Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Aug 31 2017

Q and A: fruit vs juice

Lots of questions come in about all kinds of things.  This one from a reader with the subject line “Fruit juice is so confusing.”

Fruit juice (especially without lots of pulp) gets a bad wrap from the nutritionist community.  The only nutrition based argument I can find has to do with juice containing loads of sugar and water, some vitamins, and little else.  However eating fruit seems to get praise ONLY because it contains fiber.  So would drinking juice and taking a fiber supplement be the nutritional equivalent to eating fruit?

Fruit has sugars but also vitamins, minerals, and fiber.  Nutritionists don’t worry about the sugars in fruit (or shouldn’t) because most people don’t eat much of it at any one time.  We hope that people will eat more fruit, not less.

Juice is another matter.  In small amounts (juice glasses were 6 ounces when I was growing up), juice contains the vitamins and minerals from fruit, but not much of the fiber.  Whole fruit is a better choice.  It’s also a better choice because juice is made from lots of fruit.  If you eat one apple—no problem.  If you drink apple juice, you could easily be consuming the sugars from six apples.

As for supplements, fiber and otherwise: they can never substitute for the full range of nutrients in foods.  You are always better off eating food.

It’s summer.  Enjoy the fruit.

 

Aug 30 2017

Another ongoing saga: the legacy of Ancel Keys

I cannot understand the revisionist attack on the work of Ancel Keys, who died at the age of 100 in 2004.  Most scientists are lucky to have made important contributions in one area.  Keys produced outstanding work in several:

  • High altitude physiology
  • The physiology of starvation (for this alone, he should be honored)
  • Mediterranean diet benefits
  • Heart disease epidemiology

The fuss, of course, is over this last one, particularly his role in the Seven Countries Study.  The arguments falls right into today’s absurd debate about sugar vs. fat as a cause of disease (absurd, because we don’t eat sugar or fat; we eat foods and diets that provide energy measured as calories).

What started off this most recent fuss is Ian Leslie’s The Sugar Conspiracy, which begins with the question “How did the world’s top nutrition scientists get it so wrong for so long?”  This alone is a red flag.  “Everything you thought you knew about nutrition is wrong” is a sure signal for caution; that’s not how science works.

The attack on Keys’ work induced the True Health Initiative to develop a ​White Paper in defense (here’s its press release).  Its authors: Katherine Pett (who had written a blog post in defense), Joel Kahn (who also wrote a blog post) Walter Willet (long a champion of Mediterranean diets), and David Katz (who wrote about it in his own blog post).

In response, Michael Joyner pointed out that R.A. Stallones (a professor of mine at the School of Public Health at Berkeley) had made the same arguments years ago.

Another defense of Keys’ work comes from Kevin Klatt, a nutrition biochemistry PhD student at Cornell.

Sarah Tracy, a science historian at the University of Oklahoma, has been working on a biography of Ancel Keys for years.  I can’t wait for it to come out.  We need to have Keys’ life and work put in reasonable perspective.

While waiting for the fat v. sugar debate to resolve (I’m predicting it won’t), eat a healthy diet, enjoy what you eat, and be skeptical when writers write about nutrients, not food.

Aug 29 2017

Once more on menu labeling

It never stops, but at last there is a suggestion that the saga of long delays in menu labeling may possibly be coming to an end.  Scott Gottlieb, the new FDA Commissioner, announced:

We recognize our obligation to provide clear guidance so that restaurants and other establishments that are subject to these provisions have clarity and certainty as to how they can efficiently meet the new menu labeling requirements…We have issued detailed regulations addressing what information should be provided in menus at restaurant chains and other similar retail establishments, as well as when and how that information should be provided….I am pleased to announce that we will provide additional, practical guidance on the menu labeling requirements by the end of this year…These new policy steps should allow covered establishments to implement the requirements by next year’s compliance date.

Although Gottlieb does not say so directly, this could mean that the FDA intends to put national menu labeling into effect in May 2018—the current, long-delayed deadline.

If this is what he is saying, it must mean that the big food chains—most of which already have menu labeling in place—are tired of the endless delays and just want the playing field leveled once and for all.

Let’s hope.

Note: For a brief but useful summary of the legal battles, see Dan Flynn’s analysis in Food Safety News.

Aug 28 2017

Thought for the week: muffin v. cupcake

Thanks to my colleague Lisa Young for taking this photo at the Magnolia Bakery in Manhattan.

Aug 24 2017

Globalization in action: more cheese for pizza in China

Every now and then I see an article that seems like the most perfect indicator of food globalization; this one.

According to FoodNavigator-Asia.com, Fonterra, the New Zealand milk producer, is opening up a new milk production facility in Australia for one particular purpose: to meet the demand for cheese to top pizzas—in China.

Fonterra opened a $240m mozzarella plant to produce individually quick frozen (IQF) mozzarella in Clandeboye, New Zealand, last year, the largest producer of natural mozzarella in the Southern Hemisphere…40% of people in urban China now eat at Western style fast food outlets once a week, and the use of dairy in foodservice has grown by over 30% in five years</i>,” said Jacqueline Chow, COO, Global Consumer and Foodservice, Fonterra.

Where to begin?

  • Dairy cattle in New Zealand have replaced the sheep.  The green sheep meadows are disappearing.  Formerly pristine waters are now polluted.  Why not in Australia too?
  • The Chinese population is largely intolerant to lactose, the sugar in milk.  They can eat dairy products, but should they?
  • Does anyone else think that replacing the traditional Chinese diet with heavily cheesed pizza might not be the best idea?
  • Does anyone else find this mind-boggling?
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Aug 23 2017

What’s up with NAFTA? Here’s how to get started.

The US, Canada, and Mexico have just finished the first round of NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) negotiations.  Like all trade agreements, participants are looking for terms that will benefit them.

The U.S. objectives are on record (there are lots):

For agriculture, we want:

  • Duty-free market access for agricultural products
  • Reduced or eliminated tariffs for our products.
  • Elimination of non-tariff barriers—quotas, subsidies, price discrimination and undercutting.
  • Reasonable adjustment periods for regulatory changes
  • Reduction in burdens caused by regulatory differences.

For “Sanitary and Phytosanitary”—food safety—measures, we want:

  • Enforceable science-based measures
  • Allowing countries to set their own levels of food-safety protection
  • Expeditious resolution of unwarranted barriers to US food products
  • Enforceable rules to ensure non-discriminatory implementation of science-based measures.
  • Transparency in negotiations

Politico Pro Morning Agriculture has a truly wonderful summary of the positions of the three trading partners (if it’s behind a paywall, try this).

Timeline

  • Round #1: ended on Sunday (Here’s the bland trilateral statement about it)
  • Round #2: September 1-5 in Mexico City
  • Round #3: September 23-27 in Canada
  • Finish: before Mexico’s next election early in 2018

Want to know more?  Begin with the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Want to figure it out for yourself?

The FERN’s Ag Insider summarizes its recent NAFTA coverage , and makes it available outside its usual paywall—a gift:

Enjoy!

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Aug 22 2017

Menu Labeling: the saga goes on and on

Listing calories in chain restaurants, you may recall, was authorized by Congress as part of the Affordable Care Act in 2010.

That was an astonishing seven years ago.  In the interim, the FDA wrote regulations, took public comments, rewrote regulations, scheduled them for implementation in 2017, and delayed them until 2018.

New York City, you might also recall, instituted menu labeling in 2008.  The world did not come to an end.

The City said it would go ahead and implement the federal version of the rules as originally scheduled.

The National Association of Convenience Stores objected (the industry has opposed menu labeling from the get go) and went to court to stop the City from doing this.

The FDA—a public health agency, mind you—is supporting industry in this suit.

Even if the City’s characterization of the FDA’s posture as a delay were correct, which it
is not, the City cannot rely upon a supposed void created by the agency to justify its position. As the Supreme Court has made clear, localities may not use the purported “failure of . . . federal officials affirmatively to exercise their full authority” as an excuse to “use their police power to enact a regulation” in a regulatory realm that is otherwise expressly preempted…[New York] may not choose to take its own path in the face of this clear expression of Congressional purpose.

The New York Times wrote about this, pointing out that since most chain restaurants are already in compliance with the law,” what’s the big deal?

I’m quoted:

Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition and public health at New York University, suggested that the latest delay was part of an industry push under the Trump administration to eliminate the federal menu labeling requirement altogether.

The longer the delay, the more the industry can fight it.

This is a consumer-unfriendly move on the FDA’s part, and not a good sign of what is in store for food politicies under FDA’s jurisdiction.

Aug 21 2017

The Papaya Salmonella (4 kinds!) outbreak continues

The CDC tracking of the papaya outbreak continues, with a score of

  • Case Count: 173
  • States: 21
  • Deaths: 1
  • Hospitalizations: 58
  • Recall: Yes

All foodborne illness outbreaks are devastating for victims but fascinating for investigators, since each is different.

This investigation has traced the illness-causing Salmonella to one kind of papaya (Maridol, under Caribeña, Cavi, and Valery brands) to one Mexican farm (Carica de Campeche).

But four Salmonella strains have been found in papaya samples and in ill people:

  • Kiambu
  • Thompson
  • Agona
  • Gaminara

The shift from one to another is evident in the epi curve:

The moral:

  • Don’t buy Maridol papayas.
  • If you have one, throw it away (but be careful not to cross contaminate surfaces)
  • If you don’t know where the papaya was grown, don’t eat it

If you are interested in the legal implications, check Bill Marler’s website.

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