Nestle (No relation. I just can’t figure out how to enter the accent mark) has released its first report on corporate social and environmental responsibility. The report, Shared Value, available online in four languages, takes an interesting approach. It couples each of its social goals with the benefits to its business. Two examples: Reducing the environmental footprint and reducing our operating costs,” and “Helping farmers improve earnings and assuring our supply of raw materials.” What to make of this? This question is very much on my mind these days because I’ve been asked to write something addressing the question, “Is there anything the food industry can do to play a constructive role in doing something about childhood obesity?” Is there? I’m collecting opinions.
New York City’s calorie labeling proposal, ever mired in controversy (and still in the courts), has just produced its first casualty. David Allison, president-elect of The Obesity Society, has just announced that he is resigning his presidency. Members of the society, distressed that he worked as a paid expert for the State Restaurant Association while testifying in opposition to the ciry health department’s calorie labeling plan. Apparently, this was going too far even for a society that accepts one or two million a year from drug companies. Conflicts of interest galore!
Addition: Here’s what the New York Times says about all this.
This one got by me somehow but I’ve just gotten a notice that the Council is holding “listening sessions” in New York City on April 3 (this link is to a calendar of sessions for several state commissions; scroll down to the appropriate date to get the details). The Council is interested in hearing about “how to maximize participation in food and nutrition assistance programs, increase consumer awareness and knowledge about healthy eating, and improve access to safe and nutritious foods. Speakers get 3 minutes to discuss such matters. And here’s what the Council is about and who’s on it.
The USDA is gearing up to appoint a committee to re-do the next round of Dietary Guidelines for Americans in 2010. It looks like there will be a big push to make them “science-based” again (as if they weren’t always science-based). USDA is asking for help with the science and is recruiting volunteers to become “Nutrition Evidence Library Abstractors” who will read and write abstracts of scientific studies as the basis of the committee’s work. Sound like fun? Could be.
This week’s Eating Liberally’s Ask Marion question: Can Wal-Mart contribute to sustainability? It’s a stretch, but I tried to address the question.
Thanks to Dr. Freedhoff for passing along his Weighty Matters blog post about Voortman’s new Omega-3 Zeer-Oh cookies. He got them in Canada. Maybe we will get to have them here soon? OK, so sugar is the first ingredient. But they are “Zero grams trans fat!”
The Ask Marion question this week has to do with whether there is anything good about food biotechnology. This is a good week to ask since the industry’s genes have been leaking again, this time into corn that is not genetically modified. Apparently, according to Food Chemical News (and I do love the way these things are described) “Dow AgroSciences had earlier informed the agencies that it had detected extremely low levels of an unregistered plant-incorporated protectant (PIP), known as Event 32, in some Herculex RW and Herculex XTRA Rootworm Protection seed lines. Seed containing the PIP was inadvertently sold to farmers by Dow’s affiliate, Mycogen Seeds, and planted in 2006 and 2007.” Translation: The Mycogen Co. sold seeds containing an unapproved gene to be planted with conventional corn. Oops, and not the first time.
Obesity is more common in low-income areas. Why? It may seem intuitively obvious that lack of adequate income, transportation, cooking facilities, supermarkets, and opportunities for physical activity would make it difficult for people to eat healthfully and be active, but inituition is one thing and evidence is another. My NYU colleagues Jennifer Black and James Macinko now provide the evidence in a most useful review paper. Want to improve the “built environment”? This is a great starting place.