Only posting one day late. You’ll see why – it’s a long list.
International Food Politics:
- Drought Worsens Crisis in Somalia (Oxfam)
- Cocoa Buyers Start Cutting Off Purchases from Ivory Coast (Mark Memmott at NPR)
- Growing Population means world needs food-system overhaul, report finds (Agence France-Presse via Grist)
Beddington said the world’s food system was already failing on two counts. “Firstly, it is unsustainable, with resources being used faster than they can be naturally replenished,” he said. “Secondly, a billion people are going hungry with another billion people suffering from ‘hidden hunger’, whilst a billion people are over-consuming. The project has helped to identify a wide range of possible actions that can meet the challenges facing food and farming, both now and in the future.”
- A Year of Living Dangerously: Rising Commodity Prices and Extreme Weather Events Threaten Global Stability (by Michael T. Klare at Tom Dispatch – scroll down to find article)
- Beyond the Eternal Food Fight (Andrew C. Revkin at NYT)
- Varied Menus for Sustaining a Well-Fed World (Andrew C. Revkin at NYT)
- Emerging Nations Tackle Food Costs (Eric Bellman and Alex Frangos at WSJ)
- What Works: Urban Agriculture (Danielle Nierenberg at Worldwatch)
- The Foods that Make Billions (BBC)
- Soul Cuisine (William Grimes at NYT)
In one of the personal vignettes that punctuate “High on the Hog: A Culinary Journey From Africa to America,” the food historian and cookbook author Jessica B. Harris takes a trip with her mother to Houmas House, near New Orleans. One of a string of former plantations along Louisiana’s River Road, the estate bears witness to a cruel history. Harris, who is black, speculates aloud that much of the place was built by slaves. The remark draws an unexpected response. “What artistry,” her mother says. “What beauty they created for people who thought we were nothing but goods, not even human beings!”
This observation runs like a golden thread through Harris’s lively if wayward account of how African slaves, thrust into a strange land, carried with them the taste memories, cooking techniques and agricultural practices of their homelands and transformed the way Americans ate.
Domestic Food Politics/Issues:
- With food-system reform slowed to a crawl, local initiatives come to fore (Tom Philpott at Grist)
- Atlantic Weather May be Key Culprit in Fish Decline (Christopher Joyce at NPR)
- Salmonella Index: The Best and Worst States for Food Poisoning (The Atlantic)
- Obama’s Regulatory Reform will focus on fairness (Michael A. Livermore at Grist)
- State of the Union (Dan Michel of Feeding America)
- A Tale of Two Seed Farmers: Organic vs. Engineered (Dan Charles at NPR)
- What’s Behind Newt Gingrich’s Proposal to abolish the EPA (David Roberts at Grist)
I do want to note, however, that what Gingrich is trying to pull off is not just old-fashioned Republican-style “leave corporate polluters alooooone!” Don’t get me wrong: Newt wants to remove constraints on polluters! But he knows (unlike his buddies in Congress) that such a baldly retrograde position will not be popular with the public, which actually likes clean air. So he needs some kind of alternative. That’s why he’s proposing to replace the EPA with something called the Environmental Solutions Agency.
- McCain-Feingold Crunch (Patrick O’Connor at WSJ)
Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s ice cream, have organized a coalition of like-minded businesses to protest a Supreme Court ruling that struck down limits on corporate campaign spending in candidate elections. “Business for Democracy” will stage its first-ever event on the one-year anniversary of the court’s decision in Citizens United vs. the Federal Election Commission. The group opposes the controversial ruling, which allows companies to spend money from their general treasuries on political activities and rolled back a ban in the McCain-Feingold campaign-finance reform that set limits on when the money could be spent.
The Taco Bell roundup:
- Taco Bell Meat ‘Mixture’ Lawsuit (Slashfood)
- Taco Bell ‘beef': mostly not beef (by Tom Laskawy at Grist)
- This is What Really Hides in Taco Bell’s ‘Beef’ (Jesus Diaz at Gizmodo):
It looks bad but passable… until you learn that—according to the Alabama law firm suing Taco Bell—only 36% of that is beef. Thirty-six percent. The other 64% is mostly tasteless fibers, various industrial additives and some flavoring and coloring. Everything is processed into a mass that actually looks like beef, and packed into big containers labeled as “taco meat filling.” These containers get shipped to Taco Bell’s outlets and cooked into something that looks like beef, is called beef and is advertised as beef by the fast food chain.
- Is Taco Bell’s beef ‘filler’ the healthiest thing it sells? (Christopher Mims at Grist)
- Yo Quiero lots of weird and unpronounceable ingredients (Tom Philpott at Grist)
But perhaps the biggest engineering triumph of all lies in the dessert menu. Taco Bell does feel the need to include actual pork amid the “Roast Pork Flavor.” Even its inamous “seasoned beef” contains 34 percent beef. Truth-in-advertising attorneys take note: Taco has successfully engineered the strawberries out of the “Strawberry Frutista.” I’m not sure what a frutista is; the word doesn’t exist outside the confines Taco Bell-world. But I know what a strawberry is, and I don’t see even one on this ingredient list.
Also in the fake AND/OR gross food category:
- What You’ll Find in a Discarded Can of Vienna Sausages (John Thorne at Good)
- Fake Blueberries in Cereals, Baked Goods (Jessie Cacciola at Slashfood)
The Walmart roundup:
- Civil War site is now a battlefield for Wal-mart (Steve Szotak of AP, via MSNBC)
- Taste of Tech: Tangled Webs of Health, Purity, and Processed Food (Matthew Battles at Good)
For anyone who likes food, the news is ambiguous. On one hand, Walmart’s famously efficient distribution system, combined with its matchless market reach, has the power to drive down prices and bring healthy eating options within reach for millions of Americans. On the other hand, advocates of organic foods and good nutrition reasonably worry that in embracing the marketing potential of wholesomeness, Walmart will dilute the meaning of the organic paradigm.
If history is any guide—and history is with us in the kitchen and the market, as Rachel Laudan points out in a Food for Thinkers post—both possibilities are likely to play out in a complex dialectic.
- How the Walmart execs fleeced the White House on ‘healthy’ food (Michele Simon at Grist)
- Walmart’s Healthy Food Reforms: Let’s Keep an Eye on the Ball (Corby Krummer at The Atlantic)
- Can Wal-mart Make Us Healthier? – a debate (NYT)
Food Labels Roundup:
- Food Industry Labeling Plan: Another Dumb ‘Smart Choice’? (Kelly Brownell at The Atlantic)
- Industry’s New Food Labels: The Race to Beat the FDA (Marion Nestle at The Atlantic)
- “Singing Kumbaya,” GMA/FMI displays preemptive label design (Marion Nestle at Food Politics)
- FDA withdraws menu labeling guidance. Will work on rules instead. (Marion Nestle at Food Politics)
- CDC Weighs in on Raw Milk Debate (Bill Marler)
- Yet Another S 510 Food Safety Update (Jerusha Klemperer at Slow Food USA)
- 2010 was not a good year for Raw Milk and Raw Milk Cheese, So why are State considering legalization? (Bill Marler)
- Traceability rule represents big adjustment for food industry (Lyndsey Layton at The Washington Post)
In response to a new federal food safety law and growing consumer interest, vast amounts of new data are being generated about the complicated path that food takes from field to supermarket shelf. And, increasingly, some of that information is being offered to curious shoppers, who in some stores can wave a smartphone above an apple or orange and learn instantly where it was grown, who grew it and whether it has been recalled. They can even contact the farmer, if they feel moved.
A provision of the federal food safety law passed last year requires that all players in the country’s food supply chain be able to quickly trace from whom they received a food product and to whom they sent it. They’ll have to maintain that information in digital form, creating deep wells of information that, in some cases, consumers could tap into through their computers or cellphones.
- Food Safety in the Age of Obama (response to State of the Union) (Bill Marler)