Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 29 2007

Today’s question: whole grains

Katherine asks about whole grains: “This whole argument makes my head hurt. As some one who is currently needing to make changes in their lifestyle, whether or not to include grains is a question for which I can find no clear answer on. Frankly at this point, I am just confused….”

I agree that the labeling is confusing but the dietary advice is pretty clear and well backed by research: whole grains are good to eat. Whole grain means just what it says–the entire seed of wheat, rice, or whatever. Whole grains contain all of the nutrients–vitamins, minerals, fiber, antioxidants–in the seed. Processing removes much of these, leaving just the calories and starch. So you want to look for 100% whole grain. I’m not aware of any controversy over the benefits of whole grains; the evidence for their nutritional benefits is quite strong. The arguments are about processed grains that have much of their nutritional value removed. Does that help?

Dec 28 2007

A new pyramid for older adults?

I’ve been hearing lots of media announcements of the food guide pyramid for old folks produced by Alice Lichtenstein and her colleagues who do research on aging at Tufts University. This one is for adults age 70 and over and is published in the January issue of the Journal of Nutrition. The press announcement from Tufts compares it to the USDA’s MyPyramid of 2005. The differences: even greater emphasis on eating healthfully and staying active (because older adults don’t need as many calories to maintain weight) and, maybe, some supplemental vitamin D (bone health) and vitamin B12 (to overcome losses in absorption ability).

Dec 27 2007

GMO corn in Europe?

Yesterday’s New York Times carried an excellent article about the fuss in Europe over genetically modified (GM) corn. Europe has managed to stave off the introduction of GM crops but is under huge pressure to accept them from the World Trade Organization and the U.S. The argument: Because GM crops are safe for people and the environment (a scientific issue), trade rules must apply. But, as the article quotes Benedikt Haerlin of Save Our Seeds, “Science is being utterly abused by all sides for nonscientific purposes…It would be helpful if all sides could be frank about their social, political, and economic agendas.” This precise point is the theme of my book Safe Food: Bacteria, Biotechnology, and Bioterrorism (UC Press, 2004), which despite its title is about the politics of food safety and biotechnology. Its conclusion: even if GM foods are safe, they are not necessarily acceptable.

Dec 26 2007

Another Coca-Cola Product: Simply Orange

Right after I put up the previous post about Coca-Cola’s new “pomegranate-blueberry” juice drink I saw the full-page, full-color ad in today’s New York Times, this one for Simply Apple, advertised as 100% pure-pressed apple juice (“never sweetened & never concentrated”). I don’t really know how much such ads cost but I know they cost enough so only really big companies can afford them (I’m guessing 80,000 more or less). But this ad provides no information about who owns the product other than some tiny print which says that Simply Apple is a trademark of the the Simply Orange Juice company. So I looked up Simply Orange; if its site gives a clue as to who owns it, I missed it. A Google search, however, produced entries from the ever-amazing Wikipedia as well as the company’s proud advertising company. These explain that Simply Orange is simply Minute Maid, and, therefore, simply Coca-Cola. I wonder why Simply Apple isn’t advertising its parentage?

Dec 26 2007

Coca-Cola’s new health drink?

Coca-Cola’s Christmas gift was a full-page, full-color ad in the December 25 New York Times announcing Minute Maid’s new “enhanced juice.” The label says “Omega-3/DHA HELP NOURISH YOUR BRAIN.” “POMEGRANATE, BLUEBERRY: FLAVORED BLEND OF 5 JUICES.” Curious to see what was in it, I checked the online label information. Surprise! The first two ingredients are Apple and Grape juices from concentrate. Pomegranate comes in at #3. #4 is mixed fruit and vegetable juices, #5 is blueberry juice, #6 is raspberry juice–all from concentrate. Then come #7 gum acacia and #8 DHA algal oil. Others ingredients follow, but never mind. Of course this drink will nourish your brain. It contains an ounce of sugars per 8-ounce serving (and the bottle contains 7 servings)!

Dec 25 2007

Santa is overweight. Merry Christmas anyway

The Los Angeles Times has an editorial on the distress in Great Britain about Santa’s never discussed weight problem. It’s worth reading for the comment about “the eternally erroneous Bill O’Reilly” alone. Its conclusion: “Trust us, Santa’s not to blame.” Merry Xmas to all and to all a good night!

Dec 24 2007

Happy holidays!

Eat well and enjoy!

Dec 22 2007

Chocolate price fixing?

Canada has just finished a big investigation of price fixing in the chocolate industry so it seems that we are doing that too.  We buy about $13 billion worth of chocolate a year and the industry is worried about prices because of the rising cost of commodities.  But price fixing?  That’s supposed to be illegal.

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