Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jun 12 2008

Canada’s Industry food guide!

I can’t resist passing along this anonymously sourced spoof of Canada’s “Eating Well with Canada’s Food Guide.” Try the “Eating not-so-well with the [Canadian] Industry’s Food Guide.” And thanks for Jennifer Falbe for sending and Yoni Freedhoff for posting.

Jun 12 2008

Tomato misery

So the tomato saga continues, with the source of the Salmonella Saintpaul still not announced.  This means that you need to know which state a tomato comes from so you can avoid eating potentially tainted tomatoes from states that are still under suspicion. State-of-origin labeling, anyone? And you must take draconian measures to protect yourself from killer tomatoes: buy only the good ones (not plum, Roma, or round unless they are from OK states), wash and dry them carefully, and take your chances. Not sure what to do? Drop them in boiling water or cook them into tomato sauce. Isn’t this exciting? Not for anyone who cares about food safety or, alas, for tomato farmers likely to take the same kind of hit the spinach growers did. Check out what the Perishable Pundit has to say about all this. The Packer.com is another good place to follow this story from the industry’s perspective.

And I’ll say it again: it’s time to do something about our food safety system or the lack thereof. In the meantime, according to the New York Times, Congress again and again asked Commissioner von Eschenbach how much money the FDA needs to do the job right, but “again and again Dr. von Eschenbach refused to give an answer.” Of course he refused.  He has to.  He’s a political appointee.

Jun 11 2008

Nestlé Corp. refuses to stop marketing junk foods to kids

The giant food company, Nestlé (no relation), says it will not join the food industry’s voluntary efforts to stop marketing junk foods to kids.   Why not?  Here’s one guess: maybe the company doesn’t want to make promises it knows it can’t keep.

Jun 11 2008

Healthy vending machines an oxymoron?

Alexandra Lewin did an extra-curricular project during her doctoral studies in nutrition at Cornell. She tried to get healthier products placed in the department’s junk-food filled vending machines. No doubt you think it would be easy to do something like this, especially in a nutrition department. Wrong. I was an occasional advisor on this project.  All I could do was laugh at what happened and cheer her on.  If you want to understand what it means when public health people like me refer to “deeply entrenched institutional barriers to dietary change,” take a look at her post on Corporations and Health Watch.

Jun 10 2008

South Korea riots: update

Update, June 10: Now the protests have grown to 70,000 people and the entire South Korean cabinet has offered to resign–all because it agreed to accept U.S. beef, which all those people believe is tainted with mad cow disease.

Jun 10 2008

USDA’s Road to Healthville

Yesterday, I received a press announcement from the USDA with an invitation to join today’s press conference, “The Road to Healthville: Challenge to End Childhood Obesity.” The press release explains:

“This new approach represents a significant paradigm shift for USDA. For over 100 years USDA has been providing the public with nutritional guidance based on the latest science. However, as we know, waistlines have continued to expand over recent years…So what do we do in encourage healthy eating?

Dr. Brian Wansink, Executive Director of the USDA Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion, has introduced a completely new approach — in a word “reminders.” If the public were to get a prompt or cue throughout the day (where we purchase food, prepare food, work and play), a subtle or gentle reminder, people will begin to respond with improved eating habits. Further, if corporations were enlisted in this effort with their extensive reach into the market-place to provide MyPyramid-based messaging and product development, there is reason to believe that healthier eating patterns and lifestyles will be adopted.”

Kellogg is among the charter members.  Today’s Kellogg press release lists what the company promises to do.  Uh oh. It’s developing a curriculum for K through 8 school kids.  Want to bet that Kellogg’s logo will be prominently displayed?

Jun 9 2008

They’re rioting in Korea

More than 65,000 people in Seoul took to the streets to protest the South Korean government’s decision to allow imports of American beef. Why? Because we haven’t convinced them that our cattle do not have mad cow disease. Sunday, 40,000 rioted again. The issue has a long history rooted in distrust of America dating with our war with Korea in the early 1950s. It also has a lot to do with our less than stringent efforts to ensure that U.S. cattle do not have or get mad cow disease. The situation with Korea is a mess, and one likely to be difficult to clean up.

Jun 8 2008

Nebraska Beef makes you sick? Blame church ladies!

Here’s a good one. The ever vigilant Andrew Martin, a business reporter for the New York Times, writes that a meat-packing company, Nebraska Beef, is suing the Salem Lutheran Church in Longville, Minnesota, because the church ladies didn’t cook its meat well enough. It’s their fault 17 people at a church social got sick and one died. Never mind that that the same toxic strain of E. coli that made people sick could be traced to the Nebraska Beef slaughterhouse. Moral: it’s your own stupid fault if you don’t cook tainted meat long enough to sterilize it. Silly me: why do I keep thinking that meat should be safe before it gets to you? Let’s hope the courts hold Nebraska Beef plenty accountable for this incident.

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