Tuesday, September 14, 2010

How Food Recalls Work – A Behind-the-Scenes Look at Distribution Technology

Today I would like to cross post from Software Advice-Distribution a great analysis on the recent egg recall and the debate on food tracking. I tend to be weary of the food tracking and traceability efforts. While they are well-intentioned, it only leads to more hoops for local and small producers to jump through in order to participate in the food system. My personal traceability is going out to the hen house at Tierra Miguel Farm and checking on the ladies. In other words, if you know your farmer, there less chance for the market failure of imperfect information. Stick to the farmers market. I like the efforts of The Food Hub in Oregon as well.

Thanks to Stephen Jannise for contacting me about his work. It was nice to see that he is a UT alum. Hook 'em horns!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Chocolate formula bites the dust

My colleague from Mead Johnson just informed me that her company is discontinuing their new chocolate toddler formula line, due to a misunderstanding of the product's use. I think this is a big win for the nutrition and consumer world. I am highly against getting kids use to intensely flavored beverages and food, especially with all of the efforts to get them to eat better and different foods.

From the Canadian Business journal:

GLENVIEW, Ill. (AP) - Children's formula maker Mead Johnson Nutrition Co. said Wednesday it will discontinue its Enfagrow Premium chocolate toddler drink due to what it called "misunderstanding and mischaracterization" over the product's intended use.

There had been news reports about parents concerned that a chocolate-flavored drink aimed at tots was inappropriate amid skyrocketing rates of childhood obesity, although the drink contains no more sugar than other drinks aimed at children.

The company said the product has a "superior nutritional profile" to other beverages such as apple juice and grape juice, but said there has been misunderstanding about who the intended consumer is for the product and the role it is intended to play in a child's diet.

Mead Johnson said the drink was intended for toddlers who have been weaned off breast milk or formula but still need "nutritional support" from their main diet, particularly picky or erratic eaters.

"The resulting debate has distracted attention from the overall benefits of the brand, so we have decided to discontinue production of Enfagrow Premium chocolate toddler drink and phase it out over the coming weeks," the company said in a statement.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Defense Authorization Bill Includes Support for Child Nutrition Programs

From the American Dietetic Association-

Support for reauthorization of the Child Nutrition Act has come from an unlikely source: the Defense Authorization bill. During House debate, 341 members voted to support an amendment by Reps. Jim McGovern (D.-Mass.), Jo Ann Emerson (R.-Mo.) and Sanford Bishop (D.-Ga.) highlighting the impact of hunger and obesity on military recruitment and supporting properly funding the Child Nutrition Reauthorization Act.

The amendment does not guarantee funding for child nutrition reauthorization, but it helps build momentum and support. The "Sense of the Congress" amendment says "reducing domestic childhood obesity and hunger is a matter of national security…the Federal Child Nutrition Programs under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act (42 U.S.C. 1751 et seq.) and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 U.S.C. 1771 et seq.) should be funded at the President's request; and the increases in funding for such programs should be properly offset."

Over the past month, 221 members of Congress – a majority of the House – had already sent a letter to Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D. Calif.) supporting President Obama's request for an increase of $1 billion a year for the Child Nutrition Programs.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Job Search for Good Food Movement

I just came across the Sustainable Agriculture Education Association website which has a listing of professional listings.

Foodies know where the good markets are to find the best strawberries, crispy kale and first peaches of the season, but when it comes to finding their dream jobs, the classified ads just won't do. Since my friend and colleagues (self included,)are all in the market for a job that fuels our passions, allow us to live the good life and pays our loans, I thought it would nice to centralize some resources.

1. Comfood listserve- this is a great place for job announcements, up to day news in the sustainable food security movement and discussion about decisive issues. Many of the amazing players in the field can be found collaborating, asking questions, and offering up expertise. Share yours as well.

2. Sustainable Food Jobs (SFJ)- this is a domestic site that is updated weekly and has jobs from sustainable food service, farm to school, Americorps and farming internships as well as CEO positions at non-profits and start-up businesses. The site is cool if you want to search by region.

3. Good Food Jobs- similar to SFJ - this site is due to launch this summer. In the mean time sign up for their weekly email to catch the latest.

4. Idealist- a great place to land a non-profit career or organize with like minded people.Idealist is a project of Action Without Borders, a nonprofit organization founded in 1995 with offices in the United States and Argentina. Idealist is an interactive site where people and organizations can exchange resources and ideas, locate opportunities and supporters, and take steps toward building a world where all people can lead free and dignified lives. I have been successful searching by key words.

5. Linkedin-When you join, you create a profile that summarizes your professional expertise and accomplishments. You can then form enduring connections by inviting trusted contacts to join LinkedIn and connect to you. Your network consists of your connections, your connections’ connections, and the people they know, linking you to a vast number of qualified professionals and experts. A fun part is you can recommend your colleagues.

You can come link up with me at: http://www.linkedin.com/in/ashleycolpaart

6. Juju- Do a search like "sustainable food jobs"

7. Change.org Jobs - search by topic, demographic, or job category. There are also career advisors and other resources.

8. Wise Earth Jobs -helps the global movement of people and organizations working toward social justice, indigenous rights, and environmental stewardship connect, collaborate, share knowledge, and build alliances. All tools and content are free to use. The site is commercial-free too.

9. Craiglist-not only good for getting used furniture or sports equipment, Craigslist can be a great place to find consulting gigs, freelance writing or part time work in your new city. I usually use search terms to sift out the junk. Beware of scams or jobs that are posted over and over again. If your bored of the job search, the Best of Craigslist is good for a laugh.

10. HigherEdJobs- A good place to look for adjunct faculty, part time or other teaching positions at community colleges or university. I search "nutrition" and get a lot of hits.

11. Check your local school districts, college websites, and county & city job boards.

12. Good luck and let me know if you have any other resources that may be of assistance!

Thursday, June 3, 2010

McDonalds shows tolerance in ad

I guess when you are a multinational corporate food company, anyone is a customer, which is great for the gay rights movement. I doubt we would ever see an ad like this in America, and if we did there would be a McBoycott. Either way, I found the ad kinda cute. June is gay rights month! Happy tolerance.

The commercial, which is to air in France uses the slogan: come as you are!

Chefs Move to Schools

The Let's Move campaign initiated by Michelle Obama this year is moving into the kitchen and just in the nick of time. As many public schools close their doors for summer, many cafeterias will be poised for making systematic change in the way they feed our children.

From White House Assistant Chef and the Food Initiative Coordinator Chef Sam Kass:
The Chefs Move to Schools program will pair chefs with schools in their communities to bring fun to fruits and vegetables, and teach kids about food, nutrition and cooking in an engaging way. And by working with school food service employees, administrators and teachers -- chefs can help deliver these messages from the cafeteria to the classroom. After hearing fifth graders cheer for broccoli, I know first hand that chefs can have a huge impact on kid’s health and well being.
Chefs and schools that are interested in participating can sign up here or through www.LetsMove.gov.

My great friend, chef and fellow HEN nutritionist Julie Negrin will be at tomorrow's kick off for Chefs Move to School. She has a great article up on her blog on new and healthy ways for schools to fundraise. Some of the ideas are so cute.

Let's Move also recently announced the Let's Move Outside component.

With all hands on decks, I hope see some real changes in school lunch and child nutrition. Now if we can only stop the hemorrhaging in the Guld of Mexico so we can refocus on the Child Nutrition Reauthorization. Have you called your Senator?

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Rebuilding America's Economy with Family Farm Centered Food Systems

Today is a big day for Farm Aid, but also for me! The report that I began last summer as an intern has been launched and it is impressive!

From the Farm Aid Website:

Seeds of hope lie in America’s family farmers and ranchers despite the grim economic conditions facing the nation. Our new report seeks to underscore what we at Farm Aid know as a simple truth: supporting family farmers and family farm centered food systems is a powerful strategy for jumpstarting our fragile economy and revitalizing communities across America.

The report can be downloaded at their website, as well as, a section that makes the case of family farmers being a focal point for economic stimulus, a list of funding opportunities and stories from the field.

The Farm Aid Ideas section is a resource to connect more than 500 organizations developing innovative approaches to producing, processing and marketing food from family farms.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Back from Hiatus

Hiatus- From Latin hiatus, the past participle of hiare (to stand open, yawn).

It was a big yawn. One that spanned a couple months and one in which I reemerged with a Masters Degree in Food Policy and Applied Nutrition from the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts. The yawn was followed by a long nap, and alas, I have awakened to the next phase of my life. I must admit: I am excited.

This summer will be filled with relevant food policy happenings (Child Nutrition Re-authorization; Let's Move Campaign; Health care bill notification of rules) as well as creative program development in some of my favorite areas (Farm-to-School; Food Corps; Urban Gardening).

My hope is that this post starts my engine (and oils up yours). The Epicurean Ideal is back, and as idealistic as ever.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The story of bottled water

Annie Leonard is a genius! She will be honored at this year's Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood annual meeting in Boston, April 8-10: http://www.commercialfreechildhood.org/

From the people that brought you the great Story of Stuff, Enjoy, the Story of Bottled Water.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Where does my milk come from?

Tracking codes and technology are being used to bring consumers even more information about their food. Just because there is a bucolic scene with a little red barn on your milk label, doesn't really tell you where your milk was produced, or more importantly, how.

"Where is my milk from?" is designed to allow you to enter a code on your dairy product to find out exactly where the farm (or likely, the factory) is located before it gets to your cereal. It also lets you look at other dairy products like cottage cheese, sour cream, cream, egg nog etc. The site takes you to a map and tells you the dairy and the place.

While this information is useful, a second step is needed for consumer who are interested in the management of cows, the farm and the milk production. For instance, does dairy/farm/factory use rBGH? Does the dairy/farm/factory store waste in a manure lagoon. What are the animals fed, how much of their lives are they lactating and being milked? What do the cows eat?

Iti s these questions that will reveal the true nature of the dairy industry and allow consumers to support practices that are humane, ecologically sensitive and closer to the natural processes intended for cows (i.e. being allowed to graze).

I hope this tool is a building block for other aps that can be developed and utilized by consumers at their point of purchase. Other cool apps poping up are ifarmersmarket that tells you the location, day and time of farmers markets in your area and Locavore that tells you what foods are in season.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz on Democracy Now

Nobel Economist Joseph Stiglitz spoke with Amy Goodman on Democracy Now February 18, 2009. The spoke on Obama’s Stimulus Plan, Debt, Climate Change, and Stiglitz new book “Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy
As President Obama defends the success of his one year-old $787 stimulus package, we speak to Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz, who says the stimulus was both not big enough and too focused on tax cuts. Stiglitz is the author of the new book “Freefall: America, Free Markets, and the Sinking of the World Economy”, which analyzes the causes of the Great Recession of 2008 and calls for overcoming what he calls an “ersatz capitalism” that socializes losses but privatizes gains

The State of Food and Agriculture

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations released a report on creating a more sustainable livestock sector.

From their press release:
The report stresses that livestock is essential to the livelihoods of around one billion poor people. Livestock provides income, high-quality food, fuel, draught power, building material and fertilizer, thus contributing to food security and nutrition. For many small-scale farmers, livestock also provides an important safety net in times of need.

But the agency stressed the need for substantial investments and stronger institutions at global, regional, national and local levels, to ensure that continued growth of the livestock sector contributes to livelihoods, meets growing consumer demand and mitigates environmental and health concerns.

"The rapid transition of the livestock sector has been taking place in an institutional void," said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf in the foreword of the report. "The issue of governance is central. Identifying and defining the appropriate role of government, in its broadest sense, is the cornerstone on which future development of the livestock sector must build."
The report stresses the balance needed between livelihoods, food security (issues more predominant for developing nations) and human health and the environment (issues more focused on by post-industrialized nations). They also have some great graphics that help paint the picture.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Farm Bureau President draws line in the sand

President of the American Farm Bureau Federation Bob Stallman has chosen to go to war with critics of agriculture (and the growing public) in his speech to the Bureau saying the will "no longer tolerate opponents' efforts to change the landscape of American agriculture."
“Emotionally charged labels such as monoculture, factory farmer, industrial food, and big ag threaten to fray our edges.We must not allow the activists and self-appointed and self-promoting food experts to drive a wedge between us.”
“A line must be drawn between our polite and respectful engagement with consumers and how we must aggressively respond to extremists who want to drag agriculture back to the day of 40 acres and a mule. The time has come to face our opponents with a new attitude. The days of their elitist power grabs are over.”
Those are some big word coming from one of the most powerful lobbies in Washington. It will be interesting to see how they get consumers to give up caring about things like antibiotic resistance, environmental degradation or animal rights. I have a feeling their case will sound somewhat familiar: "safe food" "affordable food" and "feed the world."

Pork Board reacts to antibiotic resistance story

For years I have been following the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act or PAMTA legislation (H.R. 1549/S. 619) which has been introduced numerous times in various forms and is now stronger than ever. The latest version, introduced by the late Senator Ted Kennedy (D-MA) and Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY)--(the only microbiologist serving in Congress), would require that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) deny any new animal antibiotic drugs unless the federal government is certain the drugs will not contribute to antimicrobial resistance. The bill would also ban the routine, or nontherapeutic,* use of antibiotics in food-producing animals--a widespread practice in animal agriculture.

*According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) an estimated 70 percent of the antibiotics and other antimicrobial drugs used in the United States are fed to farm animals for nontherapeutic purposes, including-- growth promotion; and compensation for crowded, unsanitary, and stressful farming and transportation conditions; and unlike human use of antibiotics, these nontherapeutic uses in animals typically do not require a prescription.

The emergence of the animal production system we have today (concentrated animal feeding operations) can be partly attributed to the liberal use of antibiotics. But as many are beginning to realize: more is not always better, efficiencies cause unintended consequences and the industry is not trying to protect only their bottom line.

In response to the recent antibiotic media coverage (a two part series on CBS news with Katie Couric) the Pork Board offered their response:

The National Pork Board recognizes the importance of getting the facts out about this important issue and fostering open, honest dialog about why tools such as antibiotics are a vital way to keep animals healthy and the food supply safe. The top four messages that consumers should know about antibiotic use are:
  • Antibiotics are given strategically – administered when pigs are sick, susceptible or exposed to illness.
  • Using antibiotics strategically ensures that the safest meat in the world ends up on America's dinner tables.
  • Only antibiotics approved by the FDA are used to treat pigs.
  • We have a 20-year history of continuous improvement working with modern farm production to make pork better, healthier and safer to eat

According to a 2006 USDA study over 8 of 10 nursery sites (85.3 percent) and grower/finisher sites (81.2 percent) used antibiotics in feed. This is the SAME study that the Pork Board cited on its FACT's page to argue the findings of the Union of Concerned Scientists.

A majority of the antibiotics approved by FDA for agriculture were done so before resistance was a consideration. They are the same ones used in human medicine and none of them have been reviewed. New drugs are subject resistance discretion. Drug companies are not developing new antibiotics, because the ones we have are and have been so effective. This legislation aims to make humans "better, healthier and safer."