Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 22 2007

Organic mushrooms?

Today’s question: “How important is it to select organic mushrooms?  Any specific risks to conventional versus organic?

My immediate thought is that mushrooms are no different than any other vegetable.  Organics have fewer pesticides and a good chance of tasting better. But I don’t know anything more specific.  Anyone else want to weigh in on this?

Dec 22 2007

Top Health Stories of 2008

It’s the end of the year and Reuters is making predictions about the top health stories of 2008. We must be on the same page. Most of them are issues discussed here. In order: the push for raw milk, melting fat (with injections of something supposed to get rid of body fat? I think I may have to miss that one), the farm bill, defining natural, problems with food labels, Michael Pollan (a story in himself!), the end of cheap food, and the need to fix the FDA and USDA. Sounds a lot like 2007…

Dec 22 2007

Correction: Herbal supplements and irradiation

Oops. I owe the American Herbal Products Association an apology for my previous post about its position on irradiation, which I got completely backwards. As Rebecca correctly points out, the AHPA has asked the FDA to deny a petition to allow herbal supplements to be irradiated. Its arguments against this use of irradiation are thoughtful and compelling: the proposed doses of radiation are higher than used on other foods; current good manufacturing practices will keep contaminants under control and irradiation will mask breaches in those practices; and “the United States will become the dumping ground for poor quality herbal ingredients from around the world, since irradiation of herbal ingredients is not permitted in many countries.”  Let’s hope the FDA turns down the petition and accepts the AHPA’s arguments.  And please accept my apologies.

Dec 21 2007

Fresh basil recall: two sides to the story

I seem to be on an e-mail list for The Perishable Pundit who writes about happenings in the produce industry. Today’s posting has an interview with someone on the receiving end of an FDA request for a voluntary recall of fresh basil contaminated with Salmonella. The FDA found the Salmonella in routine testing, but what happens next must be frustrating for all concerned. It’s an interesting object lesson in why we need farm-to-table food safety procedures so companies do their own testing and this sort of mess doesn’t happen. In the meantime, watch out for fresh basil.

Dec 21 2007

Eating Liberally again

Here’s the latest posting, this one on what it will take to get kids to eat better.

Dec 21 2007

NYC Health Department tells all

The New York City health department has just released a summary report on what it does. It’s hard to read online (light blue and red print) but it does have a section on what the department is doing about obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But nothing is in the table of contents about the calorie-labeling initiative, probably because that plan is still under litigation. If you want to know more about public health in NYC, this is a good place to start.

Dec 20 2007

Does calcium work?

A new analysis of all kinds of studies on the use of calcium to prevent fractures is just out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results? “calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women or men…[results] show no reduction in hip fracture risk with calcium supplementation, and an increased risk is possible.” It sure would be nice if it were that easy to prevent fractures but bone strength requires a good diet containing ALL nutrients, not just calcium (with or without vitamin D), as well as plenty of physical activity, so these results should not come as a surprise. The bottom line: eat healthfully and move!

Dec 19 2007

4-star calories

If the previous post was about taking off fat, this one is about putting it on. Ray Sokolov, a former editor and food writer for the Wall Street Journal, had some fun with the USDA’s food composition data base (click on Search and take it from there). He estimated the calories in a main course from Mario Batali’s Babbo and Thomas Keller’s Per Se. I doubt the comparison is fair, but it sure is fun. Guess which one had the most!

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