Monday, August 31, 2009
What would we do without the honey bee? Without bees, we can't grow produce - they are the keystone in the arch of all agriculture, sustainable and otherwise. Happily buzzing from flower to flower, they are what turns our squash blossoms into squash, our pea vines into peas...you get the idea. No bees, and the planet is in big trouble.
There has been a lot of talk recently about "Bee Colony Collapse Disorder," where whole bee hives mysteriously die off, and it's causing farmers panic. One theory is that it's caused by a virus, but another theory focuses on what those bees are eating. You guessed it, it's no longer honey. Commercial beekeepers sell all the honey, and feed the bees High Fructose Corn Syrup(HFCS). (I have not seen any reason for the nouvelle bee cuisine, but I suppose it's to save money - same as why humans are fed the stuff as well.) I remember reading this a few months ago and thinking, that cannot be good for bees.
Well, La Vida Locavore's entry last week on High Fructose Corn Syrup proves me right. Turns out, according to a recent study, HFCS causes "the heating of HFCS raises levels of hydroxymethylfurfural (HMF), a toxin that causes gut ulceration and dysentery-like symptoms in bees." In other words, the bees could be dying of HFCS-induced diarrhea. More scary yet? "In humans it has been linked to DNA damage." Yikes!
That seems to be three strikes against the sweetener: First it's in everything we eat, helping drive up the rate of obesity and diabetes and other diet-related diseases; then, the folks at Institute for Agricultural and Trade Policy tell us there's mercury in it too, perhaps poisoning us directly; and now the bees...and maybe us. When do we get to declare this stuff a toxic substance?
Image from motherearthsgarden.com
Friday, August 28, 2009
We’re back with another obnoxious fast food ad for the end of your week. This one’s served up by Sonic – a new player in the Bay State’s fast food scene. What makes this ad particularly obnoxious to me is not the shoddy nutrition science, nor the suggestion that fried potatoes will somehow lead to superior intellectual capacity and improved accuracy on multiple choice tests. Rather, what’s particularly obnoxious about this ad is that blasted little asterisk.
Here’s the deal, the average child sees about 20,000 fast food commercials every year, and studies show us that children are especially vulnerable to advertising. A child under the age of eight, for example, is not yet able to understand the persuasive intent of an advertisement. And even older children are often unable to recognize various forms of advertising as marketing.
Parents, nutritionists, and other health advocates are engaged in an uphill battle to curb the amount and type of marketing children are exposed to, and to empower the agencies commissioned with regulating advertisers – and that asterisk undoes it all!
The message to industry is thus, Say anything, and if your claim is outlandish enough, just add an asterisk. Imagine the possibilities…
Nicotine is not addictive*
Bottled water is better than tap*
Fast Food is part of a balanced active lifestyle*
Monday, August 24, 2009
“At a time when the nation is close to a civil war over health-care reform, obesity adds $147 billion a year to our doctor bills,” says Walsh.
Walsh concludes by urging readers to support sustainable food production. However, his article doesn’t fully delve into is the extent to which fast food giants, like McDonald’s and Burger King, are driving our current food system.
What role do you think the fast food industry is playing in this crisis?
Friday, August 21, 2009
Growing up the daughter of an avid Diet Coke drinker, I’ve seen the warning a thousand times: “Phenylketonurics: Contains Phenylalanine.” But what does that even mean? If, like me, you don’t know and can't pronounce it, you may want to think twice before sipping that refreshing diet cola.
I did a little reading (now that we're blogging and all) and it turns out Phenylalanine is an amino acid found naturally in certain foods like breast milk, and normally part of complex protein molecules that our bodies take hours to break down and digest. Phenylalanine is also found in non-foods such as the controversial artificial sweetener aspartame. When ingested, aspartame breaks down into aspartic acid, methanol, and phenylalanine - but here, the phenylalanine is isolated and easily absorbed by the body in unusually high doses. And for the Phenylketonurics among us - those who lack the enzymes to metabolize phenylalanine - ingestion can lead to brain damage and seizures!
Why don’t we get these warnings in language we can understand? Imagine if food labels were that straight-forward: "Warning: may cause brain damage." If we really knew, and could understand what goes into our "food" these days, how many of us would instead reach for that tomato?
Thursday, August 20, 2009
While Dr. Newsom may want to leave the corporate campaigning to groups like us, it is refreshing to hear that a public health official understands where the problem is coming from. His outrage at doughnuts served at health department meetings and candy bar-laden vending machines seems appropriate - we wouldn't expect health departments to allow smoking in the office, would we?
Image of Dr. Jason Newsom from Panama City abc news affiliate WMBB
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Marion comments on the maxims of British school lunch maven and celebrity chef, Jamie Oliver, in a sentiment we couldn't agree with more:
Ban the junk. Please, let’s. It’s time we got rid of vending machines, a la carte service and everything else that competes with federally funded school meals. If we did that, we wouldn’t have to have all those nutrient-based arguments about what’s allowed in vending machines. Kids need water? How about fixing the drinking fountains or supplying tappable containers of filtered water as I’ve seen done in the Berkeley schools.And let's go one step further - Ban the Brands. The School Nutrition Association's recent survey of schools suggests about 1/3 of all schools serve branded fast food for lunch, and our own mapping shows fast food lurks around the corner, waiting for your child to skip the cafeteria and go to McDonald's instead. No one seems to know the extent of junk food marketing in schools at all (believe me, I've been trying to find out!), but we know for sure that McDonald's and other fast food giants sponsor reading rewards programs, fundraisers, and advertise on the in-school television behemoth, Channel One. There are folks running heroic campaigns to improve school lunch, from farm-to-cafeteria to trying to bring health and sustainability into the industry-dominated Child Nutrition Act reauthorization process, but we win the battle and lose the war if those same schools promote Big Macs at the same time.
Monday, August 17, 2009
Yes, you read that sentence correctly!
Ward recommended Burger King, Taco Bell, KFC Grilled Chicken as healthy sources of road trip food for both adults and children.
Ward certainly failed to mention certain important criteria of “healthy food,” including preservative content, cholesterol, sodium level, etc.
Do you think that Elizabeth Ward believed what she was saying?
Thursday, August 13, 2009
Value [the] Meal advisor, Marion Nestle, hits the nail on the head in the Washington Times article that has "outed" Dr. Regina Benjamin, the President's pick for SG:
"Fast-food companies are not public health agencies; their job is to sell fast food - and the more, the better," Dr. Nestle said. "For me, this would represent an impossible conflict of interest."An accomplished physician serving the Gulf Coast in Alabama, Dr. Benjamin might otherwise be a stellar choice for SG. But with obesity being THE public health issue facing America, can we really afford to have the nation's top doc to be in the employ of an industry that profits hand over fist from the crisis?
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
So why is this important? At least one study has shown that when there is McDonald's in a hospital, patients come away with the impression that the food is healthier. So, it's important what's in a hospital lobby - it's like the hospital endorses that brand. Some hospitals are moving towards a more sustainable, healthy menu in their own cafeterias - it would be great to see more food in the lobby that doesn't harm our health in a place where we're supposed to get well.
Monday, August 10, 2009
McDonald's seems to have bullied itself into being the only branded vendor for the London 2012 Summer Olympic venues, reports The Observer, prompting local outrage.
Jenny Jones, a London councillor and former head of the strategy group London Food, said: "It's outrageous that McDonald's will be the enduring image of food at this magnificent showcase for London. There are a huge number of British companies who would benefit from being able to openly sell healthier, better produced, locally-sourced food."There had originally been promises of selling local, sustainable food, apparently. There is also furor over a lack of promotion for the ethnically diverse cuisine of East London, where the venues will be located.
The McDonald's presence seems to grow more noticeable with each Olympics. The funding the fast food giant provides for Olympic athletes seems to be silencing dissenting voices, as the British Olympic Minister found out, when she dared draw the connection between junk food sponsors and childhood obesity. Could we be reaching a turning point?
Image from InsideTheGames.com
Friday, August 7, 2009
Hardee’s has added a new burger to their menu, piling sliced roast beef and Swiss cheese atop a normal thickburger hamburger with a side of au jus. And to promote the new French Dip Thickburger, Hardee’s has employed four women to dress in French Maid outfits, feather-dust and flirt with fans at a variety of sporting events, and distribute coupons for the new burger.
Why is this obnoxious? Oh, where to begin! Let’s start with the name of the URL: www.hotchickseatingburgers.com/frenchdip.
Then there are the outfits, the fake French accents, the “bios” of these French femmes and Antionette’s claim: “People always tell me I get these stems from ma Grand-mère, but I have always believed it was the French Dip Thickburgers that helped me grow so tall.” The marketing tactics that objectify women as sex objects, and portray men as guided solely by their hunger for food and sex. Oh, clichéd gender politics!
Then there’s the minute 1:58 where it becomes clear that a marketing campaign aimed at Hardee’s “loyal fans who enjoy beautiful women,” sometimes reaches those fans’ teenage sons too – and for that matter, their teenage daughters!
Justifying the ‘sex-sells’ messaging, CEO Andy Pudzer has said that the company “do[es] not aim to exclude or offend any other group with our efforts, but merely to appeal and amuse a very specific audience.” He goes on to explain that his brands' comparatively small advertising budget simply necessitates a sexier approach in order to stand out. I guess the message here, kids, is when the going gets tough, the tough get sexy!
Not annoyed with saucy? What about the sauce? For the unscathed there’s always the 650 obnoxious calories this new burger packs, 33 grams of fat, and 2230mg of sodium. Take your pick.
Thursday, August 6, 2009
The WTO-enforced system and government subsidies enables food giants -- such as Pepsico, Kraft, Mars, Coca-Cola, McDonald's, Burger King and Wal-Mart -- to source their ingredients globally, giving them the power to force down prices, which drives more and more farmers off the land in the global North and South alike. Then the food companies turn around and manufacture high-profit products that seem like an unbelievable bargain to us."Gupta does a great job of revisiting (via Eric Schlosser's Fast Food Nation) how McDonald's has been a driving force in agricultural consolidation. And he hits the nail on the head for why we decided Value [the] Meal should challenge the impact of fast food specifically:
Americans are under the thrall of the food industry. More than half the population eats fast food at least once a week; 92 percent eat fast food every month; and "Every month about 90 percent of American children between the ages of three and nine visit a McDonald's," states Schlosser.With McDonald's alone having that kind of a grip on our country, farmer's markets, local food and health educators have their work cut out for them. As Gupta says:
We know this food is killing us slowly with diabetes, heart disease and cancer. But we can't stop because we are addicts, and the food industry is the pusher.What's the first thing you do with pushers? Stop them from pushing their goods on your children. If we are to break out of this cycle, we need to stop fast food giants from marketing to our kids.
Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Overall, a great segment. David Kessler stops short of calling out the corporations explicitly, even though he implies their fat/salt/sugar-laden creations create addictions in the human brain similar to speed. Instead, he essentially says that public opinion may one day shift, like it has towards smoking. But if no one calls out the corporations in question, how does public opinion shift?
Monday, August 3, 2009
Interestingly, this study found that having a national chain near your school makes it more likely that the students will be overweight and obese than just having a local restaurant - like a pizza joint - in the same location. Could this be because of the billions in marketing that McDonald's and other chains spend targeting our youth?
The USDA says that restricting open campus policies for schools near fast food may help. What do you think of the idea that the researchers propose of creating zoning restriction for fast food restaurants near schools?