Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jul 22 2019

Industry-funded study of the week: Walnuts

Replacing Saturated Fat With Walnuts or Vegetable Oils Improves Central Blood Pressure and Serum Lipids in Adults at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease: A Randomized Controlled‐Feeding Trial.  Alyssa M. Tindall, et al. Journal of the American Heart Association. 2019;8:May 7, 2019.

Conclusions: “Replacing saturated fatty acids (FAs) with 57 to 99 g/d of walnuts for 6 weeks reduced central diastolic blood pressure compared with a diet similarly low in saturated FAs but with lower α‐linolenic acid content…This study represents a feasible food‐based approach for replacing saturated FAs with unsaturated FAs (including α‐linolenic acid) from walnuts and vegetable oils, demonstrating that relatively small dietary changes can reduce cardiovascular risk.

Funding: This study was funded by the California Walnut Commission…The California Walnut Commission provided funds for the research conducted. The commission’s staff was not involved with any aspects of conducting the study, analyzing the data, or interpreting the results reported in this article.

Comment: Walnuts, like pretty much all other nuts and seeds, contain healthy fats and other nutrients.  When substituted for unhealthier foods, they would be expected to demonstrate improvements.  This study contributes no new information and there is only one reason to do it: marketing (as I discuss in Unsavory Truth).  The California Walnut Commission wants you to eat more walnuts.  Trade associations or producers of pecans, macadamia nuts. pistachios, almonds, peanuts, hazelnuts, and any other nut you can think of have the same goal.  Do they all have to do this kind of research?  Apparently so.

Mixed nuts, anyone?

Jul 19 2019

Weekend reading: What Big Ag is thinking about planting decisions and economic prospects

Every now and then I run into an excellent source of information about things I know nothing about.  I’ve just discovered Purdue University’s Ag Economy Baromoter, which tracks the opinions of producers of corn and soybeans.

Big Ag feels pretty good about current agriculture and trade policies, probably because USDA’s agricultural support system ihistorically has been firmly rigged in their favor.

If Purdue asked small and medium-sized producers, it might get a different stiory.

Jul 18 2019

Snackification: a new word in my vocabulary

BakeryAndSnacks.com’s Special Edition: Snackex 2019 introduces the concept of “Snackification,” which as far as I can tell is the conversion of three square meals a day to all-day snacking.  Alas, snacks have calories; the more snacks the more calories consumed.  And most are ultra-processed, the term used to describe foods that are best consumed in small amounts.   The more snacks consumed, the happier the snack-food industry will be.  Hence: the push.

 

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Jul 17 2019

Externalized costs of Big Ag: The Wall Street Journal explains

High marks to the The Wall Street Journal for its story about the externalized costs of agricultural runoff into the Mississippi River.

The article is interactive.  Take a look.

It traces how agriculture pollutes 2300 miles of the Mississippi river from Minnesota to the Gulf of Mexico. through a “”journey downriver [that] reveals how the agricultural industry is contributing to one of the nation’s biggest ecological disasters.”

Every summer, nutrients from the Mississippi pour into the Gulf, fueling algae blooms that starve the water of oxygen and kill sea life. Heavy rainfall throughout the Mississippi River watershed this spring led to record-high river flows, boosting nitrate and phosphorus loads. As a result, scientists predict this year’s “dead zone” will total 7,829 square miles, an area roughly the size of Massachusetts, and close to the record set in 2017.

The pollution starts in Minnesota, and you can see where it comes from.

Along the way, nitrates accumulate in the water.  Iowa alone releases hundreds of thousands of tons of nitrates into the Mississippi every year.

The externalized costs?

  • For communities along the way, it’s loss of potable water, construction of plants to remove nitrates from the water, dependence of bottled water, and higher water costs overall.
  • For the Gulf of Mexico, it’s a enormous dead zone that prevents fishing and recreation.

Do the polluters pay?  No.  Taxpayers do.  That’s why the costs are called “externalized.”

No wonder Big Ag opposes environmental regulations.

 

Jul 16 2019

Should Food Banks accept donations of Soylent?

I recently received an email from a public relations representative of Soylent, the company that makes those powdered meal replacements.  My NYU department once conducted a Soylent tasting. Our conclusion: it may meet nutritional requirements, but it tastes like uncooked pancake batter.

Soylent is pushing hard to get its products into your hands.

Hence the PR announcement that Soylent was donating 100,000 meal replacement packages to New York City’s Island Harvest Food Bank and City Harvest, “as part of their #SoylentForGood initiative.”

Donating Soylent to Food Banks?

Food Banks accepting donations of Soylent?

I had trouble getting my head around this so I wrote the PR person to check whether the donations were Soylent products or real foods and meals.

Soylent, of course.

Making sure that hungry people get fed is unarguably a Good Thing, but needs consideration about choice, dignity, the kind of society we want to live in, and, not least, food quality.

Soylent as a means to feed the hungry?

The mind boggles.

 

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Jul 15 2019

Industry-funded studies: The Sugar Association’s view

You may think, as I do, that everyone would be better off eating less sugar, but that’s not how The Sugar Association sees it.  This trade association for sugar producers funds research to demonstrate that eating sugar is a good thing and not harmful.

Here’s what The Sugar Association says:

The Sugar Association is committed to transparent engagement with researchers, external partners and consumers to address knowledge gaps and support independent, peer-reviewed science. Recent literature suggests this framework, rooted in transparency and communication and reflected in our Operating Principles, leads to increased public confidence in industry-funded research,* a goal the organization is working to achieve.

The asterisk refers to Achieving a transparent, actionable framework for public-private partnerships for food and nutrition research, a consensus report written by, among others, representatives of the International Life Sciences Institute, a well known front group for the food industry, and other organizations with ties to food companies.

The Sugar Association lists some of its recent publications [you can’t make this stuff up]:

Nutrition Today Supplement: Sweet Taste Perception and Feeding Toddlers. March/April 2017 – Volume 52 [The Sugar Association funded the conference that resulted in this supplement, which it also funded].

Jul 12 2019

Weekend shopping: “Golden Sugar”

I’m indebted to Mimi Griffith for telling me about an article in Food Dive about a new product Domino must think you can’t live without: Golden Sugar.

It’s “Less Processed” !

And, “bakes and dissolves like white sugar.”  Of course it does.  It’s sugar.

OK, so it hasn’t gone through the last stage of refinement to white sugar and has a slight taste of molasses.  But it’s still sugar.

Less processed or not, Golden Sugar is sugar; it is not a health food.

Domino is taking advantage of current advice to avoid “ultra-processed” junk foods.  The company must believe that you will think this is healthier than white sugar.  Not a chance.

I”m curious to know:  Is Golden Sugar any different from the Turbinado sugar Domino currently sells?  Does Domino think you will relate this to Golden Rice, the poster child for GMO’s?  What was Domino’s marketing team thinking?

White, tan, or brown, sugar is sugar—50% glucose, 50% fructose, 4 calories per gram.

Most of us would be better off eating less of it, unprocessed or processed.

Jul 11 2019

A roundup of articles on the infant formula industry

DairyReporter.com is another one of those industry newsletters I so enjoy reading.  This particular article is a roundup of articles on the infant formula industry.

Special Edition: Infant nutrition

The field of infant nutrition is a constantly evolving one, as new ingredients are constantly being added to provide greater benefits, and products are being developed to more closely approximate breast milk for those unable to breast feed. In this special edition, DairyReporter takes a look at some recent innovation in the infant nutrition space.

Breastfeeding, anyone?