January 18th, 2011
I saw my friend Danielle Nierenberg only a couple of times in the past year during her brief visits to the U.S. from Africa, where she has been traveling to document innovations that “Nourish the Planet” for the 2011 edition of State of the World. A colleague at my former organization, the Worldwatch Institute, Danielle has always inspired me with her commitment to sustainability and, in her words, “food systems that help people”. As global food prices continue to rise thanks volatile commodity markets, and, as Tom Philpott at Grist notes, “For the second time in three years, the globe is lurching toward a full-on, proper food crisis,” food systems that help people are more important than ever. Read the full article…
January 11th, 2011
Here are three recent food recalls that aren't enough to convince some members of Congress that funding the new food safety bill would be a good idea.
While many of us began another year thinking about food and trying to make better choices than the “cookies-only” diet, President Obama started off 2011 by signing into law a bill that will hopefully allow us to improve food safety.
The FDA Food Safety Modernization Act, signed by Obama soon after he stepped off of Air Force One upon his return from Hawaii (Hey, some people have to pee right away, and others have to sign a federal bill), is the first major overhaul of the FDA’s food safety responsibilities since 1938. (Think of how food and food production has changed since then; I don’t think they yet had the stuff that makes cheesy puffs such a vibrant orange.)
A law is only as good as the rules agencies write to put it into practice — and the money allocated to enforce it. This new law is not exactly chock full of enforcement muscle, and it will most likely take a few years to see the bill’s various components fully applied. Read the full article…
We all know that food labels can often be misleading. They can contain information that subtly persuades consumers to make inaccurate assumptions about a food product. Sometimes, a label might even contain a false claim. Typically, all we can do when we see a label that we know isn’t really true is to moan or sigh and accept the fact that food companies can generally get away with lying to us about what’s in their product and/or how it was produced. This is why my hero of the week is ClientEarth, because they are putting their feet down and saying, “Prove it!” Read the full article…
December 7th, 2010
Lately, I feel like someone could slap a sticker on the Brooklyn Bridge that says, “This bridge is certified sustainable,” and we would just accept it. Since most of us have no idea what would make a bridge sustainable, we would have no way of knowing if it’s truly sustainable or not. Even if the Brooklyn Bridge were certified sustainable by, let’s say, the National Sustainable Bridge Inspection Association (NSBIA), we would need to inquire as to what standards were established for that certification and why. Most importantly, people we trust in the bridge business would all have to agree on those standards. They would also have to agree that those standards, if met, would allow a bridge to be certified sustainable. This all seems straightforward, yet we allow ambiguity to exist in the organic labeling of our food. Look what’s been happening at the fish market… Read the full article…
December 2nd, 2010
Food & Water Watch now proudly unveils the latest version of our Factory Farm Map, which charts the concentration of factory-farmed animals across the country.
It’s called the food “industry” for a reason. If you’ve seen Food Inc., you understand why. In that film, and here at Food & Water Watch, some careful analysis reveals the massive network of production and distribution that has become our food system. Thanks to advertising, marketing and fancy packaging, the images we create for ourselves of the places where our food comes from are often in direct contrast to the reality of where most of it is produced. Much of the time, we may be thinking farm, but we’re really getting factory. Read the full article…
November 9th, 2010
You can put cheese on most anything, but extra cheese won't help farmers sell more of it at a fair price.
We live in a food world of rather unusual contradictions. Some of them would almost seem amusing if it weren’t for the impact they can have on food policy and public health.
Sunday’s New York Times article on the lengths USDA goes to in its promotion of cheese consumption reveals the stunning failure of a federal agency to establish a true north when it comes to their mission that includes both giving nutrition advice and promoting American agriculture.
On one hand, in its role as the official mom of nutrition policy, the USDA warns us about the saturated fat in our cheese and reminds us that Americans eat far too much of it — three times the amount we ate in 1970. Then, on the other hand, the agency spends more money to fund marketing campaigns that encourage us to pour another layer of cheese onto our triple cheese burritos, cheese sandwiches and pizzas. Read the full article…
October 26th, 2010
The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced that it would not appeal a World Trade Organization decision that held the U.S. could not prohibit the importation of Chinese poultry products. Ironically, on the same day this data was released, a survey divulged one of the biggest concerns among Chinese consumers: food safety. Read the full article…
Check out this blog post from Food & Water Watch Western Region Director Elanor Starmer. The blog was posted on Grist and it’s about the controversy surrounding the Food Safety Modernization Act. Find out why our colleague dares to ask, “Can Congress make a food-safety omelet without breaking the wrong eggs?” Read the full article…
October 18th, 2010
If you’re wondering if Walmart’s latest announcement is a sign of changing times — if a giant megastore is capable of truly making a renewed commitment to sustainable practices within an industrial food production model — you are not alone. When the largest retailer of food in the United States says they want to adjust its business model to adapt to consumer priorities like sustainability, it’s worth keeping an eye on.
It’s certainly possible that this is just a case of corporate greenwashing — that is, Walmart is merely hijacking a message that clearly appeals to consumers. But isn’t getting more local, sustainable produce sold in any grocery store a good thing? It depends how it’s done, and what you call local and sustainable.
When it comes to claims about sustainability, the devil is always in the details: how will Walmart define their standards for sustainability? How will they measure the environmental stewardship of their local suppliers? And perhaps the most critical questions — will the company offer fair prices to local farmers? Or will they lock them into financially destructive contracts that involve expensive upgrades or expansions of their farms to meet large-scale demand?
Walmart’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Leslie A. Dach said, “When we do this on Walmart’s scale, we can deliver a global food supply that improves health and livelihoods around the world.” But Walmart’s scale is a big part of the problem in our food system. It’s going to take more than marketing campaigns to fix that.
October 12th, 2010
Maybe we haven’t learned anything from the Great Egg Recall of 2010; at least not enough–not yet. The egg farm mentioned in William Neuman’s New York Times article, and many farms like it, try to adjust their large-scale models of production to address unhygienic conditions and other problems that arise from being so big.
The factory farm model confines thousands of animals into a closed environment that is condusive to the spread of diseases like E. coli and salmonella.
Read the full article…