by Marion Nestle

Archives

Apr 29 2021

The down side of cocoa farming

The big issues in that chocolate you like so much: low prices for farmers, unsustainable practices, child labor.  These are still with us.

Apr 28 2021

Yet another apology to Food Politics subscribers

The new subscription system to Food Politics has ads.  I did not know that either.  I am looking into other methods.  Apologies again.  Please stay tuned.

Apr 28 2021

Dear subscribers: more explanation about Follow.It

If you have been subscribing to my Food Politics blog, you probably received this message from Follow.It about having to reconfirm your subscription.   Once again, despite its strange wording, it is legitimate.

You receive this email because publisher of feed Food Politics imported you to this list, claiming you were already subscribed to this content in other ways previously. Please confirm that this is correct and you want to receive this content by clicking here, or decline if you don’t want to receive it.

Follow.It has replaced Feedburner for blog subscriptions.  To avoid spam, it requires confirmation—twice.

If you want to continue subscribing—and I hope you will—you have two ways to do this.

  • Click on Confirm.  Then you get an email asking you to reply.  Please do.  That is all you have to do, even though you get taken to a site with ads.  You can ignore all that.  You are done.
  • Go to www.foodpolitics.com.  Click on Subscribe.  Follow the same procedure.

I had no idea this would be such a mess, and I’m truly sorry.  Thanks so much for hanging in.

More to come!

Apr 28 2021

FDA issues warnings to leafy green growers and their cattle raising neighbors

Leafy greens contaminated with toxic E. coli make eaters very sick (this is an understatement).

Toxic E. coli are excreted by cattle raised in the vicinity of lettuce and spinach fields.

But leafy green safety is overseen by FDA whereas everything having to do with food animals is overseen by USDA.

This is why the latest moves by FDA about leafy green safety are so noteworthy.

  • The FDA is warning leafy green growers that they must take better precautions to prevent E. coli contamination.
  • It also is warning cattle growers that they must prevent wastes from contaminating leafy green fields.

The Big Question: Will—can—the FDA force cattle ranchers and leafy green growers to adhere to food safety precautionary measures?

Let’s hope.

Here are the relevant documents:

FDA statement on release of a report on a 2020 outbreak

The findings of foodborne illness outbreak investigations since 2013 suggest that a likely contributing factor for contamination of leafy greens has been the proximity of cattle. Cattle have been repeatedly demonstrated to be a persistent source of pathogenic E. coli, including E. coli O157:H7.

Considering this, we recommend that all growers be aware of and consider adjacent land use practices, especially as it relates to the presence of livestock, and the interface between farmland, rangeland and other agricultural areas, and conduct appropriate risk assessments and implement risk mitigation strategies, where appropriate.

Report on the 2020 outbreak investigation

The analysis has confirmed a positive match to the outbreak strain in a sample of cattle feces, which was collected during follow-up investigations on a roadside, uphill from where leafy greens or other food identified in the traceback investigation were grown. While the finding does not provide definitive information on how E. coli may have contaminated product during the growing and harvesting season, it does confirm the presence of a strain of E. coli O157:H7 that causes recurring outbreaks in a more narrowly defined growing region and a potential, continued source of contamination.

Leafy Green STEC Action Plan

As outbreaks have continued to occur, despite significant efforts in recent years, greater emphasis will be needed around such complex issues as adjacent land use, agricultural water, and understanding likely routes by which human pathogens may contaminate leafy greens.

Former FDA food safety official Michael Taylor’s comment on these documents

FDA declared the recurring strain implicated in the 2020 outbreak to be a “reasonably foreseeable hazard,” which FDA attributed to the presence of cattle on land adjacent to growing fields.  This finding seems obvious and shouldn’t be surprising. The surprise, however, is that FDA used regulatory language to express its finding and spelled out the implications: farms covered by the FSMA produce safety rule “are required to implement science and risk-based preventive measures” to minimize the risk of serious illness or death from the E. coli hazard…I do not anticipate FDA taking judicial action to enforce its April 6 finding, absent egregious practices or clear negligence in a particular leafy green growing situation. I do see, however, a heightened sense of urgency at FDA and frustration that efforts to date have not solved the leafy greens safety problem. I share that frustration.    

Food safety lawyer Bill Marler’s comment

The FDA took specific aim at California growers as the cause of repeated and ongoing outbreaks, putting the responsibility of combating the outbreaks squarely on the growers.

FDA’s investigations into foodborne illness outbreaks are available from its outbreak page.  These are the ones from 2020.

 

Apr 27 2021

Urgent note to subscribers

If you are an e-mail subscriber to this blog, you should have received this message today.  Despite its off-putting wording, it is legitimate.

You receive this email because publisher of feed Food Politics imported you to this list, claiming you were already subscribed to this content in other ways previously. Please confirm that this is correct and you want to receive this content by clicking here, or decline if you don’t want to receive it.

For reasons unknown to me, Google has cancelled its long-standing Feedburner subscription service.

Subscriptions are being transferred to something called follow.it.

I thought the transfers would be automatic—apparently not.

If you would like to continue to receive my blog in your email, please click on the “confirm” link.

I’m so sorry for the awkward transfer.  If I had known, I would have alerted you in advance.

My apologies and thanks for subscribing.

Apr 27 2021

What the Green New Deal says about food

Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (Dem-NY) and Senator Ed Markey (Dem-MA) have reintroduced their bipartisan bill for a Green New Deal, H. Res. 109, aimed at preventing further climate change.

The Green New Deal provides for improvements to food systems and to food access (with my editing and emphasis):

  • Resolved that it is the duty of the Federal Government to create a Green New Deal to secure for all people of the United States for generations to come—healthy food.
  • The goals should be accomplished through a 10-year national mobilization (the “Green New Deal” mobilization”) that will require workfing collaboratively with farmers and ranchers in the United States to remove pollution and greenhouse gas emissions from the agricultural sector as much as is technologically feasible, including by (a) supporting family farming, (b) investing in sustainable farming and land use practices that increase soil health, and (c) bulding a more sustainable food system that ensures universal access to healthy food.
  • To achieve the Green New Deal goals and mobilization will require providing all people of the United States with clean water, clean air, healthy and affordable food, and access to nature.

The details are yet to come, but this plan has much to offer and deserves widespread support.

The Green New Deal was first introduced in 2019.

Apr 26 2021

Least credible food industry ad of the week: JBS and climate change

This ad appeared in yesterday’s New York Times.

The ad is signed jointly by JBS and Pilgrim’s, but JBS owns nearly 80% of Pilgrim’s, so this is JBS’s ad.

At the bottom of this ad, you can read about the company in very small print:

JBS is the second-largest food company in the world, producing high-quality beef, chicken and pork products, alokng with innovative prepared foods and plant-based alternatives that reimagine the future of protein….

The company is based in Brazil, where burning of the rainforest to grow soybeans—to feed cattle–produces massive amounts of greenhouse gases.

In this ad, JBS promises to achieve “net-zero emissions” by 2040.

How?  It’s a bit vague on details.

We’re setting time-bound, science-based targets and backing them up with $1 billion in capital over the next decade.  We’re supporting producers by investing $100 million by 2030 in on-farm research.

We will cut our own emissions by 30% by 2030 and eliminate Amazon deforestation from our supply chain within five years.

For the record, JBS’ annual revenues are nearly 40 times higher than what it plans to spend on this over the next 10 years.

The company’s revenues have been declining.  Does that explain its sudden interest in preventing climate change?

This looks like classic greenwashing to me.

Before believing that this is not greenwashing, I’d like to see those “time-bound, science-based targets” and to know who is holding JBS accountable for meeting them.

Apr 23 2021

Weekend reading: Turning food banks into a community resource

Katie S. Martin.  Reinventing Food Banks and Pantries: New Tools to End Hunger.  Island Press, 2021.

After Janet Poppendieck’s Sweet Charity?, and Andy Fisher’s Big HungerI didn’t think there was anything new to say about private charitable food handouts in the U.S., but this book surprised me.

Reinventing is a how-to manual for people working in the food banking and food pantry system.  Katie Martin’s goal is to make this system more dignified, healthier, and politically focused for participants.

Martin recognizes that a volunteer-run system for distributing charitable food is unsustainable.  She wrote this book to encourage longer term solutions to food and nutrition insecurity.

What if our success is measured not simply by the pounds of food we distribute but by the reduction in people who need our services?  Or the number of people who are connected to additional services?  Or the number of people who make fewer trade-off decisions between paying for food, rent, or medicine.  Or the number of people who have improved health outcomes based on the food and services they receive? (p. 26)

The book provides step-by-step guides to talking about hunger in policy rather than individual terms, to making food pantries more hospitable and better connected to social resources, to providing participants with choices, to training volunteers, to evaluating how programs work, and to dealing with systems change.

Every chapter ends with actions steps and encouragement to take one step, make one change.

Yes!