Here’s something worth reading: The Economist‘s take on food prices. This business magazine minces no words. The rise in prices is the result of “America’s reckless ethanol subsidies.” Higher food prices, it says, can do good or harm depending on how governments deal with them. The issues are complicated. This is one way to look at them. Are there others?
So ten big food companies have promised to stop marketing to kids under age 12. According to a report about this promise, its purpose is to head off a ban on marketing to kids throughout the European Union. Will they really do it? Will the E.U. fall for this ploy. Let’s all stay tuned.
I’ve been meaning to say something about all the new methods for distinguishing foods on the basis of nutritional criteria. Companies like PepsiCo (“Smart Spot”) and Kraft (“Sensible Solution”) put those labels on products that meet nutritional criteria set up by the companies themselves. These criteria usually let lots of the company’s products qualify for the label. Hannaford supermarkets got independent nutritionists to develop criteria. When they applied these criteria to 27,000 products in the stores, only 23% passed the lowest screen and 80% of these were fruits and vegetables in the produce section. Bottom line: the minute you start processing foods heavily, the nutritional values decline. So now some academics are developing quality indices of one kind or another. You can read about this in last week’s New York Times. My friend Phil Lempert (“the Supermarket Guru”) also weighs in on these methods. He thinks the criteria will help consumers make better choices. I think a “better” junk food is not necessarily better. What do you think?
The business section of Sunday’s New York Times reports counterintuitive research suggesting that locally grown foods may have a higher carbon footprint than foods transported from long distances. CSPI’s Integrity in Science project says the source of the research, University of California Davis’ program on sustainable agriculture gets industry funding, including a $250,000 grant from Campbell Soup. It’s not that food companies buy the research results they want. It’s just that groups that take industry money are more likely to come up with research favorable to the sponsor’s interests. Just a coincidence, I guess.
My previous post on bisphenol A linked to a National Toxicology Program giving this component of plastic water bottles a relatively clean bill of health. Now, Integrity in Science Watch (a branch of Center for Science in the Public Interest) reports that according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, the science behind this report is industry-sponsored as the final report relied more on industry-funded studies than on those conducted by independent researchers. When reviewing studies of controversial topics, it’s always a good idea to check who sponsored the research.
The Public Health Advocacy Institute has produced “Mapping School Food: A Policy Guide“for anyone who thinks school food needs fixing. As they put it, the Guide provides “tools to help advocates find answers, resolve conflicts, and build consensus for improving school food in their community.” Sounds useful, no? Enjoy and use!
The USDA makes data on farm households and the economics of farming readily available. You can even get the numbers you need by state. A handy resource, no?