June 20, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Squid, Sugary Drinks, Forage Fish and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

640px-Iwami_squid_drying_DSC01868Bacteria in squid. In response to this Washington Post article about antibiotic-resistant bacteria found in squid, CLF-Lerner Fellow Patrick Baron and I published a letter to the editor. The original article should have done a better job explaining that the bacteria found is pretty dire stuff: a common foodborne bacteria was found to be resistant to carbapenem antibiotics, which are a “last resort” drug for antibiotic resistant infections in human medicine—and to be carrying new resistance genes not seen before in the U.S. food system. If those genes start spreading around the food system and associated communities of bacteria, we could quickly start seeing a much higher prevalence of carbapenem-resistant human pathogens, including E. coli strains causing UTIs that suddenly cannot be treated by even our most powerful and critical antibiotics.

Sugary drinks in California. I was disappointed to learn that a proposed bill in California that would require a warning label on sugar-sweetened drinks like soda was shot down in an 8-7 vote. The warning label would have read: “STATE OF CALIFORNIA SAFETY WARNING: Drinking beverages with added sugar(s) contributes to obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay.” Sugar-sweetened drinks now contribute about eight percent of the daily calorie intake for American children and pose a significant risk for childhood obesity, type II diabetes, the metabolic syndrome, and NASH (non-alcoholic steatohepatitis or fatty liver caused by excess sugar and high-fructose corn syrup intake, not alcohol).

School lunch saga, continued. It seems our FLOTUS Michelle Obama is firm in her resolve to support healthy school lunches. The debacle began about a month ago when some policymakers proposed a waiver for school districts that could not deliver on new healthier lunch standards required by the Federal School Lunch Program. Mrs. Obama is quoted in the Washington Post story: “As a parent — not as first lady, as a parent — I’m not going to sit and watch my kids eating right knowing that there are millions of kids that somebody gave up on because it was just too hard. That’s just not right.”

Protection for forage fish. Two Atlantic marine councils have recently moved to limit the bycatch for three fish that are critical to our wild fisheries; the move has been hailed by environmental groups. The two councils—the Mid-Atlantic Fishery Management Council and the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission—reduced the amount of shad, river herring, and menhaden that can be harvested. These “forage fish” play an important role in the life cycles of many marine animals and in the coastal ecosystem; the historic move by these councils is in response to alarm over the declining populations of these fish, which have been overharvested to provide fish meal for farmed salmon and other carnivorous fish.

Bittman on Big Food. This week Mark Bittman had another insightful column in The New York Times, writing about the influence of corporate food companies on public health. Here’s a quote from the essay, in which he characterizes Big Food as parasites feeding off of the public: “Government’s rightful role is not to form partnerships with industry so that the latter can voluntarily “solve” the problem, but to oversee and regulate industry. Its mandate is to protect public health, and one good step toward fulfilling that right now would be to regulate the marketing of junk to children.” Now if we can only find enough politicians with stiff spines to do the right thing despite the onslaught of campaign contributions from Big Food.

Eat butter? “TIME magazine has published an article that might give the impression that we don’t have to worry about fat in our diets. Our friend Marion Nestle has an insightful response here.”

Photo: David Monniaux, wikimedia commons CC-BY-NC-SA, 2003.

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