A collection of food-related links
In the NY Times Mark Bittman has a sort of round-up post in which he has collected a lot of food news:
Potentially big: A superior court in Hyde County, N.C., ruled that the state has authority to require Rose Acre Farms, a facility housing nearly four million egg-laying hens, to be regulated under the federal Clean Water Act because of pollutants released from ventilation fans in the henhouses. Unprecedented. The F.D.A. proposed two sweeping rules aimed at preventing the contamination of produce and processed foods, taking a long-awaited step toward codifying the food safety law that Congress passed two years ago. And New Mexico lawmakers have introduced legislation that calls for the mandatory labeling of G.M.O.s within the state. Washington State joins the state, along with a half-dozen others.
Tom Philpott writes, “The fiscal-cliff deal between Congress and the White House included a fast-and-dirty, stop-gap farm bill compromise that will be in place only until September — meaning that Congress will have to start from scratch on a new five-year bill this year.”
2012 was the hottest year ever in the continental United States! Extreme weather is blanketing the globe and changing the way that we live. Related: Chuck Hagel, the defense secretary nominee, has a history of obstructing climate action, but also a record of elevating climate as a national security issue. He’s confused, so stay tuned.
Read the case for a comprehensive public health approach to gun violence inan article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Guns and the injuries they cause may be the next big issue facing physicians(including navigating ridiculous state laws that punish doctors for routinely asking their patients about gun safety).
News on obesity: New WIC food packaging designed to promote healthier eating choices for children is making a dent in reducing childhood obesity. Obesity and HPV (Human Papilloma Virus) are the next wave of cancer threats. Big Food is enabling the country’s obesity epidemic, as food companies spent 19.5 percent less on television ads between 2006 and 2009 — but 60 percent more in online marketing. (Scary: 2.1 billion of these ad impressions were placed on “child-oriented” Web sites). Also, in an analysis of nearly 100 studies, obesity was associated with a significantly higher all-cause risk of death, while being overweight was associated with significantly lower all-cause mortality. So, while obesity is quite devastating, those extra five pounds may not be not as bad as we thought. (In fact it’s more complicated, but later for that.)
Unsettling: A new study from the Biodiversity Research Institute in Maine found that 84 percent of fish have unsafe levels of mercury. Eggs from caged hens are really bad news. The genetically modified soybeans grown in 91 percent of U.S. soybean fields have repeatedly been linked with reproductive and birth defects in animals. And foods identified as “whole grain” are not always healthy, as current standards for classifying foods as “whole grain” are inconsistent and misleading.
Some better news: Smithfield announced this week that it is continuing its U.S. conversion away from gestation crates and has already converted all of its European operations. It will begin converting its Mexican operations, too. And 14 percent of consumers say they’ve reduced pork consumption (by an average of 56 percent) over the past three years due to animal welfare concerns.
Food costs for a family of four increased more than $2,000 above expectations in 2012. Not unrelated: half of the world’s food is thrown away. On the positive side, the U.K. charity Sustain intends to launch a campaign designed to increase the amount of food waste being used for animal feed.
Maria Sharapova is taking heat for shilling candy with tons of sugar, while Beyoncé (theFirst Lady of Pepsi, who is taking heat from me) is set to sing at Obama’s inauguration. Meanwhile, the governor of Maine is trying to ban sodas from being purchased with SNAP dollars.Fast food news: A weight loss guru said Chipotle is the healthiest fast food chain, McDonald’s seasonal McRib sandwich is a Franken-creation of G.M.O.s and toxic and banned ingredients, Chick-fil-A has published a children’s book, “The Jolly Barnyard,” loaded with half-truths about farms and animals, and a teen at a KFC in England found a kidney in his food (I’m all for offal, but not where you don’t expect it).
The U.S. is only the 16th best place on earth to be born; Switzerland is number one. Countries with free universal health care, paid maternity leave and government-subsidized job training—you know, everything the U.S. lacks—fill out the intervening 15 spots.
Most personal-health journalism ignores the basic pitfalls included in all scientific research and spreads unreliable information, CJR reports.
Using Google Earth, a doctoral candidate in Chicago mapped the city’s community gardens and found that only 160, or 13 percent, were actually producing food.