Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 24 2008

Pet food recall settlement: $24 million

The class action lawsuits filed as a result of the pet food recalls last year are inching toward settlement. A judge in New Jersey consolidated 120 cases and awarded the plaintiffs $24 million to cover documented expenses related to the illness, death, or burial of their dogs and cats. But what about for emotional damages? The answer is uncertain and probably won’t be known until the settlement wends its way through the U.S. and Canadian courts, which still have to approve the whole thing.

I’m happy that the announcement came when it did because my book on the recall goes to press next week and I got to squeeze in a last entry to my timeline of the events: “May 22: Menu Foods settles class-action lawsuits for $24 million.”

And here’s a video report on how the recalls affected pet owners.   And here’s another one.

May 23 2008

The “verb” campaign, analyzed

In 2001, Congress gave $125 million (a fortune!) to the CDC to develop a marketing program to encourage kids to be more active. The result was VERB (run, jump, dance, play, etc). I was dubious (I thought it was great that the CDC was teaching kids the parts of speech) but lo and behold: while the money poured in, VERB worked. But the funding stopped and the program is now history, and written history at that. Everything about it, from theoretical model to results to interpretation, is now summarized in a supplement to the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. The overview paper is a good place to start. Encouraging more physical activity is politically neutral; everyone thinks it would be great if everybody “moved more.” So how about giving CDC the funds to see if its program wizards can do the same with “eat less,” particularly of soft drinks and junk foods. Any chance for that happening?

May 22 2008

Baskin-Robbins’ Heath Bar shake: yum?

Thanks to Hugh Joseph for alerting me to this remarkable beverage from Baskin-Robbins: a large “Heath Shake.” This energy drink weighs in at 2310 calories and, according to his count (I didn’t bother), 73 ingredients! Unless this is a joke? I can never tell with the Internet…

May 21 2008

Carl Warner’s food art, explained

Thanks to “babka101″ for sending this link to the landscapes constructed of food and photographed by Carl Warner. This slide show comes with explanations of how he did it.

May 21 2008

Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s anti-obesity efforts

If you would like to know what the RWJ Foundation is doing to help prevent childhood obesity, here’s a quick summary of the projects it has funded over the past few years. These have helped get the word out. They also established a baseline for actions to come.

The Foundation is now accepting applications for two kinds of proposals aimed at obesity prevention in low-income communities:  Evaluations of immediate changes in policies or  environments (e.g., an evaluation of calorie labeling), and studies that can provide a basis for policy analysis (these are loosely defined).  Ideas?  Send them in!

May 20 2008

The Washington Post’s series on childhood obesity

My mailbox is flooded this week with notices about the Washington Post’s front-page series on childhood obesity, in so many parts that it’s hard to keep up with. The series will run all week, apparently. Here’s are the starter links for the multiple stories on Sunday, May 18, for those on Monday, May 19, and for those on Tuesday, May 20. I’ll add the others later, but you have to scroll around to find all the parts. One, well hidden, was sent to me by Mike Pertschuk, who was the head of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in 1978 when it tried to regulate food marketing to kids. One reason his efforts failed was opposition from the Washington Post. Here is its 1978 editorial ridiculing the FTC for even suggesting that food marketing might have something to do with childhood obesity. Times have changed and let’s hope the FTC has another chance to deal with this question.

Here’s the link to Wednesday, May 21And the one to Thursday, May 22.

May 19 2008

Organic infant formula with sucrose: an oxymoron?

The New York Times reports that the organic version of Similac infant formula is made with organic cane juice – sucrose – not lactose (milk sugar). Sucrose is sweeter than lactose; infants love it. Sucrose encourages infants to drink more formula and could promote weight gain.

But the goal of formula companies is to sell as much formula as possible. Because the number of formula-drinking babies is small and fixed, they either have to expand the number of mothers who use formula (rather than breast feed), or encourage infants to drink more. Either approach raises ethical issues. But why else would Abbott Labs, the maker of Similac, put sucrose in formula and organic formula at that? Can’t the company find a source for organic lactose? Is organic cane juice cheaper? And try this for a price comparison: at my local Duane Reade, organic Similac is nearly $31 per can, whereas Earth’s Best is just $26. This makes Earth’s Best a much better buy, especially because it uses organic lactose. Sucrose in infant formula? That’s one more good reason to breast feed.

May 18 2008

Rising food prices: waste or deeper reasons?

Joachim von Braun, the director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington DC, explained the reasons behind rising food prices to the State Department on May 6. His powerpoint presentation, (sent to me by a colleague) cites three reasons: high demand, high energy costs, and misguided policies, among them growing food for biofuels and–a new one–neglect of agricultural investment. Keith Bradsher and Andrew Martin provide evidence for this last suggestion with an article about how the lack of investment in rice research is hurting the Philippines. Andrew Martin writes in the New York Times about the extraordinary amount of food Americans waste every day–roughly one pound of food per person per day. He cites an estimate from the USDA that recovery of just one-fourth of the waste could feed 20, million people a day. The proverbial food for thought?

Page 227 of 284« First...225226227228229...Last »