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Submitted by KAT on Tue, 01/16/2007 - 11:45am.
The Daily Show launched a new feature last night, the “Pantry of Fame.” So far, its shelves contain just two items. The first, Jimmy Dean’s Pancakes & Sausage on a Stick, with Chocolate Chips, was definitive proof that American ingenuity is alive and well, as Stewart proclaimed last October:
A tremendous boon for time-pressed fans of processed foods, surely, but, as Stewart noted last night, it raised an interesting question:
Welcome to the dubious domain of “functional foods,” scientifically formulated to solve problems you never knew you had. As the Gatorade A.M. label explains, “Gatorade A.M. helps put back the fluids and energy you lose during a full night’s sleep.”
You can guess where he went with this riff, but I can’t go there without offending my dad; suffice to say, it’s probably not the kind of pr PepsiCo had in mind when they launched this product.
But Gatorade A.M. was already in trouble, according to Darren Rovell’s Gatorade Blog, “an unauthorized look at one of America’s most dominant brands.” (Yes, there’s a blog actually devoted exclusively to the subject of Gatorade, by the man who wrote the book on it: First in Thirst: How Gatorade Turned the Science of Sweat into a Cultural Phenomenon.) From a post on January 13th, "How To Solve Gatorade A.M. Branding Problems":
Gatorade A.M.’s induction into the Daily Show’s Pantry of Fame will no doubt raise its profile, but will it boost sales? Where’s the legendary Midas touch that lets Madison Avenue make billions turning overprocessed dross into grocery store gold?
As long as Big Food keeps churning out this nutraceutical nonsense, the Daily Show staff should have no problem stocking the shelves of its Pantry. We eagerly await the next installment.
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 01/15/2007 - 9:10am.
Martin Luther King Jr. dreamed of many things, but I doubt he ever expected to wind up in a commercial for Chevy’s Silverado pickup truck, along with Rosa Parks, the world famous mass transit buff. Nor could he possibly have envisioned an era when inner city kids would be at greater risk of obesity than their more privileged peers. From the Boston Globe:
According to our government, hunger no longer exists, even in poor urban neighborhoods. Oh, sure, some kids may suffer from an occasional bout of “food insecurity,” but no one is actually defined as going hungry, by federal standards, because that term has been deemed “too vague.”
The hunger for learning has also vanished from America’s inner cities, according to Oprah Winfrey, explaining why she chose to build her school for poor young girls in Africa instead of the U.S.:
Our junk culture is filling kids with empty calories and mindless materialism. The faux populists who cite New York City’s trans-fat ban as an assault on consumer choice should consider the following statistics from NYC’s Health Department:
Why aren’t the defenders of artery-clogging trans fatty donuts and French fries decrying the lack of access in poor communities to dark leafy greens, so rich in antioxidants, vitamins and heart-healthy omega-3’s? How can parents feed their kids healthier meals if the stores don’t even sell fruits and vegetables?
The only vendors who make deliveries to the bodegas are the beer and soda distributors, who are also happy to sell the storekeepers all those chips and cookies that fill their shelves. But they can’t be bothered selling produce; it’s too perishable, and the profit margins are so much higher for pre-packaged, processed foods.
NYC’s Health Department is tackling this problem with a program it launched in December to bring New York State produce to New York City bodegas. Dubbed the “Healthy Bodegas” initiative, it provides about 60 bodegas with free shipments of fresh, ready-to-eat local carrots and apples.
Each pack costs 50 cents, and participating bodegas will offer a "buy one get one free" discount to customers. According to the Health Department, “The same pre-packaged apples were very popular when they were added to New York City public school meals in 2005. If bodega owners want to continue carrying the snacks, they will be able to re-order from the distributor.”
Will the Healthy Bodega plan teach inner city kids to appreciate Hudson Valley apples as much as Apples from Silicon Valley? Let’s hope so, because a steady diet of deep-fried foods and shallow entertainment is bloating their bodies while their mental muscles atrophy. Garbage in, garbage out.
Submitted by KAT on Sat, 01/13/2007 - 2:29pm.
The snowman’s up in arms and the penguin’s flipping out; the fact that we found this lovely locally grown spinach at the Greenmarket today only reminds them that their native habitat’s melting at a not-so-glacial pace.
We’re grateful for any greens we can find locally this time of year, and we were looking forward to making a delicious salad of spinach, pears, blue cheese and toasted pecans.
But our arctic acquaintances don’t share our delight, and who can blame them? What are we supposed to tell them, “Chill out?”
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 01/12/2007 - 5:40pm.
Starting today, the FDA will allow food manufacturers to give more crappy convenience foods a healthy sheen by labeling them “lean.” From Market Watch:
I’m no nutrition expert, but six ounces of anything that contains 8 grams of fat doesn’t sound especially lean to me. The FDA defines “low-fat” foods as those containing no more than 3 grams of fat per serving. So what gives?
Reuters reports that “The FDA said in its order that it is taking action to "provide reliable information that would assist consumers in maintaining healthy dietary practices."
But according to Market Watch, the FDA made the change “in response to a request from Nestlé Prepared Foods Co., a division of Nestlé SA.” Nestlé’s the name behind the Lean Cuisine line of frozen foods.
Further evidence, as if we needed it, of the unholy alliance between the food industry and the FDA. Ask and ye shall receive, indeed. If the FDA really cared about helping consumers make healthier choices, they’d be taking their cues from Marion Nestle, not Nestlé’s.
Submitted by KAT on Thu, 01/11/2007 - 1:15pm.
Consider the shrimp cocktail, one of America’s most popular appetizers. It doesn’t seem so appetizing once you know that it’s probably contaminated with pesticide residues and antibiotics.
Not to mention the fact that the way it was farmed or caught may well have contributed to the destruction of coastal wetlands, or killed an endangered sea turtle.
So you might want to add imported shrimp to your (s)hitlist, right after battery caged eggs, hormone-laced milk, and mercury-tainted tuna. Remember tuna? It used to be the most popular seafood in the U.S.
Now, shrimp is number one, but our fondness for it feeds all kinds of ecological havoc in countries like Thailand and Vietnam, where 80 percent of our shrimp comes from. According to Food & Water Watch, a nonprofit consumer watchdog group that monitors corporate abuse of food and water resources:
And I’d like to think that they would be, if only they knew. We’ve stopped buying imported shrimp in part thanks to Jay Weinstein, author of The Ethical Gourmet, who wrote the following:
And the FDA only inspects 1.2 percent of imported seafood, according to Food and Water Watch. Without additional funding from Congress, the FDA can’t significantly increase physical inspections and testing of imported seafood.
Do you really want to keep eating a product that Europe deems too toxic to consume? Switch to domestic wild-caught or responsibly farm-raised shrimp, if you can find it; thanks to loopholes in the USDA’s country-of-origin food labeling laws, roughly half the seafood sold in our supermarkets is unlabeled.
Consumers can demand that Congress fund more FDA inspections, and get the USDA to close the labeling law loopholes. The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch is a great place to begin if you’d like to take action.
And if enough of us do, certified turtle-safe shrimp may someday be as widely available as dolphin-safe tuna. After all, who wants to hurt a turtle?
Submitted by KAT on Wed, 01/10/2007 - 5:42pm.
Calling your Commander-in-Chief the “Teflon president” wouldn’t be much of a compliment these days now that “Teflon” has become synonymous with “toxic.” In the era when Ronald Reagan’s effortless evasion of criticism earned him that nickname, cookware coated with this Dupont-created chemical seemed like a boon to many cooks.
But in recent years, stories about overheated frying pans causing canaries to keel over have made many of us uneasy about using non-stick cookware, as Stuart Cox noted over at Alternet the other day:
So, people are still buying this stuff, therefore they obviously think it’s safe. Note that the guy doesn’t actually address the issue of safety itself. Cox’s characterization of this dodgy argument as “somewhat unconventional” is too polite; it’s the kind of polluted p.r. that chemical companies have been spewing for decades.
We stopped buying Teflon-coated cookware ages ago, but we still have a couple of non-stick frying pans that Matt periodically threatens to throw away. And I would gladly let him, too, but after more than a decade of marriage to Mr. “Buy Only the Very Best,” I know that he would then be compelled to spend a fortune on all-new All-Clad. As my dad likes to say, “champagne taste, beer budget.”
But I guess I wasted some money myself when I went out and bought silicone bakeware thinking it was preferable to Teflon. Matt’s reaction was unequivocally negative; he doesn’t trust silicone any more than Teflon and gets cranky if I use it. So I don’t. Should we just get rid of it?
I thought I might learn the answer from Marian Burros’ four-day foray into the world of silicone bakeware, the results of which she shares in today’s NY Times. Burros tested everything from muffin pans to oven mitts, and concluded that some silicone products are superior to others. But she did nothing to diminish our doubts:
There’s our FDA in inaction, as usual. Burros helpfully adds, “No problems have been reported in this country and nonbaking products are the least likely to cause trouble.”
Oy. Should I toss my cheery cherry red heart-shaped muffin pan? I already volunteered to make tasty Valentine treats for a “Loving Liberally” shindig next month. Then again, would it be ethical to take something I’m afraid might be toxic and give it to the Salvation Army to sell to someone else?
One of silicone’s advantages, according to Burros, is the fact that you can “fold it, flatten it and squish it into a drawer.” Well, that’s a plus. I think I’ll just roll it up into a wad and shove it to the back of some drawer. Guess I’m not much of a Decider.
Submitted by KAT on Tue, 01/09/2007 - 8:57am.
Katha Pollitt skewers the “vote with your fork” crowd in her New Year’s “resolutions for liberals” column in the current Nation:
I guess Pollitt missed the Nation’s food issue a few months back, in which all the food activist heavyweights weighed in on the ways we can, uh, make real social change with our food choices.
From Wendell Berry:
From Jim Hightower:
From Peter Singer:
Yes, grass-fed beef costs more, because our government subsidizes industrial agriculture, and the hidden costs of agribusiness—the environmental degradation, the epidemic of diseases fueled by toxic processed foods, the atrocious animal abuse—have been, well, hidden from the average American’s blinkered view.
We pay a high price for having the cheapest food in the world. Marion Nestle, Michael Pollan, Eric Schlosser, and all the others fighting the good food fight will tell you that affluent Americans have an obligation to vote with their food dollars, because they’re the only ones who can afford to.
It’s an uphill battle trying to sell people on the notion that we need to pay more money for less food. Until Americans cease to see large portions of cheap, bad food as a virtue, our corrosive food chain won’t be broken.
Pollitt pooh-poohs pasture-raised products as an “upscale consumer choice,” but boycotting agribusiness is surely one way to effect social change, despite Pollitt’s claims.
We’re looking at a literal sea change, thanks to global warming, and that’s got a lot of people rethinking our food chain. Pollitt's swimming against the tide on this one. Maybe she should resolve to actually read the Nation instead of just writing for it.
Submitted by KAT on Mon, 01/08/2007 - 7:35am.
Q. When is a lovely day not a lovely day?
A. When it’s 72 degrees in Central Park on January 6th.
So how did New Yorkers handle Saturday’s absurdly balmy weather?
Our friends Claire and Matt threw their first annual James N. Inhofe “Global Warming is a Hoax” NYC winter bar-b-que in Brooklyn.
I made my usual pilgrimage to the Greenmarket in a tank top and capris, and found myself sweating nonetheless. Hard to say what got more steamed up, me or my sunglasses. It was about 30 degrees hotter than it ought to be this time of year. Men were walking around shirtless, women sported shorts and flip flops. It was freakish.
The Coney Island Polar Bears went to the beach, but instead of taking their annual Atlantic plunge, they turned their backs to the ocean and held a moment of silence, to protest the global warming that threatens their century-old tradition of diving into icy waters each winter:
Climatologists blamed an El Nino exacerbated by global warming for the ridiculously warm weather. Dumbasses cited the three snowstorms that have pummeled Colorado as proof that global warming is a hoax, despite the fact that, as ABC News reported:
We had to turn on the air conditioning Saturday to counteract the heat that continued to pour out of our radiators despite the hot weather (we have no control over our building’s heating system.) I sat sweating on the sofa and reading an article in the NY Times about Japan’s obsession with energy conservation:
The article profiled Kiminobu Kimura, an architect with a family of four whose way of life would strike your average American as drastically deprived; the Kimuras heat only one main room in their house and recycle their bathwater, just for starters.
We not only didn’t learn, but went on to become ever more wasteful and dependent on foreign oil. What are we learning in Iraq? That it’s OK to waste lives, waste resources, waste our reputation as a fair nation and a force for good?
And if you have any doubts about whether this war was all about the oil, consider this report from Sunday’s Independent:
Well, at least we’ll have something to show for all the blood and treasure lost. Otherwise, we’d all be wearing t-shirts that read “My president invaded Iraq and all I got was this lousy t-shirt.”
Maybe Saturday’s creepy heatwave will scare some sense into people. One woman told the New York Post, "It's eerie - like an environmental disaster movie."
But it’s not science fiction, and no superhero is going to save us. Superman officially stopped fighting for the American way last year, remember? Maybe, as a defender of truth and justice, he felt it might be a conflict of interests. Not to mention a drag on foreign box office revenues.
Submitted by KAT on Fri, 01/05/2007 - 8:40pm.
The story of Wesley Autrey, NYC’s subway Samaritan, is all over the news, and rightly so. Autrey deserves every honor and accolade he gets for diving onto the subway tracks to save a young man who’d suffered a seizure.
But Autrey’s act of heroism on Tuesday eclipsed another NYC subway story written that same day in Newsday: “Fainting dieters delay NYC subways.”
So Cameron Hollopeter, the 20-year-old film student whose life Autrey saved, could have just as easily been a twenty-something girl who collapsed and fell onto the tracks because she’d been skipping meals in order to squeeze into a size 0 cocktail dress.
And Autrey could have just as easily been killed for his bravery. How would the headlines read then? “Father of two dies trying to save foolish dieter?”
Tuesday was also the day Forbes published an article entitled “Media Might Fuel Eating Disorders.” Huh, ya think? The article cited the findings of several studies:
Great idea. I’ve got an even better one. Maybe the media could stop fetishizing stick-figure celebrities and making girls and women everywhere feel like hungry hungry hippos. Let’s throw Paris, Lindsay, Nicole and the rest of their ilk in the dustbin of oblivion they so richly deserve.
As J.K. Rowling wrote on her website last spring:
I worry about my teenage niece, too. It’s almost impossible for a girl to grow up in this culture and not feel that her self worth is based on her appearance.
How do we fight back? Ariana Huffington tackles this topic in On Becoming Fearless. I was astonished to read that the glamorous Greek goddess of the blogosphere suffered (as did I) an adolesence bedeviled by frizzy hair, bad skin and thick glasses. She conquered her self-consciousness by choosing not to be her own worst enemy, as so many women do.
That means turning off the inner voices that berate us all day telling us we’re too fat and ignoring the onslaught of images glorifying the “skelebrities:”
Of course, there’s a huge profit to be made from desperately dieting women. Just ask the Federal Trade Commission, which last Thursday fined four weight-loss pill manufacturers $25 million for “making false advertising claims such as rapid weight loss...”
FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras “cautioned the estimated 70 million Americans trying to lose weight not to turn to pills.” I would also caution them not to start drinking the latest snake-oil-soda, Enviga, a caffeinated green tea beverage from Coca-Cola which claims to boost your metabolism, thereby helping you burn calories. Enviga’s ad campaign recommends drinking three cans a day. Sadly, there’s no shortage of gullible girls who will probably buy it.
Huffington notes that “three quarters of women who are of normal weight consider themselves heavy,” and, “worse, disturbing numbers of women—vastly more than ever—are basically starving themselves…this trend takes the fear of fat to a fatal extreme.”
She calls for a stop to “The War With Food,” to which I say amen. We need to learn how to nourish--not stuff or starve--ourselves. Her final advice? “Never get up from the table feeling stuffed or guilty, but also never get up without feeling satisfied.”
Are we ready to wise up, and rise up against the skin & bones brigade? I’d hate to see a man like Wesley Autrey sacrifice his life to save a fainting fashionista; a size zero dress is not "to die for," no matter what the glossy rag biz rags say.
Submitted by KAT on Thu, 01/04/2007 - 7:32pm.
The cavalcade of corruption may finally be over, now that the party of principles has taken power. Who says Democrats are more principled? Why, the Republicans, who are throwing a hissy fit over being shut out of the Dems’ first 100 hours agenda.
The conservative crybabies told their tale of woe to unsympathetic reporters who had the audacity to ask, “Uh, isn’t that exactly what you guys have been doing to the Democrats for, like, a decade?”
Well, sure, but that’s beside the talking points. Back when the Republicans were in power, Nancy Pelosi submitted a proposed "Minority Bill of Rights" to House Speaker Dennis Hastert requesting that her party be given a greater say in crafting legislation and offering amendments on the House floor.
At the time, Hastert did not consider Pelosi’s request worthy of a response. But now his colleagues have dug up the moldering missive to waive it around and laud its wisdom.
“In hindsight, I think she was right," conceded Rep. Eric Cantor, the chief deputy whip for House Republicans since 2002.
Funny how losing makes you see things differently. Or not, if you’re the President. The rest of us thought the “thumpin’” the GOP took on November 7 was a message from voters that “stay the course” in Iraq was the wrong track, but Bush now seems determined not only to stay the course but to sacrifice even more American troops for the sake of his ego.
The message Bush took away from his party’s defeat, according to his obstinate op-ed in yesterday’s Wall Street journal, “is that people want to end the secretive process by which Washington insiders are able to slip into legislation billions of dollars of pork-barrel projects that have never been reviewed or voted on by Congress.”
Suddenly the earmarks Bush has been rubberstamping for six years are a nefarious dead-of-night practice that must be eradicated. Oh, and “spending restraint” is a good idea, he says. Now he tells us.
The Democrats are moving full steam ahead to raise the minimum wage, slash student loan rates, and take on the lobbyists, Big Oil, and Big Pharma. Consult with conservatives? Why bother? We already know where they stand--on the wrong side of history.
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