Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jun 26 2008

Obesity prevention: what states are doing

I am often asked what states are doing about obesity, especially in children. Fortunately, the Robert W. Johnson Foundation makes it easy to answer that question. It tracks state-by-state legislative and other actions aimed at improving diets and physical activity levels. The Foundation’s latest report indicates “growing momentum,” but many “remaining challenges.”

Jun 25 2008

Japan gets serious about obesity

Thanks to Jack for reminding me about my Eating Liberally post in answer to the question: What’s with Japan’s taking everyone’s waist measurements and making everyone who fails the test do something about it?  Interesting idea.  Can’t wait to see how it works out.

Jun 24 2008

Doof-a-Palooza: July 12

If you live in Northern California and want to see the Google campus, here’s a good excuse: attend a fundraiser for Doof-a-Palooza, a prospective TV series for kids that looks like fun. I watched a couple of clips (accessible on the Doof website), and thought they’d be good for grownups too. Sorry to have to miss it but thanks to Joel Moskowitz of UC Berkeley’s Center for Community and Family Health for letting me (and now you) know about it. Doof? Food spelled backwards, of course.

Jun 23 2008

Corn sweeteners: enjoy in moderation?

My upstate New York edition of the New York Times today carries a full-page, full-color advertisement from the Corn Refiners Association: “A little sweetness in life is good. And what sweetens a lot of our favorite foods and beverages are sugars made from corn, such as high fructose corn syrup. It has the same natural sweeteners as table sugar and honey. And the same number of calories. But like most foods, sweeteners should be enjoyed in moderation. Please visit our website and learn the facts.”

I went right to the website and took the quiz. If you were wondering why this group would buy an expensive ($80,000?) ad like this, check out question #3: “Which of the following sweeteners is considered a natural food ingredient? (a) High fructose corn syrup, (b) Honey, (c) Sugar, (d) All of the above.”  Aw come on.  You can guess.

Jun 22 2008

Soft drink research: the drink industry fights back

The soft drink industry is using the latest research findings to argue that vending machines in schools are not the problem in childhood obesity, and it’s what kids drink at home that matters. The research in question finds that adolescents get 10% to 15% of their calories from sugary beverages. Average intake among 2 to 5 year olds is 176 calories per day; among 12 to 19 year olds it is 356. Overall average intake rose from 240 calories/day in 1988 to 270 in 2004. Doesn’t what kids drink in school influence what they drink at home, and vice versa? Never mind. Try this one: a new meta-analysis – coincidentally (?) sponsored by the American Beverage Association–finds no relationship between consumption of sweetened beverages and body mass index. High marks to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition for printing a rather tough sponsorship note: “The research proposal to the sponsor was approved as submitted, but the sponsor requested that an independent expert on meta-analysis—to be chosen by the authors—review the manuscript…One author (MLS) accepted a position with the sponsor after the first decision letter regarding the manuscript was received.” Could this cozy relationship have anything to do with the way the study was designed and conducted? Just asking.

Jun 21 2008

Physical activity is good for you!

The Department of Health and Human Services has just released the report of a committee that has just spent the last two years reviewing research on the benefits and risks of physical activity for specific population groups.  Guess what?  It’s good for you!  And to summarize all that research: some is better than none, more is better than less, higher intensity is better than lower intensity.  The “some is better than none” part should be an inspiration to everyone to get out there and start moving.

Jun 19 2008

Is HFCS “Natural?” Court says it’s up to FDA

A federal judge in New Jersey rejected a complaint against Snapple that its claim to be “natural” is false because the drinks contain high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) and HFCS is no way “natural.” If the FDA won’t decide what “natural” means, we certainly aren’t going to , says the judge. So, FDA, how about it?

Jun 18 2008

Upside of the food crisis?

According to the Wall Street Journal, the rising cost of food is getting the governments of developing countries more interested in supporting agricultural production by small farmers. This will be a tough row to hoe, as it were, but surely worth it. Can anything good come out of the food crisis? Maybe this?

Today’s WSJ coverage of the world food crisis provides a nifty interactive map. Click on the country and the map tells you how its farmers are doing and how its government is reacting to rising food prices.