Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 15 2018

Unsavory Truth: A peek at page 2

Coming October 30: My new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health.

Here’s what page 2 has to say:

Oct 12 2018

Lucky Australians: Sandro Demaio’s The Doctor’s Diet

Sandro Demaio.  The Doctor’s Diet.  Pan Macmillan Australia, 2018.

Image result for doctors diet

I don’t usually say anything about diet books or cookbooks, and this is both, but Demaio is someone I know, the book is worth reading for its food systems approach to eating, and the proceeds go to charity:

Author royalties from the sale of this book will go to th Sandro Demaio Foundation to fund public health and nutrition projects across Australia.

What I like about the book is his straightforward, tell-it-like-it-is commentary on today’s food environment.  Here’s what he says about snacks, for example.

A concept invented in the 20th century by the food industry simply to get us to eat more food and boost sales, snacking isn’t a natural part of a healthy diet,  Snacking between meals is a major source of unwanted sugars, additives and calories for adults and kids alike…Avoiding snacks will improve your appetite for your next meal.

The book is full of tips for navigating the hazards of ubiquitous food marketing and his invitation to “come cook with me” demands a yes.  

The book reminds me a lot of Sam Kass’s terrific Eat a Little Better.

Let’s hope there’s a U.S. edition soon (although he tells me it can be ordered here).

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Oct 11 2018

Annals of marketing: “Free from.” A Bakery & Snacks Special Edition.

From the daily industry newsletter, BakeryAndSnacks.com, I learned that “free from” is an entire marketing category.  Here is its collection of recent articles and videos on the topic.

Special Edition: The rise of free from

What is driving the free-from trend – grain-free, gluten-free, lactose-free, sugar-free, fat-free, and so forth – and will it have legs? Which businesses are already tapping demand for free-from snacks and bakery products? We look at the alternatives the traditional snack ingredients, and who supplies them. Also, a peak into the manufacturing challenges in creating snacks and baking in the free-from category.

Oct 10 2018

French National Assembly issues tough report on ultraprocessed foods

An article in FoodNavigator.com got my attention.  It said the French food industry was outraged by a report from the French National Assembly calling for actions to make heavily processed (“ultraprocessed”) foods healthier.

The Assembly issued its non-partisan report in two parts:

The report includes recommendations for a wide variety of measures to improve the food supply, especially for children.

With respect to ultraprocessed foods, the report is tough.  It provides evidence that the industry’s voluntary measures to improve the nutritional quality of its products are neither adequate nor effective.

Therefore, the Assembly proposes measures like these:

  • Limit the number of additives that can be used in processed and ultraprocessed food products; require them to be labeled.
  • Introduce regulations limiting the salt, sugar, and trans fat content of processed foods.
  • Restrict TV and other electronic marketing of products likely to harm the health of children.
  • Guarantee the quality of food marketed overseas by restricting their sugar content.
  • Make food education compulsory from pre-school on; include school meals in the education program; train teachers and staff.  This applies to all schools by 2019-2020.
  • Implement Nutri-Score* on all processed and ultraprocessed food products produced in France.
  • Require labeling of origin for processed and ultraprocessed products.
  • Distinguish artisanal from industrial pastry products with a “made on site” label.

*Nutri-Score, as I have previously discussed, is a front-of-package labeling scheme that awards a letter grade to processed foods based on a combination of its desirable and undesirable nutrients (A is healthiest).

Image result for nutri score

No wonder French food companies are upset.  The French National Assembly wants to hold them accountable.

Oct 9 2018

Popular ready-to-eat breakfast cereals: sales figures

Ever wonder why breakfast cereals take up so much supermarket space?

BakeryAndSnacks.com has the answer:

It would be fun to match these up with their advertising budgets.  I don’t have those figures but am guessing there is a close correlation.

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Oct 8 2018

Unsavory Truth: the Table of Contents

Coming October 30: My new book about food company sponsorship of nutrition research and its effects on public health.

And here’s what’s in it:

Oct 5 2018

Weekend Reading: Eating NAFTA

Alyshia Gálvez.  Eating NAFTA: Trade, Food Policies, and the Destruction of Mexico.  University of California Press, 2018.

Image result for eating nafta

This compelling book, by a Lehman College professor of Latin American Studies, links US trade policies to the destruction of Mexico’s corn economy and consequent destruction of Mexico’s traditional food culture, and shows how that destruction affected immigration, the border wall, drug wars, and, ultimately, public health.

Mexican food—real Mexican food—“is falling out of reach for many Mexican people,” she says.

Trade policies, in this case the North American Free Trade Agreement (just signed), not only affect what people eat, but also their health.

Gálvez starts by explaining

Using a Latin American studies frame, we can see that ever since the European conquest, ideas about citizenship, responsibility, and capability in the hemisphere have been viewed through the lenses of racialization, calss, and gender.  The same social groups viewed in the colonial and early independence periods as incapable of assuming the responsibilities of citizenship happen to be the same people now blamed for their own susceptibility to diet-related illness.

Gálvez gave a talk at NYU earlier this week at which she passed around a basket of traditional corn tortillas, obtained for $7 at Whole Foods.  They were delicious.   These, she pointed out, are almost impossible to get here or in Mexico, having been almost entirely replaced by commercial tortillas, having nothing like the original flavor and texture.

NAFTA dumped underpriced US corn on the Mexican market, undercut local prices, and put farmers out of business.  Without local corn, mills went out of business.

The other speakers at her session, Mireya Loza and Krishnendu Ray of my NYU department, emphasized how NAFTA has induced irreparable losses, not only of small-scale farming and the livelihoods of small farmers and corn millers, but also of the food habits that used to define Mexico’s indigenous foodways.

They will be using Eating NAFTA in the courses they teach.  Lucky students.

If you want to understand what “free trade” is really about—on the personal as well as the political level—this is the book to read.

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Oct 4 2018

Coca-Cola considering new drinks infused with—Cannabis!

Really?  Cannabis Canada reports that Coca-Cola is seriously considering going into the cannabis business.

Get high on Coke?  No such luck.

The sources said that Coca-Cola (KO.N), the world’s largest beverage company, is interested in developing beverages that are infused with cannabidiol, commonly referred to as CBD, the non-psychoactive chemical found in marijuana plants.

Non-psychoactive?  What’s the point?

Oh.  I get it.

Estimates vary, but the consumer CBD market is estimated to grow to US$2.1 billion by 2020, from $202 million in 2015, according to a recent report in the Hemp Business Journal…The company behind such drinks as Diet Coke, Sprite and Minute-Maid juice reported annual revenue of US$35.4 billion in 2017, down 15.5 per cent from the prior year, which has spurred the company to search for growth in international markets and new beverage concepts such as an alcoholic offering that’s only available in Japan.

Cannabis as the solution to Coca-Cola’s loss in sales?

My question: will there be low-sugar options?

While we are on the topic of Cannabis edibles:

California reports that its tests of nearly 11,000 marijuana products found nearly 20%—including cookies, candies, and other edibles—to have higher-than-allowed levels of pesticides, E. coli, and salmonella.

Caveat emptor.

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