Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 11 2008

Nestlé (the company, not me) joins the pledge

The Nestlé (no relation to me company is pledging to restrict its marketing to children to products that meet industry-wide nutritional criteria.  This is a small step in the right direction but suffers from the same problems that beset all such initiatives: the nutritional criteria are established to permit lots of a company’s products to qualify, and not much accountability is built into the system.  Will efforts like this do any good?  We will have to wait and see.

Dec 10 2008

Michael Pollan talks to Bill Moyers

Here is Bill Moyer’s recent interview with Michael Pollan, talking about what the new president can and cannot do for American agriculture.  Worth a look.

http://www.pbs.org/moyers/journal/11282008/profile.html

12/11 update: Take a look at today’s New York Times where Nicholas Kristof enthusiastically supports the idea that Obama should appoint a “Secretary of Food.”

Dec 9 2008

British Medical Journal weighs in on calorie labeling

The BMJ has an interesting editorial this week about American calorie labeling (disclosure: I was interviewed for it).  Maybe Great Britain will do this too?

Dec 8 2008

Revolving door: USDA –> NRA

I love keeping track of the revolving door between government food agencies and the food industry.  Thanks to Food Chemical News for this latest example: Beth Johnson, interim undersecretary for food safety at USDA, resigned today to take a position as executive vice president of public affairs at the National Restaurant Association.

Let’s wish her well on the new job and hope she helps restaurant owners stay out of food safety troubles.

Dec 7 2008

The Burger King “Whopper Virgins” commercials (sigh)

I’m deluged with messages about Burger King’s “Whopper Virgin” commercials and requests to comment on them.  What could Burger King’s PR people be thinking?  Probably that if they produced something outrageous, everyone would write about it, as I am now doing.  Burger King spent a fortune to go to the ends of the earth and ask people who supposedly had never eaten a hamburger before whether they preferred a Whopper to some other unnamed hamburger.  The results are to be announced tomorrow (Monday).  Want to hazard a guess as to how this brilliant study will come out?

It’s hard to know what’s worse: the poor quality of the sponsored science, the offensiveness of the “Whopper Virgin” concept, or the condescension to the people living in those remote areas.   As they say in PR, ink is ink.

December 9 Update:  Guess which one won.

Dec 6 2008

GAO says GM foods need better regulation

In a new report, the watchdog Government Accountability Office reviews six incidents in which genetically modified foods got into places they weren’t supposed to be.  GAO concludes that when it comes to GM foods, the USDA, FDA, and EPA need to do a better job of communicating, coordinating, and acting more transparently.  Will this report do any good?  Let’s hope.

Dec 5 2008

Animal agriculture and climate change

The effects of agriculture on climate change are not something I’ve written much about, mainly because I don’t know how to evaluate the assumptions involved in assessing the effects.   Different assumptions lead to different conclusions.  But if we are going to develop agricultural systems that are truly sustainable, they will have to keep greenhouse gas emissions to a minimum.  Yesterday’s New York Times lays out the issues pretty well.  If its analysis is correct, we all need to be eating a lot less meat.  In any case, this seems like a good place to start the conversation.

Dec 3 2008

Deli chain bans HFCS

Food Chemical News (December 1) reports that Jason’s Deli, which has more than 200 outlets throughout the U.S., is banning high fructose corn syrup from all its products as well as trying to figure out how to get it out of soft drinks.  Apparently, the chain polled customers and 65% (of nearly 3,000) said they wanted it gone.  A spokesman for the chain said they consider pure cane syrup and sugar to be “more real and…not as processed or fooled with as high-fructose corn syrup.”  Maybe, but they have the same number of calories and the same effects in the body!

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