Decoding the Store
Information about food labeling and food production.
The 1/25/11 Link Roundup
I was going to wait a bit before I did another summary from the news, but companies and policy makers seem to be on the move right now. So, here is the latest on food news.
- This past week, the First Lady Ms. Obama made a joint announcement with Wal-Mart about the company's plan make their in-house brand packaged foods "healthier" and still affordable for their customers. They set specific targets to lower sodium, sugar, and trans-fats in these products and they claim they will press their other suppliers to follow suit. I can make no sense of why Ms. Obama would decide to support a single company and, at best, this plan is a Catch-22. Even if it improves the health content of their packaged foods a little bit, it might not make any great changes and it has the potential to promote more confusing food labeling. Read more about it in the NYTimes.
- The big movers in the grocery industry, namely the Grocery Manufacturers of America and the Food Marketing Institute, have created a new labeling system for the front of packaged foods. They decided to do this without the help or blessing of the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the utility of the proposed labels is questionable. To see examples of the new label check out the article in the Washington Post or the NYTimes article. Because the label will require the listing of four of the "bad" nutritional aspects of process foods (calories, saturated fat, sodium, and total sugars) some say the label is a good thing, but the label will also allow two "good" aspects to be promoted. It could be just as confusing as the label on the back.
- To find out more on how Ms. Obama got tangled up in all of this, it helps to understand the goals of the Let's Move campaign she launched in early 2010. The goals of the campaign are still on the White House website.
The 1/11/11 Link Roundup
- Now I don't like to encourage people being afraid of germs or certain food items, but a USDA recall is worth taking note of. So, in case you haven't heard, 34,373 pounds of Organic beef were recalled on December 30, 2010 because of E.Coli contamination.
- There are all kinds of opinions on whether the EPA's decision to ban the use of the pesticide sufuryl fluoride by 2014. The ban was pushed through because of concerns over the possibility of over-exposure to fluoride in children. The pesticide is often sprayed on grains and coffee and used to fumigate food processing or storage facilities. The pesticide doesn't seem to pose major health concerns beyond fluoride over-exposure. Check out NPR's take on it.
- My verdict on the new food safety bill is still out. I should be more accurate and call it the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) as it is truly titled. For more information on the bill this short and sweet article in the Christian Science Monitor spells out the facts well.
- To end on a more positive note, I'm happy to report that Portland, OR Farmer's Markets are trying to broaden their customer base to include SNAP recipients. SNAP stands for Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program which was previously known as food stamps. Last year a new pilot market was created to serve a previously underserved neighborhood and it seems to have caught fire. Let’s hear it for the Portland Farmers Market program!
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