USDA Study on Grocery Spending; Gatorade Petition

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

  • A new study from the USDA looks at how much money American households are spending on different types of groceries. The study used Nielsen data from 1998 to 2006, and organized food purchases into larger food groups for easier comparison. The study graphed the percent of food expenditure on various food groups projected by the USDA's dietary recommendations, and compared that percentage to what Americans are actually buying. Unsurprisingly, households spent a significantly larger percentage of money on refined grains, red meat, sugars, and frozen foods than recommended by the USDA.
  • Oxfam America is hosting an online discussion forum to debate key topics in the future of agriculture. The discussions are focused around four key issues: farmer knowledge and investment; women's roles in agriculture and land ownership; managing risk in agricultural systems; and farming's reliance on fossil fuels. The forums are meant to inspire conversation between readers and experts.
  • And on a similar note, John Ambler, the Vice President of Strategy for Oxfam America, has a substantial post on a World Bank blog projecting the state of agriculture in 2050. He emphasizes institutional reform as a crucial component in producing enough food to feed a population of 9 billion. He calls for greater regulation of chemical inputs and more government involvement in supporting smallholders and agricultural research, but less interference in the market through crop supports and subsidies.
  • Sarah Kavanagh, a 15-year old from Mississippi, has launched a petition on in an effort to convince PepsiCo to remove a controversial ingredient from its Gatorade drinks. The ingredient, brominated vegetable oil, is considered to be safe by the FDA. However, Kavanagh's research found that the additive can result in hormonal and neurological side effects. The ingredient is used in many citrus-flavored drinks to keep flavors from separating. But the European Union has banned the use of this ingredient and companies have adapted products in that region. Kavanagh and her 200,000 co-signers hope they will do the same in the States.
  • The Huffington Post has a story highlighting the explosive growth in the craft beer industry in the U.S. in the past ten years. Prohibition nearly eliminated beer production in the early 1900s, and production dipped again in the 1970s with fewer than 50 breweries in operation. Since 1990, however, an average of over 100 breweries has opened each year. In 2012, there were 2,751 breweries operating in the U.S. - a staggering number, buoyed by increasing consumption of craft and small-batch brews. Various states have passed legislation to make it easier for breweries to launch - good news for lovers of high-quality beer.

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.