Nutrition Action Healthletter
March 2002 - U.S. Edition

Have a Burger
Michael Jacobson, Executive Director, CSPI

Memo from MFJ
If you have experienced...

...a serious infection that was resistant to antibiotics—or if you know someone who has—please send a note to Tamar Barlam, M.D., CSPI, Suite 300, 1220 L St. N.W., Suite 300, Washington, D.C. 20005 (or email

Say what you want about meat—you have to admit that it’s convenient. Slap a hot dog in a bun. Form a ground beef patty and throw it on the grill. Take a steak out of the package and slip it under the broiler.
    Not too long ago, people with a vegetarian bent would have to either forgo the pleasure of digging into a juicy burger or put up with canned “meat analogs.” Those soggy, sponge-like blobs were enough to kill anyone’s desire to go meatless.
    But over the past couple of decades, as more people have stopped eating meat, food technologists have gotten better at spinning soy and other ingredients into meatlike burgers, balls, and “crumbles.” And food-industry chefs have gone far beyond meat, creating veggie and other patties that redefine the word “burger.”
    Today, you can get burgers, hot dogs, nuggets, and other products that are every bit as convenient as their meat versions. And they’re far more healthful, thanks to their low levels of saturated fat and higher levels of fiber, soy, and other plant-based nutrients. Many of them taste delicious, whether they’re dead ringers for beef or chicken or closer to the flavors of your favorite Mexican or Italian dishes. A bonus: there’s no greasy mess to clean up...and less worry about food poisoning.
    There’s also less worry about damage to the environment. Raising livestock typically requires enormous amounts of land, water, pesticides, and fertilizer. The resulting pollution of streams, destruction of habitats, and harm to wildlife and farmers dwarfs many other environmental problems.
    In a typical Nutrition Action review of breakfast cereals, ice creams, or other packaged foods, we typically have to hunt through dozens of brands to find a few that qualify for a Best Bite rating. In this issue’s brand-name rating of meatless meats, I was shocked to see Best Bite awards galore. Even with pretty strict standards, about half the burgers, nuggets, franks, and sausages qualified for a thumbs up.
    That means that it’s getting ever easier to replace meat with more healthful alternatives.
    Gotta go. I’m off to have a veggie burger with mustard and tomato on a crusty whole-wheat roll.

Mike Jacobson
Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.
Executive Director
Center for Science in the Public Interest

Sam-e Update

Last year, we reported on an independent laboratory test showing that the Jarrow brand of the dietary supplement SAM-e didn’t contain the amount of SAM-e listed on its label (“SAM-e So-So,” Mar. 2001, p. 10). At the request of Jarrow, the lab that carried out the original test recently analyzed several additional pills from the same bottle. Each contained 200 milligrams—the amount listed on the label. The lab canít explain the discrepancy in its results.

Nutrition Action Healthletter Center for Science in the Public Interest March 2002 U.S. Edition Subscribe Today! Customer Service