Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jan 8 2008

Chocolate health claims: an explanation?

A comment on the previous post about chocolate asks why chocolate manufacturers think they have to put health claims on candy.  The simple answer is that health claims are the only things that sell food these days.  And chocolate candy is in trouble–you aren’t eating enough of it to keep these corporations growing fast enough.  And on top of all that, the companies are all being sued for price fixing which, alas, is illegal. Health claims are an “eat more” marketing strategy.  I think health claims–all of them–should be illegal.  That isn’t going to happen but we could make our displeasure with such misleading marketing known to the companies.

Jan 7 2008

Bananas are low fat!

Thanks to Kerry Trueman for sharp eyed reading of the latest in banana advertising (do bananas need this?). Check the sticker she found on a Chiquita banana. Aren’t you happy to know this? Haven’t you been buying enough bananas lately? Here it is:

Here it is:

Jan 7 2008

What nerve! Benefits of chocolate questioned

Food Production Daily, my source of much interesting information about European production of functional foods, today reveals the bitter truth about chocolate. It quotes an article in The Lancet revealing that most of the beneficial antioxidants in cocoa are removed during processing. But a spokesperson for the chocolate industry says (my emphasis): “Anyone already on a healthy and balanced diet should be able to indulge occasionally in one or two squares of dark chocolate and benefit from a few health benefits as well.”

But of course. As I am always saying, promoting the health benefits of chocolate is about marketing, not health.

Jan 5 2008

Physical Activity is Increasing! (?)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says physical activity is increasing among U.S. adults. At least that’s what U.S. adults say they are doing. It’s almost as hard to get good information about activity as it is to get information about diet. The latest results could be true. They are consistent with some studies, but not others. If so, it’s good news but doesn’t this mean that weight gain must be due to overeating, not to too little activity (at least across the population)?

Jan 5 2008

The best functional drink ever?

I am indebted to OrangeClouds115 who writes a diary for the Daily Kos (here’s an example) for telling me about Function drinks, this one called “House Call.” The Function website says: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away? The docs at Function think that’s slightly rude.” House Call keeps the doctor away? Um, maybe not. Orangeclouds115 reports: “You should see the ingredients. It’s sugar water. They sell 4 for $5.” As I say in What to Eat, functional foods are about marketing; they are not about health.  Alas.

Jan 4 2008

FDA to OK cloned animals for food?

According to rumors, the FDA is about to approve the use of cloned animals for food. The rumors originate from the Wall Street Journal, which warns everyone to “get ready for a food fight over milk and meat from cloned animals and their offspring.” When it first approved cloned animals, the FDA asked producers of the cloned animals not to do this until consumers got used to the idea: “we are continuing to ask producers of clones and livestock breeders to voluntarily refrain from introducing food products from these animals into commerce so that we will have the opportunity to consider the public’s comments and to issue any final documents as warranted.” I guess they’ve done that and the time has come?

Jan 4 2008

Stevia is coming (maybe)

Coca-Cola and Cargill have teamed up to start marketing the sweetener, Stevia, in countries that allow it, places like Brazil and China. Europe and the U.S. do not allow it as a food additive although the U.S. permits its use as a dietary supplement. The FDA says companies have not produced evidence that the substance is safe; it considers Stevia an “unsafe food additive” and any product containing it to be adulterated. The entry on Stevia in Wikipedia explains most of what all this is about. Concerns about the safety of Stevia have not stopped Coca-Cola from filing 24 patent applications or petitioning the FDA for approval. Interesting, no?

Jan 3 2008

Michael Pollan’s new book

On Eating Liberally’s “Let’s Ask Marion” this week, I discuss Michael Pollan’s new book, In Defense of Food, his gift to the new year.  Enjoy!

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