The latest issue of US News and World Report has a neat article (in which I am quoted) with some interesting ideas about how restaurants can help customers cut calories. Would any of them work?
The Los Angeles County Public Health Division has produced a “health impact assessment” of how nutrition information on menus might affect customers’ ordering practices. The authors say that if 10% of customers reduce their caloric intake from restaurant meals by 100 calories a day, they would avert nearly 40% of the weight gain expected among Los Angeles residents. This is all theoretical, of course, but the hypothesis is testable – and New York City is doing the experiment. The NYC calorie labeling project is very much in the works. The city is starting to issue citations to non-compliers, even though the whole thing is still in litigation.
Oops. Note the comment from Christopher Jarosz, one of the authors of the study. On this model, it’s 100 calories twice a week (sorry about that and thanks for sending).
The rise in food prices is blamed on a perfect storm of three factors: high oil prices, food grown for biofuels, and rising demand for meat in developing countries, particularly India and China. Vandana Shiva takes exception to this last accusation. The “crisis” is one of the least attractive result of globalization and corporate control of the food supply, she argues. The Washington Post has been running an excellent series of articles. The Post adds a fourth factor: the serious drought in Australia caused by global warming. If you were wondering what was meant by “global food system,” here it is.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued an updated assessment of the benefits and risks of soy infant formulas. Its conclusion: soy formulas are fine for full-term infants and hardly ever cause problems but they also are hardly ever needed as a replacement for cow’s milk formulas. Never mind which is better. Breast feeding is still best of all.
I forgot to post the link to Eating Liberally’s last question (and my answer) about how agribusiness is influencing the current crisis over rising food prices. Here it is.
Politics, as they say, makes strange bedfellows. Today’s San Francisco Chronicle has the best article I’ve ever read on the farm bill, which is now making its way out of conference committees (see previous posts). Here’s how reporter Carolyn Lochhead starts out: “It is the rarest of moments. President Bush and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are on a collision course over a giant farm bill, but it is Bush who is broadly aligned with liberal Bay Area activists pushing for reform, while the San Francisco Democrat is protecting billions of dollars in subsidies to the richest farmers.” The interest groups slated to get pieces of this $300 billion chunk of taxpayer dollars dare not complain about it, out of fear that a more rational public policy would be worse for them. That’s politics for you, at its most raw.
I’m in the San Francisco Bay Area giving a bunch of talks. An agricultural engineer who works for USDA – and must have sneaked off work to come to one of them yesterday – tells me that if you look up the BART (Bay Area Rapid Transit) schedule, you get a message from Nestlé’s Nesquik “inviting all BART riders to take the Chocolate Line to their own Happy Place on Sunday, May 4, 2008.” Cartoon characters! Free rides for kids! Yummy marketing!
The Oakland Institute has issued a short and useful policy brief on the social and political impact of rising food prices. I’m on the road this week and regularly reading USA Today delivered to hotel rooms. Its story yesterday about bread shortages in Egypt is surely an indication of the need for deep policy analysis followed up by immediate policy action.