by Marion Nestle

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Apr 22 2021

More on cannabis edibles: cookbooks!

I don’t follow cookbooks closely but was surprised to see Stained Page News’ account of an entire cookbook genre devoted to cooking with Cannabis.

I knew about Elise McDonough’s writings in High Times, but had not paid much attention to her Official High Times Cannabis Cookbook when it came out.  Stained Page News explains:

Author Elise McDonough is foundational to the modern cannabis cookbook space. A cannabis consumer since her teens, she eventually found herself working for the flagship subculture magazine High Times while taking classes at New York’s Natural Gourmet Institute. McDonough says that the magazine would field recipes from contributors, who often sent them in without photography, and they’d have to re-create the dish in order to print it. “That really got me into the idea of cooking with cannabis—learning a lot of techniques, an interest in food style and prop styling for photography, that got me started,” she said.

Here is SPN’s Guide to Cannabis Cookbooks

Disclaimer: I have never cooked from any of these and cannot vouch for the accuracy of the recipes or their quality.  But if you do cook from them,

 

Apr 21 2021

Let’s pay attention to nutrition security (as well as food security)

Dariush Mozaffarian (Dean of the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts), Sheila Fleischhacker (Georgetown University Law Center), and the chef, José R. Andrés, now of World Central Kitchen, propose to drop the term “food security” and replace it with “nutrition security.”

For decades, US policies to address hunger and food insecurity have focused largely on providing sufficient calories or quantities of food. However, effectively addressing the current diet-related challenges in the US will require a shift beyond these concepts to the broader concept of nutrition security. Addressing nutrition security, which can be defined as having consistent access, availability, and affordability of foods and beverages that promote well-being and prevent (and if needed, treat) disease, may be the next needed approach to inform clinical care and public policy.

Their point: it’s not enough to provide adequate calories to people who need food; those calories should come from foods that promote health.

…many policies and programs to address food security continue to place a greater emphasis on access to quantity, rather than quality, of food. The prevalence of obesity and diabetes is at an all-time high, with highest risk among individuals who are food insecure. Traditionally marginalized minority groups, as well as people living in rural and lower-income counties, are more likely to experience disparities in nutrition quality, food insecurity, and corresponding diet-related diseases. Clearly, the current approach is not sufficient.

And they recognize the need for “upstream” public policies to promote healthier diets:

An emphasis on nutrition security also could serve as a better guide for public health investments and national research, for which a growing coalition of antihunger, clinical, public health, and business groups recognizes the critical need for a stronger evidence base to accelerate food and nutrition solutions. From a societal standpoint, because poverty and food insecurity are closely associated, efforts must be made to reduce the level of poverty in the US.

This is a short editorial piece titled “Prioritizing Nutrition Security in the US.”

I’m for it.

Apr 20 2021

R.I.P. USDA’s food boxes

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack has announced the end of the Farmers to Families food box program.  As reported by The Counter,

The reality is the food box program was set up to respond to Covid. There were a lot of problems with it, a lot of problems,” said Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack in a congressional hearing on Wednesday. Over the last year, we’ve reported on many of those problems—namely high prices, uneven distribution, and lack of oversight.

This program, which has cost at least $5.5 billion to date, was ostensibly supposed to help farmers by buying their produce and provide food to people who needed it by distributing it through food banks and pantries.

I say “ostensibly” because its real purpose was to undermine SNAP.

Food boxes were one of three ways the Trump Administration acted to reduce SNAP enrollments and expenditures (the other two were enforcement of work requirements and invocation of the public charge rule denying residency and citizenship to people who used public benefits, even benefits to which all residents are entitled).

To review the history of this program:   In 2018, Trump’s Budget proposed to replace some of SNAP benefits with “Harvest Boxes”—along the lines of those provided by Blue Apron, apparently.   The proposal provided few details.  It was immediately criticized for its lack of information about logistics, composition of the boxes, fresh foods, and choice.

USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue did not give up on the idea, however.  The Coronavirus pandemic gave him the excuse he needed to start the program, now called Farmers to Families.

This seemed reasonable in theory.  Distributors would collect unsold produce from farmers, pack it in boxes, and deliver the boxes to food banks.  Farmers would have income for what they produced; this would help people who lost their jobs during the pandemic.

In practice, small farmers were quickly dropped from the program, Black farmers were excluded, and people who got the boxes got whatever was in them—not always what was supposed to be in them.

Here’s what the USDA says the program delivered:

To date USDA contractors have delivered 157,996,398 of fresh produce, milk, dairy and cooked meats to disadvantaged Americans across the country

35.7 million food boxes invoiced in round one (May 15-June 30)

50.8 million food boxes invoiced in round two (July 1-August 31)

15.2 million food boxes invoiced in round two extensions (September 1 – September 18)

18.8 million food boxes invoiced in BOA Contracts (September 22 – October 31)

12.4 million food boxes invoiced in round four (November 1 – December 31)

25.1 million food boxes invoiced in round five (January 19 – April 30)

I say R.I.P.  The Biden Administration’s shoring up of SNAP is better policy for food assistance.

Assistance to small farmers is another matter entirely, and one that needs immediate attention.

 

Apr 19 2021

Industry-funded study of the week: avocados again and again

You might not think that avocados need any special sales efforts, but the Haas Avocado marketers are particularly aggressive in funding research to demonstrate the health benefits of this food.

I’ve written about Haas-funded avocado research previously (most recently, here and here) but here’s yet another, this time initiated by a tweet:

I think avocados are fine foods, love them, but wish their marketers would not do this.  Here’s the Good News Network headline: “An Avocado a Day May Keep Your Gut Microbes Happy, Study Shows.”  As always, the operative word is “may.”  The headline would be equally correct saying “may not.”

The study: Avocado Consumption Alters Gastrointestinal Bacteria Abundance and Microbial Metabolite Concentrations among Adults with Overweight or Obesity: A Randomized Controlled Trial. Sharon V Thompson, Melisa A Bailey, Andrew M Taylor, Jennifer L Kaczmarek, Annemarie R Mysonhimer, Caitlyn G Edwards, Ginger E Reeser, Nicholas A Burd, Naiman A Khan, Hannah D Holscher.  The Journal of Nutrition, Volume 151, Issue 4, April 2021, Pages 753–762.

Conclusions: “Daily avocado consumption resulted in lower fecal bile acid concentrations, greater fecal fatty acid and SCFAs, and greater relative abundances of bacteria capable of fiber fermentation, providing evidence that this nutrient-dense food affects digestive physiology, as well as the composition and metabolic functions of the intestinal microbiota.”

Funding: Support for this research was provided by the Hass Avocado Board and the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, Hatch project 1009249.

Author disclosures: NAB, NAK, and HDH received grant funding from the Hass Avocado Board.

Comment: All fruits and vegetables provide nutritional value and the best way to get the nutrients you need is by eating a variety of them.  If you like avocados, include them in that variety.  If not, don’t.

The Haas marketers want you to think that avocados are a superfood.  Alas, there is no such thing.  All fruits and vegetables provide nutritional value.  By that criterion, all fruits and vegetables are superfoods.

Here’s an example of how Haas advertises:

Did you know fresh avocados can be part of the MyPlate food guide?

  • Make half your plate fruits and vegetables.

Avocados are a nutrient-dense fruit with naturally good fats and are easily incorporated into various meals and snacks. One serving (50g or one-third of a medium avocado) has only 80 calories and contributes nearly 20 vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients along with dietary fiber.

The same could be said for most other fruits and vegetables, although most will be lower in calories.

Apr 16 2021

Weekend reading: Safety First for Restaurants

The Aspen Institute’s Food & Society initiative, in collaboration with several other groups, has jointly issued a guide for restaurants on how to protect staff and customers from Covid-19.

The new guide includes:

  • The Diner Code of Conduct, which lays out expectations for dining indoors.
  • The COVID-19 Pledge, which explains the expectations of restaurant operators and workers to create a safe indoor dining environment.
  • Ventilation Guidelines, which give restaurants practical, affordable, and accessible help with ventilation systems and best practices.

You can get the whole thing here.

As Corby Kummer, Food & Society’s director, explains,

We’ve fine-tuned Safety First to meet the on-the-ground needs of restaurants as they reopen as quickly, economically, and safely as possible—translating the science of health officials and engineering associations into the day-to-day realities of businesses small and large. That’s what restaurants told us they needed, and health departments told us too.

The guide puts everything in one place: how Covid-19 is transmitted; how to prevent it,; what diners, waiters, cooks, and everyone else in a restaurant should do there and at home; how to deal with restrooms; and how to deal with any number of possible scenarios.

It’s short, easy to read, and amazingly comprehensive and useful.

We all want restaurants to re-open safely.  Here’s how, with thanks to Aspen and its heavy-duty collaborators:

  • World Central Kitchen
  • The National Restaurant Association
  • The James Beard Foundation
  • The Independent Restaurant Coalition
Apr 15 2021

Keeping up with the global market for Cannabis edibles

The FDA’s Cannabis website is still the go-to place for staying on top of the regulatory status.  It hasn’t done much since January:

The Institute for Food Technology has an update on Consumers, Covid-19, and CBD edibles.

Here’s the latest on safety: CBD safety: Large-scale study finds no evidence of liver toxicity from oral CBD products:  Colorado-based ValidCare has announced the preliminary findings from its industry-sponsored, decentralized human safety study of hemp derived CBD products, with the data indicating no liver toxicity…. Read more

And here’s what’s happening internationally:

 

 

 

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Apr 14 2021

Study: how wines taste depends on what you think they cost

Thanks to Habib Benzian for telling me about this study.

Price information influences the subjective experience of wine: A framed field experiment.  Christoph Patrick Werner, et al.  Food Quality and Preference; 2021;92:104223

Highlights

  • First study manipulating wine prices using a framed field experiment.
  • Blind intensity ratings differ for 3 wines of different price and expert rating.
  • Blind pleasantness ratings do not differ for the same three wines.
  • Pleasantness of the budget wine increased when presented with a fake higher price.

The study: The authors got 140 people to taste wines of three different price ranges with open, deceptive, or no price information, and rate them for taste.

The main result: When price information was accurate, participants’ ratings were parallel to cost.  When price information was missing or deceptive, pleasantness ratings did not differ.

Wine A is inexpensive; Wine B is more expensive and rated as medium quality; wine C is expensive and rated outstanding

Authors conclusions: .”Thus, pricing information differentially influences the consumer’s subjective experience of wine, with no effects on intensity of taste ratings and no effects on pleasantness ratings with correct or no price information, but increased pleasantness of low-price wine when provided with a deceptive higher price. Thus, in wine may lay the truth, but its subjective experience may also lie in the price.”

Apr 13 2021

The latest pet food recalls: a food safety system issue

A decade ago, I wrote or co-authored two books about pet food (Pet Food Politics: The Chihuahua in the Coal Mineand Feed Your Pet Right).  Why?  Pet foods are part of the US food system, not only because they are a good use of the waste products of human food production, but also because if there are problems with pet foods you can bet that similar problems will occur in production of foods for humans.

The FDA has a web page where it tracks recalls and market withdrawals of pet foods.  To search for pet food recalls, you need to filter for Animal and Veterinary.  This shows that there have been five product recalls in March 2021 alone, four of them because of possible Salmonella contamination.

The largest is of products from Midwestern Pet Foods.  This recall is especially noteworthy for the length of the list of recalled products.

These involve multiple products in each of several brands:

  • Earthborn Holistic
  • Meridian
  • Pro Pac
  • Sportmix
  • Unrefined
  • Venture
  • Wholesomes

Midwestern Pet Foods issued a press release explaining what happened and what needs to happen.

The recall was as the result of a routine sampling program by the company which revealed that the finished products may
contain the bacteria.
Retailers and distributors should immediately pull recalled lots from their inventory and shelves. Do not sell or donate the
recalled products. Retailers are encouraged to contact consumers that have purchased the recalled products if the means
to do so exists.
Do not feed the recalled products to pets or any other animals. Destroy the food in a way that children, pets and wildlife
cannot access them. Wash and sanitize pet food bowls, cups and storage containers. Always ensure you wash and
sanitize your hands after handling recalled food or any utensils that come in contact with recalled food.

On its website, Midwestern Pet Foods says:

At Midwestern Pet Foods, we’ve been feeding pets for generations. We’re a family-owned business now in our fourth generation. Over the years, we’ve learned a lot about family, pet companions and making high-quality pet food & treats. We still have those same Midwestern values that Grandpa Nunn had back in 1926!

If Salmonella is in or on pet foods, there has been a breakdown in food safety procedures.  Salmonella does not usually make pets sick, but it does sicken their owners.  This particular recall demonstrates the same problem I wrote about in Pet Food Politics: one manufacturer makes lots and lots of different products.  Recall information does not always get to individual pet foods stores.  It’s best to keep up with what the FDA is posting.

Caveat emptor.