Saturday, February 7, 2009

Collecting Coupons?

We used to collect coupons.  However, our buying habits have changed to such an extent that I don't think manufacturers are supplying coupons for what we purchase!  Coupons for an organic, free-range, grass-finished side of beef?  Coupons for head of red leaf lettuce?  Coupons for a package of Bob's Red Mill Organic Brown Rice Flour?  Well ... maybe for this last one but still not very likely.

I have come to conclude that if a coupon is available for some food item or cleaning product, then that is a pretty good indication that it is not something that I want to buy.  It is probably provided by a large, multinational corporation, produced not locally but wherever it can be done most cheaply, and using ingredients for which the original producer (e.g. a farmer) will get a miniscule portion of the product sales price.

Friday, January 23, 2009

U.S. hits EU with revised sanctions in beef dispute

The European Union doesn't want to allow imports of U.S. beef from cattle that have been treated with growth hormones.  Consequently, the U.S government (i.e. the outgoing Bush administration) is threatening to retaliate by imposing duties (i.e. taxes) on imports of  European food products.

The U.S. asserts that the EU's ban is "not supported by science".  However, the EU maintains that "its decision to ban U.S. hormone-treated beef was based on scientific advice and not protectionism".

I know that I don't want to eat growth hormone-treated beef and I think it is reasonable that Europeans don't want to either.  It is unfortunate that the U.S. beef industry is able to wield such influence that they can get our government to retaliate.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Coke's "healthy" vitamin water claim

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has challenged Coca-Cola Co for marketing Vitaminwater as a

"healthful alternative to soda by labeling its several flavors with such health buzz words as 'defense', 'energy' and 'endurance'.

The company also claims the drinks reduce the risk of chronic disease and eye disease, promote healthy joints and support immune function, CSPI said.

In fact, according to CSPI nutritionists, the 33 grams of sugar in each bottle of Vitaminwater do more to promote obesity, diabetes and other health problems than the vitamins in the drinks do to perform the advertised benefits listed on the bottles."

This is an example of what Marion Nestle talks about in Food Politics where food companies are making health claims based on the addition of supplements to otherwise unhealthy food products. 

Note also how the Coca-Cola representative attempts to distract the audience from the real issue by attacking CSPI and questioning their motive:
Coke spokeswoman Diana Garza Ciarlante fired back, saying the suit was a way for the Washington, DC-based group to increase readership of its newsletter.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Growing your own food and fermented foods

Excerpt from:
How You Can Start a Farm in Heart of the City

"When you grow some of your own food, you start to care more about all of your food. "Just where did this come from?" we'd find ourselves asking when we went shopping. What's in it? At the same time, we began to learn about cultured and fermented foods, which have beneficial bacteria in them. Few of these wonder-foods are available in stores. The supermarket started to look like a wasteland."

Janet and I have long made our own fermented food: sauerkraut.  We use Sally Fallon's recipe from Nourishing Traditions.  Sally provides for variations depending on whether you have access to whey.  When we first started, we made whey from raw milk.  Lately, though, we have limited our use of raw milk and have wondered how to get the whey that we need.

Our solution: Janet successfully extracted whey from Traderspoint Creamery Whole Milk Yogurt which is available at Whole Foods Market.  She placed about 3/4 cup of yogurt in a coffee filter in a strainer and let it drain into a measuring cup for 2-4 hours.  The result was 4 tablespoons of whey ... which is exactly what Sally Fallon calls for.
We have successfully made one batch of sauerkraut using this whey and have a second batch in process.

Growth in number of farmer's markets

Here is an encouraging note from the Organic Consumers Association regarding the growth in number of farmer's markets.  A sign of progress ...


Thursday, January 1, 2009

Nutritional supplements or not?

In his book In Defense of Food, Michael Pollan suggests that we should be the kind of person who takes supplements but then saves his money by not buying them.  He argues that clinical studies have not proven the effectiveness of nutritional supplements.

I agree that we should seek to get the nutrients that our bodies need by eating whole foods.  However I believe that there is a place for herbal/botanical supplements as we seek to restore or maintain our health.  The state of our industrial food system often results in diets that provide an excess of calories while being deficient in essential nutrients.  Nutritional supplements provide one option by which we can make up for this nutrient deficiency. 

However, in Food Politics, Marion Nestle explores the the way the Nutritional Supplement industry has successfully lobbied to minimize the regulation of nutritional supplements.  The result is that supplements can marketed containing ingredients that have not been scientifically proven to be effective and bearing health claims that may or may not be accurate.

Since this regulatory environment gives us "freedom of choice", this places the burden on each of us to carefully choose supplements in a way that minimizes our risk and maximizes the potential benefit to us.  To that end we should find a source of supplements that is trustworthy and consult a practitioner with knowledge and experience relevant to our needs.

Monday, December 29, 2008

The Land of the Free

We live in America ... the land of the free. However it is apparent that we often make choices that have unintended consequences. Our freedom in choosing foods (minimizing cost, maximizing convenience and maximizing our pleasure) has resulted in a rising sea of obesity. Our freedom to choose our elected leaders (or to ignore the whole process) has left us with a system where money talks. Political decisions are all too often made that benefit corporate interests at the expense of the individual.

It is time for us to pay attention to what is happening and to speak out ... for the benefit of our grandchildren.