by Marion Nestle

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Jan 1 2009

Happy new year: Top food safety crises of 2008

Bill Marler, of the legal firm specializing in food safety cases, lists his top 10 picks for the food safety scandals of 2008, beginning with globalization and ending with pet food.

And Food Chemical News (December 31) says the FDA will be testing for melamine in farmed fish and fish feed from China.  When Hong Kong officials said they found melamine at 6.6 ppm in fish feed, the FDA wondered whether melamine could accumulate in fish tissues.  Apparently, that is exactly what it does.  The Los Angeles Times  (December 24) says FDA testing found whopping amounts of melamine – 200 ppm – in catfish, trout, tilapia and salmon that had eaten melamine-tainted fish feed.  This is way higher than the maximum “safe” level of 2.5 ppm in food.  So put fish from China on your list of what not to eat.

Let’s hope the new president picks someone for USDA undersecretary and FDA commissioner who takes food safety seriously.  That’s my wish (well, one of them) for the new year. Peace to all.

Dec 22 2008

The NY Times weighs in on the Vilsack appointment

The New York Times editorial writers have some interesting things to say about the challenges facing the new USDA secretary.  The Vilsack appointment, they say, “has the merit of being unsatisfactory to both extremes of the farm-policy debates.”  This makes me wonder when sustainable agriculture will be viewed as the wave of the future, and not as “extreme.”  Soon?

12/23 update: Here’s Kim Severson’s piece in the food section on what needs to happen at the USDA.

Dec 19 2008

FDA approves Stevia

It’s beginning to look like the FDA is getting in as many “midnight” approvals as it can before the new adminstration kicks in.  First it loosened its advisory on eating fish, and now it has told Cargill, the maker of the Truvia brand of the artificial sweetener Stevia, that it’s OK for the company to market it.  I guess the FDA must have resolved its doubts about the science supporting the safety of Stevia, even though much of it was corporate-sponsored.  But CSPI still has doubts.  Or maybe the FDA just didn’t have the strength to stop soft drink companies from marketing Stevia-sweetened drinks with or without FDA approval.  CSPI can’t understand the rush.  Why not?  It’s politics as usual, alas.

According to the Wall Street Journal, the reason for the rush is to get products with this “natural” sweetener on the market now.  Coke is coming out with Sprite Green and Odwalla juice drinks, and Pepsi will market SoBe Lifewater and an orange drink called Trop50.  They must thing they are on to something.  Stevia does have its supporters.  Me?  I’ll take sugar anytime.

April 15, 2009 update: Stevia products are on the market and competing vigorously for market share, as discussed by Kim Severson in the New York Times.

Dec 1 2008

Past appearances

Nov 25 2008

Upcoming appearances

The 6th Annual George McGovern lecture at FAO, Rome (photo: U.S. Department of State)

The 6th Annual George McGovern lecture at FAO, Rome (photo: U.S. Department of State)

For appearance and lecture inquiries, please contact:

Steven Barclay Agency
12 Western Avenue
Petaluma, CA 94952
(707) 773-0654

steven@barclayagency.com
www.barclayagency.com

Nov 10 2008

Who will Obama appoint: the game begins

The guessing game about appointments to key posts in food and agriculture – Secretaries of USDA and HHS and head of the FDA – is now well underway.  Here’s the current guess from Packer.com, which represents the produce industry, and must be hoping for business-as-usual.  I’m hoping for a breath of fresh air.  Fingers crossed.

Feb 14 2008

Happy Valentine’s Day: Chocolate is price-fixed?

With perfect timing for the romantic occasion, federal investigators are looking into the possibility that Big Food is fixing chocolate prices, and in three different countries yet.  The allegations?  “Top executives at Hershey Co., Mars, and Nestle [no relation] met secretly in coffee shops, restaurants and conventions to set prices.”   Although, as I discussed in Food Politics, it seems obvious from supermarket prices that such things must go on all the time, price-fixing is illegal.  Happy Valentine’s Day!

Jan 3 2008

Happy new year! 100 great recipes!

Jack of Food and Bottle sends along this notice of the TV Food Network’s top 100 recipes of 2007. As he puts it, “Two Mac ‘n Cheese recipes to start you off…27 chicken recipes,7 casseroles, 2 soups, No stews, No ethnic food. (a couple of make-believes, though). Okay, so it is the worst Top 100 List I’ve seen. But hey, their millions of viewers must lop it up. Have a great 2008!”

Yum. Oh well. As someone on the TV Food Network once pointed out to me, food cooked on TV has no calories.

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