health

"The death bed is a horrible place to learn about food safety."

Darin Detwiler and I conducted this interview on Thursday. Detwiler is the senior policy coordinator for Stop Foodborne Illness and an instructor on regulatory affairs and food industries at Northeastern University. As I do, he has a deeply personal motivation to be in his line of work: His son was one of four young people who died in the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Northwest. He tells that heartbreaking story in the interview, while also sharing vital information of use to anyone who eats.


Going trayless in cafeterias — a mixed outcome

I said in a recent post that there is very little black and white, compared to all the gray of decision-making, and here’s another example.

Brian Wansink and David Just do some interesting research at the Cornell University Food and Brand Lab, and the finding in this report is that cafeterias, in schools and otherwise, ditch their buffet trays, the victim is often salad at the expense of dessert.

trayOne reason many cafeterias have gone trayless is to reduce energy use (repeatedly cleaning all those trays), to which Just and Wansink add a desire to cut down on food waste: People are less likely to take food they’re not going to eat when it’s easier to carry.

But when they went to a college cafeteria to test what happens when trays are taken away, they found that if forced to choose among making multiple trips, or leaving something at the expense of something else.

Students were more reluctant to take a salad, as 18.3% fewer students took salads on the trayless day than the students on the normal day. Without trays, many patrons tried to compensate for having fewer items on their trays by taking more of the few items they took. Because of this students were less likely to eat all of their entrée (38.8% vs. 85.7%), salad (53.6% vs. 91.7%), or dessert (52.7% vs 90.7%)—though the amount of dessert remaining was insignificant.

So not only did it not cut down on food waste, it altered food choices for the unhealthier. Getting rid of the trays seems like a good idea, from the energy perspective. So this is just another example that few matters are black and white, that the color of most decisions in gray.


To me, not a disease. (But still a problem!)

So now obesity is a disease, huh? As I first wrote last July (“Obesity isn’t a disease, but it still sucks”), I can’t say I agree.

Yes, my declaration carries substantially less weight than the American Medical Association’s, because, you know, they’re the big market movers in the disease business. But that’s how it strikes me.


Better off focusing on things I can change

More notes from the inaugural “Your Weight Matters” conference in Dallas...

They played the Jennifer Livingston video (she’s the Wisconsin anchorwoman who was flamed in e-mail for being overweight) at the opening session, declaring her as a hero for standing up to the cretin who wrote to her.

OAC isn’t the only weight-advocacy group to praise Livingston, and I continue to struggle with that stance.


Gussow in '79: Current AND ahead of her time

In 1979, I was over 300 pounds, a daily pot smoker, and about to piss away my opportunity to graduate  with my college class by blowing off two courses in my last semester. Joan Gussow was already preaching a gospel of healthy, sustainable food that I would have ignored had I known about it at the time. Somehow, it makes me more appreciative of it now.


Who will defend Big Food, the poor victim?

I’ve been wanting to get to this topic for a while, but it has languished in the in-box, as too many other things do:

The headline is, “The Food Industry Fights Back,” and it’s written by Dave Fusaro, editor in chief of foodprocessing.com (“Home Page for the Food & Beverage Industry”). The subhed is just as good: “On obesity, food safety, 'questionable' ingredients, the industry can do a better job of tactfully defending itself; the key is transparency.”


Before state intervention, parental intervention

The theorizing has become reality: In July, a round of commentary (including mine) swelled after researchers suggested that foster custody might be preferable to bariatric surgery as a remedy for a child's severe obesity.


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