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CSPI News Release

For Immediate Release: March 24, 1998

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CSPI Announces New Web Pages on Healthy Eating, Food Additives, and Olestra

Want sensible, reliable information about nutrition and food safety? Then set your Web browser to the site of North America’s most prominent nutrition-advocacy group, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). Today, CSPI announced a major expansion of its web site -- The award-winning site has added two sensible new approaches to improving your diet and a clear rating of the safety of food additives. The third addition enables people who were made sick by the new additive olestra (Olean) to report their symptoms.

CSPI’s new olestra page is an exemplary use of the Internet. It’s a convenient, free, and private way for people to report medical symptoms. Data collected on-line is forwarded, with identifying information deleted, to the Food and Drug Administration as part of CSPI’s campaign to have the approval of olestra repealed.

"We have already received hundreds of e-mails from people around the country who have gotten sick," said Michael F. Jacobson, CSPI executive director. "Procter & Gamble and Frito-Lay should heed the advice in a report e-mailed to us from Colorado -- ‘cut (your) losses and spare us.’"

According to CSPI, the recent national marketing of Frito-Lay’s Wow chips, made with Olean, has triggered diarrhea, abdominal cramps, and other gastrointestinal symptoms wherever the chips are sold. CSPI has begun receiving a steady flow of e-mail reports of severe symptoms. For instance, the father of a 4-year-old boy in Chimacum, Wash., reported: "Within an hour he began having cramps and had diarrhea for the next few days. . . . I think that children, especially the little ones, should be strictly prohibited from eating (Olean)." Olean victims should go to

CSPI’s "Improving Your Diet" page offers two easy and sensible plans -- "9 Weeks to a Perfect Diet" and "10 Steps to a Healthy Diet" -- to improve diets. For instance, "9 Weeks" provides tips on eating less margarine, butter, and vegetable oil in week one; avoiding egg yolks in week two; and eating more fruit in week eight. Building those practices into a diet, will, says CSPI, "radically improve anyone’s eating habits, as well as introduce them to delicious new foods."

"Surfing the Internet on diet and nutrition is like ordering a meal at a fast-food restaurant -- most of your choices are junk," said Jacobson. "Our new pages, ‘Improving Your Diet’ -- -- and ‘Chemical Cuisine’ -- -- give people easy-to-use, practical, reliable information about nutrition and health."

‘Chemical Cuisine’ provides an alphabetical listing of the most common additives, a list of additives that have been banned, and advice on which additives to cut back on. "Most people may not be able to pronounce the names of many of the chemicals on food packages, but they still want to know what the chemicals do, which ones are safe, and which are poorly tested or dangerous," said CSPI toxicologist Mark Brown.

Thus, CSPI advises people not to worry about additives highlighted with a green check mark, such as propylene glycol alginate (a thickening agent), calcium propionate (a preservative in bread), and erythorbic acid (an antioxidant). Additives with a yellow caution flag, indicating the need for more testing, include Red 40 (artificial coloring), propyl gallate (antioxidant preservative), and quinine (flavoring). A red "X" signifies additives to avoid, including saccharin (artificial sweetener) and olestra (fat substitute).

CSPI is a nonprofit health-advocacy organization that focuses on nutrition and food safety. It is based in Washington, D.C., with additional staff in Canada, and is supported largely by the one million members and subscribers to its Nutrition Action Healthletter. It does not accept industry or government funding. CSPI is well-known for leading the effort to obtain the ‘Nutrition Facts’ label on packaged foods, as well as for its studies on Chinese, Italian, and other restaurant meals.