Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 2 2007

Have any ideas for those pesky Daily Values on food labels?

The FDA has just announced that it will be revisiting the Daily Values on food labels so here’s your chance to weigh in on whether you think they are good, bad, or indifferent in helping people decide whether a food product is worth eating. These, of course, are complicated. Lower is better for saturated fat and sodium, but higher is better for fiber and vitamins. Is there a better way to do this? Now is the time to state your opinion to the FDA. How? Submit comments according to these instructions.

Nov 2 2007

Another E. coli recall: this time, frozen pizzas

Would you believe 5 million pizzas? 5 million! That’s a lot of pepperoni.

I’ll say it again: how bad does it have to get? We know how to produce safe food. If companies aren’t producing safe food, it’s because they are leaving it up to customers to cook foods properly, cutting corners, or just don’t care–and because nobody is making them. I’ll say it again: How bad does it have to get to get Congress to call for a farm-to-table food safety system in this country, one that requires companies to follow standard food safety procedures, test to make sure they are working, and pay dearly if they are not.

Nov 2 2007

The revolving door: better than ever!

Such things never cease to amaze. The Grocery Manufacturers of America, a lobbying and trade organization for the retail food industry, has just recruited Robert Brackett as its new senior vice president in charge of regulatory affairs. And who could possibly be better qualified. To take this job, Mr. Brackett will be leaving his position as director of the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, the part of FDA that deals with food issues. I hope they are paying him tons of money.

Oct 31 2007

Happy Halloween (the silly season)!

As a nutritionist, I often get asked what to do about treats on Halloween. I’m not the only one, and see what the New York Times did with our responses today. If you can’t bear to give kids candy, how about a small toy? Otherwise, just enjoy!

Oct 31 2007

The Canadian Heart Foundation pushes junk food too

Thanks to Yoni Freedhoff, a physician in Canada, for sending his blog notice about an alliance between the Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation and Disney to market food products. Take a look at the foods the Foundation is endorsing. This reminds me of similar alliances between the American Heart Association and sugary cereals. The American Diabetes Association used too have a deal like that with Post Cereals, but stopped doing that after Jane Brody wrote about it in the New York Times (I discuss these alliances in What to Eat).

Oct 31 2007

Toxins in the environment: USA Today series

I’m always surprised when people criticize the shallowness of USA Today when its reporters consistently write in-depth investigative reports that other newspapers ignore. This week, the paper is doing a series of reports on environmental toxins–lead, methylmercury, and endocrine disruptors. The one on the relationship of coal burning power plants to methylmercury in fish is particularly relevant to food issues (and is the subject of a chapter in What to Eat).

Oct 31 2007

Food, nutrition, and cancer prevention: the latest word

The World Cancer Research Fund and the American Institute for Cancer Research has just come out with an update on their 1997 report on diet and cancer risk and prevention. After five years of research, the groups have produced ten recommendations. These, no surprise, look not all that different from most other sets of dietary recommendations issued for the last 50 years or so for prevention of chronic disease risk.  The recommendations emphasize staying lean and being active (“eat less, move more”). The report will be loaded with data, charts, and references and I’m looking forward to getting my copy. Enjoy!

  • Be as lean as possible within the normal range of body weight.
  • Be physically active as part of everyday life.
  • Limit consumption of energy-dense foods. Avoid sugary drinks.
  • Eat mostly foods of plant origin.
  • Limit intake of red meat and avoid processed meat.
  • Limit alcoholic drinks.
  • Limit consumption of salt. Avoid mouldy cereals (grains) or pulses (legumes).
  • Aim to meet nutritional needs through diet alone.
  • Mothers to breastfeed; children to be breastfed.
  • Cancer survivors: Follow the recommendations for cancer prevention.
Oct 30 2007

Chocolate is a health food! (well, maybe)

I am so happy to hear that the French chocolate company, Barry Callebaut, is marketing a probiotic chocolate–one packed with friendly bacteria like the kind in yogurt. Only the company claims that chocolate is a better source of probiotic bacteria than yogurt. And you only need to eat half an ounce a day! Chocoholics rejoice! Skeptics roll your eyes! Personally, I like my chocolate unfunctional. File this one under Techno-Foods.

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