by Marion Nestle

Search results: food policy action

Sep 6 2019

Weekend reading: Reducing food waste

The World Resources Institute has issued this report.

Here’s what it does:

  1.  We encourage countries and companies to adopt the global SDG 12.3 target as their own, measure their  food loss and waste (since what gets measured gets managed), and take action on the hotspots identified. Although simple, this “Target-Measure-Act” approach is proving effective.
  2.  We identify a short-list of “to do’s” for each type of actor in the food supply chain. If you don’t know which actions to take, start with this list and go from there.
  3.  To scale up the impact and pace of these actor-specific interventions, we recommend 10 interventions that tackle food loss and waste across the entire supply chain, target a handful of food loss and waste hotspots, and help
    set the enabling policy and financial conditions that are necessary for success.

It has a great laundry list of recommendations, some of which we can all do right now.

Others will require systems change.

Food for thought.

Jun 11 2019

My latest publication: food and nutrition policy primer

How the US food system affects public health is a matter of intense current interest. “Food system” means the totality of processes through which food is produced, transported, sold, prepared, consumed, and wasted.4 Policies governing these processes emerged piecemeal over the past century in response to specific problems as they arose, with regulatory authority assigned to whatever agency seemed most appropriate at the time.5 Today, multiple federal agencies oversee food policies. For some policy areas, oversight is split among several agencies—the antithesis of a systems approach.

US food policies deal with eight distinct purposes, all of them directly relevant to public health:

  • Agricultural support: Overseen by the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), agricultural support polices are governed by farm bills passed every five years or so. These bills determine what crops are raised and grown, how sustainably, and the extent to which production methods contribute to pollution and greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Food assistance: The USDA also administers food assistance for low-income Americans through programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps), the Women, Infants, and Children program, and school meals.
  • Nutrition education: This policy is set forth in dietary guidelines revised every five years since 1980 (overseen jointly by the USDA and the US Department of Health and Human Services) and in the MyPlate food guide (USDA).
  • Food and nutrition research: The National Institutes of Health and the USDA fund studies of diet and disease risk.
  • Nutrition monitoring: The USDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are responsible for keeping track of the quantity and quality of the foods we eat and how diet affects our health.
  • Food product regulation: Rules about food labels, health claims, and product contents are overseen by three agencies: the USDA for meat and poultry; the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for other foods, beverages, and dietary supplements; and the Federal Trade Commission for advertising.
  • Food safety: Regulation of food safety is split between the USDA for meat and poultry and the FDA for other foods.
  • Food trade: More than 20 federal agencies are involved in regulating the export and import of food commodities and products, among them are the FDA, the USDA, and the Department of Homeland Security.

This list alone explains why advocates call for a coordinated national food policy.6

The food policy primers in this issue of AJPH address the critical links between agricultural policies and health (Miller et al., p. 986) and key components of food assistance policies: direct food aid to the poor (Brownell et al., p. 988) and nutrition standards for school food (Schwartz et al., p. 989). Their authors are well-established policy experts whose thoughtful comments on the political opposition these programs face make it clear why food system approaches to addressing hunger, obesity, and climate change are essential.

Politics stands in the way of rational policy development, as the editorial by Franckle et al. (p. 992) suggests. Although its authors found substantial bipartisan support for introducing incentives to improve the nutritional quality of foods purchased by SNAP participants, congressional interest in this program remains focused almost entirely on reducing enrollments and costs. Please note that for a special issue of AJPH next year, I am guest editing a series of articles on SNAP that will provide deeper analyses of that program’s history, achievements, needs for improvement, and politics. Stay tuned.

In the meantime, how can US public health advocates achieve a systems approach to oversight of the eight food and nutrition policy areas? A recent report in the Lancet suggests a roadmap for action. It urges adoption of “triple-duty” policies that address hunger, obesity, and the effects of agricultural production on climate change simultaneously.7 For example, a largely—but not necessarily exclusively—plant-based diet serves all three purposes, and all federal food policies and programs, including SNAP, should support it. The primers and editorial should get us thinking about how to advocate a range of food system policies that do a better job of promoting public health. Read on.

CONFLICTS OF INTEREST: The author’s work is supported by New York University retirement funds, book royalties, and honoraria for lectures about matters relevant to this comment.

1. IFAD, UNICEF, WFP and WHO. The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the WorldRome, ItalyFood and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations2018Google Scholar
2. GBD 2015 Obesity Collaborators; Afshin A, Forouzanfar MH, Reitsma MBet al. Health effects of overweight and obesity in 195 countries over 25 yearsN Engl J Med2017;377:1327CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
3. Vermeulen SJ, Campbell BM, Ingram JSIClimate change and food systemsAnnu Rev Environ Resour2012;37:195222CrossrefGoogle Scholar
4. Institute of Medicine; National Research Council; Nesheim MC, Oria M, Yih PT, eds. A Framework for Assessing Effects of the Food System. Washington, DCNational Academies Press2015Google Scholar
5. Nestle M, Lee PR, Baron RBNutrition policy update. In: Weininger J, Briggs GM, eds. Nutrition Update. Vol 1. New York, NYWiley1983:285313Google Scholar
6. Bittman M, Pollan M, Salvador R, De Schutter OA national food policy for the 21st century2015. Available at: https://medium.com/food-is-the-new-internet/a-national-food-policy-for-the-21st-century-7d323ee7c65f. Accessed March 17, 2019. Google Scholar
7. Swinburn BA, Kraak VI, Allender Set al. The global syndemic of obesity, undernutrition, and climate change: the Lancet Commission reportLancet2019;393(10173):791846CrossrefMedlineGoogle Scholar
Jan 28 2019

New Lancet report: The Global Syndemic: Uniting Actions to Address Obesity, Undernutrition, and Climate Change

The Lancet has been busy.  Last week, it published a blockbuster report on the need for worldwide dietary changes to improve human health and that of the environment.  I posted about this EAT-Forum report on Friday.

Now, The Lancet releases yet another report, this one taking a unified approach to dealing with the three most important nutrition issues facing the world: Malnutrition (undernutrition), obesity, and the effects of our food production and consumption system on the environment and climate change—for which this report coins a new term: The Global Syndemic.

This report breaks new ground in identifying the food industry as one of three main barriers to ending this “Syndemic.”  I’ve added the numbers for emphasis.

  • Powerful opposition by [1] commercial vested interests, [2] lack of political leadership, and [3] insufficient societal demand for change are preventing action on The Global Syndemic, with rising rates of obesity and greenhouse gas emissions, and stagnating rates of undernutrition.
  • New social movement for change and radical rethink of the relationship between policymakers, business, governance and civil society is urgently needed.
  • The Commission calls for a global treaty to limit the political influence of Big Food (a proposed Framework Convention on Food Systems – modelled on global conventions on tobacco and climate change); redirection of US$5 trillion in government subsidies away from harmful products and towards sustainable alternatives; and advocacy from civil society to break decades of policy inertia.

Wow.  This is telling it like it is—at long last.  From the press release:

  • A key recommendation from the Commission is the call to establish a new global treaty on food systems to limit the political influence of Big Food.
  • The food industry’s obstructive power is further enhanced by governance arrangements that legitimise industry participation in public policy development, and the power that big corporations have to punish or reward governments by relocating investment and jobs.
  • Regulatory approaches to product reformulation (eg. salt and sugar reduction), labelling and marketing to children are needed because industry-led, voluntary approaches have not been effective.

Yes!

The documents

The press

▪ The Guardian
The Times (London)
Irish Farmers Journal

Additional press, posted January 30

Newswires (syndicated in international outlets):

UK:

US:

Rest of world:

Jan 2 2019

US votes no on action on global nutrition

I was fascinated to see this FoodNavigator account of the recent United Nations’ call for action on nutrition.

The lengthy new UN resolution on “a healthier world through better nutrition” begins with pages of preliminary comments before getting to bland admonitions that member states should improve nutrition, health conditions, and living standards; address hunger and malnutrition; and promote food security, food safety, and sustainable, resilient, and diverse food systems.

The resolution encourages member states to strengthen nutrition policies that promote breastfeeding and control the marketing of breast-milk substitutes.

It also promotes physical activity. It

Calls upon Member States to develop actions to promote physical activity in the entire population and for all ages, through the provision of safe public environments and recreational spaces, the promotion of sports, physical education programmes in schools and urban planning which encourages active transport.

What got FoodNavigator’s—and my—attention, however, was its encouragement of member nations to:

develop health- and nutrition-promoting environments, including through nutrition education in schools and other education institutions, as appropriate.

Nutrition education?  That’s it on improving the nutrition environment?

Nothing about curbs on food industry marketing practices, front-of-package food labels, soda or sugar taxes, or other policies established to be effective in improving nutritional health (see, for example, the policies listed on the World Health Organization’s database, or the NOURISHING database of The World Cancer Research Fund).

The UN’s own Food and Agriculture Organization issued a report on the value of education in improving the food environment.  Its author, Corinna Hawkes, makes it clear that education is useful, but is far more effective when it thoroughly involves policies to change the food environment.

nutrition education actions are more likely to yield positive results…when actions are implemented as part of large, multi-component interventions, rather than information provision or direct education alone. It is notable that governments have been taking an increasing number of actions involving multiple components, such as combining policies on nutrition labels with education campaigns, public awareness campaigns with food product reformulation, and school food standards with educational initiatives in schools.

The resolution says none of this.  Even so, it did not pass unanimously.  The vote:

  • Yes:       157 countries
  • No:           2 (Libya and the United States)
  • Abstain:    1 (Hungary)

And why did the United States vote no?  The US mission to the UN explains its position on the grounds—and I am not making this up—that the resolution:

  • Favors abortion:  “We do not recognize abortion as a method of family planning, nor do we support abortion in our reproductive health assistance.”
  • Promotes free trade in medicines: “This could lead to misinterpretation of international trade obligations in a manner which may negatively affect countries’ abilities to incentivise new drug development and expand access to medicines.”
  • Promotes migration: “we believe [the resolution represents]…an effort by the United Nations to advance global governance at the expense of the sovereign rights of States to manage their immigration systems in accordance with their national laws and interests.”

To be clear: UN resolutions are non-binding.  The UN cannot tell member countries what to do.  All it can do is exert leadership and moral force.

When it comes to the food environment these days, we need all the moral force we can get.  We didn’t get it here.

Oct 18 2018

Who is suing whom? Food politics lawsuits

FoodNavigator-USA has collected its recent articles on food industry lawsuits.  As it puts it,

There have been hundreds of class action lawsuits directed against food and beverage companies in the past five years, spanning everything from added sugar, ‘natural’ and ‘healthy’ claims, to glyphosate residues, and alkaline water claims. We take a look at some high profile cases, some emerging hot topics from Non GMO claims to a new wave of kombucha lawsuits, and what’s coming up from the FDA, from plant-based ‘milk’ labeling guidance to a fresh look at ‘healthy’ and ‘natural’ labeling.

I’ve organized these into categories.

GMOs

Warnings about chemicals in foods

Compliance with labeling and health claims requirements

And here’s a more recent one from CBS News:

  • LaCroix ingredients: Lawsuit alleges “all natural” claim is falseLaCroix sparkling water is facing a lawsuit alleging its claims of “all natural” and “100 percent natural” are misleading because…”Testing reveals that LaCroix contains a number of artificial ingredients, including linalool, which is used in cockroach insecticide.”

And here’s one more from CSPI (an October 24 addition):

  • CSPI sues Jamba Juice: its juices, CSPI charges, are made from cheap concentrates as well as fresh fruit.

Addition, December 11

Aug 1 2018

What should we think about the food industry’s new Sustainable Food Policy Alliance holds promise?

Danone North America, Mars Inc, Nestlé USA (no relation), and Unilever US have left the Grocery Manufacturers Association to form a new organization, the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance.

Its stated purpose (as explained in the press release):

  • Consumer Transparency: Improving the quality and accessibility of information available to consumers about the food they purchase for themselves and their families.
  • Environment: Advocating for innovative, science-based solutions to take action against the costly impacts of climate change, build more resilient communities, promote renewable energy, and further develop sustainable agriculture systems.
  • Food Safety: Ensuring the quality and safety of food products and the global supply chain.
  • Nutrition: Developing and advocating for policies that help people make better-informed food choices that contribute to healthy eating while supporting sustainable environmental practices.
  • People and Communities: Advancing policies that promote a strong, diverse, and healthy workplace and support the supply chain, including rural economies.

The Alliance says it intends to:

  • Urge policymakers to ensure the Farm Bill and other farm policies emphasize water quality and conservation issues, improved soil health, and renewable energy (particularly wind and solar).
  • Explore the economics of sustainability, including financial incentives to reduce emissions and transition to low-carbon alternatives and to create value for farmers, ranchers, and others.
  • Advocate on behalf of environmental policies at the state, national, and international levels, including the Paris Climate Agreement and Clean Power Plan.

Sounds good, no?

As I told the Washington Post, I would like

to see how the four companies address more inconvenient environmental and public health policies, such as limits on bottling water from national forests or mandated, front-of-package nutrition labeling. Those policies could potentially threaten their bottom lines — an issue Danone’s Lozano said his company did not face with its current efforts around sustainability.

Let’s give them credit for going after the low-hanging fruit first…But the real questions are what they will really do, and when.

Mar 13 2018

Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat

For review copies, interviews, etc, contact Kelsey Odorczyk at Basic Books: Kelsey.Odorczyk@hbgusa.com

For information about the book, see Basic Books/Hachette,  IndieBound,  Amazon

For reviews and media accounts, scroll down.

Portuguese translation, Elefante Editora, 2019:

Summary

Is chocolate heart-healthy? Does yogurt prevent type 2 diabetes? Do pomegranates help cheat death? News headlines bombard us with such amazing claims. They are reported as science, and have dramatic effects on what we eat.  Yet, as food expert Marion Nestle explains, these studies are more about marketing than science; they are often paid for by the companies and trade associations that sell those foods. Whether it’s a Coca-Cola-backed study hailing light exercise as a calorie neutralizer, claims for beef as a health food, or a report from investigators paid by a blueberry trade group concluding that this fruit prevents erectile dysfunction, every corner of the food industry knows how to turn conflicted research into big profit. As Nestle argues, it’s time to put public health first. Written with unmatched rigor and insight, Unsavory Truth reveals how the food industry manipulates nutrition science—and suggests what we can do about it.

Blurbs

“What happens when one of the country’s great nutrition investigators follows the money in food and science? You get this riveting, provocatively-written book, which deftly explores how the processed food industry has deepened our dependence on its products by sponsoring and manipulating food research for decades. This book should be read by anyone who has been seduced by the words, ‘New study shows…’—which is all of us.”  —Michael Moss, author of Salt Sugar Fat

“Marion Nestle is a tireless warrior for public health, and her meticulous research and irrefutable arguments are desperately needed right now. This book, as frightening as it is, compels us to discover where true health begins: nutrition starts in the ground, with real food that is sustainably grown, eaten in season, and alive.”  —Alice Waters, founder, owner, and executive chef of Chez Panisse

 “In clear, concise language, Marion Nestle details the many ways our ideas about what to eat are being manipulated by Big Food.  If you want to make better choices, read this book.”  —Ruth Reichl, former editor of Gourmet Magazine

 “Marion Nestle is a national treasure.  She has the courage to take on multinational corporations and the wisdom to separate the facts from the spin.  If you care about our food system and the health of your family, Unsavory Truth is essential reading.”  —Eric Schlosser, author of Fast Food Nation

“Marion Nestle has been a guiding light for sanity, credibility, and justice in food and nutrition for decades; she stands alone in her field. In Unsavory Truth, she exposes the awful deceptions practiced on eaters by manipulative food companies using ‘scientific research’ try to make themselves look good.”  —Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything

 “Marion Nestle is a truth-teller in a world awash with nutrition lies of one kind and another. In this scintillating and eye-opening book, Nestle reveals how much of our confusion about food in modern times has been spread by the food industry itself, which passes off marketing as science and funds ‘research’ designed to show that its products are harmless. Unsavory Truth is essential reading for anyone in search of hard facts about what to eat.”  —Bee Wilson, author of First Bite and Consider the Fork

Reviews and media

2019

June 6  Review in American Journal of Public Health 2019;109(7):952-953.

Mar 11  Interview with VegSource with Jeff Nelson

Mar 5  TVO (Canada) The Agenda with Steve Paikin: Battling bias in nutrition research.  Also on YouTube.

Feb 17 Cover story based on Unsavory Truth, San Francisco Chronicle: “The myth-making of food

Feb 5  KQED San Francisco, Michael Krasny’s Forum

Feb 2  Sarah Boseley reviews Unsavory Truth in The Lancet

Jan/Feb  Nutrition Action Healthletter: Peter Lurie’s editorial

Jan 25  Interview with Holly Friend of LS:N Global

Jan 22  KPFK radio interview , Feminist Magazine with Lynn Harris Ballen

Jan 21  Cookery by the Book, podcast with Suzy Chase

Jan 16  Kara Goldin’s podcast on Unstoppable, Unsavory Truth

2018

Dec 21 The Hagstrom Report’s five best ag books of 2018

Dec 19  Podcast with Max Lugavere, The Genius Life Episode 39 (iTunes), on Unsavory Truth

Dec 17  Radio interview with Rose Aguilar, KALW San Francisco on Unsavory Truth

Dec 14 Podcast review by Narsai David, KCBS

Dec 13  Lecture on Unsavory Truth (video) at Hunter College NYC Food Policy Center

Dec 13  Online interview at PLoS Blog

Dec 12  Podcast with Wooden Teeth

Dec 6  NYU Journalism Kavli Conversation on Science Communication with Paul Greenberg, moderated by Robert Lee Hotz

Dec 3  Interview (podcast) with Bhavani Jaroff of iEat Green

Nov 30  Conor Purcell interview for Undark’s Five Questions

Nov 29 Paul Thacker on Unsavory Truth in the BMJ

Nov 28  Podcast interview with Monica Eng on Unsavory Truth: Chewing episode 55

Nov 26  Lisa Held on Unsavory Truth, Edible Manhattan

Nov 19  Interview with Gabrielle Lipton, Landscape News

Nov 18  Video of interview with Dean Malcolm Clemens, Forum at Grace Cathedral, San Francisco (audio file).

Nov 15  Review by Gavin Wren, Medium.com

Nov 15  Video of keynote at launch of UCSF Food Industry Documents Library (my talk is in Part I: 14:30)

Nov 12  Jennifer Bowden on Unsavory Truth in New Zealand’s The Listener.

Nov 12  Interview with Jesse Mulligan, Radio New Zealand

Nov 10  Review in New Scientist

Nov 7  Podcast interview with The Potter Report

Nov 7  A. Pawlowski.  What are superfoods?  The truth about blueberries, dark chocolate and pomegranate.  Today.

Nov 6  Interview with Paul Thacker.  Tonic.

Nov 4  Lorin Fries.  Who decides what you eat?  (Hint: it’s not only you).  Forbes.

Nov 1  Review in New York Journal of Books

Oct 31 Review from New York Magazine’s The Cut

Oct 31  Interview with Julia Belluz in Vox

Oct 30  Excerpt from Unsavory Truth on Medium.com: “When Big Soda Started Stalking Me”

Oct 30  NPR radio interview with Brian Lehrer

Oct 30 Yoni Freedhoff, Weighty Matters.

Oct 30  Jane Brody.  Confused by nutrition research?  New York Times, Science section.

Oct 29  RT America video interview on Boom Bust about Unsavory Truth.

Oct 28  Hailey Eber. How the food industry fooled us into eating junk.  New York Post, 42-43.

Oct 23  Nestle M.  Superfoods are a marketing ploy (excerpt).  The Atlantic .

Oct 22  Àlex Pérez.  Una verdad desagradable no vende.  ElPiscolabis (Spain).

Oct 18 Nature Magazine (2018;562:334-335): Felicity Lawrence reviews Deborah Blum’s The Poison Squad and Unsavory Truth as “Poisoned Platefuls.”  “Nestle…could make a fair claim to [Harvey] Wiley’s mantle today…The book is a remorseless dissection of the corruption of science by industry.”

Oct 18  Interview with Maggie Tauranac on Unsavory Truth, FoodPrint

Oct 16 Podcast with Danielle Nierenberg on Unsavory Truth and other matters

Oct 2  Science Magazine: “There is indeed something rotten in the state of dietary science, but books like this show us that we consumers also hold a great deal of power.”

Sept 25 La Stampa (Italy): “I cibi di lunga vita sono illusori e troppi sponsor li promuovono.” (The newspaper clip).

Sept 24  Publishers Weekly: ” a groundbreaking look at how food corporations influence nutrition research and public policy.”

Aug 13 Booklist: “This well-documented, accessible venture makes a compelling argument.”

Aug 1  Kirkus: “Nestle proves yet again that she is a unique, valuable voice for engaged food consumers.”

July 17  Phil Lempert’s Lempert Report: Get ready for a new era of transparency (video)

July 9  David Wineberg, “Nutrition: conflict of interest as a career,” Medium.com.

Feb 12 Finnish Public Radio interview about Unsavory Truth (Google Translate, English)

Jan 31 Profile in New Scientist: The Unpalatable Truth about Your Favorite foods

Tweets (Highly Selected)

Michael Pollan, October 30

Ing Fei Chen, October 16:  Undark

Yoni Freedhoff, October 7: his mentions

Basic Books, October 2: Mark Bittman blurb

Basic Books, September 25: Ruth Reichl blurb

Basic Books, September 6: Eric Schlosser blurb

Basic Books, August 28: Alice Waters blurb

Michael Pollan, August 18: “This is a terrific and eye-opening book”

Bee Wilson, August 17: “I feel lucky to have an advance copy …A great piece of investigative writing.”

Basic Books, August 17: Bee Wilson blurb

Feb 9 2018

Weekend reading: Food industry influence on government health policies

This report from the UK Health Forum is a compendium of case studies about food industry influence on government food and nutrition policies in developing countries such as Mexico, Chile, Fiji, Brazil, and Guatemala, but also England, Canada, and others.

To pick just one example, that of Chile:

This case study examines the long-standing relationship between the food
industry and the Institute of Nutrition and Food Technology (INTA) of the
University of Chile – the most prestigious food and nutrition-related institution
in the country. The types of collaboration include:

  • industry-funded research
  • scholarships and awards
  • membership of industry-funded or linked foundations
  • awarding of nutrient-specific certification of foods that are high in calories,
    sugar, saturated fats or salt
  • joint public health programmes
  • marketing in institutional publications and websites.

INTA plays a major role in food policy-making in Chile…The existence of
strong financial ties between INTA and the food and drinks industry represents
a conflict of interest, potentially compromising INTA’s independence in highly
relevant research and policy areas.