For more than 50 years, CSPI has worked to improve the quality and safety of food, to provide access to nutritious meals, to assure informative and accurate food labeling, and to advance public health while debunking misleading (and outright dangerous) food and supplement marketing. Because we take no donations from government or industry, we are able to do this work only because of supporters like you. Here’s what we accomplished together in 2023. 

CSPI’s food safety successes in 2023 

CSPI has long advocated for final product safety standards, especially in poultry, which is a common vector for foodborne illnesses like Salmonella. In August 2023, the USDA issued a proposed rule for regulating the safety of certain breaded chicken products that, for the first time, declared Salmonella an adulterant.  

In 2023, CSPI president and executive director Dr. Peter Lurie, MD, MPH, testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Accountability Subcommittee on Health Care and Financial Services about the deadly Cronobacter outbreak in powdered formula that killed two infants and sickened four in 2022 and the related baby formula shortage. “To better protect U.S. infants, the agency …  should have the authority to require manufacturers to notify the agency of positive test results for relevant pathogens and to require more frequent environmental testing in production facilities,” Dr. Lurie said. The FDA released updated guidance for formula manufacturers in September that would improve oversight of powdered infant formula with the goal of reducing lethal Cronobacter outbreaks. 

California led the way in enacting commonsense laws around powdered infant formula and baby foods this year, which under federal law are not required to undergo testing for heavy metals like arsenic, lead, and mercury. Governor Gavin Newsom’s signature on CA AB 899 in September made the state the first in the nation to impose mandatory testing for toxic heavy metals in baby and children’s foods. 

2023 healthy retail wins 

In February, Perris, California, became the second municipality in the country (following Berkeley, California) to pass a healthy checkout ordinance, improving the nutritional quality of the foods and beverages sold at supermarket check-out aisles. The policy will require grocery stores in the city such as WinCo Foods, Walmart, and Dollar General to swap out soda, chips, and cookies at check-out aisles for healthier alternatives such as fruit, nuts, seeds, seltzer, and other low- or no-calorie drinks.  

Improvements in food and beverage labeling 

New York City’s Sweet Truth Act, originally passed in 2021 with support from CSPI, required warning labels on packaged foods that are high in added sugars. The newest iteration of the bill, which adds the same labeling rules to chain restaurant menu items with excess added sugars, like fountain drinks, was signed by Mayor Eric Adams in November 2023.  

CSPI has been a leading advocate for food allergy safety and labeling for more than 50 years, and in 2014 was the first group to petition the FDA to require allergen labeling for sesame. Following sesame’s inclusion in the Food Allergy Safety, Treatment, Education, and Research (FASTER) Act effective in 2023, sesame-containing foods are required to carry an allergen declaration. But some manufacturers responded to the new law by intentionally adding sesame to products that didn’t previously contain the ingredient—further limiting safe options for those with sesame allergy. CSPI petitioned to make this practice illegal. However, the FDA failed to make it unlawful to circumvent allergen labeling requirements. Instead, the agency issued improved guidance in July for avoiding cross-contamination. 

In 2003, CSPI petitioned the Treasury Department’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau (TTB) to mandate an “Alcohol Facts” panel on alcoholic beverages similar to the ubiquitous “Nutrition Facts” panel on foods. In other words, the petition asked TTB to require the same basic transparency on alcohol labels that consumers have come to expect on other foods and beverages. After years of inactivity on the petition, CSPI and two of our coalition partners sued TTB to force the agency to respond to our requests. In late 2022, in response to our lawsuit, TTB agreed to initiate rulemaking on mandatory alcohol content, nutrition, and allergen labeling on alcoholic beverages. TTB also agreed to begin preliminary rulemaking on mandatory ingredient labeling. TTB recently published projected timelines for the rules for early 2024. Our litigators and advocates will continue to fight until these critical labeling changes are implemented.  

You can help

As a nonprofit organization that takes no donations from industry or government, CSPI relies on the support of donors to continue our work in securing a safe, nutritious, and transparent food system. 

Please support CSPI today, and consider contributing monthly. Thank you.


CSPI and healthy kids 

CSPI often leverages data for advocacy wins. Our science-based approach to advocacy is exemplified in a February 2023 win related to folic acid, a synthetic form of vitamin B9, that reduces the risk of having a baby with a neural tube defect like spina bifida or anencephaly. In response to inquiries from CSPI, Gruma stated that the company plans to “complete the migration of [its] remaining corn masa flour products” and to fortify its “core corn tortillas,” including Mission tortillas, by 2024.  

Also in February 2023, following decades of advocacy work from CSPI and other organizations, the USDA for the first time proposed added-sugar limits on school meals. The proposed rule would continue the historic progress of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act by limiting added sugars in school meals. Despite a brief setback during the Trump administration—reversed by a judge after we sued—school meals have become better and better under the improvements required by that 2010 law. While the USDA is capping added sugars as we petitioned it to do last year, the rule disappoints on sodium: While it’s a step in the right direction, the USDA’s sodium reduction goals do not align with the Dietary Guidelines.  

In September, Montgomery County, Maryland, fully implemented its healthy restaurant kids’ meals legislation, which requires at least one kids meal on the menu at all restaurants to meet certain food and beverage requirements. Similar to legislation passed in neighboring Prince George’s County in 2020, the Montgomery County legislation will ensure that healthier beverages are the default with restaurant children’s meals and that at least one kids’ meal on the menu will meet expert nutrition standards. While parents and caregivers can still request a different beverage or side for their children, they will no longer have the least healthy items pushed on their kids as the default option.  

For too long, kids and teenagers have been able to purchase weight-loss and muscle-building supplements. The FDA has repeatedly warned that these supplements can be ineffective, and worse, many may be laced with dangerous chemicals, such as steroids and stimulants. In October 2023, New York Governor Kathy Hochul signed a bill banning over-the-counter sale of supplements for weight loss or muscle-building to minors in the state.  

Improving oversight of lab-developed tests 

Laboratory-developed tests (LDTs), previously used only rarely and for small populations, have in recent years become an important part of the American healthcare system. But limited FDA oversight for what was once a specialty product has led to the proliferation of inaccurate diagnostic tests that have caused significant harm to patients. CSPI has called on the FDA to strengthen the regulation of LDTs. In September 2023, the FDA issued a proposed rule in which LDTs are clearly defined as medical devices, ensuring FDA review before they can be sold to consumers. “This rule is a critical step forward for clinical medicine,” said Dr. Peter G. Lurie, President of CSPI and a former Associate Commissioner at the Food and Drug Administration where he worked on LDTs, including on a report demonstrating their potential dangers. “It will help ensure that when a patient receives a test, they can rely on the results to make essential decisions for their health. This rule will close a gaping hole in FDA’s current regulatory reach.”   

In addition to our regulatory efforts, CSPI has been taking the fight directly to companies. In October, CSPI filed a lawsuit against EpicGenetics, the maker of a LDT for fibromyalgia, for false and misleading claims. According to the lawsuit, EpicGenetics falsely claims its FM/a Test for fibromyalgia is “99 percent accurate” when the company’s own study indicates the test generates 30 percent false positivity rate among some patients. CSPI is seeking to stop EpicGenetics’ misleading claims and ensure that future patients will receive truthful information about the test's (in)accuracy. 

Our work to remove harmful food additives  

Following CSPI’s petition for a safety review of aspartame, the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), the cancer agency of the World Health Organization (WHO), declared the artificial sweetener a possible human carcinogen in July. (If you’re avoiding aspartame, which CSPI recommends, read our review of aspartame research and these helpful shopping tips.)  

Red 3, a synthetic food dye and known carcinogen banned from use in cosmetics and topical drugs since 1990, has no place in our food supply. CSPI’s 2022 petition to the FDA to delist Red 3 from all remaining uses, especially foods, has not received a response from the agency. Instead of waiting for the FDA to act, in September, California became the first state to ban Red 3 from food products sold and manufactured in the state. The ban begins in 2027, and includes Red 3, brominated vegetable oil, propylparaben, and potassium bromate and could force companies to remove these chemicals, even without FDA action. New York is currently reviewing similar legislation. 

Thank you for your support 

This list of accomplishments is the result of support from CSPI members! Because CSPI takes no corporate donations, and Nutrition Action accepts no advertising, we depend on readers and members like you. Help jump-start our list of 2024 victories by donating today.  

Support CSPI today

As a nonprofit organization that takes no donations from industry or government, CSPI relies on the support of donors to continue our work in securing a safe, nutritious, and transparent food system. Every donation—no matter how small—helps CSPI continue improving food access, removing harmful additives, strengthening food safety, conducting and reviewing research, and reforming food labeling. 

Please support CSPI today, and consider contributing monthly. Thank you.


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