Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 24 2007

Doritos and the Colbert presidential campaign: A good source of funding?

Eating Liberally’s “kat” took me to see Frank Rich’s interview with Stephen Colbert last night and what fun that was! But no such thing as a free event, apparently. Today, kat wants to know what I think about Doritos’ sponsorship of Colbert’s campaign. Take a look at her question and my response and weigh in on this, please. Even if it’s a joke…?

Oct 23 2007

Unsafe meat: now we know why?

So now we know (courtesy of the New York Times) why E. coli O157:H7 recalls are becoming more frequent: the meat industry isn’t following food safety rules. These rules were require meat and poultry producers to develop and monitor plans for producing safe food, and to test to make sure the plans are working. Two problems here: the companies aren’t bothering to follow the rules, and the onsite USDA inspectors aren’t bothering to enforce them. Standard food safety rules–HACCP and pathogen reduction–work really well, but only if designed, followed, and enforced to the letter and spirit. I keep asking: what will it take to get Congress to act on the food safety issue?

Oct 22 2007

FDA hearings on salt

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.

Oct 22 2007

Antioxidants: Too much of a good thing?

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.

Oct 21 2007

No end to supersizing

Here’s Lisa Young’s MSNBC summary of her latest observations of what fast food chains are doing about portion sizes–the same or bigger, in a word. If you want to read the article on which it’s based, look under Publications. Enjoy (?)

Oct 21 2007

School food getting better?

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.

Oct 21 2007

Food banks going under?

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…

Oct 21 2007

Meat recalls: Keeping up

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.

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