Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Food’

The more I learn about what’s in our food, the more concerned, and outraged I get. I spent this morning immersed in Friends of the Earth‘s report on ‘Out of the Laboratory and onto our Plates: Nanotechnology in Food & Agriculture’. Scary stuff! Consider this:

Friends of the Earth’s new report finds that untested nanotechnology is being used in more than 100 food products, food packaging and contact materials currently on the shelf, without warning or FDA testing . . .

‘Nanofood’ describes food which has been cultivated, produced, processed or packaged using nanotechnology techniques or tools, or food to which manufactured nanomaterials have been added.
Nanomaterials can be used as more potent food colorings, flavorings and nutritional additives, antibacterial ingredients for food packaging, and more potent agrochemicals and fertilizers.  For example, nanomaterials can be in the packaging around your crackers, provide the color of the meat you buy, and supply the added nutrients in the shake you feed to your toddler . . .

Nanomaterials are an untested new technology and not well researched. The long term repercussions of using them in our food are not known. Nanoparticles have been shown in preliminary studies to be more chemically reactive than larger particles and when they find their way into our bodies, they can potentially wreak havoc. We also don’t know how much we can safely ingest without harm, but we do know that some studies have already shown that nanomaterials can adversely affect our immune system . . .

Nanofood - Friends of the Earth image
Nanofood – Friends of the Earth image

Here is the list of companies engaged in nanofood technology, many of them popular household names:

food-and-agriculture-companies-engaged-in-nanotechnology-rd

And the result is:

nanomaterials-in-foods-and-beveragesand this:

nanomaterials-in-food-packagingnanomaterials-in-food-packaging-02and this:

nanomaterials-in-food-additivesFor now, until the FDA and the USDA get their act together, it seems that we, the people, are  once more on our own, when it comes to food and our health. The good news is, there are a few actions we can take:

  • Avoid consuming highly processed foods and beverages
  • Favor organic whenever you can
  • Exercise your rights as a citizen and petition elected officials to ban nanofood altogether.
  • Circulate this article in the citizen media – Twitter, blogs, Facebook, etc

Your health, and the health of your children is at stake.

Read Full Post »

Thanks to Meryn Stol, for pointing me to what could be a world changing enterprise for food sourcing. As reported in World Changing, The Food Map, a project from two graduate students from University of Wisconsin, Madison, aims to shed some light on the U.S. food network. Currently in a very raw form, Food Map is using the example of two brands of mac and cheese to demonstrate how it would work on a larger scale. 

food_map

It is time the shroud of secrecy surrounding what’s gone on with our food, be lifted. I personally support the idea of a travel log for every single food item that makes it into our grocery stores. Food Map would go a long way towards alleviating my concern regarding this most troubling statistic from the FDA, that only 1% of food imports undergo food safety inspection . . . Short of greater transparency, I have to resort to blanket decisions such as bypassing non US food altogether. And even so, I still leave myself open to risks with processed foods. Currently ingredient sourcing for processed food is not required. 

Please support The Food Map project, starting with a visit to the site. 

Read Full Post »

Too busy with the faltering economy, healthcare, global warming, and other pressing issues, U.S. legislators are putting food safety reforms on the backburner. That’s unfortunate, considering this recent statement from the Food and Drug Administration Science Board, that it can “no longer fulfill its mission without substantial and sustained additional appropriations.” I was shocked to learn that   only 1% of most imported food gets inspected. Also, the current legislation does not require food manufacturers to disclose sourcing for ingredients used in processed foods. The implication  is, unless sticking to natural, non processed, domestic foods, there is  no way of knowing for sure what’s in our food.

Confused shopper in grocery store - Ralph Bijker, Flickr image

Confused shopper in grocery store - Ralph Bijker, Flickr image

Watchdog organizations such as Food and Water Watch, Environmental Working Group, Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Center for Science and Public Interest, and Food Policy Institute, are doing what they can to alert consumers, each with a slightly different take and focus. The result is a confusing picture, that can be reduced to 14 relatively simple steps: 

  • Eat at home where you have more control over food supply
  • Avoid processed foods with ingredients of unknown origin
  • Avoid foods with non natural ingredients
  • Buy domestic products
  • Buy organic eggs, poultry, meat, and dairy
  • Cook well eggs, poultry, meat, and high risk veggie – green onions 
  • Stick to organic for produce with high pesticity index
  • Buy fish from safe fish list
  • Avoid raw oysters
  • Avoid food requiring excessive handling such as pre-cut fruit, deli cold cuts
  • Scrub and wash all vegetables and fruits in soapy water, including packaged, pre-cut items
  • Limit canned foods because of lead/plastic lining contamination risks
  • Buy organic versions of corn, soy, canola, and cotton based products
  • Stay clear of trans fats and saturated fats

Did I miss anything?

Read Full Post »

Every night, the same question comes up, of what to make for dinner? Tonight’s no different. No leftover in the fridge to give me a hint. Instead an odd assortment of vegetables, not even enough to make a soup with. And no help to be had from family members. All four have different ideas, and I do not have the time nor the desire to accommodate all. I shall make an executive decision. Of course, it would be nice to be ‘creative’ and step out of the usual repertoire, for a change. But tonight’s not the night. I am going to go for the safest bet. Roasted chicken with potatoes, and a green salad. I can zip over to Whole Foods, buy their organic fryer, organic potatoes, and organic lettuce, and while I am at it, a few extra vegetables so I can make a soup out of the leftovers tomorrow. Preparation time, 15′ total, and I can go back to my work, while the creature’s cooking in the oven. Done.

There is a lot to be said for that roasted chicken dinner. Most importantly, it meets all four criteria in my good food book:

  1. Cost: a whole chicken can be stretched over two meals for four people, easily, with roasted chicken first day, and chicken soup with rice the day after
  2. Health: no worries to be had with natural, organic ingredients
  3. Convenience: both meals are easy and quick to make, less than 15′, my usual limit on week days
  4. Taste: it’s hard to mess up roasted chicken, plus who doesn’t like chicken?

In a perfect world, I would have a hundred ‘roasted chicken’ recipes to pick from. The reality is closer to five or six meals, that I keep repeating, from week to week. The children have noticed. Oh! we’re having crepes again . . . How about a different dressing for the salad? I have fallen into a rut. I wish I could be more creative and fancy myself as one of my French friends, for whom cooking is still very much a daily practice in effortless imagination. Once in a while, I decide to shake things up a bit, and invest in a new cookbook. Last time, was The Art of Simple Food: Notes, Lessons and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution, by Alice Waters. I remember being quite excited, and thinking this was going to be THE book, unlike the thirty previous volumes, that have been gathering dust on my kitchen shelf. Of course, my interest in THE book was short-lived. I found it hard to make Alice’s recipes mine. An interesting observation, given that, objectively, her recipes embody all I want in food.

I am left with the question of why? How come is it that I keep going back to these few ‘comfort recipes’? When I could so easily whip myself into shape, and start meal planning the heck out of Alice’s cookbook, gathering hundreds of perfect recipes in the process. The answer is in the smell coming out of my oven right now. The aroma from the roasted chicken, and the potatoes brings me right back to my mother, and also my grandmother’s kitchen, to my French peasant roots of uncomplicated, good food. From the many more dishes that I watched, and sometimes helped them make, only le poulet roti, les pommes de terre au four, la salade verte toute bete, la soupe de legumes, les crepes, la tarte aux pommes, and le pudding au chocolat have remained in my primal core . . .

Of course, I am fortunate, to have been wired early on to only appreciate really good, natural food. That I am a boring cook with a limited repertoire is a small problem, compared to what happens for the majority of people in America, who have been brought up to love not natural food, but fast food instead.  To them, a visit to McDonald’s may bring up the same positive emotional onslaught as the one I feel when cooking my grandmother’s vegetable soup. And cooking naturally, or even cooking period, may be a lot harder for them to get into. Although hugely popular, cookbooks, recipe websites, and TV cooking shows, often cannot compete with the aroma of a Big Mac with French fries, on the side.

Read Full Post »

One casual comment made by a girlfriend during a recent dinner at my house, got me thinking, deep, about women, and food, and politics. “You mean, you made the crust? From scratch?” My friend could not believe I had spent the time, and thought I was “too much”. No big deal, I assured her, it had only taken me a few minutes to mix in the flour, salt and butter, and to roll the dough. That’s when I realized how far we have strayed from our womanly ways with food.

Somewhere in the midst of first wave feminism, we, women made a bargain with the devil. Tired of being kept in the kitchen, we welcomed with open arms, promises from the food industry to make life more convenient for us. Put away your apron, and your pots and pans, we were told, and get out instead. Take your family  to Mc Donald’s, for a complete dinner, or if you are courageous enough, go to the stores for some half baked alternatives. Pre-cut salads, frozen dinners, bottled dressing, whole roasted chicken, canned soups, cake mixes, potato flakes, . . . Open the package, mix it up and you are all set. That felt like progress, and the perfect solution for a hurried evening after a whole day at the office.

Of course there were compromises to be made, such as paying more for our food, and  jeopardizing our health and that of our family. Products loaded with too much salt, too much sugar, too much fat, and too many empty calories. Paragraph long labels with ingredients more fit for a science lab than our stomach. Foods purified from their natural vitamins and nutrition. Further compounding the problem, manufacturers conspired to confuse us with misleading claims that we were only too happy to believe. I know firsthand. I spent a good part of my early advertising career trying to convince moms of the wholesomeness of granola bars . . . what a spin that was!

The truth has been catching up with us, however, in the form of record highs in obesity and associated illnesses such as  diabetes, stroke, heart attack, and kidney failure. The personal and national costs are astronomical, and demand an overhaul of our entire food system, such as proposed by pioneers of the natural food movement. First was California food’s priestess, Alice Waters, then Omnivore  Dilemma‘s Michael Pollan, and now Slow Food‘s Carlo Petrini. Each time, the green, intellectual elite has responded with ardor. Some of that enthusiasm has trickled down to the mainstream, as evidenced by the spread of organics in supermarkets. Deep down, though, not much has changed.

Inspired from the success of Obama’s movement, I would like to suggest a different strategy, one that does not come from a few tenors, but that  recognizes women as the beholders of the nurturing instinct, and the ones still in charge of most of the food decisions. Let’s call it The Women’s Food Movement, an effort at organizing the community of women all over, to help them regain confidence in their innate ability to nourish, using simple recipes and affordable, high quality, natural ingredients. Shifting the power away from manufacturers and retailers, back into the hands of women. No fancy words needed. Instead, a narrative anchored in their every day food activities and concerns, e.g. shopping for groceries,  deciding on what to make for dinner, exchanging recipes, looking for deals and clipping coupons, worrying about feeding their family healthy food, having limited time for cooking, making ends meet . . .

Most importantly, The Women’s Food Movement is about trusting women to hold the answers, collectively, and simply providing them with an organizing community and some tools to turn that knowledge into constructive action. This approach requires a deeper understanding of women’s food psychology, than currently displayed in existing solutions. For a beginning of food conversations with women, you may follow the Twitter stream here

Read Full Post »

Have you tried sorting out the information on fish? Which kind can you eat without worrying about mercury, PCBs, chlorinated pesticides, dioxins, furans, PBDEs, and other nasty contaminants? You would think there is one central place with all that info, neatly packaged into one pocket size guide. There is. Actually, there are, and that’s the problem. Several sources, all with different recommendations:

3To be safe, I guess I will just stick to the ones they all agree on: anchovies, catfish (farmed), clams (farmed), crab (Dungeness), crawfish (domestic), mackerel (Atlantic), oysters (farmed), salmon (wild, Alaska), sardines (Pacific, domestic), scallops (bay, farmed), squid (Pacific, domestic), tilapia (farmed, domestic), trout (fresh water, farmed). 

Read Full Post »

We’ve all witnessed that scene. A mom, obviously not rich, waiting in line with her brood, at the checkout counter, her shopping cart overflowing with bottled water and sodas. Inspired by that image, I decided to take a look at some hard Nielsen data on U.S grocery sales, and came across some rather stunning numbers:

Mom Does Not Always Know Best
La Marguerite Blog Compilation

Add it all up, and you’ve got the majority of households spending between a fourth and a third of their grocery budget on junk, and empty calories. That’s a lot of money, that could be used on other more nutritious groceries such as milk, fruit, vegetable, meat, and other non processed food. It’s also wasted precious dollars in increasingly dire economic times.

There are plenty of reasons why women – the primary grocery shoppers – persist with such deplorable spending habits. Ten, according to a recent report from US News & World Report, ‘10 Things the Food Industry Doesn’t Want You to Know’:

  1. Junk food makers spend billions advertising unhealthy foods to kids
  2. The studies that food producers support tend to minimize health concerns associated with their products
  3. Junk food makers donate large sums of money to professional nutrition associations
  4. More processing means more profits, but typically makes the food less healthy
  5. Less-processed foods are generally more satiating than their highly processed counterparts
  6. Many supposedly healthy replacement foods are hardly healthier than the foods they replace
  7. A health claim on the label doesn’t necessarily make a food healthy
  8. Food industry pressure has made nutritional guidelines confusing
  9. The food industry funds front groups that fight antiobesity public health initiatives
  10. The food industry works aggressively to discredit its critics

Will the stores take the relay and act as advocates for the shoppers? According to another study, this one from Bishop Consulting, ‘In-Store Nutritionists Will Be as Commonplace as Pharmacists within Ten Years‘, some encouraging trends are taking place in grocery retail, along with initiatives from some manufacturers.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 26 other followers