed high levels of trans fats for 46 generations lived as long as other rats, reproduced as well, and appeared normal.”

CSPI even criticized claims that trans fats increase cholesterol saying, “Although some human studies suggest that trans fats do raise blood cholesterol, most of these had serious flaws. Several for example, used an unusual fat with two trans groups. This fat is not present to a significant extent in commercial margarines or oils.” …

The MRC’s Business and Media Institute found that since the potential ban was first announced on Nov. 7,  there were nine mentions of it on the morning and evening shows of ABC, CBS and NBC. None of these mentioned CSPI’s role in a possible ban, or their earlier promotion of trans fats to replace saturated fats.

CSPI has a long history of attacking any food it comes across. The group has warned about the dangers of dozens of foods in past years including water, milk, bread, eggs and many others in addition to pushing a pro-regulation and taxation agenda. But the news media eat up CSPI’s scary warnings time and again while rarely examining their extreme food views.

Questions

1.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit watchdog and consumer advocacy group fighting for safer, more nutritious food.  What type of bias do the networks (NBC, ABC, CBS) display in their reports on the upcoming ban on trans fat and CSPI’s promotion of trans fat?

2.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit watchdog and consumer advocacy group fighting for safer, more nutritious food.  Should the fact that CSPI promoted the use of trans fat have been reported on in network news reports?  Explain your answer.

3.  The media’s job is to investigate (get the facts) before reporting a story. Do you think the networks’ failure to mention CSPI’s role in the widespread use of trans fat: is sloppy journalism across the board, displays the ignorance of news reporters today, or is a deliberate omission of an unpleasant truth – that a non-profit group which pushes for government regulation on many types of food promoted the safety and widespread use of trans fat in many foods?  Explain your answer.


Scroll down to the bottom of the page for the answers.
























Answer(s)

1.  Bias by omission.

2.  Opinion question. Answers vary.

3.  Opinion question. Answers vary.