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The Healthy Skeptic: The Radicals At The Center For Science In The Public Interest Threaten Starbucks

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Now that they have the wimps at KFC quaking in their boots, the radical Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), headed by radical vegan and bummer of a guy Michael Jacobson, is making noise about going after Starbucks. It seems that Starbucks serves drinks and foods that are high in fat. And apparently people who order coffee with caramel syrup and whipped cream, and pastries, need to be told via signs and food labels that they are killing themselves if they drink and eat Starbucks products. What's even worse is that Starbucks offers their employees unlimited coffee and leftover pastries during their shifts.

It seems that the CSPI has contacts with a group known as the IWW Starbucks Workers Union. This “union” is made up of a few baristas in three – THREE – Starbucks located in New York.

So in THREE Starbucks – out of almost 5000 nationwide – Starbucks there are a couple of shlemiel coffee jockeys tied into the CSPI, and they have “organized” so that they can complain that Starbucks offer employees free food and drink, and complain that the fact that consumers can ask in-store questions about the nutritional value of Starbucks products isn’t good enough.

By the way, the Starbucks website offers plenty of detailed and responsible information with regards to their drinks and baked goods. People aren’t dragged into a Starbucks without prior knowledge, so being able to get complete nutritional information from the Starbucks website is a much more efficient and effective way for people to learn about the stuff that they like to eat and drink.

A person quoted in this article is identified as a member of this “union,” and Reuters reports as fact this person’s baseless assertion that Starbucks employees gain weight when they work at the chain because they have access to free refreshments. Can you believe this nonsense? This is the basis for a threatened lawsuit? A handful of fat, lazy java jockies?

And for as ludicrous as this scenario is, Reuters’ decision to treat the discussion of this “union” seriously – and giving credence to this story – is even more ludicrous.  By setting this scenario up and making noise about Starbucks, the CSPI is laughably pathetic. Reuters is a willing participant in this scam and should be ashamed of themselves. Somehow Starbucks is at fault because their employees make poor choices when taking advantage of the free stuff? They’re fressing and it’s the boss’s fault? Oy vey.

This Jacobson character is not only a member of the Food Police but he’s part of the No Fun Gestapo as well. He’s been quoted as saying that he would never eat a cookie, and he would have taken the coffee machine out of the CSPI offices if his employees didn’t revolt. He’s made some truly bizarre pronouncements over the years. Here are but a few:


  • We can envision taxes on butter, potato chips, whole milk, cheeses and meats.”
  • “I’m not on the fence … about litigation [against restaurants]. I think it’s an extremely important strategy.”
    – Public Health Advocacy Institute’s “Conference on Legal Approaches to the Obesity Epidemic,”, 6/21/03


  • “CSPI is proud about finding something wrong with practically everything.”
    -Washingtonian magazine, February 1994

And he makes silly comments like this about Starbucks: "People expect foods from Dunkin' Donuts to be unhealthy, but Starbucks has more of an upper middle class, healthy, hip, politically correct facade," Jacobson said. "But the food is just as harmful to your arteries."

Perhaps it comes with the territory of being a food tyrant, but Jacobson makes comments like this that have no scientific basis. No matter what Jacobson and his fellow true believers think – and would have you think – going to Starbucks for an occasional Venti Frappa-Whatchamacallit will have no effect on your arteries, and eating a croissant once a week isn’t going to contribute to coronary artery disease.

Jacko really wants you to think that Starbucks’ legitimate community-conscious activities and contributions are just a “façade” that Starbucks puts up in order to addict fat and lazy people to their products, and the fact that people can – but may not – order regular coffee or Tazo tea is Starbucks’ fault. The CSPI wants you to view Starbucks just as you would view the neighborhood drug pusher who contributes money to the community center by day, with the money he makes from selling drugs to neighborhood kids by night.

I think that this kind of statement is – as lawyers say – actionable.

People have choice. There’s been a very important, hot-button issue that has been around for years that hinges on a woman’s right to choose.  The ability to choose is what makes us truly free. People like Jacobson want to shackle us to their views. No meat, no cookies, no coffee, no fun. This despotic approach to food can — and will — be applied to other things if this garbage is allowed to continue and if people like Jacobson aren’t shouted down by the rest of us.

I’ve been warning this for years. You may think it’s great that smokers have been chased out of public places. But now that these oppressive meddlers have gotten their way with smoking they are moving closer and closer to YOUR habits. Smoking yesterday, fast food today, coffee tomorrow and then what? No drinking in public? Mandatory portion control? A “no doggie bag" policy?


You may laugh, but if Jacobson and his dogmatic disciples are allowed to get away with this nobody will be untouched by this lack of choice.

The CSPI cabal wants you to think that food labeling would help people make better choices. Well this week the Journal of the American Dietetic Association published the results of a study that concluded that consumers probably would not pay attention to the kind of food labels that the “CSPIdiots” are clamoring for. In the study carried out by the University of Vermont Department of Psychology researchers found that 44%-57% of people would not make use of food label information if it was provided in restaurants. Previous research has indicated that people who already have poor eating habits are unlikely to use food labels because they just don’t care. Kind of make sense doesn’t it?

Jacobson himself is on record as saying that food labels may not be enough. From a Time Magazine article, "Jacobson insists that too many people will look past the calorie, fat, carb and fiber counts on the menu. What's needed, he says, is sanity in portions". In the CSPI’s view, “sanity in portions” can only come about through government intervention.

And by the way, the Starbucks’ web site does in fact provide all the labeling information that anyone could ask for. Anybody who really cares about this kind of stuff needs to do nothing more than surf over to Starbucks.com to find every detail about every item on the Starbucks menu. Without a barista or in a crowded shop, and from the comfort of their homes.

As a person who works in the fitness business – and has almost 20 years of experience – I would love for people to live a healthier lifestyle. But I know that you can’t force people to do so.  If people want to ignore my advice, that’s fine. I’m here to help those who want to be helped, and I don’t care to help everyone. Some of my closest friends are people who eat fast food, are overweight, don’t get enough exercise or sleep and drink too much booze, but I still love ‘em. And I’ll help them when they ask.

George Carlin, when he was more-funny and less-angry, said “Religion is like a lift in your shoe. If you need it and want to use it, great. Just don’t go and nail lifts to the native’s feet.” Michael Jacobson and his ilk are in the business of nailing lifts to people’s feet while telling them it’s for their own good. These people need to go away.

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About Sal Marinello

  • Clavos


    My question in #21 was not meant as argumentative, I hope you didn’t take it that way.

    Actually, some of your comments (e.g. #20), read very much like mini play scripts and, having a background in theatre myself, I very much enjoy reading them.

  • Clavos

    Hey, Ruvy are you a playwright?

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    “Over one half of adults in the United States are addicted to a powerful drug.”

    OY vey!!! I’m an addict! I’ll call my lawyer! No, I’ll call my psychiatrist – the hell with the lawyer!

    [Ruvy frantically dials the phone and after several rings hears the voice meesage of a saccharin sucking psychiatrist explaining that he will be out of the office for the next four weeks while he vacations in Crete. Hangs up the phone in desperation]

    What am I gonna do? I’ll call up my mother! No, I can’t call my mother – I don’t know the area code for Heaven….

    I know what I’ll do. I’ll have a cup of coffee!

    [Ruvy fills up the tea kettle with water and puts it up to boil. He puts two teaspoons of “Tasters’ Choice” (strong) in the cup with a little brown sugar. He takes out a pita and puts it in the toaster. A couple of minutes later the warmed pita pops ups from the toaster. He sets it on a plate in the dining nook, pours the boiling water into the cup, mixes it, washes his hands, says a blessing over the bread and tears off a piece and eats it to complete the blessing. He takes a sip of the coffee]

    Oy, a meHáyeh. That feels good! I feel so much better…

  • Clavos

    Sal, You forgot to mention that the whole, incredibly long comment was also numbingly boring.

    Unoriginal, too, since it looked like mk was simply doing a cut & paste on a whole series of articles written by others.

  • sal m

    that’s pathetic…

    your use of “research” to craft a point of view is right out of “stat manipulation 101.” you use one small study that alleges to somehow “prove” that caffiene has a deliterious effect on the body.

    there are holes big enough to drive a truck through in your description of the study.

    furthermore, you make no mentions of the hundreds of studies that have been done that indicate that caffiene has no detrimental effects and/or positive effects.

    your comment reminds me of the old bit on the weekend update feature of saturday night live where they reported “Researchers announced today that saliva, swallowed in small portions over a very long period of time can cause cancer and lead to death.”

  • mk

    Over one half of adults in the United States are addicted to a powerful drug. That statement sounds shocking; however, it is completely true. According to the National Coffee Association, in 2000, 54% of the United States adult population drank coffee everyday. A seemingly innocuous beverage, millions of people do not understand the harm they are causing their body by consuming this beverage.

    Caffeine is a dangerous culprit linked to hundreds of health related risks, and even death. This article outlines just a handful of examples of the associated dangers, for a more complete read, check out The Truth About Caffeine, by Marina Kushner.

    If you are like millions of others, you choose to drink coffee or other caffeinated beverages for a pick me up or simply because you enjoy the flavor. If you knew about the extreme health risks associated with caffeine usage, would you be so willing to consume that beverage or offer it to your friends and family on a regular basis?

    Caffeine Overdoses
    Although somewhat rare, overdoses from caffeine, resulting in death do occur. In large doses, caffeine is extremely toxic. Caffeine in toxic levels causes vomiting, convulsions, arrhythmia, tachycardia, coma and even death. Caffeine is typically, considered toxic in excess of five grams, with the average cup of coffee containing approximately 150mg (specialty coffee may contain more) and over-the-counter stay awake tablets typically containing 200mg.

    The New Mexico Department of Health recently reported on two cases of fatal caffeine intoxication. In one case, a 39-year-old woman had blood levels that contained 192mg/L caffeine. In the second case, a 29-year-old man with a history of obesity and diabetes had blood levels containing 567 mg/L caffeine. Both cases were ruled as accidental deaths caused by caffeine intoxication1.

    In a third case, widely reported in the media, a 40-year-old woman was reportedly throwing herself into walls around her home and even pulled a door off the hinges. She arrived at the hospital with bruises on her arms and legs, a fractured right eye socket and deep tissues bruise to her liver. Her son was charged and convicted of one count of aggravated battery of a household member, as he reportedly confessed to hitting her on the night of her death. However, an autopsy revealed that caffeine was the cause of death as she had extremely toxic levels of caffeine in her blood. In fact, the coroner surmised that she would have had to ingest 100 cups of coffee to achieve the caffeine levels in her blood.

    Caffeine exists in so many types of products that the fact that deaths result from caffeine overdose should really come as no surprise. Since there are so many hidden forms of caffeine, The Caffeine Awareness Alliance is petitioning the FDA to require manufacturers to disclose the amount of caffeine contained in products for consumption.

    Caffeine, Diet Pills & Energy Drinks

    With the thin obsessed society that we live in, it is no surprise that the weight loss supplement industry is booming and selling billions of dollars in products each year. Unfortunately, many consumers do not realize the inherent dangers of taking these pills, and if they do, their rational thought is overcome by the desire to be thin.

    Caffeine has long been a component in diet pills. Furthermore, there have been cases of deaths reported where the cause of death was linked to caffeine toxicity from consuming these types of products. There is even speculation among many groups that Terry Schiavo from Florida, collapsed into cardiac arrest relating to her consumption of diet pills and caffeinated beverages. In fact, the autopsy conducted on Terry Schiavo concluded that her initial collapse might have resulted from caffeine intoxication. The medical examiner found that the amount of caffeine in her body was equal to someone consuming 1 gram per day. While we may never know the true reasons for the unfortunate demise of Terry Schiavo, other cases have proven that caffeine and weight loss products are deadly.

    The Medical Journal of Australia reviewed one such case in the death of a young woman who consumed a guarana-based tonic touted for weight loss and energy benefits. (Guarana is produced from the seeds of the guarana plant that contain between 3.6 per cent and 5.8 per cent caffeine). The coroner found that the high level of caffeine from the guarana was associated with the development of an intractable arrhythmia2. The health supplement was marketed as a ‘natural’ source of energy and was withdrawn from the market when it was found that the caffeine concentration yielded a level more than 60 times the concentration of caffeine in cola beverages.
    Caffeine is indeed a dangerous drug and its seemingly harmless inclusion in products like diet pills and energy drinks needs to stop before others fall victim to its dangers.

    Caffeine & Diabetes
    Diabetes is a disease where the body has an inability to control blood sugar levels due to insufficient production of, or heightened resistance to the hormone insulin. Diabetes prevalence is rising at an alarming rate, with the American Diabetes Association estimating that 6.3% of the American population (18.2 million people) has the disease3. In fact, in the United States, 1.3 million people over the age of 20 are diagnosed with the disease every year, and diabetes is the sixth leading cause of death. Further, The World Health Organization predicts that the numbers of people with type 2 diabetes will more than double over the next 25 years, linked to both the increasing ageing population and the growing obesity problem.

    With these astounding statistics, health authorities and researchers should explore the link between caffeine and diabetes seriously.

    Here is just one example of a connection that warrants further research. When conducting diabetes research on laboratory animals, researchers induce diabetes by feeding small doses of a chemical called alloxan, which poisons insulin-producing cells in the pancreas. Dr. Alfred Nickel, an oral surgeon with diabetes, who consumed a lot of coffee, discovered in scientific literature that the body produces alloxan from caffeine. He then went on to theorize that caffeine could be a major factor in diabetes. Intrigued by this theory, he went off caffeine completely and after two weeks was able to stop his insulin! Encouraged by his positive results, he informed his patients of his experience and 40 out of 45 diabetics were able to reverse their disease by removing caffeine from their diet4.

    Not only could caffeine be a major contributing factor to developing diabetes, research has also shown that it could make diabetes worse.

    Duke University Medical Center researchers found a strong link between caffeine intake at mealtimes and higher blood glucose and insulin levels. In the Duke study, researchers studied habitual coffee drinkers with type 2 diabetes. The participants were put on a controlled diet where they took their medications, had their blood tested and were then given caffeine pills. Afterwards, they had another blood test before being given a liquid meal supplement and undergoing a third blood test.

    The results support another caffeine and diabetes link. When the volunteers fasted, caffeine had little effect on glucose and insulin levels. However, after the liquid meal, those given caffeine had a 21% increase in glucose level and 48% increase in insulin5. “In a healthy person, glucose is metabolized within an hour or so after eating. Diabetics, however, do not metabolize glucose as efficiently,” stated James Lane, professor of psychiatry at Duke and lead researcher. “It appears that diabetics who consume caffeine are likely having a harder time regulating their insulin and glucose levels than those who don’t take caffeine,” he added. The researchers concluded that staying away from caffeine could provide great benefits for the type 2 diabetic.

    Caffeine & Heart Disease
    A new study adds further fuel to the fire on the major health risks of caffeine. This study suggests that caffeine could increase aortic stiffness and wave reflections, both risk factors in cardiovascular disease.
    Researchers at Athens University in Greece aimed to find out more about the effect of coffee consumption on the human cardiovascular system. Aortic stiffness and wave reflections are important predictors of cardiovascular disease risk. Their study of 228 people (141 men and 87 women in their mid 40s) tracked aortic stiffness, wave reflections and coffee consumption over a one-year period. (Wave reflections were evaluated with augmentation index (AIx) and augmented pressure (AP)).
    The researchers adjusted for variables like the consumption of decaffeinated coffee, tea, other caffeine containing drinks and chocolate. The participant’s coffee consumption was categorized as none, low (less than 200ml per day), moderate (200-450ml per day) or high (greater than 450ml per day). Fourteen per cent of subjects consumed no coffee, 32 percent were categorized as low, 36 percent as moderate and 18 percent as high coffee consumers.
    Not surprisingly, the researchers observed a linear relationship between coffee consumption and aortic stiffness. Compared with the non-coffee drinkers, pulse wave velocity was 13 percent higher, augmentation index (Aix) was twice as high and augmented pressure (AP) was 2.4 times as high, in the high coffee consumption subjects.
    The researchers concluded, “We have shown that caffeine acutely increases aortic stiffness and wave reflections, which may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease.”6
    This study provides further support the heart disease and caffeine link outlined in the fascinating book “The Truth About Caffeine”.
    Caffeine & Obesity

    Many people will be surprised to learn that there are some research studies connecting the rising obesity rates with the caffeine contained in beverages, and not just the sugar. Consumer groups are blaming sugary drinks like lemonade, iced teas, colas and others for their role in increasing childhood obesity, as many have high sugar content.

    However, Professor Elaine Rush, of the Auckland University of Technology in New Zealand, claims to have found that an energy drink containing sugar, added caffeine and guarana causes the body to convert sugar into fat more rapidly than other sugary drinks7. Energy drinks have not had much attention because the caffeine was thought to increase metabolism, thereby having a positive impact on caloric burning.

    According to her findings, Professor Rush stated, “these results could have huge implications when you think about how much sugar and caffeine people consume these days, and the high rates of inactivity.”

    Although her study was small, work is underway to prove the theory with further research. In the study, women aged 18 to 22 from a range of ethnic backgrounds participated. The participants fasted overnight and were randomly given either 250ml of an energy drink or lemonade on the first day and the alternate drink on the second day of testing. Lemonade was used as the alternate beverage because it contains about the same amount of sugar as typically energy drinks. Further, lemonade is carbonated and contains no caffeine, allowing only the caffeine impact to be studied. The energy drink tested in the study, contained 28g sucrose and 81mg caffeine in a 250ml can. These amounts are similar to the amount of sugar in soft drinks and the amount of caffeine in a cup of brewed coffee.

    The results showed that the sugar in both drinks was absorbed within one minute into the bloodstream, but when the caffeine is also present, the sugar more quickly converted to fat.

    According to Dr. Rush “Sugar is a simple carbohydrate and evidence from this study shows that, coupled with a large amount of caffeine, the body rapidly turns it into stored fat,” Other research has shown that caffeine could upset the body’s ability to metabolize sugar.

    Dr. Rush went on to further state “simple carbohydrates and caffeine were not such large parts of our diet in the past. Inactive people have trouble burning off excess energy and this leads to weight gain.” Since these drinks are often marketed as energy boosters, many people may mistakenly believe that they could be used for weight loss purposes. The researchers in this study found the opposite; these drinks are calorie boosters and may actually cause weight gain.

    The findings are astounding and in the words of Dr. Rush, “There has been a great deal of research about sugar and obesity, but not the synergy between drinks and fat stores.” The researchers also pointed out that the study raises questions about the effects of consuming high sugar foods and highly caffeinated drinks together in a short period of time. Caffeine lasts in the body for four to six hours, if you combine the caffeinated drink and then eat sugary foods within this timeframe, you may experience similar effects.

    Obviously, the study raises many more questions about the safety of caffeine in our beverages. Health authorities need to start taking action and providing more research funding to further prove the all-encompassing dangers of caffeine.

    The research studies outlined in this article are just a miniscule sampling of the many research studies proving that caffeine is dangerous for many facets of our health. Yet, despite all the research, Americans are still reaching for their favorite caffeinated beverages, likely not knowing or understanding the negative health implications. Health authorities need to do more to educate and encourage Americans to become caffeine free. People need to be educated that caffeine is a highly addictive drug that can seriously alter your health. Society needs to remove caffeinated beverages as social beverages and replace them with far healthier alternatives. Books like the Truth about Caffeine and organizations like the Caffeine Awareness Alliance are making concerted efforts to educate health care providers and the general public about the dangers of caffeine. Several cities and towns are also making proclamations for ‘Caffeine Awareness Month’. With efforts like these, hopefully more and more people will recognize that Caffeine is having a negative impact on their body and they will take the steps to become caffeine free. Spread the word by sharing this article with a friend or family member who is addicted to caffeine.

  • sal m

    please don’t let the cspi hear about this as you are certainly putting yourself and the bourbon industry at risk.

    as a bourbon lover AND a coffee lover, i can’t let that happen.

    the other problem you have is that you enjoy consuming something, which the cspi won’t stand for either, unless you are a vegan.

  • Joey

    I only buy Starbucks at airports because other brands taste and remind me of the smell of wet cardboard, so does bourbon… hmmm.

    But I do like a shot of bourbon in my coffee, topped with a squirt of whipped cream, and extra sweetener.

    Am I in danger of litigation?

  • sal m

    nevermind that, how about chaos in the streets as road rage would rule during the morning rush hour!

  • I don’t need anyone to tell me that getting a grande whole milk frap and a cupcake is more fattening than getting a tall non-fat latte. As a regular customer of espresso establishments (they can make it better than I can at home), I know what’s healthy and what is not, and all of them offer healthier alternatives.

    Can you imagine the intensity of the nuclear holocaust that would occur if caffeine was outlawed? Get a bunch of cranky caffeine addicts denied their drug of choice and someone might push the wrong button.

  • sal m

    really? who are “they?” are you receiving different subliminal messages than the rest of us?

    most people that i know think something along the lines of “gee, that guy spent way to much for that cup of coffee.”

  • honkey

    They have made it a “cool” thing to hold a cup of coffee as you walk into well anywhere. People are suppose to look at you and go “wow that person is drinking starbucks, I wanna be like them”

    please stupid stupid shit they believe in.

  • sal m

    thanks for the kind words.

    i figured that’s what the IWW stood for, but i just didn’t want to even bother going there.

    for all the intellectual pretense that these jokers engage in, they are incredibly infantile in their methods and manner.

  • Great stuff, Sal. You know, I’ve never seen a fat barrista at Starbucks. They’re all thin and jittery around here.

    And BTW, that ‘union’ the CSPI is hooked up with isn’t a typical union by any stretch of the imagination. The IWW is the Industrial Workers of the World AKA the ‘Wobblies’, famous for their slow-down strikes during the depression. They’re radical anarcho-socialists whose goal is to use labor protests to destroy capitalism.

    I wrote an extensive article on the wobblies when they tried to do to one of our local grocery chains what they are now trying to do to Starbucks.


  • sal m


    let the folks at starbucks know how you feel and in light of the cspi BS that you think their web site nutritional information is outstanding and all that anyone could ask for. send them an email.

    if we stand up for our rights this stuff won’t happen.

  • Great piece, Sal. As someone who does enjoy his Starbucks when at school before class a couple or few times a week, this type of drivel coming down the pipe is simply discouraging.

  • Clavos


    Principally, that their food has too much transfats-you know, the stuff that makes it taste good.

  • Great stuff. But what exactly was the brouhaha over KFC, anyway?

  • Couldn’t agree more with you more, Sal. The CSPI and others (i.e. ambulance chasers everywhere) are nothing more than an arm of a society that wants to absolve itself of personal responsibility– and make a few bucks in the process.
    The larger issue here is how did we become a culture that thinks $4.95 for a cup of java is a good deal in the first place?

  • Clavos

    Right on, Sal!

    Too many people out there are hell bent on imposing a nanny state on us; we need to keep fighting them every time they come up with this kind of nonsense.

  • sal m

    thanks there pal…

    i’m not speaking to the quality of the joe, but to the rights of people who wish to buy it!

  • Ruvy in Jerusalem

    Another thigh slapper, Sal! Great work!

    But I gotta tell you. Forget the fat content. Starbucks in burned garbarge. A cuppa joe from a good ole’ greasy spoon was higher quality than the overpriced “beverages” served there.

    There used to be a place in the Twin Cities I liked – Caribou Coffee – that served coffee that beat out Starbucks by a country mile. And they had their HQ in Mpls., just across the river from where I lived.

    I wanted to pitch the boys in Mpls. about opening a branch here in J-lem. when I moved here. So, I talked to the manager of one of the stores in St. Paul. I found out that a bunch of Arabs from Saudia had just bought the place up, lock, stock and coffee grinder. That was the end of my chances for a franchse here. Caribou Cofee will be in Beirut before it will be here.

    Politics sucks, man!