Lots of states are passing laws to try to improve the food environment for kids–schools, marketing, vending, physical activity, farmers’ markets, and lots of other ideas. I can’t keep track of them. Fortunately, other people can and are writing about what they find. Here’s one such paper, sent to me by Joel Moskowitz of UC Berkeley’s Center for Family and Community Health. It’s a good place to start if you are wondering whether the environment has anything to do with childhood obesity and, if so, what the legal system can do about it.
Thanks to Pam Wunder for sending the link to an investigative report on Monsanto’s genetically engineered crops. Made by the French journalist and filmmaker, Marie-Monique Robin, it aired March 11 on ARTE, a French-German cultural TV channel. It gives a decidedly European and international perspective on the pros and cons (mostly cons) of GM foods and requires a bit of a commitment to watch as it is nearly 2 hours long. If this sort of thing interests you, by all means take a look if you can (the video does not seem to be available sometimes).
The CDC has just released its latest report on cases of illness due to eating contaminated food in the ten states it uses to track such information. The bottom line: there was some progress prior to 2004 but not much progress since then. Worse, toxic cases of E. coli are increasing. The CDC says you should be following standard food-safety procedures. Of course you should. But how come the CDC isn’t pushing companies to produce safer foods in the first place!
So the British food industry has this brilliant idea: let’s ask kids what they like to eat. And, presumably, give it to them. The plan is to host a one-day conference for this purpose. I’m truly astonished. I thought food companies already invested fortunes in finding out what kids like. Junk food, mostly. So let’s give them credit for at least raising the possibility of healthier options. I, of course, have this old-fashioned idea that kids don’t innately know what’s good for them and should only be offered healthy foods, which won’t help food companies much.
Mary Story, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has done terrific work on revealing the extent of food marketing to children, gave the first annual Michael & Susan Dell Distinguished Lecture in child health at the University of Texas School of Public Health in Austin, just a year ago on April 13, 2007. But now her slides – full of interesting tidbits and data - are online for viewing and well worth a look.
Thanks to Hugh Joseph for forwarding this Brandweek article about Fiji water with a subject line saying, “You could never make this up.” Fiji Water, it seems, has a new $10 million ad “carbon negative, globally positive” campaign to explain its carbon neutrality. Hmmm. The last I heard, Fiji was about 8,000 food miles away and plastic bottles were causing all kinds of environmental problems.
And now it seems that plastic bottles are also causing health problems, particularly from leaching of the endocrine disrupter, bisphenol A. Canada is all set to ban this chemical in general and has just banned it from baby bottles. The FDA is under pressure to do the same or at least set limits for it. And Nalgene says it won’t use it anymore.
Maybe Fiji Water bottles don’t use polycarbonate plastics (with bisphenol A) but it looks like any bottled water needs some re-thinking, no?
Thanks to Eric Colchimaro for sending links to two stories about the effects of rising food prices. One is about the food riots occurring worldwide , a story continued in the New York Times on April 18: “the worst crisis of its kind in more than 30 years,” or what the Chicago Tribune calls a “crime against humanity.” And now The Economist (April 19-25) says the era of cheap food is over, reviews the political risks this entails – food riots, to begin with – and calls the current food crisis “the silent tsunami.”
Eric’s second link brings it home; it’s a Washington Post story about the awful problems higher food costs are causing for U.S. school lunch programs. They are hitting home in other ways. Restaurant sales are down and the costs of making pizza are rising. Dollar menus at fast food chains are up – they account for 15% of sales at Burger King and give so little return that they are putting some outlets into bankruptcy, according to Advertising Age (March 31). A story in today’s New York Times talks about the sticker shock in the organic aisles. The fallout from rising oil prices, rising grain demands, and use of grains for biofuels gets worse every day. How do we get reverse this? Extricating from Iraq might help as would more enlightened energy and farm policies. Ideas, anyone? In any case, I’m going to keeping an eye on the effects of rising food prices. My guess is they won’t be good. I hope I’m wrong.