Buying better chicken for schools, hospitals and other organizations

Posted April 8, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo   

Making healthy choices can be difficult, even when you know what you're looking for. The myriad of standards and certifications can be hard to navigate, especially in poultry: Does antibiotic-free mean no antibiotics in the feed or no antibiotics used in raising the animal? Do poultry producers have to list whether or not arsenic is used? Now, imagine being responsible for feeding a school's student body, or a hospital. Getting enough of the right product, and getting it on time, can be difficult when trying to source healthier alternatives.

Large-scale food purchasers now have a resource guide to help them make healthy decisions when purchasing poultry for their organizations. Today, IATP is releasing a new fact sheet entitled "Buying Better Chicken," which helps sort out the complicated system of certifications, standards and terminology in the poultry industry.

Take a look at the guide.

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Food packaging major exposure route for BPA

Posted March 30, 2011 by Katie Rojas-Jahn   

A new peer-reviewed study published today in Environmental Health Perspectives has found evidence suggesting that food packaging is a major source of exposure to Bisphenol A (BPA).

The study, conducted by the Breast Cancer Fund and the Silent Spring Institute, recruited five families (each with two parents and two children, for a total of 20 people) and tested them for levels of BPA and certain phthalates in their urine while feeding them a diet of freshly prepared foods. 

BPA is a known endocrine-disrupting chemical and has been linked to numerous health effects, including behavioral changes, early-onset puberty, reproductive harm, diabetes and even cancer. Due to its dubious reputation, it was also recently named on the Minnesota Priority Chemicals list, which includes toxins that are harmful to children and are present in products kids are exposed to. Phthalates are no treat either, having been linked to poor sperm quality, obesity and cancer.

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IATP welcomes LaDonna Redmond to lead food and justice project

Posted March 15, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo   

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy announced today that LaDonna Redmond will lead a new project focusing on health, justice and the food system. 

The project will center on health disparities resulting from the food system, from the farm to consumers—particularly as they affect low-income populations and communities of color.

“We are excited to have LaDonna lead this area of work,” said IATP President Jim Harkness. “A more fair and healthy food system has to include everyone, not just those who can afford it. LaDonna’s extensive experience working at the community and policy level will be a tremendous asset.”

Redmond is a long-time community activist who has successfully worked to get Chicago Public Schools to evaluate junk food, launched urban agriculture projects, started a community grocery store and worked on federal farm policy to expand access to healthy food in low-income communities. Redmond is a frequently invited speaker and occasional radio host. In 2009, Redmond was one of 25 citizen and business leaders named a Responsibility Pioneer by Time Magazine. Redmond is a former Food and Society Policy Fellow. 

“We have a food system that has largely been built on the backs of people who don’t have a lot of rights and access to our public policy infrastructure,” said Redmond. “We need to collectively better understand the inequities in the food system and make sure we include people who have faced these inequities in finding solutions.”

Redmond will be leading efforts at IATP to identify research gaps related to health in the food system, and connect researchers with those facing inequities in the food chain, including farmers, farm and food workers, and consumers.

Here is a short video featuring LaDonna talking about food justice, health and what role IATP can play:

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Minnesota schools increasingly eat farm fresh

Posted March 10, 2011 by Andrew Ranallo   

A new survey of Minnesota foodservice leaders released today shows, in just four years, the number of Minnesota schools participating in Farm to School has sharply increased: From just 10 in 2006 to 123 this year. 

F2s Foodservice leaders representing 50 percent of the K-12 districts in the state responded to the survey, conducted by IATP, in partnership with the Minnesota School Nutrition Association (MSNA).

“Minnesota is lucky to have the three key ingredients for Farm to School: dedicated food service leaders,  innovative farmers seeking local markets, and passionate students and parents,” says IATP's JoAnne Berkenkamp.

See the press release for more information, or read the full survey results. For more Farm to School resources and information, and to see a map of Minnesota school districts participating, be sure to check out Farm2SchoolMN.org!

 

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Reclaiming rights on International Women’s Day centennial

Posted March 8, 2011 by Shiney Varghese   

The year 2011 started with the news of food price hikes around the world pushing even more people, especially women, into hunger. But then along came images of women in Egypt in the forefront of a revolution to get rid of a government that has been in power for over 30 years! Victories such as the ones in Egypt are occasions for celebrating the strength and resilience of women even under the most oppressed circumstances, and their ability to defy prevalent stereotypes.

So, what will 2011, the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day, bring for women?[1]

In the initial years, tragic events such as the "Triangle Fire" of 1911 (which killed more than 140 working women in New York City) became a focus of International Women's Day. Since its beginnings in Europe, International Women's Day has grown to become a day of recognition and celebration across the world. Drawing attention to the abject working conditions women faced, and to issues such as land rights and food security, domestic violence and trafficking in women, and at the same time expressing solidarity with sisters across cultures and regions, IWD has grown in strength and visibility.

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BPA-free doesn't mean estrogen free

Posted March 4, 2011 by Katie Rojas-Jahn   


IStock_000006558719Medium_webA new study in Environmental Health Perspectives found that most plastic containers that come  into contact with food or beverages leach chemicals that mimic estrogen, even when they are advertised as being BPA-Free.

Bisphenol A has been under fire in recent years because it is a compound used in products like baby bottles and sippy cups which releases an estrogen-like chemical that disrupts hormones in the human body. The exposure is believed to be problematic especially in children's products, because their bodies are still developing, making them more vulnerable.

The controversy over BPA has led many countries (Canada was the first) and states in the U.S. (Minnesota was the first) to ban it in certain products. Consumers have also become increasingly concerned about the chemical and have switched to buying BPA-free alternatives.

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Food Matters: Training for clinicians

Posted March 3, 2011 by    

Are you a clinician? What should you know about the food system to help ensure your patients’ healthy pregnancies, and the future life of their fetus and children?

Healthy Food Action’s David Wallinga, MD is teaming with Health Care Without Harm and Physicians for Social Responsibility to do a food system science and advocacy training this Spring to help prepare clinicians to answer that question.

Register now for the Food Matters: Clinical Education and Advocacy Program. Trainings are scheduled in Oakland, March 5, Philly, May 7, Boston, May 14, and Burlington, VT (date TBD).

See the Food Matters website for more information.

– David Wallinga, MD

 

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HFCS by any other name: Like putting lipstick on a pig

Posted March 3, 2011 by    

Tell the FDA you vote no on High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) being renamed “corn sugar.”

Two years ago, we published the first evidence that some HFCS was mercury contaminated. Ever since then, the corn refining industry has been growing ever more shrill in claiming there’s really no concern around HFCS. Take their multimillion dollar “Sweet Surprise” PR campaign, for example. (Methinks they protest too much.)

Now that consumers are shying away from food products carrying HFCS on their label, the Corn Refiners have a new gambit: Just change the name!

That’s right, they are petitioning the FDA to let them stop calling it high fructose corn syrup and to call it “corn sugar” instead. How sweet.  

This isn’t a science issue. It’s a simple matter of having a food system that’s transparent for everyone, and to eaters most of all. Transparency is key to the joint Principles for a Healthy, Sustainable Food System developed by the nation’s nurses, dieticians, public health folks and planners.

Maybe you disagree. And that’s fine. In a democracy you can and should tell the FDA what you think:

Click on this link to the FDA, click “Submit a Comment,” lodge your thoughts, and hit send.

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Eyes on London for global food aid

Posted March 2, 2011 by Sophia Murphy   

Talks are taking place this week on an obscure but important piece of the multilateral system: the Food Aid Convention (FAC). Housed at the International Grains Council in London's architectural homage to financial services, Canary Wharf, the FAC involves just a handful of countries: Argentina, Australia, Canada, the European Union and its member States, Japan, Norway, Switzerland and the United States. These are donors (see this nice graphic from the Globe and Mail, part of a larger story, on who contributes global food aid). The convention is meant to provide a framework for negotiations on what counts as food aid, how much food aid each country will commit to humanitarian responses that year, and how to make sure nobody cheats, for example, by promoting exports under the guise of humanitarian aid.

Why is the FAC important? As we enter an era of declining aid dollars, disappearing agriculture surpluses, volatile markets and a rising rate of natural disasters, food aid—or, more properly, food assistance—is a small but vital piece of the web that can prevent death and maldevelopment linked to inadequate nutrition, while contributing to the bigger overall objective of strengthening food security through rural development.

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Greater action urged on hormone-busting chemicals

Posted March 1, 2011 by    

The world's largest public health group, the American Public Health Association (APHA), has just announced a new policy calling for greater government action to protect the public from hormone-disrupting chemicals in the food supply.

Congress and government regulators should pay attention. APHA's policy statement follows official positions released earlier in 2010 by both the American Medical Association (AMA) and the Endocrine Society, the nation's premier professional association for medical experts in hormone physiology and medicine.

We now live amidst a virtual sea of synthetic environmental pollutants that can mimic or disrupt hormone function. Perhaps not surprisingly, a slew of hormone-related diseases, which are especially costly to treat, are common or on the rise. They include many cancers, obesity, diabetes, thyroid disease and infertility and other reproductive problems.

Much of our exposure to these endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) comes via a contaminated food supply. EDCs known or identified include several dozen pesticides and fungicides, arsenic, industrial pollutants like PCBs and dioxins, plastic monomers like bisphenol A, plastic additives like phthalates, as well as pharmaceuticals.

APHA's resolution supports several steps, including recommending that federal agencies with regulatory oversight for various individual EDCs better coordinate amongst themselves given the scientific "recognition that collectively EDCs likely will have common or overlapping effects on the endocrine system."

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