Digest: Food’s future heats up, dairy prices tank, and we ask FDA to hold the peanut butter

Incompetence sandwich: 400 people have been sickened nationwide by a Salmonella outbreak linked to King Nut peanut butter, and while the company has quickly responded with a voluntary recall, the FDA has yet to issue a press release telling the public they should avoid the stuff. Are they nuts? (CNN.com)

2100: A starvation odyssey: Thought that whole ‘coasts and islands underwater’ thing was the scariest aspect of global warming? Think again, say scientists from Stanford and U. Washington, who report in Friday’s issue of the journal Science that the biggest victims of global warming by far will be food and those who eat it. Equatorial countries have it the worst, but the devastation will reach into the southern U.S. (Contra Costa Times)

Many eyes, most of them looking elsewhere: Our food safety system leaves much to be desired (anyone for some beef au coli with a side of peanut butter?) and it may have a lot to do with how regulatory jurisdiction is divided up among agencies. In a nation in which frozen cheese pizzas are inspected by the FDA but pepperoni pizzas by the USDA, it’s time for a new kind of meal combo. Add this to the Santabama wish list. (New York Times)

But it’s still worth it: If we subsidized fruit and vegetables, would low-income Americans eat more of them? Survey says yes, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, which estimates that a 10% subsidy would increase consumption of fruit and vegetables by up to 5%. Annual cost? About $300 million for fruits and $270 million for vegetables. But even with the increase, most low-income eaters would still not meet Federal dietary guidelines for produce consumption. (USDA/ERS)

Liquid assets: After two years of high prices during which many dairy farmers invested to expand their herds, producers are now seeing increased production and tanking prices. Two farmers in California have committed suicide. Haven’t noticed the price drop at the grocery store? Mayhaps it has something to do with the fact that nearly 40% of our milk market is controlled by one company, Dean Foods. Not that we’re paranoid of monopolies or anything. (Merced Sun-Star)

Fat and friendless: As if its burger-flavored fragrance isn’t bad enough, Burger King has another new marketing gimmick, this time a Facebook ap that rewards users with a coupon for a free burger if they “un-friend” ten people. We could not say it better than Friend o’ Ethicurean Leslie Hatfield (who blogs over at The Green Fork) did on the COMFOOD listserv: “Nothing says ‘you’re not worth networking with, even online’ like trading a Facebook friendship for one-tenth of a burger.” (Adweek)

What the Dickens are you eating?: Charles Dickens exaggerated the extent of hunger in England’s workhouses, claims a recent study (New York Times). Over on Eating Liberally, Marion Nestle responds to the article by pointing out the similarities in the real-life workhouse diet and today’s fast-food eating. Certainly puts an interesting Twist on our menu selections. (Eating Liberally)

Eater-in-chief: Just in time for inauguration, the Library of Congress has published a list of resources on presidential food. Towards the bottom you’ll find a veritable feast of web-based morsels, including a video tour of the White House kitchen and Mrs. Johnson’s recipe for Pedernales River Chili. (Library of Congress)

4 Responsesto “Digest: Food’s future heats up, dairy prices tank, and we ask FDA to hold the peanut butter”

  1. Bill Marler says:

    On Peanut Butter:
    People get Salmonella Typhimurium from eating Peanut Butter, Minnesota points the finger at King Nut, who points the finger at Peanut Corporation of America, so what is next?
    Minnesota Department of Health announces late Friday that the have linked thirty illnesses ( and a death) to the consumption of King Nut Peanut Butter (and Parnell’s Pride?).  There is nothing on the CDC website or other State Health Department sites naming names – yet. On Saturday King Nut and the FDA jointly release a recall notification, but King Nut blames the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) for its problem. PCA’s lawyers write a press release that tries to deny as much as possible.
    So, what is next? Here are a few ideas (not in any particular order) that the companies involved and the government should do Monday morning:
    1.  Make sure ALL product is promptly recalled;
    2.  Do not destroy any documents;
    3.  The companies should pay the medical bills and all related expenses of the innocent victims and their families;
    4.  The companies should pay the cost of all related Health Department, CDC and FDA investigations;
    5.  Provide all bacterial and viral testing of all recalled product and any other tested product (before and after recall);
    6.  Release all inspection reports on the plants by any Governmental Entity or Third-party Auditor;
    7.  Release all Salmonella safety precautions taken by either King Nut or Peanut Corporation of America – especially after the 2007 Salmonella Peanut Butter Outbreak;
    8.  Provide the public with the Epidemiological investigation (with names redacted), so it is clear who knew what and when about the likely source of the outbreak; and,
    9.  Show the public what is being done to prevent the next outbreak.
    Taking these steps will go a long way in convincing us that food safety and consumer confidence is of primary importance both to the companies and the government.

  2. Bonnie P. says:

    Bill: It’s sufficient to provide a summary and link to your post. No need to copy the entire thing into our comment section. People who want to read it will follow the link.

  3. Bill Marler says:

    Good point – thanks

  4. Kei says:

    Thanks for the link to the USDA report! I’m all for anything that will increase people’s consumption of fresh fruits and vegetables. But to create a real incentive for low-income people to eat more produce, it has has to be accessible (i.e., not 5 miles away as compared to the fast food joint around the corner) and cost-competitive to more calorie-dense foods.