Friday, January 24


Making a further mockery of the notion of the USDA as a true safeguard of public health, it was revealed that the Conagra plant that sickened 27 people and killed one with feces-smeared beef had been "cited more than 300 times for violating federal food safety regulations in the last three years." Meanwhile, a couple Democratic lawmakers with some semblance of a spine are trying to install one in the USDA and give it the power to close wantonly hazardous plants such as that one. What they don't seem to get is that since the USDA is packed with meat industry sympathizers, power isn't enough: What they need is the will.

Thursday, January 23


Once again, McDonald's is winning the battle and losing the war. Just as in the McLibel verdict, the fast food giant technically won, but at a great cost to their PR strategy. Here as well, with the tossing of the first obesity suit on the basis that everybody knows fast food is dangerous, McDonalds hasn't exactly come out smelling like a rose: for one thing, New York hospitals that had the restaurant within their walls are suddenly saying "What the hell were we thinking?"

UPDATE: Beginning of the end for fast food?

Tuesday, January 21

"THAT'S FIVE..." "THREE, SIR!" "...THREE..."

The dairy industry has adopted the approach of "if you can't beat 'em, copy 'em." As people are finally learning (if not following) the concept of "5 a day" for fruits and vegetables, the milk folks have hijacked it with their own "3 a day" slogan, trying to convince people that they need milk at every meal. And no wonder: Word is getting around that nobody needs cow's milk, and the facade of "health" and "calcium crisis" is eroding. A recent article in Britain's Independent puts it succinctly - "The idea that milk can also be very bad for you has become almost heresy, and the fact that cow's milk was intended for baby cows, not for baby humans, seems to have been forgotten" - and relays info such as: "Researchers from the Medical University of Yamanashi in Japan looked at cancer rates and diet in 42 countries and found significant links between cheese and testicular cancer, and milk and prostate cancer. They found that those with a high consumption of dairy products also had high rates of cancers." Contrariwise, a low-fat diet cuts breast cancer risks. More studies like this keep appearing - it's almost up to 3 a day...
UPDATE: Sez one observer: "It's pretty clear that they're attempting to market their products. I say that's OK, but don't pretend to be a health campaign then."

Sunday, January 19


The idea that children in public schools should be fed something that's good for them instead of whatever's lying around the warehouse (i.e. tons of surplus meat and dairy commodities) is finally pervading the mainstream, as pundits in various districts take up the cry. The New York Times finally got on board on Monday, with an overview of the latest trends, pointing out the fights over vending machines, the imperative to get kids to eat more plant-based, and less animal-based, foods and some groundbreaking efforts to connect school cafeterias to small farmers. But like most such reports, this one merely scratches the surface, throwing up a bunch of possibilities then throwing up the hands: Who knows what the answer is? Meanwhile, researchers in the latest Preventive Medicine magazine confirm that it's not our imagination - U.S. schools are failing in nutrtition. For example, the average school lunch contains as much saturated fat as is recommended for a whole day's worth of eating. And the poorer the school district, the more fat in the food. But again, this only describes the symptoms of the problem. Mother Jones, typically, gets more directly to the root: "School lunches are loaded with fat -- and the beef and dairy industries are making sure it stays that way." The article, only a portion of which is online, explains how the problem is at the core of the mission of the National School Lunch Program, which in addition to feeding schoolkids "is designed to subsidize agribusiness, shoring up demand for beef and milk even as the public's taste for these foods declines." Yes, your taste for it may decline, but yet again, the amount you pay to perpetuate this dying institution remains as high as ever.
UPDATE 1/17: Britain urged to follow Italy's example and serve high quality organic food to school kids. Maybe we could do some urging here...