getting fresh: The blame game
There it was, almost as large as life, a photo of ground beef with a warning label attached to it: “This hamburger may be hazardous to your health. Why the American food system is bad for our bodies, our economy and our environment – and what some visionaries are trying to do about it.” Underneath the photo was the headline, “The Real Cost of Cheap Food.”
That’s what the front cover of Time magazine’s August 31 issue. It certainly piqued my interest. And after reading the article by Bryan Walsh, my blood pressure pumped up.
Essentially, it accused the U.S. food industry of being responsible for making Americans obese by driving down the costs of meats and grains. Citing USDA statistics, Walsh points out that Americans spend less than 10% of their income on food. Agriculture’s ability to provide cheap feed, specifically corn, has enabled the industry to turn out beef, chicken and pork with amazing efficiency. As a result, it also has fostered an unhealthy diet, in part because of the affordability.
Walsh then compares the costs of organic groceries and conventional groceries, emphasizing that there’s a $900-plus difference between the two, annually. He goes on to say that the agricultural practices currently employed by farmers, ranchers, etc., which are supported and encouraged by the food industry and U.S. government, are destructive to the soil, environment, and, in the end, us.
There’s much more in the article about organic farming, sustainability, overuse of antibiotics, nutrition and diets, but I’d just like to focus on the cheap food/fat folks equation.
As I’ve always maintained, the last chapter on nutrition hasn’t been written yet. Even the simplistic “calories in, calories out” equation doesn’t account for a broad range of factors affecting health, nutrition and life span. (By the way, the current average life span of an American is 78, the highest it’s ever been.)
One can’t implicate the food industry for America’s obesity problem simply because it’s become a very efficient producer. Yes, the food industry isn’t without its problems, ranging from animal abuse to inadequate food safety programs. There’s certainly room for improvement in the way some companies raise livestock, maintain good soil and irrigation practices, minimize pollution and oversee good manufacturing practices.
At the same time, burning down the entire barn to let the animals range free borders on fanaticism.
The obesity issue not only involves nutrition and diet, but lifestyle and stress, genetic makeup and personal well-being. An article in today’s Chicago Tribune by David Feder, a registered dietician and director of S/F/B Communications Group, a national co-operative of food, health and nutrition experts, underscores the many misconceptions associated with eating well by focusing in on something as basic as fat intake.
As Feder writes, “…the connection between the amount of fat we eat and the fat clogging our arteries and stopping our hearts turns out to be far more complicated than a blanket prescription of ‘low-fat diets for everyone’ can address.”
So, too, is Bryan Walsh’s piece, which prescribes organic food for everyone under the protective cloak of sustainability.
First, I don’t believe there’s any scientific basis that proves organic food is actually more nutritious than non-organic food. A recent study in the UK showed only a marginal difference between the two in minerals and vitamins.
Doesn’t mean they don’t taste better or that in the future, additional studies will discover a nutritional benefit. But let’s stick to the facts. Chances are buying organic makes one feel good about supporting farmers who are committed to sustainability. That’s great! But what makes this purchase choice even more powerful is that it’s done from conviction, not guilt.
Bryan, don’t try to intimidate the American public with scare tactics; incentives work better. Nevertheless, I fear that we will see more articles in the future zeroing in on segments of the food industry, pulling statistics helter-skelter to make a sensational point about the dangers associated with consuming this or that.
Take the recent American Heart Association press release about reducing the intake of added sugars, i.e. sugars not inherently present in foods. In addition to blaming soft drinks, news accounts zero in on candy consumption. And yet, according to past National Confectioners Association presentations, daily caloric consumption of candy represents only 2% of a typical consumer’s diet.
What kind of food tyranny are we living under when one can’t consume a sweet treat without fear of death hovering over us? Let’s use a little common sense, folks.
Good food can be inexpensive. What’s needed is more food education, not food McCarthyism.
Dove, Fling to sponsor Emmy Awards
For the fifth year in a row, Mars Snackfood US will serve as a sponsor of the Emmy Awards, this time with its Dove and Fling chocolate brands. The two will serve as the exclusive chocolate sponsors of the 61st Primetime Emmy Awards Governor’s Ball, as well as Creative Art Awards and the Performers Nominee Reception. As such, Mars will provide favors featuring Dove Promises in milk, dark and caramel varieties, and Fling chocolate sticks in milk, dark and hazelnut flavors to guests at the ball and after-party.
In addition, male models dressed in pink formal attire will be on hand to pass out samples of Fling at the ball, where the evening’s dessert will be Dove Silky Smooth Milk Chocolate infused with raspberry crème, paired with yuzu gelée and a mint lollipop.
For more information about Mars and its products, visit www.mars.com, www.flingchocolate.com and www.dovechocolate.com.
Warheads partner with Summer Games
More than 110,000 people attended the recent ESPN Summer X Games 15 in Carson, Calif., of which Impact Confections’ Warheads candy was a part.
As an X Games partner, the brand gave out more than 250,000 pieces of candy and sponsored the amateur Skate Park where skaters were rewarded for their top tricks with Warheads branded skateboards. Warheads also held sour face-off video contests for the chance to win branded water bottles, bandanas, shirts, hats and skateboards.
Impact Confections will continue to drive awareness of its Warheads brand through other events in 2009, including sponsorship of the McDonald’s Midnight Gaming Championship Series and Gamestop video game launch parties.
For more information about Warheads, visit www.warheads.com.
DM Flavors adds new board member
Philadelphia-based David Michael & Co. has added Don Finch to its Strategic Alliance Advisory Board (S.A.A.B.).
Finch recently retired after 35 years in the flavor business. He has worked in various sales and general management positions, lastly as vice president of sales, North America, for Cargill Flavor Systems. As member S.A.A.B., he will assist with the mission to strengthen current corporate partnerships and develop, cultivate and nurture new, mutually rewarding strategic alliances with food and beverage manufacturers throughout North America.
For more information about DM Flavors, visit www.dmflavors.com.
sweet of the week: Taza Stone Ground Organic Chocolate
Somerville, Mass.-based Taza Chocolate’s darkest chocolate bar is a single-origin, 80% cacao offering made with beans from the Dominican Republic, harvested exclusively from the Juan del Rosario farm in the north part of the country. The beans are carefully roasted to a maximum of 260° and then stone-ground using antique Mexican stone mills (molinos). Finally, they are refined with pure, organic cane using the same stone mills. The resulting product is USDA-certified organic and Direct Trade. The suggested retail price per 3-oz. bar is $6.50. For more information, visit www.tazachocolate.com.