Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Aug 29 2008

Slow Food Nation!

I am at the huge Slow Food Nation event in San Francisco and took part last night in the reading of the Slow Food Declaration for a Healthy Food and Agriculture Policy, now collecting signatures online as well as open for discussion.  Raj Patel, author of Stuffed and Starved, has some especially interesting comments on his worth-reading blog on the event.

Aug 28 2008

Bisphenol A is OK, says FDA

According to Food Chemical News, the FDA has just released a report exonerating bisphenol A from causing harm from the small amount that leaches from plastic bottles into what you and babies are drinking. I can’t find the report online but I will be most interested to see what it says. I hope the science is sound and the FDA’s assessment makes sense.

And here is the actual FDA report, so you can decide for yourself.

Aug 26 2008

Canada has its own problems with food safety

The New York Times (August 23) reports a third death in Canada linked to cold cuts contaminated with Listeria, along with another 17 or more cases of illness. Nothing unusual here except for this statement: “The outbreak came as Canada’s Conservative government was considering a controversial plan to transfer all or some of the responsibility for food inspection to the food industry.” I hope they are kidding. Fox guarding chickens, anyone?

As of today, it’s 12 deaths and 26 confirmed cases with a bunch more under investigation.

Aug 25 2008

USDA releases report on school lunch program

The USDA has just published an analysis of its school lunch program. Among other useful information–the history, funding, etc–this report asks an interesting and pointed question: Does the school lunch program promote obesity in order to support industrial agriculture? The answer: it just might. This is a must-read for anyone interested in doing anything to make school lunches better for health and the environment.

And here’s a commentary in the San Francsico Chronicle from some folks on the front line of school lunches in the San Francisco Bay area.  Even a little more money would go a long way.

Aug 23 2008

Pet Food Politics is out!

I am off to California for Slow Food Nation and the launch of Pet Food Politics. The events start with readings at pet food stores, Holistic Hound in Berkeley (Sunday, 4:00 p.m.) and Noe Valley Pet Co. in San Francisco (Monday, 6:00 p.m.). Others are listed under Public Appearances. I’ve never done readings in pet food stores before, so this should be fun. Stay tuned.

Aug 22 2008

Europe hangs tough on health claims

According to Food Chemical News (I am hoping this link works), the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has just rejected 7 or 8 health claims proposed by food companies for marketing purposes.  It looks like EFSA–what a concept–is trying to hold health claims to some reasonable level of scientific substantiation.  It turned down petitions from a company wanting to advertise a soy and flaxweed product as “induces bone formation and increases bone mineral density,” and the National Dairy Council of Ireland which proposed that three dairy servings a day promoted healthy weight during childhood and adolescence.  Although it agreed that Unilever could claim that plant sterols lowered blood cholesterol,” it took out the words “significantly” and “is proven.”  Food Chemical News says these decisions sent “shockwaves through the food industry.” I’ll bet.

Aug 21 2008

Goodie! Irradiated spinach!

The FDA has just sent me its latest Constituent Update. This one announces that the FDA has approved a petition from the Grocery Manufacturers Association on behalf of the Food Irradiation Coalition (guess what that is) to allow irradiation of fresh iceberg lettuce and spinach. Never mind insisting that producers and packers produce safe produce, let’s just zap it! The FDA is collecting comments on this dubious initiative, and it must know what to expect: “Electronic objections may be submitted to the Federal eRulemaking Portal at”

If you do weigh in, be sure to refer to Docket No. FDA-1999-F-2405 (formerly 1999F-5522). The request for comment isn’t posted yet, but presumably will be soon at the Constituent Update site.

And here’s what the European food industry community has to say about this.

Aug 20 2008

Industry funding has no effect on research quality!

I love the way sponsored science works. We now have data claiming that there is no difference in the quality of controlled clinical weight loss trials whether they are funded by industry or independently. The senior author on this comparative study is the very same person who was relieved of his responsibilities as head of a national obesity society because he wrote a letter opposing calorie labeling without disclosing that he was paid to do it (see previous post on this topic).  NIH paid for this study in part (the other parts aren’t attributed).  For this study, as the paper says, “Ethical approval is not required.”

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