Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jul 28 2008

FTC food marketing report–Tuesday!

Thanks to Michele Simon for the heads up on the Federal Trade Commission’s new report on how much the food industry spends on marketing to kids.  The FTC is releasing the report Tuesday at 11:00 a.m.  I can’t wait to see what it says.  View the webcast!

Jul 27 2008

Trans fat politics: this time, California

Following New York City’s lead, California’s hotshot governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger has just signed a ban on trans fats into law. It takes effect in 2010. This, plus labeling requirements for packaged foods, ought to end the practice of partially hydrogenating vegetable oils. My prediction: trans fats are soon to be a thing of the past. This should have happened a long time ago, as there are plenty of substitutes. So the big question is whether the disapperance of trans fats will have any effect on health. I hope it helps reduce the risk of heart disease but nobody should expect it to help people maintain weight. Whatever substitutes get used will have the same number of calories. Why are New York City and California doing this? Because it might do some good and is politically expedient. Getting vending machines out of schools, stopping marketing to children, and getting everyone on bicycles is a lot harder.

Jul 26 2008

“acute” fructose makes fat

A recent study from the Journal of Nutrition helps to explain some of the fuss about fructose (as opposed to glucose). If you eat a lot of it all at once, it gets converted to fat. The lead author, Elizabeth Parks, explained to the New York Times what this has to do with obesity: “I think it [fructose] may be a contributor, but its not the only problem. Americans are eating too many calories for their activity level. We’re overeating fat, we’re overeating protein and we’re overeating all sugars.”

Jul 24 2008

coca-cola doesn’t market to kids (at least in Canada)?

My Canadian correspondent, Yoni Freedhoff, tells me (and his blog readers) that Coca-Cola has an ad in the Canadian Medical Journal assuring doctors that the company has not marketed its products to children for the last 50 years.  This is news to me.  Aren’t you happy to know this?

Jul 23 2008

Colbert vs. the Cookie Monster

Thanks to Stephen Laniel for alerting me to Colbert’s June 19 appearance with the Cookie–oops, fruit–Monster.  I ‘m not much of a TV watcher  but some things are worth watching!

Jul 22 2008

Guess the sponsor: rbGH milk study

Even I am astonished by this one. Greg Miller of the National Dairy Council sends me all the studies that favor eating dairy products.  This one is a classic (of sorts) from the Journal of the American Dietetic Association .  The study compares the nutrient value of conventional milk, rbGH-free milk, and organic milk and finds–surprise!–no significant difference. In case you need a reminder, rbGH is recombinant bovine growth hormone, the genetically engineered hormone that increases milk production in cows.  Monsanto makes it.  OK, class: it’s quiz time.  The study has ten authors.  Guess who seven of them work for (or used to work for)? Guess who paid for the study?  And what are the other three authors doing there?

Jul 21 2008

GAO looks at international food safety

The Government Accountability Office, long a proponent of overhauling the U.S. food safety system and putting it under the aegis of a single food safety agency, has produced more evidence for its view (I love this title): Food Safety: Selected Countries’ Systems Can Offer Insights into Ensuring Import Safety and Responding to Foodborne Illness. The countries they looked at have farm-to-table safety systems in place, place primary responsibility on food producers (what a concept!), deal with risk intelligently, and have mandatory recall authority. We could do this too, maybe?

Jul 19 2008

Truvia/Stevia safety research!

Sherry Weiss Poall of the RF Binder agency, which does public relations for Cargill, was kind enough to send me the collection of research studies the company is using to demonstrate the safety of Truvia/Stevia. The studies just came out in a supplement to Food and Chemical Toxicology, July 2008. Journal supplements typically are paid for by the research sponsor, in this case, Cargill. The authors of the dozen or so papers are scientists at Cargill and Coca-Cola or “independent” scientists who were paid for their work by Cargill “for consulting services and manuscript preparation.” The papers cover the chemistry and metabolism of stevia, its effects on human blood pressure and diabetes (none reported), and its effects on rats (minimal problems and only at absurdly high doses). Their entirely predictable conclusion: Truvia/Stevia is safe.

Stevia is a plant extract.  It isn’t poison ivy, it’s been around for awhile, and it ought to be safe. But sponsored research always raises questions about the objectivity of the science, especially when the papers read like press releases, which these do. I can’t wait to see what the FDA makes of all this. In the meantime, it’s on the market as an unapproved product.