by Marion Nestle

Currently browsing posts about: Fruits-and-vegetables

Jul 26 2017

Uh oh: Papayas with Salmonella

First cantaloupe, now papayas.

The CDC has opened up a homepage on Salmonella infections associated with eating Yellow Maradol Papayas.

Here’s the count so far:

  • 47 Cases
  • 12 States
  • 12 Hospitalizations
  • 1 Deaths

Food Safety News has the story.  And provides the label you had best avoid.

As usual, by the time the CDC finds out about outbreaks, cases have slowed down (it takes time to find them).

This one is affecting people in states all over the country.

Papayas grow on trees.  Salmonella are animal bacteria.  Monkeys?  Arboreal sloths?

A more likely explanation is that the fruit came in contact with human waste or dirty hands sometime during collection, transport, or processing.

What to do?

Bacteria are on the rind.  They get on the fruit itself when you cut through it.  You can try scrubbing the outside before you peel the papaya.  The CDC recommends discarding it and cleaning your kitchen carefully.

Better preventive controls?  They are on the books (the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act).

Enforcement?  Not unless Congress appropriates the funds.

Why won’t it?  FDA appropriations go through agricultural appropriations, not health.  Do ag committees care about food safety?

I wish.

Addition:  Food Safety News reports that the distributor of the papayas has started recalling them, but not publicly.

May 15 2017

What fruits and vegetables do Americans eat? More charts from USDA

I love USDA’s charts of food and agriculture statistics because they tell most of the story at a glance.

These are based on USDA’s compilations of foods produced in the U.S. plus imports, less exports, divided by the total population.

The most commonly consumed vegetable?  Potatoes by a long shot (think: French fries).  Next comes tomatoes (pizza).  Variety anyone?

How about fruit?  Oranges, apples, bananas.   Really, can’t we be more adventurous?

Feb 17 2017

Weekend resources: a roundup

Feb 2 2017

USDA’s latest data on food trends

The USDA has just issued a report on trends in per capita food availability from 1970 to 2014.

Here’s my favorite figure:

The inner ring represents calories from those food groups in 1970. The outer ring includes data from 2014.

The bottom line: calories from all food groups increased, fats and oils and the meat group most of all, dairy and fruits and vegetables the least.

The sugar data are also interesting:

Total sugars (blue) peaked at about 1999 in parallel with high fructose corn syrup (orange).  Table sugar, sucrose, has been flat since the 1980s (green).

Eat your veggies!

Nov 25 2016

Weekend reading: Fig Trees!

Mike Shanahan. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers: The Secret History and Redemptive Future of Fig Trees.  Chelsea Green, 2016.


I have a particular interest in this book.  The summer before last, I bought a small fig tree at New York City’s Union Square Farmers’ Market and stuck it in a pot on the terrace outside my apartment.   Pleasant surprise: it survived last winter and produced a modest crop of small, brown, sweet figs.

This puzzled me because as far as I could tell, the tree had never flowered.

Mystery solved, thanks to this book.

Shanahan, a rainforest ecologist, explains that figs do flower but the flowers are inside the “fruit.”

Even weirder, the flowers are pollinated by specific species of fig wasps, which works through whatever the “fruit” is and do their work.

The book does not explain what fig wasps are doing in Manhattan or how they found their way to my 12th floor terrace, but the figs were great and I thank them.

I also thank Shanahan for writing a truly informative book about why Ficus species are so important to forest ecology and to reforestation programs, and what figs have to do with Gods (figs in mythology) and Stranglers (a kind of fig tree).

I raise as post-Thanksgiving fig in his honor.

Jul 12 2016

The latest in food-industry sponsored research: Pears!

I completely understand that the food business is fiercely competitive, not least because the U.S. food supply provides about twice the calories needed by the population on a daily basis—4000 calories each in 2010—and companies have to sell all that.

The makers of processed foods and drinks spend fortunes marketing their foods in this environment.  Now producers of fruits and vegetables feel that they too need to compete.  They form trade associations to do this for them and to pay for research they can use to market their products as “superfoods.”

Meet, for example, the Pear Bureau Northwest, which pays for research and sends press releases about its only-to-be-expected positive results, in this case “New Research Indicates Regular Fresh Pear Consumption May Improve Blood Pressure in Middle-Aged Men and Women with Metabolic Syndrome” (my emphasis).

I like pears.  They are delicious when ripe.  But superfoods?  Really?

As always, the operative word is “may.”

This study compared the effects of eating 2 medium-sized fresh pears or or 50 g of a pear-flavored drink per day for 12 weeks.  Well, duh.

In my collection of industry-funded studies last year were two sponsored by the busy Pears Bureau Northwest.

Systematic Review of Pears and Health. Holly Reiland, BS Joanne Slavin, PhD, RD.  Nutrition Today November/December 2015 – Volume 50 – Issue 6 – p 301–305.  

  • Conclusions: Animal studies with pears suggest that pears may regulate alcohol metabolism, protect against ulcers, and lower plasma lipids. Human feeding studies with pears have not been conducted. In epidemiological studies, pears are combined with all fresh fruits or with apples, because they are most similar in composition. The high content of dietary fiber in pears and their effects on gut health set pears apart from other fruit and deserves study.
  • Funding: The authors received a grant from USA Pears in the past. The authors provided their own funding to allow this article to publish as Open Access.
  • Comment: Pears are a great fruit but the marketing purpose of this study is evident from this press release from the Pear Bureau Northwest: “While the body of evidence connecting pear intake and health outcomes is still limited, USA Pears has been contributing to research efforts by commissioning independent studies to learn and affirm the heath attributes of pears. Visit www.usapears.org for additional pear research, nutrition resources and recipes.”

Fresh Pear Consumption is Associated with Better Nutrient Intake, Diet Quality, and Weight Parameters in Adults: National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 2001-2010.  O’Neil CE, Nicklas TA, Fulgoni VL (2015) J Nutr Food Sci 5: 377.

  • Conclusion:  Compared to non-consumers [of pears], consumers were 35% less likely to be obese (p<0.05). Fresh pears should be encouraged as a component of an overall healthy diet.
  • Funding: Partial support was received from the United States Department of Agriculture/ Agricultural Research Service (USDA/ARS)…Partial support was also received from Pears Bureau Northwest.
  • Comment: I’m guessing the same result could be obtained by looking at consumption of any other fruit.  And to prove my point that this is about marketing, here’s the press release.

Will this research help sell more pears?  We will see.

Is it wrong to want to have more pears sold?  Not at all, but why do this at the expense of any other fruit, all of which contain valuable nutrients.

If pears are superfoods, all fruits are superfoods.

Eat the ones you like.

 

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Apr 7 2016

Sponsored research: raspberries this time

This morning, I received a query from a scientist:

I have been following your documentation of industry-funded research on health benefits. I’ve been thinking about this issue from the perspective of fruits and vegetables. We know that they are good in general, but how does one fund research to demonstrate that clinically? In particular, how does one get specific about the form and amount that his helpful for specific health benefits?  You may be interested in this press release from the raspberry industry telling about the papers at the Society for Experimental Biology meetings that are relevant to the health benefits of eating raspberries. This seems to be approaching what a good model might look like. I’m interested in your perspective. Furthermore, are the results relevant to nutritionists?

Here’s how I answered it:

Thanks for sending.  I guess my question would be something along the lines of why getting specific about form and amount of specific fruits and vegetables is important for public health.  People don’t eat just raspberries.  They put them in cereal or on desserts.  Raspberries are expensive.  Wealthy, educated and, therefore, healthy people are likely to consume them.  So this looks like marketing research to me—selling raspberries as a superfood.  If you think there is a special benefit to raspberries and that it would be good to quantify it, the best strategy would be to get the research funded by an independent agency.  Otherwise, it’s clearly marketing research (hence the press release).   At least that’s how I see it.

This, of course, gets us back to the question of sponsored research which, as my collection of sponsored studies has shown, almost inevitably produce results favorable to the sponsor.  I love raspberries and don’t doubt for a minute that they are healthy, but a superfood?  I don’t think so.

I’m still working on the descriptive analysis of the year’s collection of sponsored studies.  I will also be giving more thought to such questions, so send them along.

Feb 16 2016

Encouraging healthy kids’ eating, Woolworths Australia

Thanks to Sinead Boylan for sending me this photo about Woolworths’ attempt to encourage kids to eat fruit.

IMG_1419

 

Wouldn’t you think everyone would be thrilled at the idea of giving free fruit to kids?  No such luck.

Sinaed asks: Is W00lies (which is what they call it) trying to pull the wool over our eyes?

The Australian press worries about foodborne illness.

I think it’s a great idea.  I hope it works.

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