Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Nov 16 2016

Sweet post-election thought: how much peanut butter (Nutella, really) is a serving?

I am just getting around to the burning question of how much peanut butter constitutes a serving size.

Earlier this month, the FDA put out a call for comments on this question.  In FDA-speak: “the Appropriate Product Category and Reference Amount Customarily Consumed for Flavored Nut Butter Spreads and Products that Can Be Used to Fill Cupcakes and Other Desserts.”

The FDA is inviting comments (note that a RACC is “Reference Amount Customarily Consumed”)

in part because it recently issued a final rule updating certain RACCs, and the agency has also received a citizen petition asking that it either (1) issue guidance recognizing that “nut cocoa-based spreads” fall within the “Honey, jams, jellies, fruit butter, molasses” category for the purposes of RACC determination, or (2) amend the current regulation relating to RACCs to establish a new RACC category for “nut cocoa-based spreads” with a RACC of 1 tablespoon.

What on earth is this about?  Ask: Who could possibly care?  The answer: Nutella.

As CNN explains, the “citizen petition” comes from Ferrero, the maker of Nutella, which has been trying for two years to get the FDA to reduce the serving size.

Why?  Because the current serving size is two tablespoons—200 calories.

Nutella thinks you might buy more if the serving size were one tablespoon and only 100 calories.

CNN quotes Nutella’s latest petition:

Ferrero’s most recent advertising and promotion has advocated the consumption of a balanced breakfast with the inclusion of Nutella as a tasty, complementary spread to add on to nutrient-rich whole grain breads, fruits, and dairy products.

CNN also notes that

In 2012, Ferrero settled a class-action lawsuit for $3 million after a 4-year-old’s mother claimed she was shocked to discover that the hazelnut-chocolate spread — whose first two ingredients are sugar and palm oil — was nutritionally similar to a candy bar despite being advertised as a healthy breakfast option.

I swear I am not making this up.

If you care to comment, go to http://www.regulations.gov and type FDA-2016-N-2938 in the search box.

The relevant documents:

Nov 15 2016

Trump’s Agriculture Policy?

I never believe any promises made by candidates during election campaigns because once in office they do whatever they please.

But yesterday’s Politico Morning Agriculture obtained a leaked copy of pre-election Talking Points prepared for Trump’s Advisory Committee on Agriculture and Rural Issues, which hints at the team’s thinking (you have to read between the lines).

My favorites:

  • 7.  The Trump-Pence Secretary of Agriculture will defend American Agriculture against its critics, particularly those who have never grown or produced anything beyond a backyard tomato plant.
  • 9. …The next EPA Administrator should be an individual that fully understands ad embraces the complexity of agriculture and rural issues.
  • 10.  …agriculture will NOT be regulated based upon the latest trend on social media.

Speculation is fun (or maybe not in this instance).  We have no choice but to wait and see.  Stay tuned.

 

Nov 14 2016

Candy politics: election-year style

Confectioners.com went into the Open Secrets database to take a look at how candy companies spent their campaign contributions.

Mondelez, which owns these brands of chocolates: Milka, Toblerone, Caramilk, Cadbury:

Hershey’s:

Open Secrets is at https://www.opensecrets.org/.  It’s worth learning how to use it so you can dig up sweet tidbits like these.

Nov 11 2016

Weekend reading: how to manage a small organic farm

Connor J. Fitzmaurice and Brian J. Gareau.  Organic Futures: Struggling for Sustainability on the Small Farm.  Yale University Press, 2016.  

This is an academic analysis of organic farming by two sociologists based on classic ethnographic fieldwork at a small organic farm in Massachusetts.  They introduce this book by exploring the meaning and consequences of organic “bifurcation,”

the observation that there are increasingly two organic sectors, one made up of relatively large farms that look more and more like the highly mechanized and highly capitalized conventional farms of agro-industry, and the other made up of small farms that are less mechanized, less highly capitalized more likely to sell directly to the consumer, and (at least in some cases) less likely to consider profit ahead of other concerns…we hope to extend and complicate the concept of bifurcation by paying attention to the relational, emotional, and moral underpinnings of organic farmers’ market relationships.

In trying to make a living in organic farming and to maintain personal values about how organic farming should be done, farmers encounter “moral, economic, and relational ambiguities.”  The authors refer to ways in which farmers manage those ambiguities as “good matches.”  Much of the book deals with what organic farmers have to do to achieve such matches.

This is real-world analysis.  Anyone interested in becoming a small farmer, or in what is entailed in doing this work, will find this book a reality check.

Nov 10 2016

Why food politics matters: the importance of bread and community

Yesterday morning, post-election, I received an email from Steffan Sander, who bakes fabulous hard-crust bread in Tompkins County.  He runs a bread CSA, to which my partner and I happily belong.

I asked his permission to share his message.

Oh! My Dearest Breadfriends,

My heart goes out to each and all of you. Here we have been up till all hours, and then sleeping fitfully. Bakers do that anyway, but last night was different.

We started the bakery a little more than five years ago. Why? Because we were hungry for good bread. Because we wanted to work and play with our dear friends. Because it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. But it was more than that.

We built this bakery because we had a vision–of a place that would nurture our community, that would feed us all honestly and with the fruits of our shared soil and water. We saw the bakery as a place where skilled and hard work would be applied to simple materials, and that our work would then feed us all. We envisioned loaves shaped with care, each embodying our attention and love. We imagined those loaves shared and eaten, given away, or simply (if briefly) appreciated as a source of quietness. Nourishment.

There have been days–too hot or too long or too dry or too wet–when all of that has seemed a dream. But this morning, I feel it more strongly than ever. What I saw last night was half a country intoxicated by the pleasure of finally being allowed to openly express anger, resentment, and hatred. It is that awful pleasure that concerns me. I do not think it will subside anytime soon.

There will be plenty of work to do in the weeks and months to come.

For now, I wanted to tell you this about our bakery: we rededicate ourselves to kindness, to generosity, to difference, to complexity, to respect, and to reason. We rededicate ourselves to hard work, to vision, and most of all, to love.

With great and sorrowful affection,

Stef

This is why the food movement matters and is such a source of hope—and pleasure.

Thanks Stef.

Nov 9 2016

Savor the moment while it lasts: soda taxes pass!

The results, now almost final, look like this:

Soda tax votes in California:

  • San Francisco, CA, Measure V, 1 cent/oz: 62%
  • Oakland, CA, Measure HH, 1 cent/oz:       61%
  • Albany, CA, Measure 01, 1 cent/oz:          71%

And

capture

Recall what this cost, and then some:

Next?  Fingers crossed.

But at least this.

Nov 8 2016

Vote! Today!

You can always vote with your fork.  Today is the day to vote with your vote!

- Created 2013

Nov 7 2016

WHO Europe takes on food marketing to children

The World Health Organization’s Europe branch has issued a brave new report: Tackling food marketing to children in a digital world: trans-disciplinary perspectives (2016)


I say brave because marketing to children is the food industry’s line in the sand.
Food and beverage companies will not stop marketing to children because doing so will hurt their bottom lines too much.

WHO Europe makes eight recommendations, all of them highly political:

1. Acknowledge States’ duty to protect children online with statutory regulation
2. Extend offline protections online
3. Define legal age, rather than leaving commercial interests to do so
4. Define marketing directed to children
5. Draw on existing legislation, regulation and regulatory agencies
6. Compel private Internet platforms to remove marketing of foods high in saturated fat, salt and/ or free sugars
7. Develop appropriate sanction and penalty mechanisms
8. Devise cross-border international responses

The report’s conclusion:

Children’s participation in digital media should not, however, be predicated on receiving digital HFSS [high in saturated fats, salt and/or free sugars] advertising. Digital marketing can amplify the power of earlier marketing practices by identifying and targeting more vulnerable populations with sophisticated analytics and creating engaging, emotion-focused, entertaining ways to reach children.

Nor should children’s digital participation be predicated on “devolving” consent to parents, which is akin to States expecting parents to completely prohibit their children from watching all television in order to avoid HFSS marketing, rather than implementing broadcast regulations.

Instead, States and supra-national actors should devise ways to allow children to participate in the digital world without being targeted by marketers with immersive, engaging, entertaining marketing of products that have been demonstrated to be injurious to their health.

Now if governments would just listen….

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