by Rachel Perez
On April 7th, Boston Mayor Menino expanded his ban on sugar-sweetened drinks in schools to include all city properties and functions. This means soft drinks, juices with added sugar, and sports drinks will no longer be offered in vending machines, concession stands, and city-run events. City buildings and departments have six months before they are required to phase out the sale of sugary beverages.
On April 8th Governor Deval Patrick announced the establishment of the Massachusetts Food Policy Council, tasked with developing recommendations for statewide food and agriculture policy. The Council will focus on providing healthy foods, coordinating food resources, and streamlining services to all residents of the Commonwealth. Boston Mayor Thomas Menino comments, “I have pushed for the establishment of a statewide food policy council to help provide better access to healthy and affordable foods in our schools, households, and neighborhoods.”
In an effort to prevent rewarding children for making poor food choices, the New York City Council proposed a ban on toys from any fast-food meal unless it has less than 500 calories, 600 milligrams of sodium and 35 percent of calories from fat. McDonald’s disagreed with the proposal saying, “Taking away toys from kids’ meals won’t solve childhood obesity.” A similar bill has already been passed in San Francisco and will take effect December 1, 2011.
On April 5th the Obama administration proposed to increase food safety by requiring meat producers to delay shipments to grocery stores until federal inspection. According to the USDA, 44 of the most serious recalls between 2007 and 2009 could have been prevented if the proposed “test and hold” rule had been in place. Elisabeth Hagen, USDA undersecretary for food safety, says “the new regulation would result in fewer products with dangerous pathogens reaching store shelves and dinner tables.”
The FDA’s improved Web page allows public access to food recalls dating back to 2009. The redesign was mandated by the food safety law signed by President Obama in January. The law also increased FDA power — as yet unused — to order food recalls on its own authority instead of depending on industry cooperation.
On March 31st over 270,000 family farmers and food activists from within the organic agriculture community sued Monsanto. Dan Ravicher, executive director of the Public Patent Foundation who is representing the farming community stated, “This case asks whether Monsanto has the right to sue organic farmers for patent infringement if Monsanto’s transgenic seed should land on their property.” A successful suit will limit Monsanto’s ability to sue farmers, and will require greater responsibility for biotech seed planting.
On March 31st the FDA advisory panel concluded that the scientific data is not solid enough to show that artificial foods dyes cause hyperactivity in most children. The panel decided against mandatory warning labels on food packages, much like ones currently used in Europe, due to fear of confusion in consumers.
Data from the UN Food and Agriculture Organization indicates that people in Mediterranean countries often do not follow the healthful diet touted in research studies. Many people in the Mediterranean aspire to a Western diet, which they associate with prestige and wealth. Today more than half the populations of Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain are overweight, and obesity in Eastern Mediterranean countries is growing. “The Mediterranean diet is on the list of the world’s great intangible cultural treasures in need of safeguarding,” says the UN Educational Scientific and Cultural Organization.
The latest diet focuses on foods such as broccoli, cauliflower, soybeans, red grapes, and green tea, suggesting that their anti-cancer properties can bolster the body’s defenses. The diet was prompted by a review in Science Translational Medicine, where scientists from the University of Alabama at Birmingham outlined how specific components in foods can activate genes that suppress tumour growth and silence genes that promote cancer development. However the diet has not been proven to decrease cancer risk.
From frozen dinners to high fructose corn syrup, Dr. David Ludwig, director of the Optimal Weight for Life program at Children’s Hospital Boston, details the historical development of food technology and its contribution to the obesity epidemic.
Last Tuesday Japanese authorities found contaminated radioactive fish swimming near Japan’s Pacific coast, in addition to previous reports of tainted spinach, broccoli, and raw milk in other areas close to the reactors. The reports may represent environmental damage to local marine life, and there is concern for the safety of the nation’s food supply and the seafood industry. The FDA says there is no risk to the US food supply.
Last week the actress adds a new hat as health food authority, with release of her cookbook titled “My Father’s Daughter: Delicious, Easy Recipes Celebrating Family & Togetherness.”
Rachel Perez is a second year Nutrition Communications student. Feel free to email her at firstname.lastname@example.org with feedback or any nutrition nibbles you might find!