Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Feb 20 2017

NYC breakfast program: good, but oddly advertised

Charles Platkin of Hunter’s Food Policy Center sent me this photo taken on the subway a week or so ago.

A croissant to advertise the school system’s breakfasts?

Charles and a colleague greatly favor the school breakfast program, but the ad?  Not so much.  They discuss it in a post: “Unhealthy Health Advertising May Stimulate Eating and Send the Wrong Message.”

Here’s my quote:

“I’m in favor of kids getting breakfast in schools. It saves lots of problems for parents and ensures that kids start the day with some food in their stomachs. It’s wonderful that the New York City Schools are doing this. With that said, the devil is in the details. I assume that all breakfasts meet USDA nutrition standards.

But croissants? These can be delicious—all that butter–but I wouldn’t exactly call them “healthy” and I’m wondering whose bright idea it was to choose that item to display. Looking at the menus for December, they are largely grain-based—bread, granola, tortillas, bagels, cereals, and the like—along with fruit and milk.   I think they look pretty good—they certainly could look a lot worse–but the proof is in the eating. Some parents will hate these breakfasts (too much sugar, too many packages, not enough protein). Others ought to be grateful. Ideally, cooks would be making delicious hot breakfasts for kids in school but that isn’t going to happen and from my standpoint this is a reasonable compromise. Presumably, kids who ate breakfast at home won’t need or take these items. I’d like to see them in action to really get an idea of how this is working.

Feb 17 2017

Weekend resources: a roundup

Feb 16 2017

Again, after 40 years, GAO still wants a unified food safety system

The congressional watchdog Government Accountability Office (GAO) has just published its latest plea for coordinating federal food safety programs: A National Strategy Is Needed to Address Fragmentation in Federal Oversight.

GAO persists in pointing out that 16 federal agencies administer 30 laws government food safety and quality, although USDA (meat and poultry) and FDA (everything else) have the greatest responsibility.

Despite some progress, GAO’s long-standing recommendation for a single, unified food safety agency continues to be ignored.

HHS’s and USDA’s efforts since 2014 are positive steps toward government-wide planning, but OMB has not addressed our recommendation for a government-wide plan for the federal food safety oversight system. Without an annually updated government-wide performance plan for food safety that includes results-oriented goals, performance measures, and a discussion of strategies and resources…Congress, program managers, and other decision makers are hampered in their ability to identify agencies and programs addressing similar missions and to set priorities, allocate resources, and restructure federal efforts, as needed, to achieve long-term goals. Also, without such a plan, federal food safety efforts are not clear and transparent to the public.  OMB staff told us that they were not aware of any current plans to develop a government-wide performance plan for food safety.

The footnotes list previous GAO reports aimed at rationalizing our food safety system, among them:

  • GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-15-290 (Washington, D.C.: Feb. 11, 2015), GAO-15-180.
  • GAO, Federal Food Safety Oversight: Food Safety Working Group Is a Positive First Step but Government-wide Planning Is Needed to Address Fragmentation, GAO-11-289 (Washington, D.C.: Mar. 18, 2011)
  • GAO, High-Risk Series: An Update, GAO-07-310 (Washington, D.C.: January 2007)
  • GAO, Food Safety: U.S. Needs a Single Agency to Administer a Unified, Risk-Based Inspection System, T-RCED-99-256 (Washington, D.C.: Aug. 4, 1999).
  • GAO, Food Safety: A Unified, Risk-Based System Needed to Enhance Food Safety, T-RCED-94-71 (Washington, D.C.: Nov. 4, 1993)
  • GAO, Food Safety and Quality: Uniform, Risk-based Inspection System Needed to Ensure Safe Food Supply, RCED-92-152 (Washington, D.C.: June 26, 1992)
  • GAO, Need to Reassess Food Inspection Roles of Federal Organizations, B-168966 (Washington, D.C.: June 30, 1970).

One of these years, maybe?

Feb 15 2017

Dairy vs. Almonds: who gets to call it “milk?”

The National Milk Producers Federation wants the House and Senate to introduce two “Dairy Pride Acts.”  These would require the FDA to rule taht anything labeled milk, cheese, or yogurt has to come from cows—none of this almond, soy, or rice milk nonsense.

Why?  Because it will confuse consumers into thinking that—horrors—almond, soy, or rice is just as nutritious as dairy products.

Why do I think that anyone buying almond, soy, or rice milk knows perfectly well what these are?

This is about protecting the dairy industry—marketing, not science, alas.

The Plant-Based Foods Association opposes both bills, no surprise.

Background on the bills:

Feb 14 2017

Happy (healthy?) Valentine’s Day!

Happy Valentine’s Day!

It’s a big day for candy sales.

Just for fun, I Googled “healthy Valentine’s Day” just to see what would come up.   Lots, it turns out.

Here’s my favorite.

Image result for valentine's day healthy candy

Happy Valentine’s Day!

Feb 13 2017

Mexican soda tax advocates victims of government-linked spyware hacking

Who knew that such things existed, let alone that they would be directed at anti-obesity and pro-soda tax advocates.

The New York Times reports that frightening messages about their families (the article gives examples) were sent to the advocates with links

laced with an invasive form of spyware developed by NSO Group, an Israeli cyberarms dealer that sells its digital spy tools exclusively to governments and that has contracts with multiple agencies inside Mexico, according to company emails leaked to the New York Timeslast year.

Supposedly, this Group sells “tools only to governments for criminal and terrorism investigations.”  These can “trace a target’s every phone call, text message, email, keystroke, location, sound and sight.”

As the Times gently puts it, this discovery “raises new questions about whether NSO’s tools are being used to advance the soda industry’s commercial interests in Mexico.”

Citizen Lab has more information about this situation.

The spyware targeted these individuals:

  • Dr. Simon Barquera is a well-respected researcher at the Mexican Government’s Instituto Nacional de Salud Pública (National Institute of Public Health).
  • Alejandro Calvillo is the Director of El Poder del Consumidor, a consumer rights and health advocacy organization.
  • Luis Encarnación is the Director of the Coalición ContraPESO, a coalition of more than 40 organizations that work on obesity prevention and reduction strategies.  All three individuals work to support Mexico’s soda tax.

I am leaving on Wednesday for three weeks on a Fulbright to the National Institute of Public Health in Cuernavaca and hope to find out a lot more about this.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, here’s a tweet from someone I don’t know (I like the soda cans).

Late addition:  Gary Ruskin sends his paper on corporate espionage against nonprofit organizations.  

 

Feb 10 2017

Weekend reading: Jane Black on school lunches

Jane Black sent me a link to her Huffington Post article on school lunches.  As she puts it, “it’s a long read—perfect for a snowy weekend.

Indeed it is.  Riveting, and brilliantly illustrated.
This is Jane’s astonishingly well researched account of what happened to school meals in Huntington, West Virginia—after Jamie Oliver left.

Surprise: They got better!

The subtitle explains why: “How an unassuming bureaucrat outsmarted Jamie Oliver and pulled off an honest-to-god miracle in one of America’s unhealthiest cities.”

The conclusion:

What McCoy had done in Huntington was exactly the kind of thing Republicans claim to celebrate. She wasn’t a Washington bureaucrat telling people to do it her way, or no way at all; she was a well-intentioned local who had figured out what made sense for her community and acted on it.

This is a truly inspiring “yes we can” story, so worth reading—and so welcome.

Thanks Jane.

Feb 9 2017

The supplement industry’s political agenda revealed

I am indebted to Food Chemical News (FCN) for this insight into the current lobbying efforts of the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the supplement industry’s relentless, never give up, trade group.

FCN says the Council is on track to visit all new congressional representatives with these asks:

  • Allow SNAP benefits to be used for dietary supplements.
  • Allow the supplement industry to self-regulate.
  • Join the bipartisan Dietary Supplement Caucus.

Sigh.

Never mind that dietary supplements are hardly ever shown to improve health in healthy people, and not for lack of trying (see previous posts, below).

Never mind that this is an issue the USDA has been dealing with for years.

This industry sees the current political scene as favorable to supplements and is not going to miss this opportunity.

Oh well.

As you can see, I take a dim view of the value of supplements (yes, I know you love taking them, and how we all wish the science showed they did some good).

Here are some of my previous posts on supplements, if you want to catch up.

 

Page 21 of 368« First...1920212223...Last »