Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
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?

Dec 10 2007

Local v. Industrial foods: More sponsored science?

The business section of Sunday’s New York Times reports counterintuitive research suggesting that locally grown foods may have a higher carbon footprint than foods transported from long distances. CSPI’s Integrity in Science project says the source of the research, University of California Davis’ program on sustainable agriculture gets industry funding, including a $250,000 grant from Campbell Soup. It’s not that food companies buy the research results they want. It’s just that groups that take industry money are more likely to come up with research favorable to the sponsor’s interests. Just a coincidence, I guess.

Dec 10 2007

More on Bisphenol A: Sponsored Science?

My previous post on bisphenol A linked to a National Toxicology Program giving this component of plastic water bottles a relatively clean bill of health. Now, Integrity in Science Watch (a branch of Center for Science in the Public Interest) reports that according to an article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinal, the science behind this report is industry-sponsored as the final report relied more on industry-funded studies than on those conducted by independent researchers. When reviewing studies of controversial topics, it’s always a good idea to check who sponsored the research.

Dec 9 2007

Want to do something about school food? Here’s how!

The Public Health Advocacy Institute has produced “Mapping School Food: A Policy Guide“for anyone who thinks school food needs fixing. As they put it, the Guide provides “tools to help advocates find answers, resolve conflicts, and build consensus for improving school food in their community.” Sounds useful, no? Enjoy and use!

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