Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 6 2022

The latest on Omega-3s: the operative word is “may”

TODAY:  Slow Cooked: An Evening with Marion Nestle in conversation with Laura Shapiro,  7 – 8:15 pm, The Greene Space (44 Charlton Street, NYC 10014).

Tickets and info:

* * * * * *

A food industry newsletter I subscribe to,, has a collection of articles on Omega-3s.

These are long-chain fatty acids from fish or algae (EPA, DHA) or plants (ALA).  They are said to prevent or cure anything that ails you.  Most studies show seafood to be associated with good health, but supplements not so much.

Omega-3s are terrific for marketing, which is why ingredient suppliers love them.

Alas, I remain skeptical.

Special edition: Omega 3s


For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.


Oct 5 2022

FDA proposes to decide what foods are “healthy”

The FDA has announced a proposed rule for a “healthy” claim on food packages.

It proposes to align “healthy” with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2020-2025 and the Nutrition Facts label.

The proposal has two requirements for the “healthy” claim.  To make the claim, products must:

  1. “Contain a certain meaningful amount of food from at least one of the food groups or subgroups (e.g., fruit, vegetable, dairy, etc.) recommended by the Dietary Guidelines.”
  2. “Adhere to specific limits for certain nutrients, such as saturated fat, sodium and added sugars. The threshold for the limits is based on a percent of the Daily Value (DV) for the nutrient and varies depending on the food and food group. The limit for sodium is 10% of the DV per serving (230 milligrams per serving).?

Food comes first!  What a concept!  The FDA will only allow a “healthy” claim on foods, not ingredients.  It also will only allow the claim on foods that are quite low in saturated fat, salt, and sugars (with exceptions for real foods).

The press release gave an example.  To qualify,

A cereal would need to contain ¾ ounces of whole grains and contain no more than 1 gram of saturated fat, 230 milligrams of sodium and 2.5 grams of added sugars.

The FDA is also researching a symbol to illustrate the “healthy” claim.  In March, it proposed research to develop this symbol.  The proposal did not illustrate prototypes, but some examples were published by a law firm.  ConscienHealth also published them under the heading of “A new roadmap for marketing healthy-ish food

I see several things going on here.

  1.  Positive, not negative.  This says foods are healthy.  Choose this!
  2.  It adds sugars to disqualifying ingredients.
  3.  It heads off warning labels—“high in fat, sugar, salt”—like those in Chile, Brazil, and Israel (see, for example, a previous post).  Avoid those!
  4.  It heads off ultra-processed warnings (although this will exclude most, if not all, ultra-processed products).
  5.  It supersedes the FDA’s efforts in 2010 and 2011 to put zero, one, two, or three stars or check marks on products.

I love Ted Kyle’s “Healthy-ish.”  As I keep saying, health claims are not about health; they are about marketing.

Companies love health claims; they sell food products.  Everyone falls for them; it takes serious critical thinking to resist them.

The FDA’s proposal will make “healthy” claims difficult for many products currently marketed with a health aura (Antioxidants! Gluten-free! No carrageenan!).

The time for comments is now.  I can’t wait to see the ones from companies making ultra-processed foods.

Next from FDA: a definition of “Natural?”


For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.



Oct 4 2022

It’s published! Slow Cooked launches TODAY!

Today is the official publication day for my memoir, Slow Cooked: An Unexpected Life in Food Politics. 

I’ve been posting the early reviews and comments on the page devoted to this book.

You can still get a 30% discount at the University of California Press site.  At checkout, use code 21W2240.

I’ll be speaking about the book online and in person.

  • OCTOBER 6, Thursday.  In person with MOFAD and WNYC in conversation with Laura Shapiro.  7:00 to 8:15 p.m.  Books available for signing.   Greene Space, 44 Charlton.  Information and tickets HERE.
  • OCTOBER 12, Wednesday.  Online with NYU’s Fales Library in conversation with Clark Wolf.  5:00-6:00 p.m.  Registration is HERE.
  • OCTOBER 13, Thursday.  Online with Hunter’s Food Policy Center in conversation with Charles Platkin, 9:30 to 10:30 a.m.  Registration is HERE.
  • OCTOBER 19, Wednesday.  In person at NYU’s Bookstore, 726 Broadway @ Waverly: Meet the Author and book signing.  6:00 p.m.  (The bookstore usually closes at 6:00 but will stay open for this event).  No registration needed; just come!

Later scheduled events are listed under Appearances.

I’m eager to hear what you think of it.   Enjoy!

Oct 3 2022

Industry-influenced opinion of the week: refined grains are not a problem

The study:  Refined grain intake and cardiovascular disease: Meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies.  Glenn A.Gaesser.  Trends in Cardiovascular Medicine, Available online 6 September 2022.

Conclusions:  Meta-analyses of prospective cohort studies demonstrate that refined grain intake is not associated with risk of CVD, stroke, or heart failure. This conclusion holds for studies that restricted analyses to staple grain foods only, as well as for studies that included both staple and indulgent grain foods as a single refined grains category. Although refined grains are included as a component of the Western dietary pattern, the present findings suggest that refined grains do not contribute to the higher CVD risk associated with this unhealthy dietary pattern. This information should be considered in formulation of future dietary recommendations.

Declaration of Competing Interest:  The author is a scientific advisory board member of the Grain Foods Foundation and the Wheat Foods Council.

Funding: Preparation of this manuscript was supported in part by a grant from the Grain Foods Foundation.

Comment: Refining of grains removes the outer bran and germ and most of the fiber and nutrients along with them, leaving some nutrients along with teh starch and protein.  Refined starch is quickly digested to sugars and rapidly absorbed.  The Wheat Foods Council wants to reassure you that you can eat as much refined grain as you like without raising disease risk.  Much independently funded research argues otherwise, alas.  If nothing else, refined grains contribute calories relatively low in nutrients and constitute major components of ultra-processed foods.  This study did not look at dietary patterns.

And thanks to David Ludwig for alerting me to this one.


The publication date is tomorrow!

For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.



Sep 30 2022

Slow-Cooked: Arriving next week!

I’m on pins and needles.  The official publication date for my forthcoming memoir is October 4.

Sep 29 2022

The White House Conference: They Pulled It Off!

Despite chaotic organization (see note below), the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health was inspiring (you can watch it on YouTube here).  It was exciting to be in the room where it happened, as you can see from my photo-taking (courtesy of tweet by Suzanna Martinez).

The conference had a laser-like focus on ending hunger and hunger inequities.  Although there was much talk of diet-related diseases, it was not at all about preventing obesity and its chronic disease consequences in the general population.  Instead, its aim was to make sure that poor people, especially those of color, have access to healthy, culturally appropriate diets at a price they can afford.

Common themes

Bipartisan: Ending hunger has to be a united effort (Republicans were barely represented, but not for lack of trying)

Diet-related disease: none of us ever expected to hear that phrase from high elected officials, let alone POTUS

Lived experience: Many of the panels included people who had grown up on foods stamps, and President Biden was introduced by Jimmieaka Mills of Houston, TX (her name was not listed in the program; I found it on Twitter) who spoke eloquently of how much food assistance meant to her life.

Food at the center: it must stop being an afterthought.

Food as Medicine: This refers to the health care system’s use of food prescriptions or distributions.  Alhough his idea is sometimes perceived as paternalistic—food should really be about pleasure and culture (see ConscienHealth)—it plays well politically.


Almost everything related to the conference is on the website.  My reactions.

How it felt: It was a joy to see old friends and colleagues who care deeply about food and preventing hunger.  We hadn’t seen each other since before the pandemic.  Hugs all around.

The tone: This was a packed auditorium with a standing room audience, happy to be there, appreciative, and enthusiastic.

The love: Almost everyone thanked Congressman Jim McGovern who has tried to get this conference held for years.  He got—and deserved—standing ovations.

The speeches

The President: Biden mostly reiterated the main points of the National Strategy, but insisted on the value of the Child Tax Credit (see my previous post on this).  This got a standing ovation (along with a couple of others).  Ending food insecurity, he said, is a way to treat each other with decency.

Jim McGovern: When he worked with George McGovern (no relation, a Democrat) and Republican Bob Dole on food issues,  ending hunger was a bipartisan goal.  Now, 35 million Americans needi food assistance; hunger should be illegal.

Cory Booker: Americans are in the midst of a storm of diet-related disease.  Congress will hold hearings on Food as Medicine.  We need to put the F back in FDA (ovation).

The plenary panel

Debbie Stabenow, who heads the Senate Ag Committee; “We will not cut SNAP.”

Rosa de Lauro, who heads the House appropriations committee: “I like holding the gavel.  We will fund what we need to.”

Eric Adams, mayor of New York City: “We are making healthy eating the default.”

The major speech

José Andrés: This was the major political speech of the conference: the problem, the moral imperative, and the policies needed (ovation). My favorite line: “We must stop giving breadcrumbs and start building bakeries.”

My assessment

The conference put hunger on the agenda of Susan Rice, who heads Biden’s Domestic Policy Council (and who stayed throughout the entire meeting), and on that of the President himself.

  • It gave high visibility to the issue.
  • It highlighted the fabulous work of individuals and organizations who are working to  help bring people out of poverty.
  • It called for—and got—commitments from organizations and corporations to take real action to address food insecurity and its consequences.
  • It generated excitement and hope among people working on these issues.

Will it lead to real change?  Will it improve the current situation?  Will it lead to reduced hunger?

Not without public pressure, I’m guessing.

A note on the organizational chaos: last-minute invitations (mine arrived Sunday night after 9:00 p.m. and Eric Adams’ staff, who attended, never did get theirs; no advance schedule until a couple of days before, when it was still quite vague; a 6:00 a.m. announcement to be there at 7:30 to register because security lines would be long; badge printers that didn’t work; no printed program; no clear listing of speakers and times; auditorium too small for audience (most were in overflow room); a mystery as to who was in charge—a committee of the Domestic Policy Council, apparently.  Still, it all worked!

A note on the meals and swag: The James Beard Foundation arranged the lunch—vegan, bison, or chicken. These were packed in heavy plastic lunch trays, later washed and packed along with cutlery into Oxo bags given to participants.  The only real souvenir is the name badge, to be treasured.

A note on Biden’s blooper: He called out Jackie Walorsky— “Where’s Jackie?” — which got gasps from people who knew she had died in a traffic accident in August.   Later, a video tribute to her brought people to tears.


Coming soon!  My memoir, October 4.

For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.


Sep 28 2022

On my wish list for the White House Conference: Reauthorize child nutrition legislation

The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition & Health is convening today.  As a reminder of why it matters, here’s what’s happening with the much-needed reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Bill.

The reauthorization bill, required every five years, was introduced in the House in July as H.R.5919Early Childhood Nutrition Improvement Act of 2021.  If and when passed, it will:

  • Increase kids’ access to free school meals
  • Expand kids’ access to summer meals
  • Expand kids’ access to day care meals
  • Expand WIC (the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children) benefits and access
  • Enable Tribal sovereignty in program administration 

The Food Research & Action Center (FRAC) offers:

I’m hoping the White House Strategy announced today will include these elements for reducing childhood hunger.


Coming soon!  My memoir, October 4.

For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.


Sep 27 2022

Tomorrow! The White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, & Health

At 9:09 on Sunday night, I received a rather lat-minute invitation to this conference.  I think it’s worth going to, and will.

Whatever it turns out to be, this will be an historic occasion.

Almost everything public about it is on the conference website.

Here’s what it says will happen:

On Wednesday, September 28, the Biden-Harris Administration will host the White House Conference on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health. The Administration will also release a National Strategy with actions the federal government will take to drive solutions to these challenges.

As it happens, the White House released The Biden-Harris Administration National Strategy on Hunger, Nutrition, and Health yesterday.  I will say more about this tomorrow, but here’s a summary of Pillar 1:

Improving food access and affordability, including by advancing economic security; increasing access to free and nourishing school meals; providing Summer Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) benefits to more children; and expanding Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) eligibility to more underserved populations.

The opening speakers have been announced:

  • President Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
  • Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff
  • Ambassador Susan E. Rice, White House Domestic Policy Advisor
  • Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack
  • Secretary of Health and Human Services Xavier Becerra
  • Chef José Andrés

It can be watched online:

It will be interesting to see what the National Strategy might be, and what emerges from the conference.

In the meantime, to inform the conference:


Coming soon!  My memoir, October 4.

For 30% off, go to  Use code 21W2240 at checkout.