March 1, 2013

The CLF Week in Links: Food Fight, Sugar, Meat Rules, and more

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

Study: sugar, not obesity, causes diabetes.

Food Fight. This new music video has been taking the food world by storm. In no uncertain terms, the video casts Big Food as assassins conspiring against low-income communities. It features Vandana Shiva and Stic.Man of Dead Prez. Watch it.

Sugar is toxic. Mark Bittman is writing about a new study that offers a great deal of evidence that sugar, not obesity, causes diabetes. This study meets all the “Bradford Hill” criteria for what’s called medical inference of causation—dose, duration, direction, and sequential. For the non-epidemiologists, this is the method used to establish the causal relationship between smoking and lung cancer and is used when it would be unethical to conduct a randomized clinical trial.

New labels for meat? Proposed legislation in the Maryland General Assembly could mean meat and poultry would soon carry a new ingredient label: antibiotics. The bills were discussed during a hearing Tuesday by the Senate Education, Health and Environmental Affairs Committee. (CLF’s own Keeve Nachman testified.) The legislation was proposed by Sen. Karen S. Montgomery, D–Montgomery County.

The DATA Act. This week, Henry Waxman (D–CA) and Louise Slaughter (D–NY), introduced legislation dubbed the Delivering Antimicrobial Transparency in Animals (DATA) Act, requiring industrial food animal producers to provide FDA with detail on the amount and use of antimicrobial drugs given to animals raised for food.

The limitations of food banks. In this Guardian essay, Olivier DeSchutter, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Food, writes that food banks should not be seen as a “normal” part of national safety nets, because they are charity-based, not rights-based, and they should not be seen as a substitute for robust social safety nets supported by public funds. In an interesting twist, he writes that one of the real values of food banks is their up-to-date data on social marginalization in our societies.

Migrant farmworkers. A meat industry coalition is pushing for immigration law reform, for a three-year visa for farmworkers. The United Farm Workers of America union is opposed to the visa, citing “Europe’s failed experiment of second-class legal status;” real reform, says the union, would also give current farm workers a reasonable opportunity to earn legal status and citizenship. Many or even most of the 1.5 million agricultural laborers in the United States are thought to be undocumented.

The drought takes its toll in west Texas. In a panhandle town of 22,343 called Plainview, the largest employer, a Cargill beef processing plant, just laid off 2,300 workers. The lack of rain has dried up the pastures and made hay prohibitively expensive, so the number of cattle available for slaughter is no longer sufficient to keep the disassembly plant operating. Losing the $55.5 million payroll is a real body blow to the town and a harbinger of climate change impacts on our food system.

Fighting food waste, aiding nutrition. This Boston Globe article tells us how Doug Rauch, the former president of Trader Joe’s, plans to sell meals prepared with food that is edible but has passed its sell-by date to low-income consumers in Boston.

Feeding animals to animals. The EU has relaxed its stance on feeding rendered animal parts to animals used for food (the practice was outlawed in the wake of mad cow disease), and our USDA is celebrating the U.S.’s recent downgrade to “negligible” risk for mad cow disease. Read why the EU’s move is worrisome, and what our own FDA could be doing to further reduce risk.

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