Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 31 2008

Organic standards for fish: postponed

As I explain in What to Eat, USDA’s National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) can’t figure out what to do about certifying fish as organic.  Organics are about production methods.  Wild fish eat whatever, wherever, and their production is uncontrolled.  Farm fish are fed whatever.  According to Food Chemical News (June 2), the NOSB held hearings on the use of fish meal and fish oil in organic aquaculture last month and postponed a decision until fall.  The issue:  is it OK for farmed salmon to “eat meal and oil derived from carcasses, viscera and trimmings from processed wild caught fish certified as ‘organic’ by foreign suppliers,”  when there are no U.S. standards for such certification.   I’d say no.  How about you?

May 30 2008

USDA’s corporate challenge: the road to healthville?

I’ve just gotten a press release from the USDA announcing its “road to healthville” challenge. On June 10, the USDA will hold a multi-media event featuring “dozens of some of the Nation’s leading corporations stepping forward to help stem the tide of overweight and obesity among America’s young people with specific new, out-of-the-box initiatives. The program will be hosted by CNPP Executive Director Dr. Brian Wansink.”  I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to see what food corporations will come up with.  Why am I thinking that out-of-the-box will not include stop marketing junk foods to kids, let alone making them.

May 29 2008

And now, healthy Kool-Aid

Thanks to Michele Simon for sending this link to an AOL deadpan description of how companies are making healthier junk food. Those of us who think “healthier junk food” is an oxymoron wonder how the addition of vitamin E to Kool-Aid is going to do much good for anyone but Kraft must think it will entice you to buy it. Water, anyone?

May 28 2008

Childhood obesity: no longer a problem?

In what the New York Times today calls a “hint of hope,” the CDC reports that rates of childhood obesity among American children haven’t budged since 1999 (well, maybe except for Hispanic boys and non-Hispanic black girls). As the accompanying JAMA editorial makes clear, the favorable trends still leave plenty of work to do; the rise in childhood obesity that started in the late 1970’s and early 1980’s, has not declined and pediatricians are still seeing more young people with chronic disease risk factors than they used to. And then there are those troubling racial and ethnic disparities….

May 27 2008

Food safety politics again

Here’s a useful post from Science Progress (in which I am quoted) on the push to fix the U.S. food safety system by creating a single food safety agency. It comes with an instructive diagram of the various agencies now involved–this alone is a good reason why the system needs a fix.  Science Progress is a project of the Center for American Progress, of which I had not heard until now.

May 27 2008

Uh oh. New Zealand tests label claims

New Zealand food packages are covered with nutrition and health claims just like ours, but the food agency only began allowing them a few years ago. The agency thought it might be interesting to find out whether the packages really contained the levels of vitamins and minerals claimed on the labels. Oops. Turns out that 58% did not. They either had too little (15%) or too much (42%). The excuses: built-in safety margins, hard-to-mix ingredients, unstable vitamins, uncertain analytic methods. The FDA hasn’t done one of these investigations in a long time, as far as I know. I wonder what it would find if it did?

May 26 2008

Movie tickets: an indicator of the food economy?

Movie tickets are expected to rise by 30% this year, says the May 19 Advertising Age. Why? Popcorn, of all things. The price of popcorn is rising; popcorn accounts for 45% of movie concession sales; and concession sales account for 25% of movie theater revenues on average and 40% of the revenues at smaller ones. This year’s popcorn crop is down 10% because of the corn-for-ethanol fiasco, and the price of cooking oil is up by 24%. Oh. And the paper tubs now cost more than the popcorn itself. Who knew?

May 24 2008

Pet food recall settlement: $24 million

The class action lawsuits filed as a result of the pet food recalls last year are inching toward settlement. A judge in New Jersey consolidated 120 cases and awarded the plaintiffs $24 million to cover documented expenses related to the illness, death, or burial of their dogs and cats. But what about for emotional damages? The answer is uncertain and probably won’t be known until the settlement wends its way through the U.S. and Canadian courts, which still have to approve the whole thing.

I’m happy that the announcement came when it did because my book on the recall goes to press next week and I got to squeeze in a last entry to my timeline of the events: “May 22: Menu Foods settles class-action lawsuits for $24 million.”

And here’s a video report on how the recalls affected pet owners.   And here’s another one.

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