The FDA has just announced that it will be holding public hearings on November 29 to discuss issues related to salt labeling. Right now, the FDA considers salt Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS) for human consumption but petitions from Center for Science in the Public Interest and other groups are challenging that designation. Should the FDA instead regulate salt as a food additive? How could the FDA best use its regulatory authority to help Americans reduce their salt intake? Expect fireworks at this hearing as the various stakeholders–health advocates vs. industry–weigh in.
Evidence continues to accumulate, little bit by little bit, that fat-soluble antioxidants and antioxidant vitamins–in this case, lycopenes, lutein, and beta-carotene vs. vitamin E–interfere with each other’s absorption. Here’s the short description and here’s the original paper so you can see how the little bits accumulate. For me, the take-home lesson is easy: eat food, not supplements.
A new survey from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) finds “considerable improvements” in school food in recent years. In response to concerns about childhood obesity, schools are making changes in food availability and physical activity requirements. Well, maybe some schools. If you are an optimist, you will be cheered by what’s happening: nearly 30% of schools have banned junk foods from vending machines, when only 4% did so in 2000. If you are a pessimist, you will shudder to hear that soft drinks are still sold in 75% of high schools. And oh great: schools selling bottled water have grown from 30% to 46% (what ever happened to good, clean, free water?). The New York Times summary of the report is worth a look, as is the fact sheet from the CDC.
Food banks, according to the New York Times, are encountering “distressing trends.” They are overwhelmed with increasing demands but warehouses are empty. How did this happen? Food banks started as a way to help food companies dispose of excess inventory–almost out of date products, those slightly damaged, or otherwise unusable–and feed people in need of assistance. As inventory control methods have improved, companies have less to give away. And government donations for emergency food assistance also have declined. But wait! Is feeding the poor from these kinds of donations good public policy? Shouldn’t we have a better and more reliable system for making sure than no American goes hungry? Just asking…
I’ve just discovered Meat & Poultry, an excellent source of information about current recalls and other industry gossip. The site describes two new E. coli O157:H7 recalls, which now must be added to the “sudden spike” of 14 others this year. Are incidents and outbreaks increasing because the industry is getting sloppier, or is the surveillance system getting better? Whatever. If we had a farm-to-table food safety system, we might be able to answer this question and do something about it.
The USDA has just come out with a proposal for voluntary rules to govern use of the term “grass-fed” in marketing food animals. Reading Federal Register notices is always a lot of fun but if you don’t feel like wading through the fine print responses to comments on this issue, skip right to page 58637 and read the section titled “claim and standard.” As of November 15, if meat is labeled grass-fed, the animals have to have been fed grass, hay, and vitamin supplements. That’s all. No grain. As I read it, the animals don’t have to be outside grazing, but maybe I misunderstand? Check it out!
And here’s what the New York Times has to say about this rule.
My Eating Liberally question this week is about whether is makes sense to put cartoons on vegetable packages to encourage kids to eat more healthfully. I think not, of course, but here’s Disney doing just that. Is this a reasonable strategy? Weigh in please.