Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 31 2019

A happy food politics new year!

Dec 25 2019

A merry foodie Xmas!

Happiest of holiday seasons to readers near and far!

Dec 24 2019

FoodPolitics.com is taking a writing break

I have a book manuscript due the first week in January and need to focus on getting it done.

My holiday wish for me:

Except for an occasional holiday greeting, I won’t be posting anything new until sometime that week.

I wish you the warmest, least stressful, and most joyous holidays!

And happiest of new year’s greetings to you all.  May it be a good one (we can and must hope).

Dec 23 2019

Happy foodie Chanukah!

Dec 20 2019

Weekend reading: History and Ethics of Jewish Food

Aaron S. Gross, Jody Myers, and Jordan D. Rosenblum.  Feasting and Fasting: The History and Ethics of Jewish Food.  New York University Press, 2020. 

This book comes with heavy-duty endorsements: a Foreword by Hasia Diner, and an Afterword by Jonathan Safran Foer.

I was interested to read it and did a blurb for it.

Feasting and Fasting is a fascinating account of the history of Jewish food, within and outside of dietary laws.   The authors engage in Talmudic debates about how specific foods and diets as a whole do or do not define Jewish identity.  Crisco is for Jews?  Peanut oil caused such debates?  Who knew.  This book is a great read.

What to quote?  So many choices.  Here’s a snippet from Jordan Rosenblum’s chapter on Jews and garlic:

After the Exodus from Egypt, when the Israelites wandered in the desert, they grew tired of eating only manna.  Comparing the varied diet that they ate as slaves in Egypt to the unvaried diet that they now enjoyed as free women and men, a few troublemakers complained: “The riffraff in their midst felt a gluttonous craving; and then the Israelites wept and said, “If only we had meat to eat!  We remember the fish that we used to eat free in Egypt, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic.”

This, as it turns out, is the only mention of garlic in the Hebrew Bible.  In this chapter,

we shall briefly explore the historical association between Jews and garlic that develops over the next three millennia.  In doing so, we shall see how garlic eventually functions both internally (by Jews) and externally (by non-Jews) as a symbol that represents Self and Other—or, in the terminology favored in anthropology and food studies, how garlic operates as a metanym for Jews.

 

Dec 19 2019

The latest on pet food

Pet food continues to be an ongoing source of news, and pet food politics an ongoing source of interest:

Comment: My book with Malden Nesheim, Feed Your Pet Rightis actually an analysis of the pet food industry.  It came out in 2010 but holds up pretty well, I think, as a means for understanding recent events in pet food politics.

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Dec 18 2019

The latest in superfoods: camel’s milk?

Really?  Camel’s milk?  I am indebted to DairyReporter.com for a review of research on the health benefits of camel’s milk.

According to this overview, camel’s milk can

  • Prevent colorectal cancer
  • Reduce cellular inflammation due to diabetes
  • Cures autism
  • Enhances immunity
  • Cures hepatitis
  • Prevents food allergies

A miracle food?

Alas, the article explains, most of these studies were performed in mice or published in journals unlikely to be rigorously peer reviewed.

What can I tell you about the nutritional quality of camel’s milk?

Unfortunately, the USDA’s food composition data base does not have an entry for camel’s milk.  What looks like a reasonable review of the nutritional value of camel’s milk (which you can download from this site) suggests that there are differences in nutrient composition between cow’s and camel’s milks, but the differences are small.  Because the proteins differ, people sensitive or allergic to cow’s milk will have an easier time consuming camel’s milk.

The big issue with camel’s milk in the United States is that it is not pasteurized.  Raw milk carries a greater food safety risk than pasteurized milk.

The FDA also has issued a warning against unproven claims that camel milk prevents autism.

I’m not seeing any particular health benefits from drinking camel milk other than avoiding allergic reactions to cow’s milk.

If you insist on drinking it, make sure it comes from a producer who diligently tests it for pathogens.

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Dec 17 2019

What does Brexit mean for food and agriculture?

The election in the UK last week means that plans for Brexit will go forward (although the how and when are a wait-and-see).

I have been curious to know how Brexit would affect the UK’s food and agriculture systems.  A quick search turned up a Parliament briefing paper: “Brexit: Trade issues for food and agriculture.”

Its summary mentions these issues:

  • Only 61% of the food eaten in the UK is produced in the UK.  Of imported food, 70% comes from the EU.
  • The UK exported £22 billion in food, feed, and drink in 2018; two-thirds of that is exported to the EU.
  • Trade between EU members is tariff-free.  A UK-EU free trade agreement will have to be negotiated.
  • To continue trading with the EU, the UK would have to demonstrate compliance with EU food and safety standards.
  • UK exports might have to undergo additional animal and plant health checks at UK-EU borders.

Other sources mention additional issues:

There may be an upside, but I had to dig to find anyone hopeful of a silver lining.

The UK has an unprecedented opportunity, in the context of Brexit, to equip its food system
to withstand these challenges, but the transition will need to be managed carefully. Any
reconfiguration will first need to understand and take account of what citizens and consumers
value most about the food system. Second, a UK-wide and cross-government approach will be
necessary to foster a holistic, profitable, healthy and sustainable food system for all.