Michael F. Jacobson, who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, is co-founder (1971) and long-time executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), a nonprofit health advocacy organization supported largely by its 500,000 members. In 2017 he stepped down from being executive director and took on the role of Senior Scientist. CSPI focuses primarily on nutrition and food safety. It publishes Nutrition Action Healthletter, the nation’s largest-circulation nutrition newsletter, as well as numerous studies and reports.
Since 1971, Jacobson and CSPI have used education, legislation, and litigation to win important reforms. CSPI led efforts to win passage of laws requiring nutrition information on most food labels and calorie information on chain-restaurant menus, a 1990 law to define “organic foods,” and an FDA regulation requiring that trans fat be listed on food labels. CSPI’s studies on the nutritional quality of restaurant meals generated worldwide interest and spurred major chains to add more healthful items to their menus.
Jacobson is author or co-author of numerous publications, including: Six Arguments for a Greener Diet (2006, CSPI); Restaurant Confidential (2002, Workman Publishing); Marketing Madness (1995, Westview Press); What Are We Feeding Our Kids? (1994, Workman); The Fast-Food Guide (1986, 1991 Workman); The Complete Eater’s Digest and Nutrition Scoreboard (1986; Doubleday & Co.); and Salt: The Brand Name Guide to Sodium (1983, Workman). Jacobson’s two groundbreaking reports, “Salt: the Forgotten Killer” and “Liquid Candy: How Soft Drinks are Harming Americans’ Health,” catalyzed national action on salt and soft drinks. He also led national efforts to get the FDA to ban partially hydrogenated oil (trans fat).
Jacobson is the recipient of the Food and Drug Administration’s Commissioner’s Special Citation and Harvey W. Wiley Medal, Food Marketing Institute’s Esther Peterson Consumer Service Award, American Diabetes Association’s C. Everett Koop Medal for Health Promotion and Awareness, CDC-Foundation’s Hero award, and American Public Health Association’s David P. Rall Award for Advocacy in Public Health.