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.
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.
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:
Dr. Brian Wansink, Executive Director of the
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?
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.
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.
Thanks to Susan Schneider, who writes a blog on agricultural law (now added to my blogroll), for alerting me to her post about the Tyson’s antibiotic-free claim on the labels of its antibiotic-treated chickens. This is a good story–one of the usual deceit and denial–and she tells it well. Enjoy?
The emergency meeting of world leaders to discuss the global food crisis foundered when each country focused on its own own needs and political problems. As the New York Times explained, “everyone complained about other people’s protectionism–and defended their own.” In the meantime, food has become a hot commodity for investment speculation, and Monsanto says it will solve the crisis through genetic modification (rising food prices did wonders for the company’s stock in the last year). The need for enlightened leadership seems especially acute these days, alas.
So now tomatoes are contaminated with Salmonella, this time with the uncommon serotype, Saintpaul, and the FDA says not to eat tomatoes from a bunch of states in the Southwest. But the New Mexico government says the contaminated tomatoes come from Mexico. If this is correct, it’s globalization time again. The FDA notes that tomatoes from everywhere are now coming into harvest. That is why, in 2007, the agency started a “tomato safety initiative” to get growers to take action to prevent Salmonella contamination. Initiatives are voluntary, here and in Mexico. Surely, it is time for mandatory? And mandatory import inspections? Michael Doyle, a food safety expert based at the University of Georgia, says globalization raises food safety risks. This may seem evident, but I like his quote: “It is the industry that is responsible for producing safe foods. It is the government’s responsibility to verify that they are producing safe foods.”
As for the perspective of strong supporters of the produce industry, check out what the Perishable Pundit has to say about the way the FDA is handling this incident. What he calls the “gracious” comments of California tomato growers are also worth a look.