Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Feb 24 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: collagen supplements

The study: A Collagen Supplement Improves Skin Hydration, Elasticity, Roughness, and Density: Results of a Randomized, Placebo-Controlled, Blind StudyNutrients 201911(10), 2494.

Purpose: “The purpose of this randomized, placebo-controlled, blind study was to investigate the effects of the drinkable nutraceutical ELASTEN® (QUIRIS Healthcare, Gütersloh, Germany) on skin aging and skin health.”

Conclusions: The test product significantly improved skin hydration, elasticity, roughness, and density…These positive effects were substantially retained during the follow-up.

Funding: This research was funded by Quiris Healthcare, Germany.

Conflicts of Interest: The authors declare no conflict of interest. The sponsor had no influence on execution, analysis and interpretation of the data.

Comment: The funder, Quiris Healthcare, “develops and sells innovative, natural health products. The focus is on effectiveness and special quality.”  What struck me about this particular example is how the authors report no conflict of interest and state that the sponsor had no influence on how the study was conducted, analyzed, and interpreted.  Most research on the influence of industry funding indicates that it most often shows up in the study design.  Research also shows that investigators are unaware of the influence; it occurs at an unconscious level.  I review data backing up these statements in my book Unsavory Truth: How Food Companies Skew the Science of What We Eat.

 

 

 

Feb 21 2020

Weekend reading: Industry schemes to deny harm

David Michaels.  The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception.  Oxford University Press, 2019.  

Image result for The Triumph of Doubt: Dark Money and the Science of Deception

Even though this book is not strictly about food politics, it has enough about the sugar and alcohol industries to qualify.  I did a blurb for it.

Triumph of Doubt is an industry-by-industry account of how corporations manipulate science and scientists to promote profits, not public health.  Nothing less than democracy is at stake here, and we all should be responding right away to David Michaels’ call for action.

Michaels, a former OSHA official, has written an insider’s look at a wide range of industries that follow the tobacco industry’s playbook for casting doubt on inconvenient science.  The range is impressive: football, diesel fuel, opioids, silica dust, Volkswagen cars, climate denial, food packaging chemicals, alcohol, sugar, and Republican ideology

He’s got some ideas about what to do—keep conflicted scientists out of policy making, for example—but in this political environment?

That leaves it up to us folks to take to the streets.  If only.

Feb 20 2020

What’s up? CBD again.

I can hardly keep up with the accounts of the CBD business.  The business is booming.

The research?  Not so much.

The regulation? Lagging.

Here are some recent items.

Feb 19 2020

Formula companies push “toddler milk”

Formula companies must be desperate for sales.  They are spending four times what they used to on advertising of “toddler milk,” formula ostensibly aimed at children who no longer need infant formula and are perfectly capable of eating real food.

So says a new study in the journal Public Health Nutrition.  The study comes from the Rudd Center for Food Policy and Obesity, now at the University of Connecticut in Hartford, a group specializing in research to inform policy.

The report points out that increasing sales of toddler formula come at a time when pediatric authorities specifically recommend against feeding toddler milks to young children.

Why?  Because young kids do not need them and the milks contain unnecessary added sugars.

As the paper points out, “These findings also support the need to regulate marketing of toddler milks in countries that prohibit infant formula marketing to consumers.”

The advertising of toddler milks gets around those policies and should stop.  Right now.

Feb 18 2020

The Trump Administration’s proposed budget (Sigh)

The Trump Administration has released its proposed budget for fiscal year 2021.

I emphasize proposed because Congress has to pass it before it goes into effect.  What will Congress do?  Time will tell.

With that said, here are the White House documents.

From the Hagstrom Report (thanks Jerry)

These sections are classic examples of double-speak.  The words mean precisely their opposites.  “Reform,” for example, really means cut budget and enrollment.

You want evidence?  The budget proposes an 8% cut to overall USDA spending, with a $15 billion cut to SNAP.

The Fact Sheet summarizes SNAP proposals [with my translations]:

Reforming [cutting budget and reducing SNAP participation]the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).

The Budget proposes to strengthen work requirements to help all able-bodied adults participating in SNAP enter the job market and work toward self-sufficiency [lose eligibility for participation].

The Budget also promotes the use of data and technology to improve program integrity and streamline State operations [Tightening up on fraud will reduce participation].

Finally, the Budget proposes to combine the traditional retail-based SNAP electronic benefit with the direct provision of nutritious and 100 percent Americangrown USDA Foods, maintaining our commitment to helping needy families avoid hunger while generating substantial savings to the taxpayer and allowing innovative partnerships with the private sector [Really?  USDA still hasn’t given up on Harvest Boxes?].

This is so awful that a group of Democratic members—all former recipients of SNAP benefits— wrote a letter to Trump expressing concerns.

Let’s hope Congress rejects these cuts.

The New York Times’ analyses

Feb 17 2020

Industry-funded study of the week: nuts and erectile dysfunction

I swear I’m not making this up.

The study: Effect of Nut Consumption on Erectile and Sexual Function in Healthy Males: A Secondary Outcome:  Analysis of the FERTINUTS Randomized Controlled TrialAlbert Salas-Huetos, Jananee Muralidharan, Serena Galiè, Jordi Salas-Salvadó, and Mònica Bulló.  Nutrients 2019, 11(6), 1372; https://doi.org/10.3390/nu11061372.

The conclusion: “Including nuts in a regular diet significantly improved auto-reported orgasmic function and sexual desire.”

The funder: “This work was partially supported by the International Nut and Dried Fruit Council (INC)…INC is a non-profit entity registered at the Register of Foundations of Catalonia, Spain. Nuts were supplied by Crisolar, Spain.

Comment: I love these results, and have no doubt that the funder did too.  I can only imagine the ads based on this study.  News accounts too (here’s a good one from London’sDaily Mail).

The results were so interesting that a separate group reviewed the data and confirmed that the numbers led to the same results.  This is not surprising.  Most studies of bias in research show that it turns up mainly in the way the research question is framed or in the interpretation of the data, not in the conduct of the science or collection of data.

Hey guys: have problems?  Eat a mixture of raw walnuts, almonds, and hazelnuts and collect your own data!

Feb 14 2020

Weekend eating: Valentine’s day options

Happy Valentine’s Day!

How to celebrate?  You can do this:

Or this:

But Valentine’s Day, in case you haven’t noticed, is about candy:  A whopping $27 billion worth this year.

Valentine’s Day is big business.  Here are some items:

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Feb 13 2020

What’s up? Plant-based meat and dairy substitutes

I’ve been collecting items on what’s happening in the plant-based food world.  Lots.  It’s the hot new topic, as demonstrated by a recent Rabobank Talking Points survey.

For starters, do not miss the competing 30-second, spelling bee videos.  The first is from the Center for Consumer Freedom,  the discredited PR firm that never reveals who pays for their campaigns, although this one is pretty easy to guess; it aired in Washington, DC during the SuperBowl.  The 30-second rebuttal parody is from Impossible Foods, the inventor and marketer of Impossible BurgersCNBC has an exceptionally clear account of what this is all about.

Next, check out the February edition of Scientific American, which has a page titled “Meat the Imitators.” This lists the ingredients of four imitation meats, including Impossible Burger, in comparison to a burger made with real beef.  Worth a look.

Then, see The Guardian on how all this happened (with a long section on cell-based meat, as well).

And now to the industry perspective: