Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 14 2008

Rising food prices: who is at fault?

The New York Times writes today that India’s politicians, economists, and academics are responding to the charge that increasing prosperity in their country is responsible for the global rise in food prices. No way, they say. Like Vandana Shiva (see previous post), they cite other reasons: the West’s diversion of crop land to produce biofuels, agricultural subsidies that undermine agriculture in developing countries, trade barriers that do the same, high consumption of beef and oil resources, and high degree of food waste, along with the decline in the exchange rate of the U.S. dollar. Time for some leadership on all sides, I’d say.

May 13 2008

China introduces food labeling!

China, it seems, has never required nutrition labeling on food packages but is now getting around to it–at least on packages made for export. Can’t wait to see what the labels will look like (see previous post).

May 13 2008

Chinese fast-food photos: source?

Three people, including my son in Los Angeles, sent me these terrific photos yesterday, ostensibly of exotic fast food in Beijing, and offered by G. Pollak. The photos are a great cross-cultural experience. But who is G. Pollak and what’s the story about them?

May 12 2008

Wanted: photos of NYC menu boards

New York City readers: Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) is collecting photos of calorie labels on restaurant and take out menu boards.  Have a digital camera or cell phone handy?  They are asking for photos of menu boards and close ups of the calorie information from Starbucks, Chipotle, Quiznos, Jamba Juice, Subway, etc.   Upload the photos at www.flickr.com.  This requires establishing a free account.  Once you’ve done that, join the group “CSPI Menus” and upload.  If that doesn’t work, you can mail photos  to hhenry@cspinet.org.  Thanks!


May 12 2008

Food prices again: risks vs. benefits

Alexandra Lewin, a doctoral student at Cornell, is working with Corporations and Health Watch in Washington, DC, which “tracks the effects of corporate practices on public health.” Her latest contribution is an analysis of the effects of higher food prices on school lunch programs. Given the impossibly small amount of money schools have to work with, they will surely, she says, “find it ever more difficult to say no to an easy source of revenue: soda, cookies, and other junk food. Here we go again.”

On the other hand, Dan Barber, the fabulous chef of Blue Hill in Manhattan and Stone Barns, writes in the New York Times that higher food prices now “could lead to better food for the entire world.” Market forces, he says may well force more attention to the benefits of small farms “bringing harvests that are more healthful, sustainable and, yes, even more flavorful.” This, of course, is what Michael Pollan and Alice Waters were quoted as saying a month or so ago. I hope they are right.

May 11 2008

Those worrying plastic water bottles: Consumer Reports weighs in

ConsumerReports.com has an especially understandable description of the plastic bottle situation. If the recycling number is 7, the plastic could be polycarbonate and leaching bisphenol A endocrine disrupters. It says recycling numbers 1, 2, or 5 are better bets. The Environmental Working Group says bisphenol A is the “signature compound in the fight for reform of the nation’s toxic chemicals laws. It contaminates nearly all Americans, it causes toxic effects at very low doses…yet the EPA has only the most clumsy and convoluted authority to control its use and reduce exposure to populations at risk.”

May 9 2008

More ideas for reducing calories?

The latest issue of US News and World Report has a neat article (in which I am quoted) with some interesting ideas about how restaurants can help customers cut calories.  Would any of them work?

May 7 2008

The benefits of menu labeling for preventing obesity?

The Los Angeles County Public Health Division has produced a “health impact assessment” of how nutrition information on menus might affect customers’ ordering practices. The authors say that if 10% of customers reduce their caloric intake from restaurant meals by 100 calories a day, they would avert nearly 40% of the weight gain expected among Los Angeles residents. This is all theoretical, of course, but the hypothesis is testable – and New York City is doing the experiment. The NYC calorie labeling project is very much in the works. The city is starting to issue citations to non-compliers, even though the whole thing is still in litigation.

Oops.  Note the comment from Christopher Jarosz, one of the authors of the study.  On this model, it’s 100 calories twice a week (sorry about that and thanks for sending).

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