Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 16 2007

Michael Pollan’s latest

Here’s another great piece to read on a cold, snowy day. Michael Pollan’s latest is a beautifully constructed synthesis of the meaning of two bad things that happened this year: Bee Colony Collapse Disorder and community-acquired Multiple Resistance Staphylococcus aureus. Both, he shows, are the result of industrialized agriculture. Bees are migratory workers? No wonder they are stressed. The question, Pollan says, is “not whether systems this brittle will break down, but when and how.” Read it and get busy.

Dec 16 2007

Detox in a box and other functional foods

My colleague Ellen Fried knows that I love to read articles about functional foods–the food industry’s hope for survival and growth. It’s a wet, snowy Sunday in New York and a great day to curl up with some good reading. Here’s what the Guardian Unlimited has to say about functional foods. Here favorite is Detox in a Box. I think mine may be the irony. The very companies that brought us junk food now want to put neurotransmitters in it. Can’t wait.

Dec 15 2007

New info from USDA

The USDA says it has just released the data from its “What We Eat in America” survey on nutrient intakes from foods for 21 gender/age groups by race/ethnicity and family income. USDA has also posted historical materials from past USDA surveys and analyses dating back to the 1894. It’s great to have all of these in one place.  They are always a lot of fun to read and play with. Enjoy!

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Dec 13 2007

What are the most popular foods in America? Take a guess

According to a group that tracks this sort of thing, the leading generators of food sales are (more or less in order): soft drinks, refrigerated milk, ready-to-eat cereal, fresh bread, bottled water, cookies, chocolate candy, and potato chips. Soft drinks are #1. A sufficient explanation for America’s weight problem?

Dec 12 2007

The Economist on “the end of cheap food”

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?

Dec 11 2007

More food industry promises, this time in the U.K.

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.

Dec 10 2007

Is Santa too fat?

In honor of the holiday season, Reuters tells us about a new campaign to deal with Santa’s unseemly weight. The campaign comes from a public relations firm, which must be getting into the holiday spirit. It is to “keep Santa fat.” Enjoy!

Dec 10 2007

Nutrition quality indexes: do we need them?

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?

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