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Nutrition & Health News, week of June 15

  • New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg is again attempting to combat obesity with a proposed ban on large sugary drinks. The ban would prohibit the sale of sugar-sweetened beverages (e.g. soda, sweetened iced tea, etc.) larger than 16oz in any food-service establishment (e.g. restaurants, movie theaters). Diet sodas, fruit juices, dairy drinks, and alcoholic beverages would be excluded from the ban. The proposal is not without its critics, with many people arguing that the mayor should not be telling them how much soda to drink. Proponents of the ban argue that this is one way to induce behavior change in individuals. The proposal was submitted to the NYC Health Board on Tuesday – stay tuned! [New York Times]
  • The FDA rejected a request from the Corn Refiner’s Association to change the name of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) to corn sugar. The CRA has been promoting their effort through commercials which claim HFCS is processed the same way in the body as regular sugar, attempting to erase HFCS’s bad reputation. The FDA, however, rightly believes that changing the name would confuse consumers and potentially mislead them into believing sugar and HFCS are equals. [Food Politics]
  • A 9-year-old student in Scotland, who called herself Veg, had been documenting her school’s lunches on a blog called Never Seconds. The blog received over 2 million hits and was recognized by chef Jamie Oliver as an important effort in raising awareness about the need for improving school lunches. Yesterday, the school prohibited her from bringing a camera to school and claimed that she “abused and attacked” the catering staff – effectively, shutting down her blog. Within 48 hours, due largely to outrage in social media outlets, the school council removed the ban and has committed to hosting a School Meals Summit this summer. Go Veg! [Wired]

Nutrition & Health News, week of January 13

Happy New Year! I took a little break from blogging since the start of 2012, but I’m back.

  • New York City’s Department of Health, known for their creative ways of addressing obesity, released a somewhat controversial string of public service announcements meant to warn the city’s residents about the dangers of soda and fast food consumption and increasing portion sizes. Naturally, the American Beverage Association is upset at the city’s use of  “scare tactics” – but really, isn’t that what we need? [New York Times] [picture above]
  • The USDA announced its Blueprint for Stronger Service yesterday. As Tom Vilsack described, the plan “takes a realistic view of the needs of American agriculture in a challenging budget climate, and lays out USDA’s plans to modernize and accelerate service delivery while improving the customer experience through use of innovative technologies and business solutions.” The plan is largely a response to budget cuts anticipated in the 2012 Farm Bill, and the first step is closing 259 domestic offices, labs, and facilities. [Obama Foodorama]
  • The FDA has banned the use of a class of antibiotics (cephalosporins)  in lifestock in an effort to prevent the spread of antibiotic-resistant bacteria in the human population. This particular class of antibiotics is frequently used to treat strep throat, pneumonia, and other relatively common ailments. This represents a small step in curbing the spread of such bacteria, coming after the FDA recently withdrew a larger proposal to ban antibiotic on a broader basis. [New York Times] Food policy expert Marion Nestle also weighed in on the issue in The Atlantic.
  • Marion Nestle gives her predictions on how food politics will shape up in 2012. Her outlook is not optimistic, with good reason. [The Atlantic]
  • Americans are eating less meat of all kinds – beef, chicken, and pork. In Mark Bittman’s column this week, he explains why meat consumption has decreased by 12% in the last five years – a combination of rising food prices and conscious consumer choice. [New York Times]

The Weekend in Pictures: NYC

img_0235
Brunch at Essex – for $16 (for a Saturday brunch in NYC, that’s cheap!), you get a tasty meal from a varied menu (pictured: omelet with spinach, feta, tomato, and chive; mixed greens and home fries) and 3 drinks, which are seemingly unlimited (pitchers of mimosas? YES.). Make reservations ~3 weeks in advance. 120 Essex St, NY, NY 10002

read on…

Newsflash!

1. The Salmonella Mystery continues: Tomatoes may not be to blame for the outbreak of salmonella that has made 810 people sick in the past two months. So where is it coming from? The CDC and FDA don’t know…Just another reason to buy local produce!

2. Don’t cry over spilled milk: Customers are complaining about the new eco-friendly milk jugs recently launched at Wal-Mart and Costco because they are harder to pour than the jugs we’re so used to. The new, square-ish jugs deliver fresher milk to consumers at a lower price and a lower cost to the environment – I’m certainly not complaining.

3. As of tomorrow, NYC will be trans-fat free. Non-compliant restaurants and other eateries will face steep fines if they continue to use partially hydrogenated vegetable oil. I’m all for natural foods – but will this change the taste of some of the city’s favorite foods?

I do love cupcakes

For all you New Yorkers and cupcake-lovers:

A map of NYC’s best cupcakes at Gridskipper.

You should all know by now that NYC has banned trans fat, but did you also know that restaurants will be required to list nutrition facts on their menus? However, this part of the act only affects chain restaurants with standardized menus, which only includes roughly 10% of NYC eateries, most of which are fast food (and most already have nutrition facts available). But what about Starbucks? With about a zillion possible combinations for every drink, how will they list nutrition content? Sure, you can already look up the calories in your favorite soy chai latte online, but how will that be transferred to stores?…

More importantly, do New Yorkers really care about the nutrition when they’re going out to eat? The restaurants affected by this act are mostly fast food, and it’s assumed that their consumers don’t care how many calories or grams of fat are in that Big Mac or bucket of KFC. Will listing the nutrition facts help people make healthier choices when dining out, as health advocates are hoping? I guess we’ll just have to wait and see.

“New York Gets Ready to Count Calories”
(NYT, 12.13.06)

News from the Trans-Fat Ban in NYC

While health advocates are praising the ban, restuarant owners and chefs are grumbling- for they are the ones who now have to figure out how to keep flavor, texture, and appearance the same in their recipes without using trans fat. Switching to other fats will take endless hours of taste-testing and recipe-tweaking. While that can be fun to some extent, it can also be a pain in the butt.

“In City’s Trans Fat Ban, a Challenge Fit for a Chef” (NYT, 12.11.06)
One chef demonstrates a few standard recipes using Crisco, butter, lard, and coconut oil and learns one important thing: fried chicken tastes good any way you make it.

Big News!

The NYC Health Board met today and unanimously agreed to ban trans fat from restaurants! Yay! All restaurants, including chain restaurants like McDonald’s, have until July 2008 to comply with new regulations, meaning that they will have to figure out what other oils (hopefully monounsaturated ones, such as canola) they can use for the city’s array of foods.

This is a huge step towards helping people eat healthier, but has caused some controversy. Restaurant owners and lovers of fried foods alike have argued that the Health Board has gone too far in telling people what they can and cannot eat. Personally, I think it’s a great move and hope that other cities follow with similar legislation!

More on CNN.com.

A Trans-Fat Free NYC?

New York City’s Board of Health has been discussing the limiting of trans fats in the city’s some 20,000 restaurants– from McDonald’s to the corner breakfast carts. If the proposal is enacted, restaurants would be required to restrict trans fat content to 0.5 grams per serving of any menu item. In recent years, some restaurants had already begun to limit their use of trans fat as the Board of Health strongly suggested they do so in 2002. Now, it may not be just a suggestion. The final decision won’t be made until December, and if enacted, restaurants would have until 2008 to adjust recipes and comply.

“Big Brother in the Kitchen? New Yorkers Balk” (NYT)
“NYC eyes ban on restaurant trans fat” (CNN.com)
If you want to read the actual proposal….

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