Michael F. Jacobson (b. 1943), who holds a Ph.D. in microbiology from Massachusetts Institute of Technology, co-founded the Center for Science in the Public Interest in 1971, along with two fellow scientists he met while working at the Center for the Study of Responsive Law. When his colleagues left CSPI in 1977, Jacobson served as executive director. Today, Jacobson sits as secretary on the board of directors of the organization. He has been a national leader in the movement to require nutrition labels on all foods and most beverages to help consumers make informed decisions about what to consume. It was Jacobson who coined the now widely used phrases "junk food" and "empty calorie".
Jacobson sits on the National Council of the Great American Meatout, an annual event that encourages people to "kick the meat habit" for a day. Jacobson and his organization have criticized a wide variety of foods and beverages as unhealthful. He and CSPI frequently use colorful terms to emphasize their opposition to certain foods, for instance referring to fettuccine alfredo as a "heart attack on a plate."
"Soda is the quintessential junk food—just sugar calories and no nutrients," says Jacobson. "Americans are drowning in soda pop—teenagers, in particular. The average teenage boy is consuming two cans of soda pop a day." Jacobson proposes several warning labels, including "Drinking (non-diet) soft drinks contributes to obesity and tooth decay," and "Consider switching to diet soda, water, or skim milk." He once asked a CBS News reporter: "Obesity is an epidemic. One-third of youths already are overweight or obese. Are we just going to sit around and do nothing? Or should we do something—a modest, sensible step of putting a health message on cans and bottles?"