Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Dec 21 2007

NYC Health Department tells all

The New York City health department has just released a summary report on what it does. It’s hard to read online (light blue and red print) but it does have a section on what the department is doing about obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease. But nothing is in the table of contents about the calorie-labeling initiative, probably because that plan is still under litigation. If you want to know more about public health in NYC, this is a good place to start.

Dec 20 2007

Does calcium work?

A new analysis of all kinds of studies on the use of calcium to prevent fractures is just out in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. The results? “calcium intake is not significantly associated with hip fracture risk in women or men…[results] show no reduction in hip fracture risk with calcium supplementation, and an increased risk is possible.” It sure would be nice if it were that easy to prevent fractures but bone strength requires a good diet containing ALL nutrients, not just calcium (with or without vitamin D), as well as plenty of physical activity, so these results should not come as a surprise. The bottom line: eat healthfully and move!

Dec 19 2007

4-star calories

If the previous post was about taking off fat, this one is about putting it on. Ray Sokolov, a former editor and food writer for the Wall Street Journal, had some fun with the USDA’s food composition data base (click on Search and take it from there). He estimated the calories in a main course from Mario Batali’s Babbo and Thomas Keller’s Per Se. I doubt the comparison is fair, but it sure is fun. Guess which one had the most!

Dec 19 2007

Boat powered by human fat?

The trouble with the Internet is that it is unedited and not well sourced. So I offer this one with some skepticism. Another joke? Well, it’s a great-looking boat and something has to be done with 10 liters of fat removed during liposuction. I guess.

Dec 19 2007

Should herbal supplements be irradiated?

NOTE: Correction to this post.  I must have been asleep when I wrote it.  Sorry!

Apparently, the Herbal Products Association has petitioned the FDA to allow herbal supplements to be irradiated at doses high enough to kill contaminating bacteria. The American Public Health Association says this is not a good idea. I don’t think so either, of course. I call irradiation a “late-stage techno-fix,” meaning that it takes dirty products and sterilizes them. Shouldn’t the dietary supplement industry get its act together and produce clean supplements to begin with?

Dec 18 2007

The Government Goes Organic?

Apparently, Speaker Nancy Pelosi has gotten a new management company to take the House of Representatives cafeteria healthy and green. Get this: the House, which serves 2.5 million meals a year, “is switching to locally grown, organic, seasonal and generally healthy food. It will be served in compostable sugar cane and corn starch containers instead of petroleum-based plastics. Even the knives and forks will be biodegradable.” The Senate, needless to say, is “the last place in America to abandon elevator operators and smoking in hallways.” Now, if they would just pass a decent Farm Bill…

Dec 17 2007

A holiday joke?

At least I think it’s a joke. Fortune Magazine lists the 101 dumbest business ideas of the year. Here’s #13, from Disneyland:

It’s a fat world, after all

Disneyland announces plans to close the “It’s a Small World” attraction to deepen its water channel after the ride’s boats start getting stuck under loads of heavy passengers. Employees ask larger passengers to disembark – and compensate them with coupons for free food.

Dec 17 2007

The Farm Bill, Alas

So after all that fuss about nutrition standards in the Farm Bill (see previous post on the topic), the Senate dropped them from its version. So now advocates for school nutrition are back to square one. Here’s what the Washington Post has to say about this fiasco. On the bright side, this failure to act gives advocates a chance to get to work at the state level and put even better standards in place. Onward!