by Marion Nestle

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Dec 18 2015

Weekend Reading: Mark Pendergrast’s Fair Trade

Mark Pendergrast: Beyond Fair Trade: How One Small Coffee Company Helped Transform a Hillside Village in Thailand.  Greystone Books, 2015.

fair trade

Mark Pendergrast is the author of the definitive history of Coca-Cola, For God, Love, and Coca-Cola, about which I have warmly appreciative things to say in my own contribution to that genre, Soda Politics.  

He writes a “semi regular”column on coffee for the Wine Spectator, and this is his second book on coffee.  The first was Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How it Transformed the World.

Here, he focuses on the Doi Chaang Coffee Company, the result of a business partnership between a Canadian coffee company and a coffee-growing hill tribe in Thailand.  This is an inspiring story of social entrepreneurship at its best. Sometimes these things work.  It’s worth reading about how this one did.

Dec 17 2015

House spending deal: food issues summarized

Thanks to Helena Bottemiller Evich of Politico Pro for doing the homework on food issues covered by the omnibus spending deal just agreed to by the House.  Here’s my quick summary of her summary.

  • GMO labels: the effort to preempt local and state GMO labeling initiatives failed as a result of the efforts of 30 representatives who opposed the measure.
  • Country of origin labels repealed: the meat industry scores a win in the House vote to repeal the measure.
  • Dietary guidelines: I discussed this one in yesterday’s post.  The House wants to block their release on the grounds that they are not sufficiently scientific (translation: the meat industry doesn’t like advice to eat less meat).
  • The Clean Water Act: it survives.
  • GMO salmon: it will have to be labeled.
  • Food safety funding: up more than $132 million to $2.72 billion in discretionary funding. This is a big win for the FDA. It also proposes $1 billion for the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, also above the president’s request.
  • Trans fat ban”: delayed until FDA’s formal rules go into effect in June 2018.
  • School lunch flexibility: Riders allow schools to ignore whole grain requirements and block sodium restrictions pending further research.
  • Chinese chicken out of schools: Prohibits purchasing chicken that was processed in China for school meals or other federal nutrition programs.
  • More kitchen equipment: Schools get another $30 million for school equipment grants.
  • Horse slaughter: Banned.

Caveat: this is the House deal only.  The House has to vote on the actual bill, then the Senate.  Then the two bills need to be reconciled and the President needs to sign.  Until then, everything is up for grabs.

Dec 15 2015

The AP’s investigation of slavery in the Asian shrimp processing business

I’ve been asked to comment on the Associated Press investigation of slave-like working conditions in the Asian shrimp-processing industry.  It’s an ugly story, with seemingly everyone turning a blind eye to horrendous working conditions, child labor, and forced labor in order to keep the cost of shrimp—our number one seafood import—dirt cheap.

The AP quotes Susan Coppedge, the U.S. State Department’s new anti-trafficking ambassador.  Who knew that we even had an anti-trafficking ambassador?  But here’s the 2015 Trafficking report.

Ciooedge said

problems persist because brokers, boat captains and seafood firms aren’t held accountable and victims have no recourse.

“We have told Thailand to improve their anti-trafficking efforts, to increase their prosecutions, to provide services to victims,” she said. She added that American consumers “can speak through their wallets and tell companies: ‘We don’t want to buy things made with slavery.'”

The AP points out

Thailand is not the only source of slave-tainted seafood in the U.S., where nearly 90 percent of shrimp is imported.

The State Department’s annual anti-trafficking reports have tied such seafood to 55 countries on six continents, including major suppliers to the U.S. Earlier this year, the AP uncovered a slave island in Benjina, Indonesia, where hundreds of migrant fishermen were trafficked from Thailand and sometimes locked in a cage. Last month, food giant Nestle disclosed that its own Thai suppliers were abusing and enslaving workers and has vowed to force change.

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Dec 14 2015

This week’s five industry-funded studies. The score: 90:9

Here are another five industry-sponsored studies with results that can be used for marketing purposes (otherwise, what’s the point?).

Effects on childhood body habitus of feeding large volumes of cow or formula milk compared with breastfeeding in the latter part of infancy David Hopkins, Colin D Steer, Kate Northstone, and Pauline M Emmett.  Am J Clin Nutr 2015;102:1096–103.

  • Conclusion: “The feeding of high volumes of cow milk in late infancy is associated with faster weight and height gain than is BM feeding. The feeding of bottle-fed infants with high volumes of cow milk in late infancy may have a persisting effect on body habitus through childhood.”  The authors point out “Our findings strengthen the current American Academy of Pediatrics and United Kingdom Department of Health guidelines, which stress the need to not introduce cow milk as a main drink before 12 mo of age. Parents should be advised about the appropriate volume of milk to offer their children once complementary feeding is established.”
  • Funding: The research, although specifically funded by Wyeth Nutrition, was carried out independently. DH previously received funding from Pfizer Nutrition Ltd. KN and PME have, from time to time, received research funding, and PME has received consultancy funding from Pfizer Nutrition Ltd., Plum Baby, and Danone Baby Nutrition (Nutricia Ltd.). PME currently receives research funding from Nestlé Nutrition.
  • Comment: The study finds that differences between the growth of children fed breast milk or formula disappear by age two.  Infants fed cow milk grew significantly faster than both of the other groups.

Effects of tree nuts on blood lipids, apolipoproteins, and blood pressure: systematic review, meta-analysis, and dose-response of 61 controlled intervention trials. Liana C Del Gobbo, Michael C Falk, Robin Feldman, Kara Lewis, and Dariush Mozaffarian. Am J Clin Nutr December 2015, vol. 102 no. 6 1347-1356.

  • Conclusions: Tree nut intake lowers total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, ApoB, and triglycerides.
  • Funding: LCDG and DM received modest ad hoc consulting fees from the Life Sciences Research Organization (LSRO) in Bethesda, MD, to support this study. MCF, RF, and KL received payment through LSRO (<5% of gross income) to conduct a review of nuts and cardiovascular health outcomes, which was funded through a contract with the International Tree Nut Council (ITNC).

Safety and efficacy of cocoa flavanol intake in healthy adults: a randomized, controlled, double-masked trial Javier I Ottaviani, Marion Balz, Jennifer Kimball, Jodi L Ensunsa, Reedmond Fong, Tony Y Momma, Catherine Kwik-Uribe, Hagen Schroeter, and Carl L Keen. Am J Clin Nutr December 2015, vol. 102 no. 6 1425-1435

  • Conclusion: The consumption of CFs [cocoa flavanols] in amounts up to 2000 mg/d for 12 wk was well tolerated in healthy men and women.
  • Funding: Supported in part by an unrestricted gift from Mars Inc. The company also provided the food-grade, standardized test materials and authentic analytical standards as gifts…. JIO, MB, CK-U, and HS are employed by Mars Inc., a company with long-term research and commercial interests in flavanols and procyanidins. CLK has received an unrestricted research grant from Mars Inc. and is the current holder of the Mars Chair in Developmental Nutrition. In addition, CLK has consulted for other food companies and government agencies with an interest in health and nutrition, as well as in phytonutrients, including flavanols and procyanidins.

Psyllium fiber improves glycemic control proportional to loss of glycemic control: a meta-analysis of data in euglycemic subjects, patients at risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus, and patients being treated for type 2 diabetes mellitus. Roger D Gibb,*, Johnson W McRorie Jr., Darrell A Russell, Vic Hasselblad, and David A D’Alessio. Am J Clin Nutr December 2015 , vol. 102 no. 6 1604-1614.

  • Conclusion: These data indicate that psyllium would be an effective addition to a lifestyle-intervention program.
  • Funding: RDG, JWM, and DAR are full-time employees of P&G, which markets a psyllium product. DAD has received an unrestricted research grant from P&G. VH has received research funding from P&G.

Fresh Pear Consumption is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake, Diet Quality, and Weight Parameters in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010.  O’Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL (2015) J Nutr Food Sci 5: 377. doi:10.4172/2155-9600.1000377

  • Conclusion:  Compared to non-consumers [of pears], consumers were 35% less likely to be obese (p<0.05). Fresh pears should be encouraged as a component of an overall healthy diet.
  • Funding: Partial support was received from the United States Department of Agriculture/ Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS)…Partial support was also received from Pears Bureau Northwest.
  • Comment: I’m guessing the same result could be obtained by looking at consumption of any other fruit.  And to prove my point that this is about marketing, here’s the press release.
Dec 10 2015

Food Navigator-USA Special Edition: Time for Tea

I like the way FoodNavigator-USA collects its recent articles on single topics in one place.  This particular FoodNavigator-USA Special Edition explored the specialty tea business: green tea, innovative formats (e.g., tablets, pods, ready to drink, premium bags), and marketing strategies.

Given the new tea shops appearing one after the other in my neighborhood, the tea business must be booming.

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Dec 9 2015

Arsenic in rice: another food safety worry?

I am often asked about the potential dangers of arsenic in rice.  As with all such questions, I start with the FDA.

The FDA says the amounts of arsenic it finds in foods do not pose a risk at current levels of consumption.  Brown rice, it finds, has levels of arsenic much higher than those in white rice.

Consumer Reports also tested rice samples.  It recommends against feeding rice cereals to children.  It calls on the FDA to set standards for arsenic levels in rice products.  These, according to the tests, vary widely.  Basmati rice from California, India and Pakistan and U.S.-grown sushi rice are “better choices.”  Just one serving of rice cereal or rice pasta could put a child over CR’s recommended weekly limit

On this basis, Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) introduced legislation— The R.I.C.E (Reducing food-based Inorganic Compounds Exposure) Act— to limit the amount of inorganic arsenic, the most toxic form of arsenic in rice foods.  The act would require the FDA to set limits on arsenic in rice.

Politico reported that the US Rice Federation questioned the science behind the Consumer Reports story:

Arsenic in our food supply is a challenging, yet unavoidable, situation which is why we support the FDA studying the issue carefully,” said Betsy Ward, president and CEO of the USA Rice Federation.  “But CR’s new consumption recommendations aren’t supported by any science that we’ve seen.”

How does arsenic get into rice?  Lots of ways, apparently: naturally occurring, but also from arsenic pesticides that persist in soil.  The flooding makes rice especially susceptible.

What to do while waiting for a resolution to safety questions?  Prepare rice in a coffee percolator says a recent study.  This flushes out a lot of the arsenic.

And everything in moderation, of course.

Dec 7 2015

Another five sponsored studies with expected results. The score: 85:6.

These are coming in so quickly that I am having a hard time keeping up with them.  Note that the first three are sponsored by Coca-Cola and that some of the investigators were involved with the ill-fated Global Energy Balance Network, now defunct.  As we now know from the e-mails obtained by the Associated Press, the statement that “the sponsor played no role…” is not necessarily correct.

As for the score: since mid-March, I have collected 85 sponsored studies with results just as the sponsor wanted, versus 6 with results that must have disappointed.  But stay tuned: tomorrow I will post 3 more in the disappointing category.

Low levels of physical activity are associated with dysregulation of energy intake and fat mass gain over 1 yearRobin P Shook, Gregory A Hand, Clemens Drenowatz, James R Hebert, Amanda E Paluch, John E Blundell, James O Hill, Peter T Katzmarzyk, Timothy S Church,11 and Steven N Blair.  Am J Clinical Nutrition November 11, 2015 as doi: 10.3945/ajcn.115.115360.

  • Conclusions: These results suggest that low levels of physical activity are a risk factor for fat mass gain. In the current sample, a threshold for achieving energy balance occurred at an activity level corresponding to 7116 steps/d, an amount achievable by most adults.
  • Funding: Supported by an unrestricted research grant from The Coca-Cola Company.

Association between cardiorespiratory fitness and submaximal systolic blood pressure among young adult men: a reversed J-curve pattern relationship. Vivek K. Prasada, Clemens Drenowatza, Gregory A. Handb, Carl J. Laviec, Xuemei Suia, Madison Demelloa, and Steven N. Blair.  Journal of Hypertension 2015, 33:2239–2244.

  • Conclusions: There was a reverse J-curve pattern relationship between SSBP [submaximal systolic blood pressure] and CRF [cardiorespiratory fitness], with the lowest SSBP among men with fair or good CRF and highest among those with poor CRF.
  • Funding: Funding for this project was provided through an unrestricted grant from The Coca-Cola Company. The sponsor played no role in the study design, data collection, analysis and interpretation, or preparation and submission of this manuscript.

Relation of Body’s Lean Mass, Fat Mass and Body Mass Index with Submaximal Systolic Blood Pressure Among Young Adult MenVivek K. Prasad, MD, MPH, PhD, Clemens Drenowatz, PhD, Gregory A. Hand, PhD, Carl J. Lavie, MD, Xuemei Sui, MD, MPH, PhD, Madison Demello, MS, Steven N.Blair.  Am J Cardiology 2015 DOI: 10.1016/j.amjcard.2015.10.060 .

  • Conclusion: there was a J curve pattern between SSBP [submaximal systolic blood pressure] and components of body composition whereas, a linear relation between SSBP and BMI.
  • Funding: Funding for this project was provided through an unrestricted grant from the Coca-Cola Company. The sponsor played no role in the study design, data collection, analysis, and interpretation,or preparation and submission of this manuscript.

Sugar- and artificially sweetened beverages and intrahepatic fat: A randomized controlled trial. Vanessa Campos, Camille Despland, Vaclav Brandejsky, Roland Kreis, Philippe Schneiter, Arnaud Chiolero, Chris Boesch and Luc Tappy.  Obesity Volume 23, Issue 12, pages 2335–2339, December 2015.

  • Conclusion: In subjects with overweight or obesity and a high SSB intake, replacing SSB with ASB decreased intrahepatic fat over a 12-week period.
  • Disclosure:  LT received research support from Nestlé SA, Switzerland, and Ajinomoto Co Inc, Japan, for studies unrelated to this work and speaker’s honoraria from Nestlé SA, Switzerland, Ferrero, Italy, and C3 collaborating for health, UK. The other authors declared no conflict of interest.

Probiotic supplementation attenuates increases in body mass and fat mass during high-fat diet in healthy young adults. Kristin L. Osterberg, Nabil E. Boutagy, Ryan P. McMillan, Joseph R. Stevens, Madlyn I. Frisard, John W. Kavanaugh, Brenda M. Davy, Kevin P. Davy and Matthew W. Hulver.  Obesity Volume 23, Issue 12, pages 2364–2370, December 2015.  DOI: 10.1002/oby.21230.

  • Conclusion: VSL#3 [the probiotic] supplementation appears to have provided some protection from body mass gain and fat accumulation in healthy young men consuming a high-fat and high-energy diet.
  • Funding agencies: This study was funded by VSL Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
  • Disclosure: The authors declared no conflict of interest.
Dec 4 2015

Weekend Reading: Digesting Recipes

Susannah Worth.  Digesting Recipes: The Art of Culinary Notation.  Zero Books, 2015.

I did a blurb for this unusual book:

Digesting Recipes takes an off-beat and highly refreshing post-modern look at cookbooks as markers of cultural identity.  Recipes, it makes clear, are far more than cooking directions.  After reading this, I have a whole new appreciation for what recipes can tell us about the deeper meanings of modern society.

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