Testing the Five-Second Rule, Lime Prices Skyrocket, and More in Food Policy This Week

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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


How much are you willing to spend? [Photograph: dierken on Flickr]

Expensive Limes Raise Food Prices Across U.S.

About 98% of all limes eaten in the U.S. come from Mexico. So with Mexican lime prices skyrocketing over the last few months, U.S. consumers are feeling the pinch. A combination of heavy rains and crop disease has raised the price of limes nearly three-fold. Grocery stores in the U.S. are selling limes for about 53 cents a piece, versus 21 cents this time last year. And in Mexico City they're going for $1.50 a pound, three times the average price. Growers and vendors hope that the coming spring season will bring higher lime yields and lower prices, lest we brave a summer without affordable guacamole.

Walmart's Complicated Relationship with Food Stamps

If you've followed our coverage of the Farm Bill over the last year or so, you know that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamp program, was at the center of that Bill's delayed and polarized passage. One store, Walmart, has consistently found itself embroiled in the food stamp debate. Many of Walmart's customers are low-income shoppers who value Walmart's grocery selection. In fact, half the chain's sales come from its grocery. So when food stamps were cut by about $8 billion over ten years, Walmart execs were duly concerned. But Walmart has also been criticized for paying its employees below a living wage, meaning that many of the company's employees are themselves on food stamps (which they often then spend at Walmart stores). In some states, Walmart employees are the largest group of food stamp recipients. Walmart's control in the grocery sector and enormous number of employees leave some policy advocates worried that it has undue influence on how food stamps are allocated and spent.

New Research Proves the Five-Second Rule

While not quite related to policy, a new study provides important evidence for those of us prone to accidentally dropping bites of food on the ground and then eating them before a handful of seconds have passed. Research out of Aston University's School of Life and Health Sciences in England shows that time "is a significant factor" in how much bacteria passes from the floor to dropped food, and that bacteria is more likely to transfer to food from tiled surfaces than from carpeting. It essentially demonstrates that if you follow the five-second rule, you're less likely to get sick. Take that, mom! Apparently 87% of those surveyed are happy to consume dropped food. But eating food off the floor still carries some health risk, so consider going easy on eating off the floor.

Which Diet is Best? Science Says...

"...A diet of minimally processed foods close to nature, predominantly plants." After comparing several trend diets, including low-fat, Paleo, vegan, and Mediterranean, researchers at Yale University found that none of those diets was conclusively superior for long-term health outcomes. However, there were elements of each diet that had positive benefits. For example, the Mediterranean diet, with its emphasis on fiber and antioxidants, lowered risk of heart disease and cancer. Low-carbohydrate diets were effective at regulating body weight. And it's worth noting that this study found almost no positive health outcomes associated with high-meat diets like the Paleo diet. So researchers concludes that eating a natural, minimally-processed diet is best for maintaining long-term health. Basically: eat food, not too much, mostly plants. Sound familiar?

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.