Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Apr 24 2018

Food recalls increasing: Is this good or bad news?

Do food recalls reflect failures in food safety regulation or should they be considered a success?

USDA reports a significant increase in recent food product recalls.

  • Between 2004 and 2008, food recalls averaged 304 a year
  • Between 2009 and 2013, they averaged 676 a year.

USDA attributes the increase to

  • Improvements in pathogen and risk-detection technology
  • Increased regulatory oversight and enforcement
  • Congressional passage of food safety legislation

This sounds like success, no?

The food categories accounting for most recalls?

  • Prepared foods and meals
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Baked goods and grains
  • Candy
  • Sauces, condiments and dressings

The most common reasons for the recalls:

  • Failure to declare major allergens
  • Possible Salmonella contamination.

Here’s another reason, according to a new report from the Government Accountability Office: USDA’s inadequate standards for pathogens in meat and poultry, particularly turkey breasts and pork chops.

The report recommends that USDA work on this problem.  The USDA says it will.

Food safety requires endless vigilence, and government agencies need to do vigilent oversight.

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Apr 23 2018

The House version of the Farm Bill: Amendments

You have to love Congress.  It has just passed a bunch of amendments to its draft of the Farm Bill among them, this:

Apparently, this is such a serious problem in our society that it requires federal regulation?  The House must think so.

Really, you can’t make this stuff up.

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Apr 20 2018

Weekend reading: SNAP reports

While Congress is trying as hard as it can to cut funding for SNAP and impose work requirements, it’s worth taking a look at some recent reports:

  • The Nutritional Quality of Foods Acquired by Americans: Findings from USDA’s National Household Food Acquisition and Purchase Survey outline possible influences on the foods Americans purchase or otherwise acquire, including consumer income levels, food stores/sources, food-source access, and participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). Access the entire report here (41 pp.). A two-page summary is here.
  • SNAP Versus Non-SNAP Household Food Acquisition Habits: A recent USDA Economic Research Service study found that SNAP households acquire about the same amount of calories per adult equivalent as non-SNAP households, while spending fewer dollars and relying more on school meals and food from family and friends. Read the findings here.
  • How Far Do SNAP Benefits Fall Short of Covering the Cost of a Meal?  From the Urban Institute, this analysis explores the adequacy of SNAP benefits today. The analysis found the benefit does not cover the cost of a low-income meal in 99 percent of US continental counties. According to the analysis, the average cost of a low -income meal is $2.36. This is 27 percent higher than the SNAP maximum benefit per meal of $1.86, which takes into account the maximum benefit available to households of varying sizes.

Thanks to the Society for Nutrition Education and Behavior for collecting these reports.  I’m a member.

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Apr 19 2018

200 million eggs recalled? The mind boggles.

I’m trying to get my head around 200 million eggs being recalled because of Salmonella.

The Washington Post has the story:

An investigation by the federal agency led to an inspection of the farm, [Rose Acre Farms of Seymour, Ind.] which is located in Hyde County, N.C., and produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens. Eggs produced at the farm are distributed to retail stores and restaurants in Colorado, Florida, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and the Carolinas.

The recalled eggs were sold under brand names such as Great Value, Country Daybreak and Crystal Farms. They were also sold to Waffle House restaurants and Food Lion stores. (Click here for a full list of brands and stores.)

 Rose Acre Farms produces 2.3 million eggs a day from 3 million hens?

Bill Marler has the technical details: 22 people ill, and 206,749,248 eggs recalled.  I like his image:

In my book “Safe Food: The Politics of Food Safety,” I explain how Salmonella gets into eggs and how it got into them in the first place.  This was a preventable problem.  It still is, if egg producers paid close attention to following standard egg safety procedures.

These, of course, are more difficult if you are dealing with millions of eggs every day.

But that doesn’t help the people who became ill.

Apr 18 2018

Where are we on the Farm Bill?

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has scored the farm bill (“HR 2”) meaning that they have estimated its costs.

Here’s the CBO summary, and its key paragraph in perfect CBO-speak (I’ve divided the sentences up into bullets to make this a bit easier to read):

  • Relative to spending projected under CBO’s April 2018 baseline, CBO estimates that enacting H.R. 2 would increase direct spending by $3.2 billion over the 2019-2023 period.
  • Following the rules specified in BBEDCA [Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act], CBO has incorporated the assumption that the changes made to those programs would continue after 2023, the final year of authorization under the bill.
  • On that basis, CBO estimates that direct spending would decrease by $2.7 billion over the 2024-2028 period, for a net increase in direct spending of $0.5 billion over the 2019-2028 period.
  • CBO also estimates that enacting the bill would increase revenues by $0.5 billion over the 2019-2028 period.

Huh?  Got that?

Next, we have the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition’s analyses of key Farm Bill provisions.  Start with these from the bottom up for Farm Bill 101:

  • RELEASE: END OF PAYMENT LIMITATIONS WOULD PAVE WAY FOR FURTHER FARM CONSOLIDATION: End of Payment Limitations Would Pave Way for Further Farm Consolidation House Draft Farm Bill proposes to eliminate annual subsidy caps, opening subsidy floodgates Washington, DC, April 16, 2018 – Included in the draft farm bill presented by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) last […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: ORGANIC AGRICULTURE:  This is the sixth and final post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). Previous posts focused on: beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance and commodity subsidies local/regional food systems and rural development, research and seed breeding, and […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: CONSERVATION: This is the fifth post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). Previous posts focused on: beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, crop insurance and commodity subsidies local/regional food systems and rural development, and research and seed breeding. The bill […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: RESEARCH AND SEED BREEDING: This is the fourth post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). The first was on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, the second on crop insurance and commodity subsidies, and the third on local/regional food systems. The bill is […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: LOCAL & REGIONAL FOOD AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT: This is the third post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). The first was on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers and the second on crop insurance and commodity subsidies. The bill is expected to be considered and “marked-up” […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: CROP INSURANCE AND COMMODITY PROGRAMS: This is the second post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). The first was on beginning and socially disadvantaged farmers, the third on local/regional food systems, and the fourth on research and seed breeding. The bill is expected to […]
  • DRAFT HOUSE FARM BILL: BEGINNING AND SOCIALLY DISADVANTAGED FARMERS: This is the first post in a multi-part blog series analyzing the draft farm bill released on April 12, 2018 by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX). Subsequent posts focus on: crop insurance and commodity subsidies local/regional food systems and rural development, research and seed breeding, conservation, and organic agriculture. The bill is expected to be considered and […]
  • RELEASE: DRAFT FARM BILL DELIVERS KNOCK-OUT PUNCH TO “TINY BUT MIGHTY” PROGRAMS:  Local/regional food system and rural development programs are among the hardest hit Washington, DC, April 13, 2018 – At a price tag of well over $800 billion dollars, the farm bill wouldn’t be considered by […]
  • RELEASE: THE FACTS ABOUT WORKING LANDS CONSERVATION IN THE HOUSE DRAFT FARM BILL:  Yesterday, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) presented a draft farm bill to America’s farmers and ranchers that would eradicate the nation’s largest voluntary […]
  • COMMENT: AMERICAN AGRICULTURE NEEDS A STRONG FARM BILL, DRAFT HOUSE BILL DOESN’T DELIVER:  Today, House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) introduced his draft of the 2018 […]

As for the Farm Bill itself:

  • Farm Bill (Nutrition on pp 223-305 /Nutrition Education on p. 292):
  • Section-by-Section (Nutrition Begins on p. 24/Nutrition Education on p. 30)
Apr 17 2018

China is eating more dairy foods. Is this good?

I will never understand the push to increase dairy consumption in China.

Many if not most Asian adults lack the enzyme that digests the lactose in milk.  Undigested lactose tends to pass unscathed to the large intestine where bacteria ferment it, producing gas and diarrhea.

So why dairy products?

More protein to promote growth, is what they say.

An article in DairyReporter quotes Mintel research as saying the Chinese are eating more cheese, yogurt, and added protein.

The rising demand for dairy in China, growing at 6% to 7% rate annually, is teetering on outpacing volume growth of the category (increasing by 3% to 4% every year) as the country shows great interest in dairy products, according to Mintel.

The Chinese Nutrition Society issued updated dietary guidelines for Chinese consumers in 2016, recommending that each adult should consume 300 grams (10.6 ounces) of dairy products per day – current consumption is 100 grams (3.5 ounces).

The dairy industry is thrilled:

There is still opportunity for growth of dairy consumption in China, especially from lower tier markets, as a result of consumers’ growing awareness of nutrition intake, increasing household income levels, and the accelerated urbanization process.

Exporters of dairy products to China are particularly thrilled:

Imported dairy products are still in high demand due to the some food safety concerns surrounding China’s domestic dairy products leading to a consumer perception that international dairy products are of higher quality.

Environmentalists are not so thrilled.

One consequence: the replacement of sheep by cows in New Zealand, which now has heavily polluted waterways.

Another: China’s dairy farms are huge, with herds of 50,000 to 100,000 cows.  Just think of what their waste does to the environment.

 

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Apr 16 2018

Recommendations for improving SNAP

While the farm bill is in play, it’s worth looking at what The Bipartisan Policy Center has to say about SNAP:

It provides evidence for a long list of recommendations for improving SNAP, among them:

  • Make diet quality a core SNAP objective
  • Eliminate sugar-sweetened beverages from SNAP eligibility
  • Provide incentives for purchases of fruits and vegetables
  • Authorize USDA to collect and share data on SNAP purchases

It also has recommendations for improving education of SNAP recipients, and no wonder.

This is an excellent follow-up to the 2012 SNAP to Health initiative in which I participated.  That report made similar recommendations.

Maybe now is the time?

Apr 13 2018

Weekend reading: The Farm Bill

It will take more than a weekend to figure out what is actually in this 641-page monster.

Its table of contents alone is 13 pages.

The House produced a section-by-section summary 

It also produced a quick overview of the top-ten highlights.

This draft calls for an expenditure of about $865 billion over 10 years.

Lots of groups have lots to say about this bill.

My favorite quote comes from Mike Conaway, chair of the House Agriculture Committee:

Except for the SNAP portion, this is a bipartisan bill.

Some exception.

The farm bill always presents a forest vs. trees problem.  It is an enormous collection of trees.

I found this one especially interesting: Sec. 4003. Gus Schumacher food insecurity nutrition incentive program.

If I understand it correctly, this is to fund pilot projects to promote fruit and vegetable consumption in low-income communities.  If it survives, it might be a fitting tribute to Gus, who died in 2017 after a long career promoting agriculture as a means to improve public health.

Happy reading.  No telling what will happen to this, but it will be interesting to watch.  Stay tuned.

 

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