Food Politics

by Marion Nestle
Jan 22 2008

Oh great. Vegetarian glucosamine made in China

I guess the world needs this. I know that lots of people think glucosamine helps relieve their arthritis pains, especially in the knees, but the science on it is really iffy. Any number of reviews conclude that glucosamine is ineffective but safe as a placebo. Well, at least you can get it now from vegetarian sources, made in China. Reassured? The manufacturer says “Most of the world’s glucosamine is manufactured in China anyway. What we’re doing is supplying a safer and purer glucosamine coming from the same geographical location.”

Jan 22 2008

Pepsi’s energy drink for the masses

Thanks to Ellen Fried for sending the latest info on energy drinks. I will never cease to be amazed by the money and effort that goes into designing “energy drinks,” in quotes because energy comes from calories and that usually means sugars of one kind or another accompanied by lots of caffeine.

So here’s Amp, in line to become PepsiCo’s “energy drink of the masses” or at least  “goal-oriented males 18-34.” Would you like to see what $10 million in advertising buys? Take a look. One of the draws will be a line extension of the drink that contains L-theanine. This compound, new to me, is an amino acid of some kind, but one that has nothing to do with body proteins.  It is something found in tea leaves. Will it give those guys energy? Only if they think so.

Ellen also points out that kids with $199 can buy Mountain Dew and Amp jackets. Cool.

Jan 21 2008

Scotland asks for input on food policy!

The Cabinet of Rural Affairs and the Environment of Scotland has just released a gorgeous pamphlet that requests public comment on how the government should develop a national food policy for the country, one that makes Scotland “wealthier & fairer, smarter, healthier, safer & stronger, and greener.” I’ve never seen anything like this before and I’m envious. Couldn’t we do something as smart as this?

Jan 20 2008

The end of cheap food?

Today’s Observer (London) lays out the causes and consequences of what’s happening to global food prices. Not pretty. The bleak forecast: price increases of 10% to 50% leading to “a war between the 850 million chronically hungry of the world and the 800 million motorists – all fighting for the same food crop.”

Jan 19 2008

Is safety the only issue? I don’t think so

About the previous posting on animal cloning, rj asks: What are the possibly negative consequences from consuming say cloned poultry? Does it have to do with abnormal gene expressions which may somehow impact the composition of said food item? This also makes me wonder about why genetically modified foods fire off alarms with some people…with respect to genetically modified foods [studies]…have concluded GM foods are safe…you could infer that GM foods are safe for humans too. What are your thoughts on this, Marion?”

Easy. Just because–or even if–a food is safe, it does not necessarily have to be acceptable. I am willing to grant that GM and cloned foods are probably safe, but so what? I devote the first chapter of my book, Safe Food, to a serious discussion of this question. To summarize: if you have concerns–moral, ethical, religious, social, or political–about the way food is produced, you might choose not to eat GM or cloned foods. But you don’t have a choice, because neither is labeled. I think they should be.

Jan 19 2008

Nothing is simple: sustainable palm oil?

If you eliminate oils with trans fats, you have to replace them with fats with equivalent levels of saturation, and palm oils are highly saturated and work well as substitutes. One consequence of the increased demand for palm oils is destruction of tropical rainforests. “To improve the industry’s image and avert a consumer backlash,” food companies are pushing palm oil producers to go green and promise to produce palm oils sustainably. Will this work? It will be interesting to see.

In the meantime, the New York Times has plenty to say about how using palm oil for fuel drives up the cost of food.

Jan 19 2008

After an outcry from consumers…

  • Pennsylvania backs down from its decision to ban labels on milk cartons that say the cows were not treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone.
  • A European ethics panel says cloned animals should not be allowed on the market.
  • McDonald’s backs down from its “food prize” program (Happy Meals for good grades) in Florida.
    All that in just one day. Signs of a social movement anyone?
Jan 17 2008

The latest government anti-obesity campaign?

Michele Simon of Appetite for Profit fame sends me this link to’s account of the Advertising Council’s  latest pro bono campaign for the Department of Health and Human Services: placing itty bitty tee-shirts in laundromat dryers with the slogan “Shrink a few sizes.”  Michele can’t tell if it’s a joke and neither can I.  Surely they have to be kidding?  Does anyone know for sure?