Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 18 2007

Are there lobbyists for good causes?

Today’s question comes from Nic: “Are there lobbyists that work for promoting public health and nutrition, or does Congress primarily receive information through government groups (FDA, etc.)?”

Yes, lobbyists work for nutrition and health groups. These groups register as lobbyists and you can look them up on congressional listings. Groups such as the American Public Health Association and Center for Science in the Public Interest have people on staff whose job it is to provide information to elected officials and federal agency staff. But these groups don’t have anywhere near the resources or political clout of food or drug companies. Donations to election campaigns: that’s the real problem, as you can see by looking at data collected by Open Secrets.

Nov 17 2007

The Farm Bill: Will the Saga Never End?

So now the Senate has blocked action on the Farm Bill, perhaps to give President Bush a break so he won’t have to veto it, which is what he said he would do. As I suggested in my last post on the topic, the Bill is hopeless to understand: 1360 pages, 17 of them just for the Table of Contents. They should all be ashamed. It’s time to elect congressional representatives who represent the public interest and care about issues like sustainability and health. I wonder how we can do that?

Nov 16 2007

Kraft unloads Post cereals

Kraft Foods is selling off Post cereals to Ralcorp Holdings, a company that markets foods under private labels. Kraft had revenues of $34 billion in 2006, of which $21 billion came from U.S. consumers; its profits were about $3 billion. It spent $105 million to advertise Post cereals that year, down 23% from 2005, clearly a sign of disinterest. Kraft used to be owned by Altria which used to be Philip Morris which bought Kraft for $12.9 billion in 1988. Post makes Fruity Pebbles and runs a website for kids. European food analysts speculate that Kraft is doing this because of “the double whammy of high cereal prices and strict legislation on advertising to children.”  Kraft’s products have never been endorsed by the American Heart Association, because that organization does not accepts payments for its HeartCheck certification for products owned by cigarette companies.  My question: will the American Heart Association endorsement now start appearing on Post cereals?

Nov 15 2007

U.S. food “insecurity”: is 11% OK?

Since 1995, the USDA has done census surveys of the extent of food “insecurity”–the euphemism it uses for not having enough food to eat–in the U.S. population. USDA has just released the 2006 survey, which finds 10.9% of the population–including about half a million children–to be food insecure. This percentage is about the same as in previous years. About half of the food insecure population gets federal food assistance, Food Stamps, WIC, or others. What about the other half?

Nov 15 2007

Canine Nutrition: Q and A

As I’ve mentioned before, I’m working on a book about pet food with Cornell professor Malden Nesheim. We are the new nutrition editors of BARK magazine, which has just printed our first answers to Nutrition Perspectives questions. We will be answering questions for BARK occasionally so if you have some, send them along.

Nov 13 2007

Comments on the previous post: just a guess

Whenever I get comments like those on the previous post (not yours Anna, the others), I’m pretty sure that the Center for Consumer Freedom has been tracking my work and has just said something about it. The Center advertises itself as a consumer advocacy group but is really a public relations agency for food companies and trade associations hired to attack critics. The Center does not disclose its funders because it is set up in a way that permits that information to be kept secret. SourceWatch, however, describes how this group operates and lists some of its funding sources. It is an interesting list. The Wikipedia entry is also worth a look.

Does anyone else know anything about this group? Do share.

Nov 13 2007

British restrictions on TV advertising are not working

Out of the United Kingdom comes news that its new policies designed to restrict food advertising to children are not working. They were not nearly restrictive enough. Most programs watched by young children are not affected by the rules, and food companies have figured out ways to continue business as usual. Lessons to be learned?

Nov 12 2007

Question: Do people eat worse diets when sick?

Shari would like an answer to her question: “Why is it that when a person doesn’t feel well, she tends to eat less healthy foods, such as those with more fats and carbs? The last few days, I have been fighting a nasty flu-like bug. I’ve actually eaten a lot of things that are typically off my list. Yes, I ordered the pastrami! Yes, I ate lots of noodle soup. And, (my goodness!) I even ate some Pringles and 2 coca-colas.”

Do people eat less healthy foods when sick? Whatever happened to chicken soup?

Any suggestions for Shari?

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