For decades, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) has been pressing the FDA to do a better job of regulating the food supply. These days, the GAO is dealing with produce safety. It worries that the FDA has no formal program in place to protect the safety of fresh produce when it is so obvious that such a program is needed. The GAO also scolds the FDA for not keeping up with monitoring of food labels. The FDA has too much to do and not enough resources. But, says GAO, the FDA would do better if it took this watchdog agency’s advice–but it doesn’t. Why not? The GAO doesn’t say so, but it’s politics, of course. The food industry is ever vigilant against regulation. This stance goes against the food industry’s best interest, in my view. Yours?
It’s a good one, with terrific articles by Michael Pollan on farm policy for the next administration, David Rieff on what to do about agriculture in Africa, and Mark Bittman on why food should be taken seriously. Read, think, and enjoy!
P.S. And for fun, check out Safire on the meaning of “locavore” and “functional food.”
The Wall Street Journal reports that China has new guidelines on allowable levels of melamine in foods: 1 ppm (mg/kg) in infant formula and 2.5 ppm in other foods. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency agrees and is requiring importers of foods from China to document that their products meet these standards. According to the October 10 Food Chemical News (which I can’t link to), the number of infants affected by melamine-contaminated infant formula is nearly 94,000, with 30,000 cases in central Henan province and 16,000 in Hebei province, both near where the source of the problem, the Sanlu Dairy group, is located.
Thanks for Michele Simon of the alcohol industry watchdog, the Marin Institute, for telling me about Kraft’s creative idea for selling more Jell-O: mixed drinks. You have to be 21 or over to look at the site and, I guess, be 21 or over to eat Jell-O? Why do I think this will be a tough sell? Or maybe it won’t?
I’m fascinated by the “Soup Wars” (see previous post). The New York Times has a full-page ad today from Progresso: “Campbell’s has 95 soups made with MSG. Progresso has 26 delicious soups with no MSG (and more to come).” Then it adds in small print, “Except that which occurs naturally in yeast extract and vegetable proteins.” I thought people considered high fructose corn syrup to be the new trans fat (get rid of it!), but maybe it’s MSG?
Pity the poor makers of canned soups. Canning blands out the taste so they add grams of salt to cover the blandness. But less salt is healthier, so the companies add MSG (monosodium glutamate) instead.
Because MSG is the sodium salt of glutamate, a normal amino acid constituent of body proteins, it ought to be safe but health concerns about it go on and on (Wikipedia has a quick review). Lots of people tell me they are sensitive to it and that MSG gives them headaches or makes them dizzy. The research on MSG is so inconsistent that I can’t make head or tail of it. My guess is that we will be hearing a lot more about MSG, especially with Campbell’s and Progresso facing off about which soups use less. Stay tuned.
And here’s an account of what’s going on with this.
The Department of Health and Human Services has just issued new guidelines for physical activity. They come with a guide for adults, a toolkit for community organizers, and research information for professionals. The approach is easy: some activity is better than none; more is better than less. Seems like good advice (but if you are worried about weight, you still have to eat less).