Center for Science in the Public Interest

By Victoria Chang, Chip Heath
2001 | Case No. M296
The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), started in 1971, was a nonprofit consumer group that focused on nutrition and health, food safety, and alcohol policy. The center was known for its eye-opening reports about restaurant food. Not only did CSPI change the behavior of businesses and corporations, it also played a major role in new laws and regulation. The center became an expert in using the media to reach consumers and the center’s founder and executive director, Michael Jacobson, and CSPI earned titles such as “America’s top food cop,” “nutrition terrorist,” and “Ayatollah of the food industry.” For his part, Jacobson claimed only to try to provide information that would improve people’s health and prolong their lives. Despite opposition from restaurant organizations, food companies, and sometimes consumers, CSPI gained widespread media and consumer attention and eventually became part of the mainstream, alongside such forces as the U.S. Surgeon General and the American Heart Association. This case describes CSPI’s media and marketing strategy.
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