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    Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

    Corn Syrup, Corn Oil, And Sugar: Registered Dietitian-Approved?

    What would you say if I told you the folks at Marlboro had assembled a team of dedicated pulmonologists to be part of an advisory panel?  Imagine, too, that these hired health professionals would occasionally appear on various media platforms to publicly defend tobacco’s reputation.  Although it wasn’t uncommon to see doctors endorse cigarettes on television sixty years ago, these days such tactics would be met with strong indignation, to say the least.

    Take that “are you kidding me?” sentiment, multiply it times a hundred, and you have my reaction to recently finding out what some Registered Dietitians choose to align themselves with.
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    “Food Politics: Advocacy for Social Change” — A Wonderful Talk by Marion Nestle

    nestleLast night I was grateful and honored to have a reserved seat for a talk given by Dr. Marion Nestle at The University of Washington to a sold-out audience of over 400 students, faculty members, and food policy buffs (the lecture was open to the general public).

    What follows is a bullet-point, Cliffs Notes style recap of Dr. Nestle’s presentation; consider it a crash course in food politics 101!

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    New Giveaway: Feed Your Activist Hunger

    appetiteForprofit-hroptiSo far this year, the Small Bites blog has teamed up with a variety of individuals to give away some of my favorite things — from spice kits to healthy crackers to a brand-new vegan cookbook.

    This giveaway is for  my fellow food politics buffs who are interested in learning the inner workings of the beast known as the food industry.

    Two Small Bites readers will win an autographed copy of Michele Simon’s engrossing book, Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back.

    A health policy expert and law professor, Simon lays out thoughtful and appropriately scathing critiques of the food industry’s attempts to lull consumers into a false sense of security with “health initiatives”, self-regulation, and other tactics.

    If food politics, corporate responsibility, public  health issues, and food law interest you, this book needs a home on your bookshelf!

    To enter this giveaway:

    1. Send an e-mail to “andy@andybellatti.com” with the subject line “Appetite for Profit” anytime between 12:01 AM (Eastern Standard Time) on Thursday, July 22, 2010 and 11:59 PM (Eastern Standard Time) on Monday, August 9, 2010.
    2. Only one e-mail entry per person.  Multiple e-mail entries do not increase chances of winning.
    3. You may increase your chance of winning (equivalent to a second entry) by sharing the link to this giveaway on Twitter or Facebook.  For Twitter, you must include “@andybellatti” in your tweet.  For Facebook, please notify me via e-mail when you share this link on your wall.
    4. Winner will be selected at random on Tuesday, August 10, 2010 and will be contacted by me via e-mail.
    5. Winner must reside in the United States.

    Good luck!

    Many thanks to Michele Simon for donating two books to this giveaway.  Keep up with her on Twitter (@Appetite4Profit)!

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    Is Agriculture The Next Wall Street?

    normal_iil-ian-aj-0163The economic crash of 2008 forever changed the financial landscape.  Consumer confidence sank, investors balked, construction projects around the world halted, and recovery is expected to continue well into the next decade.

    I can’t help but think of Wall Street’s most recent implosion as a possible preview of what may happen with agriculture in the United States.

    After all, the economic crash was the end result of an unsustainable financial system.

    I use — as well as italicize and underline — the word “unsustainable” because it also happens to describe our food system.

    We are, currently, at the peak.  It all appears to be going well, as far as most people are concerned.  Fast food chains offer plentiful food for low prices, while the amount of available calories for each American is at an all-time high.

    You can’t help but wonder, though, how sustainable is the current agricultural system?  It’s becoming increasingly clear that the answer is “not very”.

    Increased pesticide and herbicide use over the past three decades has poisoned bodies of water and severely altered biosystems.  Cattle-feed operations produce millions of tons of manure each year, placing a huge burden on the environment.  Fish farms pollute nearby waters.

    There is no possible way in which the current food system — which essentially sticks up the middle finger at Mother Nature — can continue as is for another decade without serious consequences.

    Unlike the Wall Street scenario, there are no bailouts for the environment.  You can’t simply bring life back to a poisoned river or lake overnight, no matter how many millions of dollars you throw at it.

    This is not a doomsday prophecy.  I believe, more than ever, that we are at the early beginnings of what could be a powerful collective shift in how we view food.

    These issues can be often be daunting — at least they are for me — because it can be difficult to pinpoint what the best starting point is.  For now, I believe that informing others of how our current food system works is crucial.  There is no need for self-created pedestals, or belittling.  After all, each and every one of us, at some point, had absolutely no awareness about any of this.

    Similarly, “the sky is falling!” scare tactics often paralyze, rather than stir people into action.

    While activism and advocacy are great services to society, not everybody has the time, personality, or unbridled energy for headline-making moves.  You don’t have to be a policy maker to take action, though.  If you are part of a book club, suggest that one of your upcoming tomes be “Food Politics” by Marion Nestle, “Fast Food Nation” by Eric Schlosser, or “Appetite for Profit” by Michele Simon.

    Are you a school teacher?  See if you can fit “Supersize Me”, “King Corn”, or “Food, Inc.” into your curriculum.

    Discuss.  Analyze.  Engage in conversation.  And, always, continue learning.

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    In The News: The Antibiotic Discussion That Makes ME Sick

    SuperStock_1538R-57462Today’s San Francisco Chronicle reports that “a New York congresswoman is trying to rally support for a federal bill that… bans feeding antibiotics to cattle, hogs and poultry to increase their growth.”

    It specifically demands that “in the absence of any clinical sign of disease, farmers be forbidden from using any of seven classes of antibiotics, including penicillin, tetracycline and macrolide for routine infection prevention.”

    The US Food and Drug Administration concedes that “giving anti-microbials to animals when they are not sick is inappropriate – and even worse, contributes to more drug-resistant infections in people.”

    The American Medical Association and Food & Drug Administration have also expressed their support for this bill.

    Sweet awesomeness, right?  Not quite.

    Many farms and ranchers — part of the ever-powerful agricultural and beef lobbies that appear to have Congress on puppet strings — have their own set of arguments against this bill, most of which are quite infuriating to read: increased prices of meat, higher rates of illness among cattle, animals who will be smaller in size and offer less meat if they become sick and eat less, etc.

    Talk about not addressing the real issue!

    Cattle and other animals get sick and need massive amounts of antibiotics because of their deplorable living conditions.

    Remember, most cows in this country spend their entire lives standing in one spot eating an unnatural diet of corn and grains until the day they are slaughtered.  Ironically, this is often sold as “all-natural” beef.

    This corn and grain diet is extremely unhealthy and makes cows very ill, hence the need for antibiotics in the feed.

    Why do farmers retort to such diets?  Two reasons, both of which come down to the almighty dollar:

    1. Since corn and wheat are subsidized by the government, they are extremely cheap.
    2. This feed bulks up cows, thereby allowing farmers to sell more pounds of meat

    As far as I’m concerned, this is even more of a reason to dispose of agricultural subsidies that do nothing towards health promotion (they are mostly used to feed cattle an unhealthy diet or to make lots of cheap high fructose corn syrup and oils used in nutritionally empty junk food).

    Anyone who believes the elimination of agricultural subsidies will result in millions of people going hungry MUST read this brief article that details what happened when New Zealand got rid of their crop subsidies in the mid 1980s.

    As for beef prices potentially increasing, I don’t see what the problem is.  There are endless sources of protein — just as afforable, if not more — other than red meat available in the food supply.

    It’s time to think about the real cost of food.  Is saving a dollar on meat worth the inhumane conditions these animals live in and the possible health complications for humans from having antibiotics in the food supply?

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    Numbers Game: Answer

    In 2007, Masterfoods USA– a division of Mars, Inc. — spent $ 100 million advertising M&M’s chocolate candies in “offline” media (AKA everything except the Internet).

    That’s actually a pretty standard expense for the top candy and chocolate manufacturers!

    Meanwhile, the Five A Day campaign (advocating the consumption of at least five servings of fruits and vegetables a day) had a $4 million advertising budget to spread their message across the United States in 2004.

    By the way, that campaign was relaunched in 2007 after 15 years under the name “More Matters.”

    Rather than focus on one set number, consideration is given to individual guidelines based on varying calorie levels (some people only require four servings a day, while others should be getting eleven.)

    This campaign’s annual advertising budget? $3.5 million.

    SOS, anyone?

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    In The News: Nutrition & The Presidency

    The Wall Street Journal published this rather unique article inspecting Barack Obama’s and John McCain’s physical appearance and nutrition habits.

    Apparently, Senator Obama’s lean physique (he weighs approximately 10 fewer pounds than the average American male his height) and healthy eating routine aren’t doing him many favors with some voters.

    “He’s too new … and he needs to put some meat on his bones,” says one interviewee.

    The article also cites the following quote from a Yahoo! message board: “I won’t vote for any beanpole guy” (cyberspace is just full of deep, critical thinkers!)

    In fact, the latest ad campaign from Senator McCain, comparing Obama to celebrities like Paris Hilton and Britney Spears (do McCain’s people know this isn’t 2004?) partially criticizes his healthy lifestyle.

    “In a memo to reporters explaining the ad, McCain campaign manager Rick Davis wrote, “Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day” (in reference to a recent visit to Chiago where the Illinois senator made “three stops to local Chicago gyms in one day.”)

    The article also shares the following tidbit about the 2004 election:

    “Sen. Obama’s chief message strategist Robert Gibbs served as Sen. Kerry’s press secretary during the cheesesteak debacle [in which Kerry was “labeled effete” for ordering a cheesesteak with Swiss cheese, rather than CheezWhiz]. A few days later at the Iowa State Fair, famous for its deep-fried Twinkies and beer booths, Mr. Gibbs noticed Sen. Kerry buying a $4 strawberry smoothie. He made a frantic call to campaign staffers: “Somebody get a f-ing corn dog in his hand — now!””

    What I find most discouraging is the number of people that perceive healthy eating as “elitist” and “not of the people.”

    And here I thought the “real men eat steak,” “salad is for girls,” and “quiche is for chicks” contingency was slowly becoming extinct.

    If denouncing broccoli and stuffing your face with an oversized hamburger is the way to win America’s votes, then I sure am glad I never pursued a political career.

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    This Is The 21st Century, Right?

    Not really a nutrition topic, but a food-related one I want to rant about.

    Can Family Circle please retire the “potential First Lady cookie contest” they initially created in 1992 in response to Hillary Clinton’s “I suppose I could have stayed home and baked cookies,” quip to a reporter?

    It was cute — and culturally relevant — at the time, but now the whole thing just reeks of “oh, you’re savvy about foreign affairs? That’s cute, now go into that kitchen and whip up some cookies.”

    Besides, you know some poor unpaid intern is coming up with these recipes.

    In case you’re interested, this year it’s Cindy McCain’s Oatmeal-Butterscotch cookies vs. Michelle Obama’s Shortbread cookies.

    I’m still waiting for our current president to cook up a solid economic plan.

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