February 08, 2008
Video interview with proponent of Mississippi obesity bill
CBS News interviewed Mississippi state representative John Read, one of the proponents of the recent bill banning obese people from eating in restaurants (blogged here and here), and Joseph Nadglowski, President of the Obesity Action Coalition , an organization that
"aims to educate patients, family members and the public on obesity and morbid obesity. In addition, the OAC will increase obesity education, work to improve access to medical treatments for obese patients, advocate for safe and effective treatments and strive to eliminate the negative stigma associated with all types of obesity."
February 07, 2008
Mississippi Obesity Bill dropped -- dies in committee
The bill, whose authors knew it had little chance of passage, attracted media attention from all over the world. Sponsors, including Rep. John Read, R-Gautier, said they wanted to draw attention to the obesity epidemic that plagues the state.
"Anybody with any sense knows it's not going to happen, not going to pass," Read told the Sun Herald recently. "Mississippi has been ranked the most obese state in the nation. With all the attention paid to tobacco problems, this was to shed some light on another major problem. This has been at least getting the dialogue going."
And here I thought we were supposed to be serious about legislation.
February 03, 2008
Mississippi Bill: Illegal to serve food to obese patrons
A Mississippi bill introduced this week would make it illegal for restaurants with 5 or more seats to serve food to obese patrons. HB 282
(2) Any food establishment to which this section applies shall not be allowed to serve food to any person who is obese, based on criteria prescribed by the State Department of Health after consultation with the Mississippi Council on Obesity Prevention and Management established under Section 41-101-1 or its successor. The State Department of Health shall prepare written materials that describe and explain the criteria for determining whether a person is obese, and shall provide those materials to all food establishments to which this section applies. A food establishment shall be entitled to rely on the criteria for obesity in those written materials when determining whether or not it is allowed to serve food to any person.
Not even vegetables?
Correction posted 2/4/2008: restaurants with five or more "seats" (not tables).
November 05, 2007
House Ag committee hearing on meat technology materials online
Last Tuesday the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on meat technologies. Speakers were Transcripts and/or visual materials are available on the committee website. One of the speakers was FSIS head, Alfred V. Amanza . An excerpt from Mr. Amanza's comments follows. The panel roster is below.
"One form of technology used by the meat industry that has received a great deal of attention in recent months is carbon monoxide in packaging. Carbon monoxide is used to stabilize the color pigment of meat, when it is red and, therefore, most appealing to consumers. Use of carbon monoxide in packaging does not impart a color to the meat; it simply maintains its naturally occurring color.
In 2002, carbon monoxide, for use as a component of modified atmosphere packaging, was accepted by FDA as being “Generally Recognized as Safe,” or GRAS. Carbon monoxide does not become a part of the product and dissipates as soon as the package is opened. This is unlike other ingredients used to stabilize the red color of meat, such as citric acid, sodium ascorbate, and rosemary extract, all of which actually do become a part of the product. However, to be sure consumers are not misled, FSIS has established a use-by/sell-by date to be included on meat products that use carbon monoxide packaging. This is to ensure that the shelf life of the product ends before spoilage occurs.
As members of the committee are no doubt aware, FDA has received a petition asking it to withdraw its decision that carbon monoxide in meat packaging is Generally Recognized as Safe. FSIS will continue to make its labeling decisions and its suitability reviews on the basis of FDA’s safety conclusions."
- Dr. Phil Minerich, Vice President, Research and Development, Hormel Foods Corporation, Austin, Minnesota
- Mr. Scott Eilert, Vice President, Research and Development, Cargill Meat Solutions, Wichita, Kansas
- Mr. Rick Roop, Senior Vice President, Science and Regulatory Affairs, Tyson Foods, Inc., Washington, D.C.
- Dr. Joseph Sebranek, Professor, Department of Animal Science, Iowa State University, Ames, IA
- Mr. Alfred V. Almanza, Administrator, Food Safety Inspection Service, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Washington, D.C.
October 25, 2007
Sen. Chambliss's opening marks at Senate Agriculture Committee Farm Bill Markup session
From the Senate Agriculture Committee press release:
WASHINGTON, D.C.) U.S. Senator Saxby Chambliss (R-Ga.), Ranking Republican Member of the Senate Agriculture Committee, today made the following remarks during his opening statement at a committee business meeting to markup the 2007 farm bill:“As Ranking Member of the Agriculture Committee, I am looking forward to debating the 2007 farm bill in the Senate. This markup is the result of many, many long hours of field hearings, meetings and negotiations dating back almost a year and a half ago. My staff, Senator Harkin’s staff and Senator Conrad’s staff has been working tirelessly for the past few months to craft a bipartisan bill which, we believe, strikes accord with essentially every Member of the Committee. In this process, we have reached out to Committee Members to determine the best direction for the agriculture policy that will govern how American farmers and ranchers operate for the next five years.“America has very diverse agricultural landscape. Whether it’s peanut farms in Georgia, asparagus farms in Michigan, or growing energy crops in South Dakota, we all have parochial interests around this table and every part of the farm bill has a large impact on agribusiness and the U.S. economy as a whole. Keeping that in mind, we must ensure that the farm bill provides balance among all involved in order to pass new legislation. I will admit that there are some provisions in this bill that I typically would not support if they stood alone. But, I am committed to getting a strong, bipartisan farm bill passed out of the Committee and passed in the Senate. I support this legislative package that has been carefully negotiated and deliberated.
October 24, 2007
NY City Trying Again to Require Calorie Content
Last month a federal judge threw out the New york City regulation that would have required restaurants to provide calorie contents for their dishes. (See Judge Throws Out New York Rule Requiring Restaurants to Post Calories , New York Times, 9-12-07).
Now New York City is trying again. City Tries Again With Labeling Fast-Food Menus (NYT, 10-24-07). Exerpt:
The new regulation would apply to all restaurants with 15 outlets or more across the country, though it’s aimed squarely at the fast food industry. Many chains, like McDonald’s, Burger King and Starbucks, already provide calorie information on their Web sites, or on posters or tray liners available in their restaurants. But health officials say customers rarely see this information before deciding what to order.
A survey by the city’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene this spring found that, excluding Subway restaurants, 97 percent of fast-food customers never saw any nutritional information before or after their purchase.
A public hearing is scheduled for Nov. 27 and the Board of Health is expected to vote on the measure in January.
October 04, 2007
Bush signs FDA Amendments Act of 2007
President Bush signed the FDA Amendments Act of 2007 (H.R. 3580) last week. From CCH Health Care:
The law will: (1) reauthorize user fees for FDA approvals of drugs and devices and authorize new fees for FDA approvals of TV drug ads; (2) require some drug sponsors to conduct post-approval studies and/or clinical trials of high-risk drugs; (3) encourage development of products for children by permitting the FDA to ask for pediatric research on drugs and devices and pediatric labeling on drugs; (4) limit conflicts of interest by forbidding participation in advisory committee meetings by those with financial interests; (5) require the FDA to work with the National Institutes of Health to set up clinical trial databases that will include adverse event information and that can be searched by the public; and (6) require the FDA to establish pet food standards and to establish a registry to track all adulterated food.
October 03, 2007
CRS Report on FY 2008 Agriculture Appropriations
OpenCRS has recently posted a Congressional Research Service report, Agriculture and Related Industries: FY2008 Appropriations. Here is the summary:
The annual consideration of appropriations bills (regular, continuing, and supplemental) by Congress is part of a complex set of budget processes that also encompasses the consideration of budget resolutions, revenue and debt-limit legislation, other spending measures, and reconciliation bills. In addition, the operation of programs and the spending of appropriated funds are subject to constraints established in authorizing statutes. Congressional action on the budget for a fiscal year usually begins following the submission of the President’s budget at the beginning of the session. Congressional practices governing the consideration of appropriations and other budgetary measures are rooted in the Constitution, the standing rules of the House and Senate, and statutes, such as the Congressional Budget and Impoundment Control Act of 1974. This report is a guide to one of the regular appropriations bills that Congress considers each year. It is designed to supplement the information provided by the House and Senate Appropriations Subcommittees on Agriculture. It summarizes the status of the bill, its scope, major issues, funding levels, and related congressional activity, and is updated as events warrant. The report lists the key CRS staff relevant to the issues covered and related CRS products.
September 17, 2007
"De facto" standard against sugary beverages in schools
The other ABA (the American Beverage Association) says it will not oppose proposed new standards prohibiting sugared soft drink sales in schools. From WebMD:
Major soft drink manufacturers agreed last spring to a voluntary deal that takes sugared sodas and other drinks out of elementary and middle schools. But for years it has opposed efforts to make new standards part of national law.
The industry is no longer opposing a new national standard, said Susan Neely, president of the American Beverage Association, the trade group representing Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and other drink makers. The reason for the shift, she suggested, is that the nutritional requirements are unlikely to be much stricter than voluntary standards already endorsed by the industry.
“We are moving full-caloried soft drinks out of the nation’s schools,” Neely told reporters at a forum on the new proposals Friday. “It is basically a de facto national standard.”
September 11, 2007
Food Safety: Selected Issues and Bills
The Ethicurean Blog has a useful post with links to food-related reports on the Open CRS website. The Ethicurean post includes links to the following recent report, as well as reports on the Farm Bill (several reports), Sugar Policy, and Meat Inspection.
O157:H7 on leafy produce from California, and a national recall of peanut butter due to Salmonella contamination, have made food safety a top issue for a number of lawmakers in the 110th Congress. Several Members have introduced bills to alter the current U.S. food safety system and/or increase spending, which they assert is needed to meet current obligations to protect consumers from unsafe food. This report describes a number of these measures.
From the Summary: A series of widely publicized food safety problems, including concerns about adulterated pet food ingredients and farmed seafood from China, foodborne illness outbreaks linked to the bacterium E. coli
July 10, 2007
Sugar for Ethanol Proposal
U.S. growers would be allowed to sell cane and beet sugar for use in making ethanol under a House Agriculture Committee proposal -- a signal change for a program that treats sugar solely as a food.
Sugar is part of a 111-page proposal for updating U.S. crop subsidies. The package was written at the direction of chairman Collin Peterson, Minnesota Democrat, and is scheduled for committee debate next week.
May 24, 2007
Farm Bill provision would pre-empt state prohibitions against GE crops
May 24, 2007 – Earlier today, the House Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry approved new language slipped into the 2007 Farm Bill that pre-empts any state prohibitions against any foods or agricultural goods that have been deregulated by the USDA. The passage appears to be aimed at several recently enacted state laws that restrict the planting of genetically engineered (GE) crops, but could also prohibit states from taking action when food contamination cases occur.
Given the recent spate of food scares, it’s shocking to see this attempt to derail safeguards for our food and farms,” said Joseph Mendelson, Legal Director of the Center for Food Safety. “We need a Farm Bill that will promote stronger food safety standards, not one that attacks these vital state-level protections.”
The passage approved by the House Subcommittee today states that “no State or locality shall make any law prohibiting the use in commerce of an article that the Secretary of Agriculture has inspected and passed; or determined to be of non-regulated status.”
March 27, 2007
Bill to Ban Trans Fats in Montgomery County
Montgomery County, Maryland, just outside Washington, DC, could become the first county to ban trans fats. County Councilmember Duchy Trachtenberg is formally introducing her proposal today. Michael Jacobson of The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) praised the proposal.
The Food and Drug Administration has headquarters in Rockville, MD, so the ban would apply to the FDA's own cafeteria. According to CSPI, the FDA cafeteria french fries are already virtually trans fat free. The USDA fries are a different matter:
the fries served at the main cafeteria at the U.S. Department of Agriculture-the government's lead agency for nutrition education-had a heart-stopping 5.8 grams of trans per 6-ounces.
March 15, 2007
Oregon Considering Banning Junk Food from Schools
The Oregon legislature is considering a bill that would require school foods to be healthy, but the measure is controversial.
We're teenagers. We don't want healthy food," explained Kaleb Lewis, a junior at Portland's Cleveland High School.
The debate is triggered by House Bill 2650, which would cap the amount of fat, sugar and calories for food sold in schools. A House subcommittee took up the measure, the third attempt in three sessions to target junk food in schools.
According to a dietician interviewed for the Oregonian article, at least 10 states have already adopted such legislation.
This is where nutritional information passes through policy on the way to becoming law. Why cap the amount of fat? What if the information we have about fat is wrong? What if the information we have about fat is old and outdated? What if Atkins is right? What about almonds? Could a snack be more healthy than almonds? Here's what the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has to say about almonds:
Almonds have high levels of unsaturated fatty acids, which make up 93% of their total fat content. The most important if these is oleic acid. Frequent consumption of this helps to reduce levels of cholesterol in general and "bad" or LDL cholesterol, while building up "good" or HDL cholesterol. Being a foodstuff of vegetable origin, almonds do not contain cholesterol.
Due to their high vitamin E content, almonds provide an extra dose of antioxidants, playing an important part in the prevention of coronary illness and cancer. A 30g portion of almonds provides 50% of the recommended daily amount of vitamin E. They also contain vitamin B6 in smaller amounts.
Almonds have the highest fibre content of any tree nut, which is important in facilitating and regulating colon transit, so avoiding constipation and preventing cardiovascular illness.
Almonds are an important source of minerals such as calcium, necessary for the formation and maintenance of bones and teeth, magnesium, potassium, copper, phosphorus and zinc.