Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Aug 13 2008

Whole Foods eats crow

Here’s a story for you. Whole Foods has just recalled ground beef contaminated with the toxic form of E. coli, 0157:H7. The company had had to go into full damage control. It needs to. The beef came from Coleman Natural, which used to take pride in the quality of its meat and its safety procedures. But Coleman was bought by Meyer Natural Angus last spring, and Meyer uses Nebraska Beef for processing. Nebraska Beef has a history of problems with E. coli 0157:H7. Whole Foods didn’t check. This is a fine mess, one that I attribute to the usual results of pressures on corporations to please their stockholders, never mind public health, but I am curious about one thing: What is Meyer Natural? Is it owned by another, larger company? If so, which?

Aug 12 2008

This is a test: find the calorie information

Thanks to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, for sending a link to the Center’s video on public understanding of brochures put out by fast food chains. This reminds me a lot of my screen debut in SuperSize Me! where Morgan Spurlock tries to find out if anyone can define calories.  I used to have a clip of it at, but it seems to have vanished.

Aug 9 2008


This must be my week for being asked about snack foods. The San Francisco Chronicle (see previous post) wanted to know about pizza? Eating Liberally wants to know about popcorn. Same question, same answer.

Aug 8 2008

FDA changes mind; says HFCS is natural after all

Try to get your mind around this one. To make high fructose corn syrup, it is necessary to (1) extract the starch from corn, (2) treat the starch with an enzyme to break it into glucose, and (3) treat the glucose with another enzyme to turn about half of it into fructose. OK class, explain how this can be considered natural? Answer: because the enzymes are fixed to a column and do not actually mix with the starch. Oh. So the FDA considers HFCS natural because Archer Daniels Midland and the Corn Refiners Association asked it to. Regime change, anyone?

Aug 7 2008

Monsanto to give up on rBGH!

After 20 years of controversy, Monsanto is looking for a buyer for recombinant bovine somatotropin, the growth hormone that increases milk production in dairy cows. How come? According to the New York Times, Monsanto says this has nothing to do with problems selling the hormone and didn’t say a word about consumer opposition. I think consumer opposition had plenty to do with this, don’t you?

Aug 6 2008


I figure I might as well have some fun with my new column in the San Francisco Chronicle. The column is a Q and A, and the first sets of Qs came from the editors. This one is about pizza, things. They tell me the next questions will come from readers, and the plan is to run the column once a month.

Aug 5 2008

CSPI’s new study on kids’ menus

Center for Science in the Public Interest has a new study out on the nutrient composition of kids’ meals in fast food restaurants. Of course they are all (OK, just 93%) too high in calories. Of course the default option includes sodas (Subway is the sole exception).  If calories were on menu boards, would parents think twice about ordering these things?  Might be worth a try, given that the average child under 18, or so reports USA Today, eats 167 meals a year in restaurants.

Aug 4 2008

Calorie labeling: it’s catching

As predicted, other cities and counties are following New York’s example and requiring calories to be listed on menu boards. The latest is Portland, which follows Seattle and San Francisco, if you are keeping score.  In Portland, 90 chains are involved so there will be plenty to talk about.  Who’s next?

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