Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
May 8 2019

The number of cherries in pie: a regulatory priority?

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry when I hear things like this.  According to a report from the Associated Press, the FDA plans to follow the Trump administration’s deregulaory agenda by getting rid of the standard of identity rules for frozen cherry pies.

The rules currently require commercial frozen cherry pies to be filled with “mature, pitted, stemmed cherries that are fresh, frozen, and/or canned,” to contain at least 25% cherries by weight, and to have no more than 15% of the cherries with blemishes.

In October, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb sent out this tweet.

In a June email, the FDA said it planned to revoke the standard for frozen cherry pies in April. It has kept its word.

My questions:

  • Without the standard of identity, are we likely to have more or fewer cherries in frozen cherry pie?  [Want to make a bet?  I’m guessing fewer].
  • What lobbying group got the FDA to do this, and why did the FDA agree?
  • Did ex-Commissioner Gottlieb really consider this a top priority for FDA? [If so, we are in even worse trouble than even I imagined].

I’m stuck on regulatory priority.  Food safety, anyone?

As for the origins of the cherry pie count, see this excellent piece in the Washington Post by historian Xaq Frohlich.

 

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May 7 2019

The sad state of the US dairy industry: sensible policies needed

The New York Times writes about the tragedy of Wisconsin dairy farms.

Over the past two years, nearly 1,200 of the state’s dairy farms have stopped milking cows and so far this year, another 212 have disappeared, with many shifting production to beef or vegetables. The total number of herds in Wisconsin is now below 8,000 — about half as many as 15 years ago. In 2018, 49 Wisconsin farms filed for bankruptcy — the highest of any state in the country, according to the American Farm Bureau Federation.

It explains this as the result of “The rise of corporate farms and more efficient milking processes have led to an oversupply as consumption of milk has waned nationally.”

What’s going on with dairy farming is astonishingly poor policy, especially for small farmers who are now a deeply endangered species.

How to explain?  Bad policy.

In what other industry would you find producers continuing to ramp up production while demand slides, and then stuffing the growing pile of surplus into warehouses, hoping the federal government will buy some of it?

The result: The government is now stockpiling 1.4 billion pounds of cheese.

Should dairy farmers go back to a system of restricting production the way they do in Canada?

One thing is for sure.  If we want local dairy farms to survive, we have to find a way to pay dairy farmers as much or more than it costs them to produce.

Serious policy thinking, anyone?

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May 6 2019

On book tour this week—in Brazil!

To launch the Portuguese translation of Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat, I am going to Brazil.

I’ve posted details under Appearances.  Other details are here.

And here’s the overall schedule.

Press reports:

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May 3 2019

Weekend reading: Well—a great introduction to public health

Sandro Galea.  Well: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health.  Oxford University Press, 2019.

Image result for Well: What We Need to Talk About When We Talk About Health

I blurbed this one:

A superb account of how money, power, politics, and the luck of the draw affect the health of individuals and populations. It should inspire us all to follow Galea in championing public health as an essential public good, and in treasuring and preserving the core values of public health—fairness, justice, and compassion for all.

Galea is the dean of the school of public health at Boston University and a prolific writer on public health topics, including food on occasion.  I am a big fan of his work.  I like his focus on social, economic, and environmental determinants of health and his consistent promotion of the core values of public health.  If you don’t really get what public health is about, this book is a great place to start.

Here is a brief sample from the chapter titled “Choice.”

We imagine our choices to be, for the most part, beyond the reach of outside influence and that, when we choose, we do so from an unlimited array of options; no one tells us what to eat, whether or not we are permitted to exercise, or who we must embrace as a life partner.  For this reason, much of our conversation about health has to do with “lifestyle”—making the correct choices for ourselves, choices which, we believe, will lead to better health.

…Yes, we can choose the food we eat, but our options are limited by what we can afford and by what kinds of food are available for purchase near our home.  These factors, in turn, depend on the quality of our neighborhood and the size of our income, which depends on larger socioeconomic forces over which we have little control.  Likewise, we can only choose to exercise if we live near parks, walkable streets, or athletic facilities, and we can only choose a person to marry from among the individuals we encounter within our community.  Place, power, money, politics, and people—all the forces we discuss in this book—shape the variables that ultimately influence our health.

May 2 2019

A roundup of articles about—Beer!

This is BeverageDaily.com’s monthly beer special, from the industry’s point of view.  If you don’t think of beer as an industry, think again.

And, thanks to reader Polly Adema, here is one more:

 

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May 1 2019

The latest in lab-based meat: mouse treats for cats?

Ah the wonders of modern technology.

Cats like to catch and eat mice (that what cats do), but if you believe in mouse rights and are appalled at the idea of killing mice for food there is a solution to this problem in the works.

Meet Because Animals, a company devoted to feeding pets “safer and more nutritious foods without harming the environment and other animals.”

How?

Lab-grown, cell-cultured mouse cells made into meat for cat treats. 

These are not yet on the market—regulatory issues are involved—but stay tuned.

And no, you can’t make this stuff up.

 

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Apr 30 2019

Coalitions!

Early in March, I put out a call for information about agriculture, food, or nutrition coalitions working toward improving the food system in one way or another.

I did this because I think that if the thousands of organizations working on food issues are to gain real political power, they will need to unite around common goals.  Coalitions are a good way to begin.

So many responses came in that I recruited an NYU undergraduate student, Jennie Dockser, to put them in some kind of order, collect missing information, and try to make sense of them.

I did some editing of what she gave me, but here is a list of the coalitions I now know about.  Take a look.

Perhaps your organization can join?

Apr 29 2019

A personal memoir of sorts

I was pleased to be invited to contribute to the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition’s “crystal ball” series:

The Crystal Ball Series is a collection of papers from prominent figures in the nutrition field. Through this collection the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition hopes to profile the paths of the eminent individuals [sic] nutrition journey; how they came to it and what have their contributions to nutrition science been. In addition, we ask them to share what they would like to see done now, where they see their area heading, the potential pitfalls, and over all what do they see in their crystal ball for the future of nutrition research.

Here’s my response, titled “A Food lover’s love of nutrition science, policy, and politics.”

Enjoy!

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