This post began as a response to comments on the previous post. Three paragraphs in, I decided the response deserved a post of its own. Two or three commenters defended the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) for its efforts to educate people about health issues, and wondered why a libertarian should have a problem with it. The problem is, CSPI is not the benign organization it might appear to be.
First, CSPI does not merely provide information to the public. It is an activist organization that promotes government intervention to promote its "health agenda." Among other things, it favors a fat tax and a ban on fast-food advertising during any show watched by kids. See here and here and here.
Second, the information CSPI provides is often biased. They'll use any information that supports their policy positions, no matter how poor the research. For instance, they have claimed repeatedly that "alco-pop beverages" are marketed to underage drinkers, based on the flimsiest of evidence. The FTC investigated CSPI's claims and found them utterly without merit. See here and here.
Third, they don't trust consumers to hear the information and make an informed decision. Instead, they want to provide consumers with their information and then ban any competing or contradictory information. For instance, they want to mandate big warning labels on all alcoholic products – and to prohibit alcohol companies from advertising any of the well-supported health benefits of moderate drinking. See here and here.
This is not to say that CSPI does nothing good. Its information about calorie counts, when provided to the public instead of being used as a legal bludgeon, can be useful. (I doubt, however, the usefulness of making hyperbolic statements about items like the Monster Thickburger, which everyone knows is incredibly high in calories in fat – that was the whole point!) They have also taken part in the fight against the “food disparagement” lawsuits, like the one Texas beef producers launched against Oprah Winfrey. But CSPI is too often on the wrong side to be applauded or trusted.