The Washington Post says the FDA has breached the policy on fish consumption that it worked out with the EPA in 2004 and now proposes – in the last days of the Bush administration and without discussing the matter with EPA - to increase the amount of fish considered safe for women and children. Why? Because, it says, the benefits of omega-3s in fish outweigh the risks of methylmercury contamination. The EPA and environmental groups that work on fish safety are outraged, and with good cause, I’d say. Check out the arguments. You know this is about politics (translation: support of the fisheries industry) when the FDA says this is “science-based” policy (always a dead giveaway) and the Environmental Working Group says the FDA is nothing more than a “patsy for polluters.”
The USDA says it will be taking samples of meat and poultry products that contain ingredients derived from milk to find out whether they contain melamine and, if so, how much. It will be sampling five kinds of products: baby foods, cooked sausages, breaded chicken, meatballs, and meat and poultry wrapped in dough (including calzones). Great. I’m hoping they will be using the same kinds of methods used by FDA and coordinating closely with that agency. If ever we needed a reason to have just ONE food safety agency instead of the multiple ones we have now (USDA, FDA, EPA, etc), melamine is as good as any.
Food Democracy is circulating a petition to the Obama transition team to appoint a USDA Secretary who cares about sustainability (what a concept!). Click on the link to join the movement! If you want to read more about this, see Nicholas Kristof’s column linked to my post on December 10 and Michael Pollan’s magazine piece linked to the one on October 12.
The Nestlé (no relation to me company is pledging to restrict its marketing to children to products that meet industry-wide nutritional criteria. This is a small step in the right direction but suffers from the same problems that beset all such initiatives: the nutritional criteria are established to permit lots of a company’s products to qualify, and not much accountability is built into the system. Will efforts like this do any good? We will have to wait and see.
Here is Bill Moyer’s recent interview with Michael Pollan, talking about what the new president can and cannot do for American agriculture. Worth a look.
12/11 update: Take a look at today’s New York Times where Nicholas Kristof enthusiastically supports the idea that Obama should appoint a “Secretary of Food.”
The BMJ has an interesting editorial this week about American calorie labeling (disclosure: I was interviewed for it). Maybe Great Britain will do this too?