Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 23 2019

Global Meat News on this industry’s sustainability problem

The meat industry is under siege these days over issues of sustainability.  The major recommendation of the EAT-Lancet report is to cut consumption of red meat by half in order to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.  This is a worry for the meat industry.

This collection of articles indicates how this industry is dealing with the sustainability issue—in some cases, with difficulty, denial, and fighting back.

GlobalMeatNews.com, an industry newsletter, has this Special Edition: Sustainability

In this special edition on sustainability, we look at what the major players in the international meat industry are doing to ensure the future of the sector. We start with quality control plans with Brazilian poultry as well as a massive investment in solar technology by Hormel Foods. We also look at Cargill’s work on reducing antibiotics and a new beef scheme in Ireland.

May 22 2019

Annals of marketing: dairy-based functional drinks in Asia

A notice from FoodNavigator-Asia got my attention: Coca-Cola is partnering with the New Zealand dairy company Fonterra to produce “Nutriboost” products for Southeast Asia.

What are these?

  • Nutriboost Kids is targeted at children above three years of age, with each of its products being fortified with different occasion-based vitamins and minerals:…Morning Growth (fortified with vitamins for growth), Playtime (designed for stronger immunity) and Good Night (fortified with DHA for brain development).
  • Nutriboost To-Go is an energy-providing breakfast range enriched with oats and fibre.
  • Nutriboost Beauty is fortified with fitness and beauty-associated minerals like collagen and zinc.

Given the lack of evidence for significant nutritional benefits of any of these things, and the high prevalence of lactose intolerance among Asian populations, why this partnership?

  • Vietnam is the third largest dairy market in the ASEAN region.
  • To grow [sales] to 40 million or 50 million cases within the next five years.
  • Coca-Cola’s strategy is to evolve away from drinks with high sugar content.

The article doesn’t say how much money is going into this partnership, but both companies must think there is a big market for such products.

I’m not a fan of “functional” foods, alas.

Real food, anyone?

May 21 2019

Obesity explained: Ultra-processed foods –> Calories –> Weight Gain

Kevin Hall at NIH has done a controlled diet study demonstrating that people who consume ultra-processed foods eat more calories—500 more a day (!)—and, therefore, gain weight.

Carlos Monteiro at the University of São Paulo and his colleagues explain how to identify ultra-processed foods.  

They also demonstrate that ultra-processed foods comprise nearly 60 percent of calorie intake.

No surprise.  Calories matter, as Mal Nesheim and I explained in our book Why Calories Count: From Science to Politics (and thanks Kevin for confirming what we wrote in that book).

The clear conclusions of this study have elicited a lot of attention.  Here’s my favorite from Francis Collins, the head of NIH and Kevin Hall’s boss, who also did a blog post:

Examples of media accounts (there were lots more)

May 20 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: avocados

I love avocados but does their trade association really need to do research to encourage you to eat them?  Apparently so.

The study: Using the Avocado to Test the Satiety Effects of a Fat-Fiber Combination in Place of Carbohydrate Energy in a Breakfast Meal in Overweight and Obese Men and Women: A Randomized Clinical Trial.  Zhu L, et al. Nutrients 2019, 11, 952; doi:10.3390/nu11050952

Conclusion: “Replacing carbohydrates in a high-carbohydrate meal with avocado-derived fat-fiber combination increased feelings of satiety mediated primarily by PYY [satiety-inducing peptide] vs. insulin. These findings may have important implications for addressing appetite management and metabolic concerns.”

Funding: “This research was supported by the Hass Avocado Board, Irvine, CA, USA.”

Acknowledgments: “The planning, organization of the study as well as data analyses was performed solely by the investigators.”

Comment: Perhaps so, but, as I document in my book Unsavory Truth, an overwhelming body of research demonstrates that the biasing effect of industry funding occurs at an unconscious level and mostly occurs in the design of the research question.  The effect of the funding is usually unintentional and unrecognized, and typically denied.

Thanks to Effie Schultz for sending this one.

 

May 17 2019

Weekend reading: Bee Wilson’s new book

Bee Wilson.  The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World.  Basic Books, 2019.

Image result for The Way We Eat Now: How the Food Revolution Has Transformed Our Lives, Our Bodies, and Our World

I happily did a back-cover blurb for this one:

Bee Wilson’s deep dive into the causes and consequences of today’s unsustainable–but now worldwide–eating patterns is nothing less than a call to action.  We must change today’s Global Standard Diet to one that promotes planetary as well as our own health.

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May 16 2019

A roundup of articles about—cocoa deforestation

I subscribe to ConfectionaryNews.com for information about this industry.  It recently collected a series of articles on the cocoa industry and how it is attempting to become more sustainable: Editor’s Spotlight: The future of cocoa deforestation

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May 15 2019

Online shopping for SNAP participants—the wave of the future?

The USDA recently announced a new pilot program for New York State participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  They will now be able to use their Electronic Benefit Transfer cards to buy foods online.

At first glance, this seems like a terrific idea for solving problems of limited access to healthy foods (“food deserts”), and it gives SNAP participants more options and easier access.   Yes!

But participants will have to pay service or delivery charges with their own money.  For this and other rules, see the SNAP Online Purchasing pilot webpage.  Will they end up paying more or less for foods?  We will have to see how the pilot plays out to know.

At the moment, one clear conclusion is the benefit to Big Retail.  Amazon and ShopRite will run the program in New York City.  Walmart will run it upstate.

Amazon, for example, is promoting this pilot project with a video.

Nevin Cohen, writing in Civil Eats, has the best analysis of this program I’ve seen so far.

For those who have worked for decades to make healthful food available in low-income communities, the pilot has the potential to be a game-changer, enabling them to shift attention from physical access to supermarkets to the economic inequality at the root of food insecurity. But if the SNAP pilot will actually make people healthier, six questions demand attention [his article discusses these in detail]:

1. Does Online Shopping Mean Healthier Choices?

2. Will Shopping at Home Make People Less Active and More Lonely?

3. Will Local Food Retailers be Able to Compete?

4. Will it Be Bad for Worker Health?

5. Will it Increase Environmental Health Problems?

6. Will it Create a Digital Food Divide?

SNAP, Cohen points out

is moving online, whether we like it or not, and ignoring the fact that in a few years some 40 million people will change their grocery shopping habits would be a serious mistake. As the physical barriers to food fall away for SNAP participants, it will be up to policymakers and the public health community to ensure that the food retail sector—virtual as well as brick and mortar—supports healthy diets and true access for all.

 

May 14 2019

Meat safety is better, but needs to be even better

I’m always interested to see what food safety lawyer Bill Marler has to say about the latest lapses.  He often represents the innocent-but-unlucky victims of food poisonings.  All they were doing was getting something to eat or feed their kids.  They had no idea the food was contaminated with a deadly form of E. coli or Salmonella.

In a recent post, Marler reflected on the enormous progress made by meat producers in reducing pathogens in their products.  Marler explains:

From the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak of 1993 until the 2002 ConAgra E. coli outbreak, at least 95% of Marler Clark revenue was E. coli cases linked to hamburger.  Today, it is nearly zero.  That is success.  To the beef industry – thank you for meeting the challenge…for now, hats off to you.

But, he points out, the meat industry must continue to act with vigilance, as demonstrated by the CDC’s recent safety warning about ground beef contaminated with toxic E. coli O103.

The CDC lists the statistics of this recent outbreak to date.

The recalls of ground beef have started.

  • Grant Park Packing in Franklin Park, Ill., recalled approximately 53,200 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 24, 2019.
  • K2D Foods, doing business as Colorado Premium Foods, in Carrollton, Ga., recalledapproximately 113,424 pounds of raw ground beef products on April 23, 2019.

Others may follow.

Meat producers: eternal vigilance, please.  Lives are at stake.

As for food safety in general: The CDC says foodborne illness cases are increasing.

During 2018, FoodNet identified

  • 25,606 infections
  • 5,893 hospitalizations
  • 120 deaths

Note: these are fully preventable.

And food producers must make sure that they are fully prevented.