Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 28 2017

Civil Eats: The Year in Food Policy, 2017

Civil Eats reviews what happened this year:

It was a tumultuous year for food policy in the United States.

The year started off with several efforts by the Obama Administration to safeguard efforts at wide-scale food system change—such as the long-awaited formalization of new animal welfare rules in organics and the so-called “GIPSA rule,” which promised to level the playing field for small-scale meat producers in a consolidated marketplace. But once Donald Trump took office, things began to shift rapidly.

Take a look.  The article, by Twilight Greenaway, refers to Civil Eats’ articles throughout the year.

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Dec 27 2017

Planet Fat: The New York Times series on global obesity

Since September, the New York Times has been investigating how the food industry markets its products in the developing world, and how this marketing is encouraging a rising prevalence of obesity and its health consequences. The series is called Planet Fat.   This is the complete set to date, in reverse chronological order.

If you haven’t read them, this week is a good time to catch up.  Enjoy!

One Man’s Stand Against Junk Food as Diabetes Climbs Across India

India is “sitting on a volcano” of diabetes. A father’s effort to ban junk food sales in and near schools aims to change what children eat.

Dec. 26, 2017


Dec. 23, 2017


Dec. 11, 2017


Nov. 13, 2017


Oct. 2, 2017


Oct. 2, 2017


Sept. 16, 2017


Sept. 17, 2017


Dec 26 2017

Rattlesnake pills? Really? Contaminated with Salmonella?

I am indebted to food safety lawyer Bill Marler for enlightening me about these pills in the first place, and their contamination with Salmonella.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Kansas Department of Health and Environment have linked one  person’s Salmonella Oranienburg infection to taking rattlesnake pills. Rattlesnake pills are often marketed as remedies for various conditions, such as cancer and HIV infection. These pills contain dehydrated rattlesnake meat ground into a powder and put into pill form. CDC recommends that you talk to your health care provider if you are considering taking rattlesnake pills, especially if you are in a group more likely to get a severe Salmonella infection.

Can’t wait to hear what your health care provider says about these.


Dec 25 2017

Happy holidays!

We are in what I am hoping is a slow news week, and I will be using the time to catch up on small items that caught my fancy.

This, for example, forwarded to me by Lisa Young.

Enjoy the holiday!

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Dec 22 2017

Weekend Reading: America’s Diverse Family Farms

I’m not sure how USDA defines “diverse,” exactly, but I think it must be referring to size and income in this report.

Like so:

I’m also not sure how USDA defines “household” for very large-scale farms (Big Ag), but that’s where the money is, apparently.

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Dec 21 2017

Defectors from the Grocery Manufacturers Association: the score

Politico is tracking what’s happening to the GMA.  The defectors so far:

  • Tyson Foods
  • Unilever
  • Campbell Soup Co.
  • Nestlé
  • Dean Foods
  • Mars

The GMA has consistently and persistently lobbied against consumer-friendly measures.  I guess the GMA has become too embarrassing for these corporations or too contrary to the image they want to project.

I can’t wait to see who is next.  Stay tuned.

Dec 20 2017

FDA ends Food Advisory Committee: an odd idea

The FDA announced last week that it is terminating its Food Advisory Committee (see the Federal Register notice) 

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration today announced it will not renew the charter of the Food Advisory Committee. FDA instead will address relevant issues using other standing committees and consulting with individual additional experts in appropriate subjects as needed. In addition, the agency will continue its robust stakeholder engagement program and to solicit broad public and expert input on its policy documents and regulations.

The FDA’s Food Advisory Committee has held only a handful of meetings over the past several years and has not met since 2015. Therefore, FDA has determined that the effort and expense of maintaining the advisory committee is no longer justified…The Food Advisory Committee was established on March 6, 1992. The termination of the Food Advisory Committee is effective December 12, 2017.

I was a member of the first Food Advisory Committee from 1992-1994—as one of four consumer representatives on a committee of about 30.  We were there during the time the FDA was approving genetically modified bovine somatotropin and the Flavr Savr tomato.  The four of us did all we could to get the FDA to label GMOs, but no luck.

My abiding memory of this committee was our debriefing when we rotated off it.  By that time, we were puzzled as to the committee’s purpose (since the FDA never seemed to pay much attention to our recommendations).

The answer: the purpose of the committee was to give the FDA early insight into how its decisions—decisions it had already made—would be perceived.


Nevertheless, I co-signed a letter to the FDA calling for retention of the committee and for making it more useful.

CFSAN [FDA] has indicated that it will continue to hold workshops, meetings, conferences, and webinars to engage with its stakeholders. While we appreciate the outreach FDA does, only an advisory committee meeting can provide helpful recommendations to the agency that are the result of interactive discussion among stakeholders. Moreover, industry and academic experts may speak with an independent voice when they are members of advisory committee meetings, while in public meetings, they may be representing the view of companies that employ or fund them.  Most importantly, many of the alternative forms of outreach identified by the FDA will not be subject to the transparency and conflict-of-interest requirements associated with advisory committees.

This committee could help the FDA with the many challenges it faces carrying out its food and nutrition mandates.  But this looks like another FDA decision already made.

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Dec 19 2017

Never a dull moment: snortable chocolate?

I know that everyone loves chocolate, but to snort???

The FDA, ever on the job, has issued a warning letter to Arco Globus Trading that its snortable Coco Loko product–cocoa powder infused with caffeine, gingko, taurine, and guarana–is being marketed illegally as an unapproved street drug.

the claims made in your promotional materials for Legal Lean Syrup and Coco Loko demonstrate that these products are intended to be used as alternatives to illicit street drugs…With respect to Coco Loko, a powder substance, you describe it in your labeling as a “snuff” and you promote it to be “snorted” (inhaled intranasally).  Intranasal administration of a powder substance can trigger laryngospasm or bronchospasm and induce or exacerbate an episode of asthma.  Furthermore, the ingredients listed on the product label for Coco Loko include taurine and guarana.  The safety of these ingredients for intranasal administration has not been evaluated.

I can’t find an official website for the product (it seems to have disappeared) but the FDA says that Coco Loko does not qualify as a supplement (it is snorted, not eaten, and it actually intended for use as a street drug:

  • “Endorphin rush . . . it triggers a positive feeling of well being in your body similar to morphine.”
  • “Serotonin rush . . . will produce an elevated mood and a state of euphoria similar to the feeling of ecstasy.”
  • “Euphoric energy . . . Raw cacao will give you a steady rush of euphoric energy . . ..”
  • “Raw cacao . . . is also known to help with anxiety and to reduce stress.”
  • Coco Loko Review by I Suck At Talking (Youtube video on your website): “Raw cacao is linked to numerous health benefits . . . lower blood pressure and improved blood circulation . . ..” (1:04 – 1:13)

Snorting cocoa powder?  Really?  Not a good idea (even though no calories that way).

You can’t make this stuff up either.

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