Caroline Smith DeWaal
Key Player

Director of Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest; former attorney for insurance issues, Public Citizen; Former staff counsel, Voice for Food & Health PolicyCaroline Smith DeWaal directs the food safety program at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, and is a frequently quoted “expert” on issues like E.coli contamination, mad cow disease, and other food-borne illnesses. Aside from her ubiquitous complaints about the government’s food safety standards, DeWaal’s comments follow a predictable pattern: first describe the worst possible outcome of a food-related illness in the most lurid terms possible, then note that the risk isn’t very great. Here are two examples of this formula guaranteed to frighten people:

  • From the Rocky Mountain News: “[T]here are recorded cases of patients complaining of neurological symptoms — tingling, vision problems, fatigue, memory loss — whose mercury levels tested high, said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food-safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington. When fish was removed from the diet, mercury levels dropped and symptoms subsided, she said, though the studies were not scientifically sound. Yet Smith DeWaal said giving up fish because of mercury is not the answer. ‘Overall, fish is part of a healthy diet,’ she said. ‘We’re not saying don’t eat fish. We’re just saying choose carefully.’”
  • On “Good Morning America,” DeWaal has said: “Virtually all Gulf Coast shellfish harvested during the summer months have a potentially deadly bacterium called vibrio vulnificis. This bacterium can be avoided easily, but consumers need to be aware.”