Saturday, July 17, 2010

Food Politics

I often read about the ongoing political debates about food guidelines, food regulation, school-cafeteria food, and issues of food additives. I don't comment about these subjects much because others are more expert in evaluating what is going on. Today I read two articles of interest in this broad area.

First, the Fairfax County Public Schools' nutrition program was named best in the country by the nonprofit School Nutrition Association. (Washington Post article here.) Miriam and Alice only buy lunch at their Fairfax school occasionally because Evelyn thinks the food is not so healthy and not very good quality. Is this really the best there is?

Second, Marion Nestle's blog Food Politics recently had a summary of some testimony before the Federal Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, currently performing its 5-year review and revision of food recommendations. I was especially struck by the summary of special interests, as expressed by their lobbying groups. Here is what she said:
  • National Pork Producers say: “Urging Americans to shift to a more plant-based diet and consume only moderate amounts of lean meat implies they should decrease consumption of this vital, complete protein.”
  • Egg Producers say: “The average American could increase egg consumption and still be within the egg-a-day limit.”
  • The Sugar Association says that advice to reduce sugar is “impractical, unrealistic and not grounded in the body of evidence.”
  • The Salt Institute testifies: “Encouraging consumption of low-salt foods will encourage Americans to eat excessively to make up for the lack of taste….The guidelines have become far more a reflection of ideology than sound science.”
How can anything be done when special interests dominate like this? Maybe truly salt-free foods would be unpalatable -- but many fast food meals that can easily be eaten by an adult or child contain more salt than an individual's entire recommended daily intake. Maybe meat is healthful, but surely you can get too much of a good thing -- and people do. I wonder what the corn syrup folks are saying! Nestle's blog has much more about these issues.

Maybe I don't write about nutritional politics and food safety much because it is too depressing.

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