CSPI’s Latest Screamer

      19 Comments on CSPI’s Latest Screamer

Review:  Movie Popcorn Is Full Of Saturated Fat
(CSPI, 2009).  Zero stars.

The Center For Science in the Public Interest released its latest horror story today, titled Movie Popcorn Is Full Of Saturated Fat.  Actually, this latest effort is a remake of another CSPI horror story released 15 years ago, also titled Movie Popcorn Is Full Of Saturated Fat.

I’m wondering why a busy, successful media organization like CSPI has been reduced to producing a remake.  This is, after all, the same group that managed to spend much of the past decade filling our screens with such screamers as Eggs Will Kill You, Gryos Are The Worst Food On Earth, The Coffee Killer, Fettucine Alfredo: Heart Attack On A Plate, and Monster Thickburger: Heart Attack In A Bun.

I can only guess that CSPI was affected by last year’s writers’ strike in Hollywood.  Or perhaps executive producer Michael Jacobson has heard plenty of pitches for horror stories featuring newer faces in the food market, but none of them captured his fancy quite like the fatty, blobby monsters that built his media empire.

Either way, as any movie fan knows, remakes usually aren’t very good, and sadly this one is no exception.  To be honest, this story barely qualifies as a remake.  It’s closer to a straight repeat.  Here’s a quote from the Los Angeles Times synopsis:

A medium-sized popcorn and medium soda at the nation’s largest movie chain pack the nutritional equivalent of three Quarter Pounders topped with 12 pats of butter, according to a report released today by the advocacy group Center for Science in the Public Interest.

Lions and burgers and butter-pats … oh my!  Every time CSPI wants to scare us with yet another version of The Thing That Contains Fat, they start tossing out the Quarter Pounders and the butter-pats.  As the kids today say, Boooorrriiing! Maybe they should try producing their horror stories in 3-D so when they toss some butter at the camera, we’ll at least feel compelled to duck.

The biggest weakness with the current production is the casting.  Once again, CSPI chose Coconut Oil as their bogie man — the same bad actor who appeared in their 1994 production.  As the Los Angeles Times (perhaps trying to be helpful) explains:

One problem is that Regal and AMC, the two largest chains, pop their popcorn in coconut oil, which is about 90% saturated fat, noted Jayne Hurley, senior nutritionist at Washington-based CSPI.

Coconut Oil may have frightened audiences 15 years ago, but since then the oily substance has made an annoying habit of showing off its benefits.  Far from being a heart-stopper, it’s been spotted in public fighting viruses, promoting healthy thyroid function, assisting in weight loss by boosting metabolisms, and protecting against cancer.  Those are hardly the actions of an aspiring bogie-man.

I guess it’s fair to say CSPI has a talent for scary stories, but a tin ear for casting the principal actors.  After releasing the original version of Movie Popcorn Is Full Of Saturated Fat, CSPI introduced Hydrogenated Soybean Oil as their latest action hero, dedicated to fighting heart disease.  (Industry insiders have long insisted that CSPI received a hefy product-placement fee for their promotion efforts.)

Unfortunately, “Trans Fats,” as Hydrogenated Soybean Oil was dubbed by media, turned out to be a public relations disaster.  Trans was soon implicated in a number of suspicious deaths, many induced by the very heart disease CSPI anointed Trans to battle.  After first defending Trans in a flurry of press releases, CSPI later quietly abandoned the effort.  Eventually they even began suing anyone who employed Trans — incredibly, without ever acknowledging they originally and enthusiastically promoted the frankenfat’s dubious career.

With Trans no longer on anyone’s A-list, CSPI is now promoting the career of Canola Oil — yet another Canadian hoping to capture the hearts of the American public by fighting the horrors of saturated fat.  And indeed, Canola is everywhere these days.  The trouble is, Canola Oil lacks natural talent.  (No surprise, since it’s not natural for humans to consume oils chemically extracted from rapeseeds.)  Canola Oil not only failed to capture the hearts of test audiences — laboratory rats and pigs  — but apparently led to problems with bleeding and heart lesions.

Worse still for Jacobson, the public seems to be growing jaded.  CSPI’s horror stories just aren’t eliciting the screams they once did.  Again, as the Los Angeles Times explains:

“According to the most recent statistics from the Motion Picture Assn. of America, the average American attends six movies a year,” Regal said. “Theater popcorn and movie snacks are viewed as a treat and not intended to be part of a regular diet.”

It’s unclear if consumers would storm the concession stand for low-cal popcorn anyway. After the 1994 popcorn report, “many cinema operators responded by offering their patrons additional choices, such as air-popped popcorn,” the National Assn. of Theatre Owners said in a statement.

“After very little time, movie patrons in droves made their voices heard — they wanted the traditional popcorn back.”

Perhaps it’s time for CSPI to get out the business — or least bring back Coconut Oil in the kind of happy, feel-production it so richly deserves.

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19 thoughts on “CSPI’s Latest Screamer

  1. Diana

    When I saw this on the news last night, I just knew I would find a post about it from you. I had a spoonful of wonderful, extra virgin coconut oil before I went to bed! We can always count on you, Tom, to put CSPI in its place. Thanks!

    My pleasure. After posting, I raided the fridge for a hunk of Kerrygold butter.

  2. Paula

    I popped up some popcorn in coconut oil last night for ds and myself. He slathered his with melted butter. Mmm.

    Seriously, why don’t these people just give it a rest?

    I’m guessing they can’t stand to let too much time go by without seeing themselves in the news. Maybe it’s a fund-raising ploy.

  3. Gita

    I have no idea how those people from CSPI live with themselves. They have ruined the lives of millions of people. The question is, is Jacobson doing it purely for money, or does he simply choose to ignore all of the compelling evidence against the current dietary guidelines?

    He’s the dietary equivalent of a religious fanatic. I believe logic enters into it for him.

  4. Sylvie O

    I wonder if these CSPI guys have heard that archeologists were able to trace the pattern of adopting corn as a crop by examining skeletons and determining that societies who did not grow corn (or prior to the adoption thereof) did not have tooth decay… (so just imagine what it must do to the rest of the body)

    The real harm is in the corn, not in the popping.

    My thought exactly. They focused on the fat in the popcorn and ignored the big load of carbohydrates.

  5. Brian Mallard

    My father worked on at the National Research Council in Canada back in the day when it was involved in the development of low erusic acid Canola. His job was to feed the seed and related products such as the oils and margarine to rats and mice then analyze how it affected the animals. I distinctly remember him coming home one day and throwing out every ounce of margarine and oil related to soy, corn and canola. He said only butter and olive oil because of what he saw when the oils were hydrogenated and the disastrous effect on the animals. CSPI stands for “Crazy Stupid People Imposing” their ill-informed opinions on an unsuspecting public. CSPITIOOASP. I do not trust a single thing they say.

    I don’t trust them either, and given their history, I’m surprised anyone in the media does.

  6. Brian

    Someone thought they were doing me a favor by giving me a subscription to the CSPI newsletter. At first I thought it was no more than home delivery toilet paper, but I eventually started reading it and quickly changed my mind. It’s like that idiot comes to my house every month and shows his stupidity. I get a kick out of reading it, kind of makes my day. For $10 I’ll probably renew. It’s cheaper entertainment than Netflix or HBO. And this popcorn story was in the latest issue.


    I guess it would be fun to keep the back issues and tally up how wrong they are as the years go by. I’d love to get my hands on copies of the issues where they were singing the praises of trans fats and denying anything was wrong with it.

  7. Matt Stone

    I think coconut just needs a better lobby. I mean, rapeseed oil can be called canola oil to conceal its true and more appropriate name, “rape oil.” Maybe we should try to lobby for the name “Crestor oil” or “Lipitor oil” or “Fiber oil” for coconut to give it a healthier, more heart-disease prevention image.

    P.S. – Popcorn is awesome with coconut oil. I’ll post something about it on my food blog this weekend maybe.

    Popcorn with coconut oil is indeed delicious. My problem with popcorn — the reason I pretty much never eat it — is that I can tear through a huge bag of it and still not feel full. I even took the free refills back in the day.

  8. Dave, RN

    I avoid popcorn because, well, it’s corn. Too many carbs too. So, as a substitute, I put some coconut oil in an (iron) skillet. Add some walnuts and fry them until they get dark. Salt with Himalayan salt. Eat. Greasy hand, but great taste.

    Now you’re talkin’.

  9. TonyNZ

    Here’s how it was reported in New Zealand.

    “…(CSPI) found a medium popcorn and soft drink contained 1160 calories…”

    Followed immediately by:

    “”Who expects about 1500 calories and three days’ worth of heart-stopping fat in a popcorn and soda combo?…” said CSPI senior nutritionist Jayne Hurley.

    Since when is 1150 “about” 1500 calories? They are the better part of a quarter pounder different!

    Don’t say “Quarter Pounder.” Jacobson will have a heart attack. Actually, go ahead.

  10. Dr.LaTino

    Popcorn a delicious and nutritious snack? Maybe if you took out the trans and half the bag and put in some Kerrygold butter, sure, but I don’t see that happening. Maybe we should all bring our own bag of popcorn to theaters, with our OWN butter, eh?

    Or do what I do: sneak in some almonds.

  11. Laurie

    “Neuroprotective and disease-modifying effects of the ketogenic diet
    Maciej Gasior,a Michael A. Rogawski,a and Adam L. Hartmanab”

    The abstract to this article mentions the beneficial effects of the ketogenic (Atkin’s-like) diet for a broad range of brain disorders from brain injury to AD, to stroke to Parkinson’s to epilepsy and then ends with this sentence…
    “As the underlying mechanisms become better understood, it will be possible to develop alternative strategies that produce similar or even improved therapeutic effects without the need for exposure to an unpalatable and unhealthy, high-fat diet.” ARGHHHHHHHHHHHH.

    Jacobson’s brain is quite literally degrading. He’s not getting enough fat. Maybe the opioid like additive properties of wheat gluten have altered his thought processes and he eats grains to the exclusion of HEALTHY, SATURATED, BRAIN PROTECTIVE ANIMAL FAT. He makes the statements he does because he’s just a shill for Big corn, Big wheat and Big soy. He can wish that a vegan diet is best all he wants. But Mother nature will never bow to a mental midget like Jacobson.

    Before, I commented that I’d calculated the surface area in the human body of the fatty membrane coverings to our 100 trillion cells. I found it to be about 2 football fields. I made the egregious mistake of not including the additional acreage of the axons’ membranes. Axons are the important stick-out pieces of each one of our 100 billion nerve cells. Axons are the business end of the nerve cells, and their fatty membranes are vital to cognition and function. They cover 4 football fields. An additional 4 to what I already figured.
    Membrane surface area of 100 billion neurons = 25,000 m2, the size of four football fields (Bear, M.F., Connors, B.W. and Pradiso, M.A., Neuroscience: Exploring the Brain, 2nd edition, Baltimore: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins, 2001, p. 97). So that’s something like 6 football fields of critical membrane surface area that’s made of FAT. And the combined length of the axons is about 100,000 MILES!!!!!
    Oy Vey. So eat fat and keep feeding your kids fat.

    I’m even more of a fat head than I thought. Time to go give the girls some Kerrygold.

  12. Gerard Pinzone

    I agree that there’s no need for canola oil will all of the other alternatives (peanut oil, olive oil, coconut oil, lard, etc.) available. However, let’s not blow the “dangers” of canola oil out of proportion.


    There may be something harmful (other than erucic acid, which was removed) in canola oil, but there’s no scientific evidence of it yet.

    That’s right; we can’t extrapolate too much from rat studies. In the Weston A. Price article, they were careful to say as much. My biggest beef with canola oil is that it’s pushing the oils that can actually benefit us out of the food supply — not to mention food fried in the stuff is bland and tasteless.

  13. mezzo

    Well – may I venture to make a heretic comment? I remember the time when popcorn was actually not available in cinemas. We used to go there to see a film – unencumbered by giant jars of stuck that invariably gets stuck in your teeth and obliterates the sound of the film. It drives me nuts to have people around me munching away as if there was no tomorrow. And nobody seems to take the trouble to put the empty containers away so the cinema looks like a battlefield after each show. Popcorn used to be something you either made a home or bought from a stall at the funfair. Those were the days. Sigh.

    I rarely see movies at a theater these days. People who buy popcorn and chew with their mouths open are one reason. People who talk with their mouths open are another.

    I once asked a guy sitting behind me to please not talk during the movie. He actually glared at me and said, “You can’t tell me when I can talk and when I can’t! Who do you think you are?” (Amazing. He’s talking out loud at a movie theater, I ask him to stop, and he actually believes I’m the jerk in this situation. Talk about clueless.)

  14. redcatbicycliste

    I rarely see movies at a theater these days. People who buy popcorn and chew with their mouths open are one reason. People who talk with their mouths open are another.

    I once asked a guy sitting behind me to please not talk during the movie. He actually glared at me and said, “You can’t tell me when I can talk and when I can’t! Who do you think you are?” (Amazing. He’s talking out loud at a movie theater, I ask him to stop, and he actually believes I’m the jerk in this situation. Talk about clueless.)

    Oh gosh, Tom! I stopped going to the movie theatres two years ago for the same reason: Too many patrons talking. Also, I got tired of being the ONLY person who would ask the talkers to “Please stop talking.” I am sure that I was not the only person disturbed by the conversations; yet I saw that I was the only one who had the guts to ask those engaged in their conversation to be quiet. (Note: One of the “funny” things I discovered in those days of politely asking folks to “shut the f**k up!” in the theatres, is that most of those whom I had to ask were old people–sixty-plus years old. I always thought persons of that age would know how to sit for two hours in silence.)

    Yeah, I just don’t get it. I even saw in a news article some years ago that a major theater chain commissioned a study to find out why fewer people are going to theaters. Number one reason: other people talking. As far as I can tell, that knowledge didn’t change anything. My brother managed a theater way back in the days when theaters had ushers. Talking wasn’t tolerated.

  15. Kathy

    Imagine sitting in a beautiful theater to finally experience Les Miserables and discover that the people behind you were intent upon singing and tapping their feet through the entire production. At least there was wine…

    That’s criminal.

  16. nonegiven

    I got one of those plastic microwave doodads for popcorn and use coconut oil to pop the popcorn, I also add melted butter.

    Isn’t CSPI an arm of PETA?

    Cut from same cloth, but I don’t think they’re officially affiliated.

  17. Dan

    “Hight fat coconut oil” as opposed to “low fat oil”????? Hilarious and sad at the same time. These people are dumber than I thought.

    Jimmy Moore interviewed coconut expert Dr. Bruce Fife, who pointed out that coconut oil actually has fewer calories per gram than other oils.


    I usually skip the popcorn and just eat the coconut oil. YUUUMMMMM!!! The CPSI and the government should just stay out of our business.

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