Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Oct 19 2007

Eating Liberally: Cartoons on Healthy Foods?

My Eating Liberally question this week is about whether is makes sense to put cartoons on vegetable packages to encourage kids to eat more healthfully. I think not, of course, but here’s Disney doing just that. Is this a reasonable strategy? Weigh in please.

Much later addition (Dec 10, 2018)

Here’s one I missed, apparently, from September 2007.

LET’S ASK MARION: WHAT WORKS BETTER: THE CARROT, OR THE STICK?

Oct 18 2007

Environmental influences on obesity

Personal responsibility won’t do the trick. A new report from the U.K. government describes the extent of environmental influences on obesity and warns that fixing the problem requires major intervention and is likely to take decades. Worth reading, no?

Oct 18 2007

More on the military food service scandal

The Wall Street Journal and the New York Times ran stories today about the deepening scandal over graft and corruption in Iraq food service. The Journal article comes with a nifty illustration of the chain of companies involved in supplying peanut butter, calzones, and frozen French fries to the troops, easily explaining where there might be plenty of room for kickbacks. According to the Times, the key company under investigation, Public Warehousing, was paid a billion dollars by the military for its part in the chain. Expensive calories, those.

Oct 18 2007

Charge kids more for junk foods?

A high school in Pittsburgh, worried about kids’ weight, is charging kids an extra 50 cents for lunch if they want French fries. I wonder. Will this encourage kids to eat more vegetables?

Oct 17 2007

Food service to the military?

I was riveted by today’s Wall Street Journal account of how corporations are–among other manifestations of fraud and corruption–overcharging the military for food service in Iraq. Look at what kind of food they are supplying, let alone how much it costs: more than $2.7 million per month for chicken wings and nearly $750,000 per month for egg rolls? That’s a lot of egg rolls. I wonder how many per person that turns out to be.

Oct 17 2007

More on health claims: coca-cola

While we are on the subject of health claims, can those be the reasons why Coca-Cola is off to China to look for medicinals that can be added to its drinks? The entire point of putting “healthy” ingredients into foods is to be able to make health claims for them. These “functional foods,” as I keep saying, are not really about health. They are about marketing.

Oct 17 2007

Pressures for health claims: Pandora’s box

Surprise! When the European Commission invited food companies to submit proposals for health claims, it was inundated with thousands of them. European supermarkets used to be quieter than ours because manufacturers of packaged foods were not allowed to make health claims for them. Because health claims are great marketing tools, the food industry chafed at this restriction. The result: a deluge. Since every food except sugar and soft drinks contains some useful nutrients, can’t every product claim to promote health? The European Commission brought this on itself and will now have to sort out the mess. Can’t say they weren’t warned.

Oct 16 2007

Can the food industry police itself?

The Wall Street Journal, that increasingly surprising newspaper, wants to know whether whether food companies can be expected to police their own food safety procedures. Hardly, says the excellent writer of yesterday’s article, Jane Zhang. “…this system of ‘preventive controls’ has worked in the past only with adequate regulatory enforcement and industry support–neither of which is guaranteed.” She quotes Mike Taylor, a former official in FDA and USDA: “The reason you have regulation is some companies don’t have the market incentive to meet high food-quality standards…the public doesn’t trust a system that leaves it entirely to the industry.” Indeed. If the Wall Street Journal thinks we need better food safety regulation, maybe its time has come?