In case you hadn’t noticed, our interest in all things gluten-free has been burgeoning lately. But how many of us are genuinely sensitive to gluten? Researchers are trying to figure it out, coming up with tests to identify the truly intolerant. Whether or not gluten is actually a modern dietary curse remains to be seen.
Last year, you may have heard about the problems with arsenic in chicken or the detection of arsenic in fruit juice. Now comes a report documenting arsenic in energy bars and, most troublingly, in baby formula.
The culprit? Brown rice syrup, a sweetener popularly used as a replacement for high-fructose corn syrup. (And no, not even organic syrup escapes.) As with the fruit-juice fracas, the arsenic apparently gets into the food supply via pesticides and the natural presence of arsenic in soil.
Unlike drinking water, there are currently no federal regulations addressing the problem of arsenic in food. So even though that baby formula may have six times the legal limit for arsenic, it’s still, well, legal. At least the FDA has announced it will look into the matter.
Tune in today. »
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It took ‘em a year and a half, but Trader Joe’s has finally agreed to sign the Fair Food Agreement. What’s that? It’s a document written by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers to help prevent Florida tomato pickers from being enslaved on the job.
As Barry Estabrook noted, several fast-food chains had signed the agreement, but the only grocery retailer to do so — until TJ’s signed on — was Whole Foods. Who’s the CIW’s next grocery target? According to the Huffington Post, the Publix chain is the next supermarket company in its sights.
Yeah, you know the kids are all right. Check ‘em out, doing online video reports on toxins in potatoes and coming up with healthy snack ideas for the USDA. (The parents are helping out, too, of course, even urging the USDA to get its kid-produced PSAs out there more.)
Meanwhile, healthy-eating advocate Bryant Terry has a new online TV show, "Urban Organic." As its website says, the show “features cutting-edge chefs, urban farmers, and social innovators who are bringing urban agriculture to neighborhoods in America that need them most.”
The first segment features aquaponics deep in the heart of Oakland, California; the second tours the backyard farm of Novella Carpenter. There’s also a site blog and resource guides to accompany each episode. Watch ‘em!
When will the USDA step up to the animal-welfare plate? »
In a recent Boston Globe article, several longtime vegetarians explained their various reasons for abandoning strict vegetarianism in favor of flexitarianism. Some missed the taste and texture of meat, or felt that they were simply missing out; others didn’t like feeling dependent on soy-based substitutes. Whatever the reason, many said they hadn’t gone back to eating the whole hog; they were still trying to figure it out.
Which is what a new book about our current obesity epidemic attempts to do. Julie Guthman’s Weighing In: Obesity, Food Justice, and the Limits of Capitalism challenges the simplistic “eat less, exercise more” advice given to the overweight. As Guthman writes, socioeconomics and the environment play significant roles in fostering obesity:
Studies have shown that fat people are subject to discrimination in education, job placement, wages, and health care. Thinness doesn’t guarantee high status, but obesity pretty much guarantees low status. So maybe low economic status is as much a consequence of obesity as a cause.
Her conclusion? That “food needs to be regulated at the point of production, not consumption.”
Want to know whether you live in a food desert? (No, not an arid scrubland, but a neighborhood or region without easy, reliable access to fresh food.) Check out the USDA’s online food-desert locator, which assesses whether a federal census tract — some urban, some rural — qualifies as a food desert.
Meanwhile, Culinate contributor Kurt Michael Friese has a Pinterest board of food organizations he likes, all of which are helping to spread the word about food justice, farm reform, seed diversity, and the like, including eradicating those pesky food deserts.
Links on everything from cakes to Paula Deen to ‘pink slime.’ »
Small-batch food businesses are the latest trend, says Food & Wine. Think artisanal chocolates, specialty jams, and pickled you-name-it. According to the magazine, these homespun companies are taking off as “more and more home cooks go pro.”
While we haven’t seen any hard numbers indicating that this is a growing trend, it does seem like there is an ever-growing number of artisanal food products on the market — not to mention online. Food & Wine’s story includes a handful of resources for the budding entrepreneur (including DIY recipes, should you need an idea to get you started).
There have also been positive reports lately about increases in small-business lending. So if you’ve been thinking about taking your lavender-infused whipping cream to the next level, maybe now’s the time.
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