In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites
- Last week, McDonald's announced that they will introduce calorie amounts to their menus nationwide. According to the health care bill passed this summer, soon all chains with more than 20 locations will be required to post calorie amounts on menus. McDonald's is getting a head start on this regulation by adding calorie counts and also by introducing a few new healthier items to their offerings. Some industry experts think McDonald's, which has over 14,000 locations across the country, will set an example for other fast food franchises. New York City already has a regulation in place that requires chains with more than 15 locations to post calorie counts.
- After Mayor Bloomberg's proposed ban on the sale of sodas larger than 16oz was passed by the New York City Board of Health, there's been much discussion about the pros and cons of such a regulation. Science Friday, a weekly science talk show, has a great discussion on this issue with Brian Wansink, a researcher at Cornell University, and Marion Nestle, a nutritionist at New York University. The two experts have differing views on this ban, as do many callers who provide a variety of perspectives. The program is definitely worth a listen for a holistic view of this issue.
- Proposition 37 is a piece of legislation in California that would require genetically-modified ingredients to be labeled on many packed foods. Those foods also would not be allowed to be labeled as "natural". There has been much industry push-back to this proposal, given that farmers and producers would have to re-label many of their products and perhaps deal with a perceived stigma against GMOs. This chart from KCET shows the amount of funding that has gone into supporting and opposing this legislation. It is fascinating to see the difference in scale between the donations of supporting groups and those of opposing groups. The proposition will be voted on in the November elections.
- A coalition of consumer groups is petitioning that the USDA remove tuna fish from school lunch menus. The Mercury Policy Project tested canned and pouched tuna in 11 states, and found a large variation in the amount of mercury contained in each sample. The Environmental Protection Agency has found that even small amounts of mercury can be damaging to young children. Industry representatives argue that we don't eat nearly enough seafood to present any real danger.
- The New York Times hosted a debate on purchasing organic produce. In light of the recent Stanford study that concluded that organics have little to no more nutritional value than conventional produce, five experts weighed in on the issue. The panel represents a variety of perspectives, from Tom Philpott, a farmer and food writer, to Marion Nestle, a professor and nutritionist. The short arguments from each author represent only a portion of the questions at hand in discussing such a nuanced issue, but is still a good starting point for deeper discussion.
About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work has also been featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.