Peter G. Lurie

The COVID-19 pandemic is putting the nation’s public health infrastructure to the test. And the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), Nutrition Action’s publisher, is responding to the crisis.

Along with practical advice for our readers, here are some actions we took in March, just before this issue went to press:

Early call to action. When the number of cases in this country was still in the double digits, I joined roughly 800 other public health, law, and human rights professionals to call on the administration to lessen the impact of the virus.

We spelled out an extensive set of measures, including increased funding and reliance upon the advice of scientific experts, that can safeguard the health and human rights of everyone.

Support for low-income families. CSPI has been pushing Congress to expand access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program and boost its benefits, which now average just $1.40 per person per meal.

That’s critical both to help families put food on the table and help revive the economy. We also urged the U.S. Department of Agriculture to make it easier to provide school meals to children while schools are closed.

Paid sick leave. Food service workers often work in crowded spaces, enabling the virus to spread even when restaurants convert to delivery or takeout only. But about three-fourths of food service workers lack paid sick leave, and over half report going to work sick.

In March, CSPI surveyed the sick-leave policies of America’s top 20 restaurant chains. A stunning 60 percent—including Burger King and Subway—had no publicly available sick-leave policy whatsoever.

Pandemic or not, we’re urging Congress to pass legislation requiring paid sick leave for all workers, not just those in the restaurant industry. Without it, many families are forced to choose between protecting themselves and putting food on the table.

Healthcare worker safety. We’re pushing the administration to require employers to supply masks, gloves, gowns, and other protective equipment to frontline healthcare workers and others at risk throughout the pandemic.

Fake cures. We’re on the lookout for the inevitable hucksters who are using this virus to hawk unproven cures.

In February, we called on the Food and Drug Administration to stop televangelist Jim Bakker (yes, him) from pushing a fake “Silver Solution” virus cure.

Within two weeks, the FDA issued a warning letter to “The Jim Bakker Show” to stop selling what is essentially an unapproved drug for treating COVID-19.

CSPI is America’s food and health watchdog. Rest assured that we will do everything we can to help protect your health until—and long after—this pandemic is behind us.

Peter G. Lurie, MD, MPH, President

Center for Science in the Public Interest