Finger Foods: the weekly news update

This is a little late, but here are the most important stories in food from last week!

U.S.

Food Policy

Doctors as Farmers: How Food ‘Prescriptions’ Can Save Our Cities – Michel Nischan – Atlantic, Food
FVRx relies health practitioners in underserved communities to serve as “dispensers” of “prescriptions” that can be redeemed for fresh fruits and vegetables at local farmers’ markets. The concept is receiving tremendous excitement, but especially from the practitioners who are charged with providing health services to people who have no access to healthful food and, in most cases, no health insurance. Quite a charge—steward the health of folks who can’t afford the stewarding.

Where Front-of-Package Food Labels Are Headed – Marion Nestle – The Atlantic, Food
The Institute of Medicine (IOM) released its first front-of-package (FOP) labeling report (view PDF here) yesterday morning. Phase I is a tough, detailed examination of about 20 of the existing FOP schemes along with some recommendations about what such schemes ought to do. This scheme, like the many others developed by food companies singly or together, is designed to help the public decide whether one highly processed, packaged food product is nutritionally better than another. As I have discussed many times on my blog, this approach raises a philosophical question: Is a slightly “better for you” food product necessarily a good choice? I hope the committee will ponder this and some of my other questions as it enters Phase II.

Food Industry

Wal-Mart Plans Drive to Buy More Locally Grown Produce – Stephanie Clifford – New York Times, Business Day
Wal-Mart Stores announced a program on Thursday that would focus on sustainable agriculture among its suppliers, as the retail giant tries to expand its efforts to improve environmental efficiency among its suppliers. The program is intended to put more locally grown food in Wal-Mart stores in the United States, invest in training and infrastructure for small and medium-sized farmers particularly in emerging markets and begin to measure the efficiently of large suppliers in growing and getting their produce to market.

President Obama Proclaims National School Lunch Week – Obama Foodorama
National School Lunch Week 2010 began on Sunday and runs through Oct. 16. In a proclamation issued to observe it, President Obama maintains that healthy school lunches are crucial for ending hunger, eliminating childhood obesity, and boosting academic achievement.

Food Safety

Post-Recalls, a New Way to Clean the Greens – Wiliam Neuman – New York Times, Business
the nation’s leading producer of bagged salad greens, Fresh Express, says that washing them in a mild acid solution accomplishes the task. The company plans to announce on Friday that it is abandoning the standard industry practice of washing leafy greens with chlorine and has begun using the acid mixture, which it claims is many times more effective in killing bacteria. The new wash solution, called FreshRinse, contains organic acids commonly used in the food industry, including lactic acid, a compound found in milk.

Agriculture

Pacific Tomato Growers, Coalition of Immokalee Workers Sign Landmark Agreement for Social Responsibility in Florida Tomato Fields – Ag Observatory
Pacific Tomato Growers, one of the country’s oldest and largest tomato producers, and the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW), the Florida-based farmworker organization spearheading the Campaign for Fair Food, have signed an innovative agreement that sets new standards for social responsibility and accountability in Florida’s tomato industry. “This breakthrough is a testament to the leadership at Pacific Tomato Growers, who truly came to the talks that led to today’s announcement with an open heart, ” The agreement represents a significant step forward in CIW’s decade-long campaign for labor reforms in Florida’s tomato industry. Not only is it the first formal agreement between CIW and a major tomato grower, but the new accord establishes several practical systems designed to implement cooperatively the key principles of the Code of Conduct at the heart of the Campaign for Fair Food.

What a scientist didn’t tell the New York Times about his study on bee deaths – Katherine Eban – CNN Money
Bayer Crop Science, a subsidiary of the German pharmaceutical giant Bayer AG (BAYRY), has tangled with regulators and fended off lawsuits from angry beekeepers who allege that the pesticides have disoriented and ultimately killed their bees. The company has countered that, when used correctly, the pesticides pose little risk. What the Times article did not explore — nor did the study disclose — was the relationship between the study’s lead author, Montana bee researcher Dr. Jerry Bromenshenk, and Bayer Crop Science. In recent years Bromenshenk has received a significant research grant from Bayer to study bee pollination. Indeed, before receiving the Bayer funding, Bromenshenk was lined up on the opposite side: He had signed on to serve as an expert witness for beekeepers who brought a class-action lawsuit against Bayer in 2003. He then dropped out and received the grant.

Miscellaneous

McDonald’s Happy Meal resists decomposition for six months (PHOTOS) – Yahoo News
Vladimir Lenin, King Tut and the McDonald’s Happy Meal: What do they all have in common? A shocking resistance to Mother Nature’s cycle of decomposition and biodegradability, apparently.

International

World Food Prize Conference Considers Small-Scale Farming – United States Agriculture & Food Law and Policy Blog
The goal of the conferences is to find ways to provide small-scale farmers with technology so that they can grow food for others in their respective countries instead of only being able to grow food for themselves. This is a complicated issue, however, because according to Howard Buffett, “Western-style farming, which relies heavily on expensive fertilizers and equipment, may not work in poor countries.” Jeff Raikes, CEO of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, “said a combination of high-tech and low-tech solutions are needed to help” small-scale farmers.

Local

Banning Soda for Food Stamps’ Recipients Raises Tough Questions – Andy Fisher – Civil Eats
There is one very important point neither the anti-hunger nor the public health advocates are making. Our tax dollars, especially the $80-90 billion spent annually on federal food programs, are a powerful force in shaping the food system. Food stamps, like school meals and WIC, should be the cornerstone of a food system that is grounded in principles of environmental sustainability, social justice, and health. Directed toward the small farm economy, community-oriented retailers, brokers, and processors, even a modest percentage of these funds could ignite a transformation of our food system.

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