CSPI’s president turns over the reins after 46 years

Dr. Peter G. Lurie will be the new president of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, succeeding Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.

Michael Jacobson reflects on decades of progress toward a safer and more nutritious food supply. 

Back in 1971 and just a year out of grad school, I met two other scientists—Jim Sullivan and Al Fritsch—who were also working with Ralph Nader. After a few months, we came up with a crazy idea: Why not start a group run by scientists instead of lawyers? So, with no money, no experience in running an organization, and no connections, we created the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Somehow, with a grant here and a publication there, we found the resources to build up a staff. When Jim and Al left at the end of 1977, I became executive director.

Scratching my head over a cereal label in 1972.

In 1974, we started a newsletter to connect progressive nutritionists. When we realized that the public also had a thirst for credible information, we started selling subscriptions. That publication? Nutrition Action Healthletter. Over the years, Nutrition Action’s subscribers (about 600,000 now) and donors have largely fueled CSPI’s activities.

I’m so proud of what our little band of scientists, lawyers, and advocates has accomplished:

  • New laws. We led efforts for laws mandating Nutrition Facts labels, calories on menus, healthier school foods, new food-safety protections, and better labeling of allergens.
  • Safer foods. We got rid of partially hydrogenated oil (the source of artificial trans fat), sulfites (a sometimes-lethal allergen) that were used to treat fresh vegetables, Violet 1 dye, and Olestra (we laughed the diarrhea-inducing fake fat out of the food supply).
  • Healthier foods. Our campaigns led to declines in soda pop and sugar consumption and curbed junk food ads aimed at children.
  • Fewer deceptive labels and ads. We used publicity, complaints to government agencies, and lawsuits to end deceptive claims by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Kraft, Campbell, Procter & Gamble, Sara Lee, and many others.

After 46 years—and I can’t tell you how much fun it has been!—I’ve decided that it’s time to catch up on reading, travel more, and think about new approaches to improving the public’s health. So, on September 12, I’ll be turning CSPI’s reins over to Dr. Peter Lurie.

Peter is a family physician and former Associate Commissioner for Public Health Strategy and Analysis at the Food and Drug Administration. He led the FDA’s initiatives on antibiotic resistance and transparency, and worked on international tobacco control and caffeinated beverages, among other things.

At Public Citizen’s Health Research Group, where he worked previously, Peter focused on drug safety. He is co-author of the popular consumer guide to medications, Worst Pills, Best Pills.

I have total confidence that Peter will build on CSPI’s record of accomplishment and continue to win new public protections, provide consumers with accurate information, serve as a check on industry’s power, and nurture a new generation of public-interest scientists.

Find this article interesting and useful? Nutrition Action Healthletter subscribers regularly get sound, timely information about staying healthy with diet and exercise, delicious recipes, and detailed analyses of the healthy and unhealthy foods in supermarkets and restaurants. If you don’t already subscribe to the world’s most popular nutrition newsletter, click here to join hundreds of thousands of fellow health-minded consumers.

37 Replies to “CSPI’s president turns over the reins after 46 years”

  1. Cheers to YOU, Michael Jacobson for your devotion to keeping America’s food sources safe and healthy. Your relentless dedication towards educating the public about food labeling, food sources and health dangers has created a new generation of consumers who read, question and demand answers.
    Thank you for your decades’ long crusade. May you enjoy a long and fruitful retirement!

  2. Thank you Michael Jacobson for all you have done. I have enjoyed Nutrition Action Healthletter for a number of years and have learned so much from it. I appreciate the many protections you have provided us by bringing about changes in our food supply and the labeling of our food.
    Enjoy your retirement!

  3. Congratulations and welcome Dr. Lurie! You’ve got big shoes to fill but I’m confident you’ll have no problem. As a dietitian,the CSPI newsletter has been one of my favorite go-tos for an interesting read. I look forward to the next chapter.
    Kathleen Cartier- Whorley RDN, LD

  4. Best of luck to Michael! My mother started subscribing to Nutrition Action in the 80’s so I’ve been getting it for a very long time.

  5. You have done an amazing job, Dr. Jacobson. I have enjoyed many many years reading your research, and spelling out your words of wisdom to my friends and anyone who would listen. The only disappointment I have is that the hardcopy is no longer available to Canadians. Good luck to you and your next endeavour and thank you very many years well served.

      1. That is such good news!! – to another Canadian. I have been missing that printed newsletter very much. It is the one subscription that I read cover to cover as soon as possible – and also quoted and expounded on the very relevant information often. I will follow up on this. A heartfelt thanks to M. Jacobsen for following your ‘healthy’ passion. We’ve all benefited. Best Wishes.
        – a thankful Canadian consumer.

  6. I have counted on Jacobsen’s efforts and words for nearly 2 decades. I will miss his voice in the publication and will be listening for his continued efforts in the future as he sees fit. He deserves this transition to the next phase of his life, and wish him health and happiness. He has been a trusted voice and a reassurance that there are people like him in the world. He has been a pillar with this difficult president, and I appreciate that he has waited until now to retire. I have confidence that his replacement will do an outstanding job, also. Good luck to you Michael Jacobson, I will miss you.

  7. Good luck, Dr, Jacobsen You have done such a wonderful job and I have learned so much through your efforts. I wish you only the best, you deserve it! Good luck to Dr. Lurie, may all go well for you.

  8. My wife introduced me to NA here in Canada at a time when, as a deadline-chasing journalist, I paid little heed to the importance of nutrition (hey, we’re out of chips!) I was immediately grabbed by the clarity of the NA messages and NA’s willingness to rattle the windows of the food industry while walking the tightwire of impartiality. It was all so new. Michael Jacobson and his team deserve admiration and appreciation for their hard work and courage, and my wife and I thank him most sincerely for what he has done for us and wish him well from here on in. I hope he continues to rattle windows.

    Geoff and Maureen Johnson
    Manotick, (Ottawa), Ontario, Canada.

  9. Congratulations on your retirement Dr. Jacobsen! I have enjoyed your valuable, informative publication for years as a Canadian print subscriber and now online. I know I have personally modified my dietary choices based, in large part, on information found in Nutrition Action. Lately though, I have noticed that editorials and emails from NA appear to have a marked political bias. This is unfortunate, as NA could lose a large portion of its readership in the US and thus not allow its important messages to reach and impact as many people.

  10. I just want to say “thank you”. My Dad got me my first subscription when I graduated as a FP and I have really appreciated the information you have provided us over the years. It has served me well in my practice and I have tried to pass on its valuable insight into the food we eat pretty much daily to my patients . Happy retirement !

  11. I’ll go without several publications, but I must have Nutrition Action every month. Thanks for all your have done to serve our health and to make food safer for all of us. Hey, in photo above, you’re looking at an old food label. How about a retrospective look at all the label changes since you formed CSPI!

  12. Thank you Dr Jacobsen. I am a healthy 76 year old, partly because of you and your team. Congratulations on your retirement. For me, retirement has been the best years of my life. Take care………….G.

  13. Good Luck and farewell Dr.Jacobsen
    May you find gratification in all the years you have positively impacted peoples lives you have met and never known and will never met or know.

    Thank you for all the years
    A loyal subscriber to Nutrition Action

  14. Michael,
    Thanks for all your hard work. Your message of paying attention to what I eat finally sunk in about half dozen years ago. At 55, I feel better, have more mental clarity, & am more successful than ever.

  15. Thank you so much for your diligent work and the many years of terrific information on basic and complicated health issues and preventative measures as well as the ‘food porn’ section that brought chuckles as well as raised eyebrows at my dinner table. I have learned a lot from your hard work. I too was saddened when the Canadian publication came to an end as the printed copy was a welcome read but I happily get the updates etc. via the internet.
    I wish you the best in the coming years and your new pursuits.
    Thank you again.

  16. Thank you Dr. Jacobsen for your many years dedicated to the promotion of healthy eating. You and your group were not afraid to challenge big business. We learned a great deal about sugar and the many places it can be found in and the quantity of sugar in these products.
    I have been a subscriber for many years and regret the as a Canadian I cannot receive a printed copy as previously.
    Shall continue following the advice online but somehow it is not the same.
    Good luck to Dr. Lurie in his or her new venture.

  17. I interviewed Michael Jacobsen in the 1980’s when CSPI was working on alcohol policy issues. He increased my understanding of that issue (and many more since!), and helped me become an advocate for healthy living, cleaner eating, label reading, disease prevention, and much much more. I have referred many, many people to Nutrition Action as a valuable resource. I feed my brain with it, cook delicious recipes found in it, and share the facts gleaned from real science with others. CSPI stands out as a beacon of trust in a sea of misinformation disseminated by corporate giants to fool us into falling for their lies. I am not exaggerating when I say I am a better person as a result of that conversation all those years ago. Thank you Michael, and a thousand cheers for CSPI’s good work for all of us! Welcome to a great team, Dr. Lurie!

  18. Thank you, Dr. Jacobsen for your vision and social commitment. Where would our collective health be without you?

    Whatever you do, wherever you go, stay away from the Cheesecake Factory and hot dogs.

    And welcome, Dr. Lurie. Keep the faith.

  19. Thank you Michael Jacobsen for Nutrition Action and for always standing up for what you believe in. I came across my first copy soon after I started my new job 29 years ago as a Senior Center Services Director for local government in Pennsylvania. The information and style of writing was something I had never seen before. I have shared many of the articles with our senior citizens who have also learned a great deal from your research. I too am getting ready to retire but I couldn’t leave without letting you know how much Nutrition Action has been a great reference point in my career.

  20. Dear Dr. Jacobsen,

    For many years I have enjoyed reading Nutrition Action (since the early 80s) and really appreciate the progressive work your organization does to protect our health and food supply. Thank you for your great service and I wish you the best. Take care,
    Larry Robert Semark, PhD

  21. Thank you Dr. Jacobsen, for all of your years of advocating and providing trust-worthy nutrition information. My mom bought me my first subscription, and I still look to Nutrition Action and CSPI for reliable, science based nutrition information. I especially appreciate that you name names, which is invaluable. I have great faith that Dr. Lurie will continue, and build upon, the foundation that you have laid.

  22. Thank you Dr. Jacobsen for your outstanding work on behalf of nutrition science! You have been an insightful and tenacious fighter for the consumer and bellwether for health professionals of all types. I have been reading NA and the CSPI’s work for as long as it has been around. Best wishes for your well-earned retirement! It is my hope to see a book out soon!

  23. I too have been reading NA for many years and it has been an invaluable source of information. Thank you for all you have done for enlightening me in so many ways. I wish you all the best in the new chapter of your life.

  24. Dr. Jacobsen, Bless you for your generous spirit in helping to educate so many of us. It is ‘angels’ like you that make this a kind, beautiful and loving world. Thank you for your vision, service and devotion. And welcome, Dr. Peter Lurie!

  25. Dear Michael,

    I have admired your work for what seems like forever. I think I was a subscriber from Nutrition Action’s inception. For the past 20 years I’ve lived in Australia, but I still check to see what’s happening at CSPI pretty often. I admire your integrity and dedication. What you have done has lasting value and you’ve managed to do it without government or corporate support.

    I wish you very well in the coming years. It must be wonderful for you to look back on what you’ve created and what you’ve contributed to people’s lives through good health and good nutrition.

  26. Cheers to you, Dr. Jacobsen, for a job well done! You have made a difference, and we all the better for the work you have done. I wish you the best in your future endeavors!

  27. Michael, you’ve been a true difference-maker in the lives of my family and millions of others. You can retire with great peace knowing that you contributed to the well-being of humanity. Best wishes for many healthy years ahead!

  28. Dr. Jacobson….I very proud to say that I am one of many that have been enlightened and benefited by your wonderful newsletter. I know you deserve your retirement but don’t leave us completely! We need your expertise now in this critical time in our country more than ever!! However, I will continue to support your crusade and subscribe to the Newsletter and encourage others to do so.

  29. Michael, you have made such a significant difference in the healthy eating of North American’s. And as bad as some of the eating habits evidently are today, when we look at the obesity and death rates, I dread to think of what they would be had we not had the significant changes in food ingredients and labeling that you and CSPI have been able to bring about. I too miss the ‘Canadian’ version of the NA, but do appreciate the emails. It is just not the same as holding a copy in my hand. And I miss the Canadian content portion of the information. We were introduced to NA by our daughter about 20 years ago and were loyal subscribers in Canada while it was available. We also recommended it to many friends who became loyal readers. We are much more informed and healthy food consumers because of CSPI and you. We are retired now and hope that you enjoy your retirement as much as we do. Retirement is the absolute best career there is. Thank you.

  30. Dr Jacobson, you will be sorely missed. I’ve been a member of CSPI and a subscriber for as long as I can remember. I discontinued all my other health newsletters, but always looked forward to Nutrition Action. Several family members subscribe as well. I too miss the printed edition, but look forward to the online version under Dr Lurie’s direction. Your contributions to public health are major, and I’m sure you will continue to contribute in other ways.
    Thank you again.

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