In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites
- Marion Nestle tackles an important and tricky policy question in her weekly column at the San Francisco Chronicle: why does the government impose food regulations on citizens? Her answer, in short, is because regulations change consumer behavior and increase the heath of communities. If governments intervene and demand healthier "defaults" (such as New York City's trans fat ban, or a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages) then it is more likely that consumers will see health benefits. She discusses the many ways in which regulations have succeeded in cities across the country.
- On a related note, the Campaign to End Obesity has released a new report detailing the costs of obesity, and recommending policy initiatives that might help people slim down. The report estimates the economic cost of obesity to be about $146 billion per year, including inpatient, non-inpatient, and pharmaceutical spending. The study weighs workplace-, community-, and school-based anti-obesity initiatives against more drastic surgical and medical approaches to weight loss. The report emphasizes the need for well-tailored and non-partisan policy approaches to this issue.
- After spending several months with smallholder farmers in Kenya, a writer at the Christian Science Monitor reflects on how to increase the viability and sustainability of small-scale farming in Africa. The aftermath of the Green Revolution is that many smallholders now grow commodity crops, and are no longer producing varied crops for their families. The author emphasizes the importance of "orphan crops", such as sweet potato, millet, and cassava, in strengthening farming communities and improving rural nutrition in those areas.
- A loophole in health code regulations has left some New York City restaurants exempt from the city's new letter grading system. If a restaurant makes more than 50% of its income from grocery sales, then it is under the jurisdiction of the state's health department, not the city's. Since New York state has not yet implemented a letter grading system, some restaurants-slash-groceries are without the prominent food safety assurance now featured in so many storefronts. Critics wonder if this gives some retailers an unfair advantage.
- Residents in Kentucky are dealing with an unfortunate byproduct of the region's famous whiskey production: a black fungus called Baudoinia. The fungus, which germinates on ethanol, has covered houses, furniture, cars, and sidewalks for as long as the locals can remember. Now, home and business owners in the Louisville area have filed a class-action lawsuit against five major distilleries in the area, hoping to reach a settlement to help them tackle the recurring and unattractive black fungus. A similar case has been brought in Scotland.
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.