Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Aug 19 2008

GM foods: the solution to world hunger?

Proponents of genetically modified foods as the solution to the world food crisis have been busy. Dennis Avery of the Hudson Institute blames Prince Charles for the crisis because of the Prince’ distaste for GM foods. In a quotation dear to my heart, he asks: “How would the future king tell the cat and dog owners of Britain that, because of his anti-science elitism, pet food sales must be banned so people could eat?” So without GM foods, we won’t have by-products of human food production to feed to pets?   And then today’s Science Times interviews Dr. Nina Federoff, science advisor to Condoleeza Rice. She says all foods are GM anyway.  Without them, we will have to destroy the world’s forests.  And heaven help us if we rely on organics: “If everybody switched to organic farming, we couldn’t support the world’s population–maybe half.” Why do I think there are some logical pieces missing here? Maybe because the Hudson Institute is not exactly free of corporate influence? Or Dr. Federoff really is, as the interview suggests indirectly, the “ambassador from Monsanto?”

Aug 17 2008

USDA: it takes more than education to change dietary choices

USDA economists have just produced a theoretical study proposing – surprise! – that knowledge of nutrition is not sufficient to change dietary behavior. What they call “immediate visceral factors” (i.e. hunger, food in front of you, large portions) overpower “cognitive dietary information.” They don’t put it this way, but that’s why personal responsibility doesn’t work. You have to change the food environment to make it easier to make better choices. It’s nice to have some evidence….

Aug 15 2008

Food label boredom?

The USDA has just come out with a new study documenting declining use of the Nutrition Facts labels, especially among adults too young to have known anything about them when they first came out in the early 1990s.   Now that trans fats are zeros, the only thing people look at these days are fiber and sugar.  To this one-track mind, this is another reason why calorie labeling is a good idea.  Why don’t people look at calories on package labels?  I’m guessing because they get confused by the serving size.  About five years ago, the FDA proposed a way to make calories more prominent but nothing ever came of it (too much opposition).  I still have hopes.

Aug 14 2008

100 food blogs

Kelly Sonora sends a list of 100 food blogs to “inspire your healthy eating.” Mine is listed at #91. But I don’t see most of my favorites (see Blogroll) on this list. Are your favorites on it? What would they be?

Aug 13 2008

Whole Foods eats crow

Here’s a story for you. Whole Foods has just recalled ground beef contaminated with the toxic form of E. coli, 0157:H7. The company had had to go into full damage control. It needs to. The beef came from Coleman Natural, which used to take pride in the quality of its meat and its safety procedures. But Coleman was bought by Meyer Natural Angus last spring, and Meyer uses Nebraska Beef for processing. Nebraska Beef has a history of problems with E. coli 0157:H7. Whole Foods didn’t check. This is a fine mess, one that I attribute to the usual results of pressures on corporations to please their stockholders, never mind public health, but I am curious about one thing: What is Meyer Natural? Is it owned by another, larger company? If so, which?

Aug 12 2008

This is a test: find the calorie information

Thanks to Harold Goldstein, executive director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy, for sending a link to the Center’s video on public understanding of brochures put out by fast food chains. This reminds me a lot of my screen debut in SuperSize Me! where Morgan Spurlock tries to find out if anyone can define calories.  I used to have a clip of it at, but it seems to have vanished.

Aug 9 2008


This must be my week for being asked about snack foods. The San Francisco Chronicle (see previous post) wanted to know about pizza? Eating Liberally wants to know about popcorn. Same question, same answer.

Aug 8 2008

FDA changes mind; says HFCS is natural after all

Try to get your mind around this one. To make high fructose corn syrup, it is necessary to (1) extract the starch from corn, (2) treat the starch with an enzyme to break it into glucose, and (3) treat the glucose with another enzyme to turn about half of it into fructose. OK class, explain how this can be considered natural? Answer: because the enzymes are fixed to a column and do not actually mix with the starch. Oh. So the FDA considers HFCS natural because Archer Daniels Midland and the Corn Refiners Association asked it to. Regime change, anyone?

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