Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jun 8 2008

Tyson’s antibiotic-free ploy, checkmated

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?

Jun 7 2008

World food crisis, continued

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.

Jun 6 2008

Food safety: this time, tomatoes

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.

Jun 5 2008

European Commission dietary recommendations: Fox guarding chickens?

I’d been hearing rumors about how the the European Commission is spending $20 million  to develop dietary recommendations and food standards that will apply to all EU member states.  I now have some confirmation of them through the British magazine, Private Eye (May 30, 2008).   The project, called EURRECA, will be conducted by a bunch of universities but the overall management is going to be through the European branch of the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI), “a front for the food and bioscience industry.” ILSI is funded by Coca-Cola, McDonald’s, Bayer CropScience, and Monsanto, among other such entities.  So $20 million in taxpayer dollars will be  laundered through a food and agbiotech front group.  Private Eye says that it eagerly awaits “EURRECA’s no doubt scientifically rigorous and untirely unbiased conclusions.”

I could do this for a lot less than $20 million, but nobody asked me, alas.

Jun 4 2008

the first anniversary!

I was on my way to Copenhagen last week on the first anniversary of this blog so I’ve only just remembered it. Here’s the first post from a year ago. Thanks to all of you who have been reading and commenting throughout the year. It’s been fun (and instructive) to hear from you.

I’ll report on the Nordic nutrition meetings in the next post.

Jun 4 2008

Pray for a healthy weight?

The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation is seeking proposals for faith-based advocacy efforts to prevent childhood obesity.  Have any good ideas?  Apply!

Jun 3 2008

Today’s question: vegan diets

Stan writes of a previous post: “Why does this seem to be the only post I can find from you where you seem to say anything positive about a vegan diet? It seems that something like a whole food, locally grown vegan diet would be just about ideal nutritionally and environmentally as long as you get a bit of sun, maybe a little flax, and eat something with smidgen of B-12. What am I missing?”

I’m happy to comment on vegan diets, especially now that Oprah Winfrey has gone on one for 21 days–apparently a major big deal among bloggers. I don’t discuss them much because they don’t seem like a major big deal to me. I think Stan has it and isn’t missing a thing. I’m not a vegan myself – I like yogurt, cheese, and naturally raised meat – but I think vegan diets are just fine and I’m amused by rumors that Oprah is actually enjoying the experience. Surprise: vegan diets can taste good!

Jun 2 2008

Wonderful Copenhagen!

I’m in Copenhagen this week at the Nordic Nutrition meetings and did my usual tourist thing. I went to supermarkets to check out the products and the health claims. What a disappointment. Denmark doesn’t allow health claims, or at least not many. In Denmark, food is just food. I couldn’t find a mention of vitamins (the Danes don’t permit vitamin or mineral fortification except for iodine in salt), omega-3’s, antioxidants, or cholesterol-lowering, and the breakfast cereal aisle was scanty and only a few packages had cartoons.  But this peaceful situation will not last much longer. The E.U. rules are coming and with them will come health claims and all the marketing hype and confusion that inevitably accompany them. Too bad.

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