By Young-Rok Shin, MD, MPH
It was quite a busy week for food news.
In “’Corn sugar’ is false advertising, FDA warns” Thomas Watkins of the Associated Press wrote about the Corn Refiners Association’s attempt to circumvent the bad publicity that high fructose corn syrup has been receiving lately by renaming it as “corn sugar.” The FDA has issued a warning about this, however, as it oversees all food labeling and has not approved this name change. While no labels on actual food products have used the “corn sugar” label, the Corn Refiners Association is using the name in TV commercials and on at least some of its websites and the FDA has raised concerns that the new label may be misleading and confusing for consumers.
The New York Times had two articles related to food this week. Jane Brody wrote about the findings of a new series of reports published in The Lancet about fighting the obesity epidemic by approaching the problem from multiple angles. She described her own experience of what had changed from her childhood to modern times with regards to the much greater availability of cheap, convenient, and tasty processed foods and the decline in physical activity resulting from the design of suburban neighborhoods and the rise of modern conveniences like television. She then went on to go over some of the recommendations from the reports from The Lancet, which advised approaching the problem similar to the way tobacco smoking was handled with advertising controls, increases in tobacco taxes, greater availability of treatments such as the nicotine patch, and banning public smoking.
Joe Nocera wrote a column titled “Killing Jobs and Making Us Sick,” in which he laments the Republican Party’s opposition to funding proposals for the Food Safety Modernization Act and the FDA. Despite significant industry and bipartisan House support for an industry fee that would have raised $300 million to help fund the new food safety act, Republican Senators killed the fee because they viewed it as a tax in disguise. House Republicans then cut the FDA’s own budget by $87 million instead of increasing it by $120 million as requested by President Obama. Although the Senate just recently approved a $40 million increase in the budget, it is still not believed to be enough to cover the new inspections that the FDA has been mandated to carry out, and it also remains to be seen what the final 2012 budget will look like.
In the Baltimore Sun this week, Candus Thomson covered Maryland’s efforts to receive a seal of approval from the Marine Stewardship Council for locally caught striped bass. With consumers increasingly choosing products that are labeled as eco-friendly and sustainable, supporters of the effort believe that it will provide a boost for local watermen by allowing them to charge a premium price for their fish while providing a safeguard against state budget cuts on research and protection programs for Maryland’s fisheries. However, not everyone is onboard, with opponents questioning the validity of the Marine Stewardship Council’s approval process and Maryland’s ability to properly maintain its striped bass fisheries in a sustainable manner against the many water quality challenges that face the Chesapeake Bay.
Finally, The Nation magazine has a whole issue on food issues this week, covering Michael Pollan’s thoughts on how to effect change to the food system, food as a human right, Walmart’s new plan to open stores in food deserts all over the country, and much more. Some of the articles are available only to subscribers, but the ones linked here and many others are available for free (although reading more than a couple of articles at a time may require a free signup).