Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jul 10 2008

Nathan’s hot dogs: a winner

Thanks to Andy Bellatti of Small Bites for announcing the winner of the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest. 64 hot dogs? The contestants do not look like happy campers, alas.

Jul 10 2008

One cookie is 500 calories?

Yesterday’s New York Times published a gorgeous recipe for chocolate chip cookies but I was stunned by the size. The recipe calls for pounds of ingredients but only makes 18 cookies (5 inches in diameter). I couldn’t resist looking up the calories on the USDA’s food composition data base. If I added them up right, they came to about 500 calories each. If you want to understand the vast change in the food environment that has taken place in the last 30 years, take a look at an old (1964 or 1975) edition of the Joy of Cooking. Its recipe for chocolate chip cookies calls for almost exactly half the ingredients of the one in the Times but makes 45 cookies. Two batches would be the same as the Times’ recipe and would make 90 cookies! These would be just under 100 calories each.

Jul 9 2008

Reality check: what it takes to eat healthfully

USA Today has just run a piece on how tough it is to eat healthfully if you are poor.  It quotes my University of Washington friend, Adam Drewnowski, giving a brilliantly succinct summary of precisely what it takes.  He says: “It takes three things to be well nourished: knowledge, money and time.  If you have three out of three, you have no problem. If you have two out of three, you can manage…The problem is when you are zero for three.”   And lots of  people are, and more to come it seems.

Jul 9 2008

Calories: more than you ever wanted to know?

Mark Schrimsher writes to tell me that his CalorieLab site has just posted a U.S. map indicating the states with the highest levels of obesity.  The site has a calorie counter for a huge number of items and meals, and does things like adding up the calories expected to be consumed in the Nathan’s hot dog eating contest–19,600.  Did this happen?

Jul 8 2008

San Francisco gets sued over calorie labeling

If you missed the fight between restaurant trade associations and the New York City Health Department over calorie labeling, you get another chance: San Francisco.  San Francisco’s city attorney wants fast food places not only to post calories, but also saturated fat, sodium, and carbohydrates (check out the link for all the documents in this case).    Is this a good idea?  Aren’t calories enough?

Jul 6 2008

Statin drugs for 8-year-olds?

The nutrition committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics has just issued a new set of recommendations for cholesterol screening.  The advice of this august body?  Screen 2-year-olds for high cholesterol and start prescribing statin drugs at age 8.  OK, they are just recommending this for kids with risk factors, such as high LDL cholesterol (the bad one), family history of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, etc.   This sounds great for doctors, testing labs, and drug companies.  Is it a good idea for kids?  Which kids?  Who is going to pick up the tab for this?

Jul 4 2008

The Perishable Pundit takes me on

Yesterday, July 3, Jim Prevor, the Perishable Pundit, published a long series of posts (his ninth collection) on the tomato recalls.  One of the last in this bunch is in response to some comments I sent him.   We disagree about a number of points.  But if it were easy to achieve safe food, we’d have it by now.  I think it’s great that people like Jim are thinking seriously about these issues.  See what you think of this debate.

Jul 3 2008

Latest stats on GM crops

Think what you like about genetically modified crops; farmers love them.  How else to explain the latest data from USDA?  GM soybeans are leveling off a bit – at close to 90%–and corn at close to 60%.   The public doesn’t like GM much.  They aren’t labeled.  What’s in this for farmers?