Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 18 2016

Weekend reading: USDA’s analysis of decline in mid-size farms

The USDA has a report out on midsize farms, those with gross cash farm income of $350,000 to $1 million.

The reason for the report is that the number of midsize farms declined by 5% from 1992 to 2012.

How worried should we be about this?  Of the 125,000 midsize farms, the great majority grow grain and oilseeds—animal feed.

USDA finds:

  • The loss in midsize farms is higher among beginning farmers, retired farmers, and renters.
  • Government subsidies helped stave off losses.
  • If past patterns hold, a significant percentage (15%?) of today’s midsize farms will be tomorrow’s large farms.

I can’t wait to see how the next farm bill handles this one.

Nov 17 2016

FoodNavigator-USA’s Special Edition: Food allergy and intolerance

FoodNavigator.com does occasional “special editions” in which they collect articles on particular topics from the perspective of their food-industry audience.  This one is on food allergies and intolerances, about which remarkably little is known.  If you are allergic or intolerant, the best you can do is hope for an accurate allergy test or do everything you can to avoid the food that triggers reactions.  Good luck with that since allergies are hard to diagnose and allergenic ingredients sneak into a great many foods and are not always revealed on labels.

FoodNavigator begins with Food allergy 101: Are you up to speed?

Food allergy is on the rise in many countries, but how many people are impacted in the US? We’ve collected some facts and figures from Food Allergy Research and Education (FARE), the world’s largest private source of funding for food allergy research; the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention); and NIAID, the lead institute at the National Institutes of Health conducting research on food allergy… Display [this site has basic statistics on prevalence and basic definitions of terms]

The lowdown on food allergy and intolerance: In conversation with Dr Steven TaylorMost researchers agree that the prevalence of food allergies is increasing in the US. Yet the amount of money spent on finding out why is surprisingly low, says one food allergy expert… Read

Soup-To-Nuts Podcast: Is low-FODMAP the new gluten-free? For the 45 million Americans who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, identifying food that they can safely eat without triggering a flare up is a source of deep frustration that also could be a sizable market opportunity for innovative food and beverage companies that can provide an easy solution… Listen now

Allergen-friendly, free-from claims offer marketing potential beyond conventional food, beverageWith the number of Americans with food allergies and sensitivities increasing, free-from claims have become du jour in the conventional food and beverage space, but they remain relatively rare in the supplement segment and as such offer manufacturers a powerful tool to set their products apart. .. Read

Leadbetter’s realigns to focus on allergy-friendly manufacturing: ‘Our growth curve is very steep’San Francisco-based Leadbetter’s Bake Shop has stopped making English muffins, its flagship product, and changed its name to Better Bakeries as it focuses on building an allergy-friendly food manufacturing and co-packing business designed to bridge the gap between Mom & Pop scale operators and the big guns in gluten-free… Read

Elevation Brands CEO: Gluten-free bakery is saturated, but there’s a ton of white space in other allergy-friendly categoriesThe world will probably keep turning without another gluten-free cookie or cracker, but there is a ton of white space for allergy-friendly foods in other parts of the store, and untapped opportunities in c-stores, club stores, schools, and in Mexico, where the gluten-free retail market is set to “explode,” says the CEO of Elevation Brands, the parent company of Ian’s. .. Read

‘First’ entirely gluten-free dining hall opens on US college campusKent State University claims to have opened the first certified gluten-free dining hall on a college campus… Read

Gluten-free products are evolving to be more nutritious, flavorful, Firebird Artisan Mills saysThe gluten free market in the US remains hot, but as the category becomes more crowded, manufacturers must offer products with added appeal to stay competitive – such as a protein boost from pulses or an added dose of fiber and flavor with ancient grains, according to experts… Watch now

PepsiCo rolling out gluten-free Quaker oatmeal range across US retailNational distribution under way following limited launch in selected stores late last year… Read

Enjoy Life Foods: Dedicated allergy-friendly sets in the natural aisle are the best way to merchandise free-from foodsWith one in 13 children diagnosed with a food allergy in the US*, ‘allergy-friendly’ foods are now infiltrating every category in grocery. But right now, it still makes sense for most retailers to merchandise them in a dedicated set rather than spreading them around the store, unless you have very clear signage, says Enjoy Life Foods… Watch now

Early introduction of allergens reduces food allergies, suggests studyResearchers say they have “moderate certainty” that introducing allergenic food such as peanuts or egg at an early age reduces risk of developing allergies… Read

Digestive issues attributed to lactose intolerance may be caused by A1 beta-casein protein, suggests study funded by a2 MilkNew clinical research – funded by the a2 Milk Company – lends credence to its claims that many consumers who believe they can’t tolerate lactose (milk sugar) should really be blaming their digestive discomfort on the A1 beta casein protein in milk products instead. However, more human data is needed before this moves beyond the realm of theory into fact, says the National Dairy Council… Read

Quinn Snacks removes more than gluten from pretzels, shows consumers its supply lineHistorically consumers who wanted a gluten-free alternative to a wheat-based product had to sacrifice nutrition, taste or accept the presence of other common allergens in the ingredient list. .. Read

60-second interview, Beneo: Is rice still the first choice in gluten-free recipe formulation? Rice flours and starches dominated the first generated of gluten-free goods, particularly in the bakery segment, but are they still the #1 choice in formulators’ toolkits? FoodNavigator-USA caught up with Pierre Donck, regional product manager at rice ingredients specialist Beneo Inc, to find out… Read

Nov 16 2016

Sweet post-election thought: how much peanut butter (Nutella, really) is a serving?

I am just getting around to the burning question of how much peanut butter constitutes a serving size.

Earlier this month, the FDA put out a call for comments on this question.  In FDA-speak: “the Appropriate Product Category and Reference Amount Customarily Consumed for Flavored Nut Butter Spreads and Products that Can Be Used to Fill Cupcakes and Other Desserts.”

The FDA is inviting comments (note that a RACC is “Reference Amount Customarily Consumed”)

in part because it recently issued a final rule updating certain RACCs, and the agency has also received a citizen petition asking that it either (1) issue guidance recognizing that “nut cocoa-based spreads” fall within the “Honey, jams, jellies, fruit butter, molasses” category for the purposes of RACC determination, or (2) amend the current regulation relating to RACCs to establish a new RACC category for “nut cocoa-based spreads” with a RACC of 1 tablespoon.

What on earth is this about?  Ask: Who could possibly care?  The answer: Nutella.

As CNN explains, the “citizen petition” comes from Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, which has been trying for two years to get the FDA to reduce the serving size.

Why?  Because the current serving size is two tablespoons—200 calories.

Nutella thinks you might buy more if the serving size were one tablespoon and only 100 calories.

CNN quotes Nutella’s latest petition:

Ferrero’s most recent advertising and promotion has advocated the consumption of a balanced breakfast with the inclusion of Nutella as a tasty, complementary spread to add on to nutrient-rich whole grain breads, fruits, and dairy products.

CNN also notes that

In 2012, Ferrero settled a class-action lawsuit for $3 million after a 4-year-old’s mother claimed she was shocked to discover that the hazelnut-chocolate spread — whose first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil — was nutritionally similar to a candy bar despite being advertised as a healthy breakfast option.

I swear I am not making this up.

If you care to comment, go to http://www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2016-N-2938 in the search box.

The relevant documents:

Nov 15 2016

Trump’s Agriculture Policy?

I never believe any promises made by candidates during election campaigns because once in office they do whatever they please.

But yesterday’s Politico Morning Agriculture obtained a leaked copy of pre-election Talking Points prepared for Trump’s Advisory Committee on Agriculture and Rural Issues, which hints at the team’s thinking (you have to read between the lines).

My favorites:

  • 7.  The Trump-Pence Secretary of Agriculture will defend American Agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant.
  • 9. …The next EPA Administrator should be an individual that fully understands ad embraces the complexity of agriculture and rural issues.
  • 10.  …agriculture will NOT be regulated based upon the latest trend on social media.

Speculation is fun (or maybe not in this instance).  We have no choice but to wait and see.  Stay tuned.

 

Nov 14 2016

Candy politics: election-year style

Confectioners.com went into the Open Secrets database to take a look at how candy companies spent their campaign contributions.

Mondelez, which owns these brands of chocolates: Milka, Toblerone, Caramilk, Cadbury:

Hershey’s:

Open Secrets is at https://www.opensecrets.org/.  It’s worth learning how to use it so you can dig up sweet tidbits like these.

Nov 11 2016

Weekend reading: how to manage a small organic farm

Connor J. Fitzmaurice and Brian J. Gareau.  Organic Futures: Struggling for Sustainability on the Small Farm.  Yale University Press, 2016.  

This is an academic analysis of organic farming by two sociologists based on classic ethnographic fieldwork at a small organic farm in Massachusetts.  They introduce this book by exploring the meaning and consequences of organic “bifurcation,”

the observation that there are increasingly two organic sectors, one made up of relatively large farms that look more and more like the highly mechanized and highly capitalized conventional farms of agro-industry, and the other made up of small farms that are less mechanized, less highly capitalized more likely to sell directly to the consumer, and (at least in some cases) less likely to consider profit ahead of other concerns…we hope to extend and complicate the concept of bifurcation by paying attention to the relational, emotional, and moral underpinnings of organic farmers’ market relationships.

In trying to make a living in organic farming and to maintain personal values about how organic farming should be done, farmers encounter “moral, economic, and relational ambiguities.”  The authors refer to ways in which farmers manage those ambiguities as “good matches.”  Much of the book deals with what organic farmers have to do to achieve such matches.

This is real-world analysis.  Anyone interested in becoming a small farmer, or in what is entailed in doing this work, will find this book a reality check.

Nov 10 2016

Why food politics matters: the importance of bread and community

Yesterday morning, post-election, I received an email from Steffan Sander, who bakes fabulous hard-crust bread in Tompkins County.  He runs a bread CSA, to which my partner and I happily belong.

I asked his permission to share his message.

Oh! My Dearest Breadfriends,

My heart goes out to each and all of you. Here we have been up till all hours, and then sleeping fitfully. Bakers do that anyway, but last night was different.

We started the bakery a little more than five years ago. Why? Because we were hungry for good bread. Because we wanted to work and play with our dear friends. Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But it was more than that.

We built this bakery because we had a vision–of a place that would nurture our community, that would feed us all honestly and with the fruits of our shared soil and water. We saw the bakery as a place where skilled and hard work would be applied to simple materials, and that our work would then feed us all. We envisioned loaves shaped with care, each embodying our attention and love. We imagined those loaves shared and eaten, given away, or simply (if briefly) appreciated as a source of quietness. Nourishment.

There have been days–too hot or too long or too dry or too wet–when all of that has seemed a dream. But this morning, I feel it more strongly than ever. What I saw last night was half a country intoxicated by the pleasure of finally being allowed to openly express anger, resentment, and hatred. It is that awful pleasure that concerns me. I do not think it will subside anytime soon.

There will be plenty of work to do in the weeks and months to come.

For now, I wanted to tell you this about our bakery: we rededicate ourselves to kindness, to generosity, to difference, to complexity, to respect, and to reason. We rededicate ourselves to hard work, to vision, and most of all, to love.

With great and sorrowful affection,

Stef

This is why the food movement matters and is such a source of hope—and pleasure.

Thanks Stef.

Nov 9 2016

Savor the moment while it lasts: soda taxes pass!

The results, now almost final, look like this:

Soda tax votes in California:

  • San Francisco, CA, Measure V, 1 cent/oz: 62%
  • Oakland, CA, Measure HH, 1 cent/oz:       61%
  • Albany, CA, Measure 01, 1 cent/oz:          71%

And

capture

Recall what this cost, and then some:

Next?  Fingers crossed.

But at least this.

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