With finals week upon us I feel as though my friends and I are changing our diets.  First of all we are eating more often.  From my understanding this is because we’re eating to make us feel better, to procrastinate, and to power our minds throughout the long hours of the night.  I am victim to this change but I find it ironic because would we all feel better if we kept eating healthy? If we endured all of the work and continued to eat healthy not just for the sake of our waistlines but for the sake of our minds.  I always remember being told bananas help you think, blueberries support creativity, and peppermint is thought provoking.  Some of my friends follow these ideas by eating a banana the morning before their exam, as if that will cancel out all of the coffee, junk food, and fast food that they have had in the past 24 hours.  It is ideal to think that our diets could be maintained throughout periods of stress so we could be physically healthy during exams.  But this does not seem to happen.  From my understanding stress eating does not end after you graduate, I have seen all of my grown relatives stress eat.  So it’s hard to be optimistic about the situation. 
                It would be interesting to see the connection between the stress eating trend and the economic state of our country.  Could it be possible that because of our current economic down turn our chances of fighting obesity has gone out the window?  With this theory the government should not be supporting programs to improve the country’s health.  They should work on repairing the economic state of the country which will place less stress on the general population.  This in turn could ameliorate eating habits throughout the country.  While there are many other factors that influence obesity I wonder if this is one that has ever been considered.

                Marion Nestle addresses this idea in her post Will better access to healthy foods reduce obesity?  She explains that access, cost, skills, equipment, transportation, quality, marketing, and peer pressure are the factors that influence childhood obesity.  While I understand these aspects that she presents she does not include the emotional environment or the stress that these children are in during their everyday lives.   These aspects are connected to socio-economic status, if a child is facing challenges of finding food or eating often then the amount that they eat when they do have it as a resource will be unlimited.  This post connects economic standing of families or children on an individual level.  So it would make sense to connect a nationwide economic down turn to people’s diets.  Nestle points out that the price and accessibility of healthy food needs to be fix, we cannot only address issues of availability of quality jobs.  With high inflation it will not necessarily matter if people have jobs, because they still will not be able to afford healthy food. 

                Nestle also comments that “Fast food, snacks, and sodas are cheap.  Fruits and vegetables are not.”  I do not agree with this, I think that produce is actually less expensive.  At the same time people may believe that produce is less filling and does not have as long of a shelf life than processed foods.  This presents a difficult conundrum connecting food to time and personally ability to prepare it. 

 

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Should everyone be vegan? After reading opinion pieces for and against veganism, it is not necessary
or important to require all humans to become vegan. There are many positives to being vegan. By
decreasing meat and animal product consumption you are decreasing the demand on the market
thus decreasing the slaughtering and mistreatment of animals. This can positively impact the natural
environment concerning pollution from meat production. Furthermore supporters of veganism argue
that humans are biologically made to eat and digest plants and not animal products. This is also valid
and it has been shown that humans have trouble processing animal products. Also in theory since
meat and animal products are high cholesterol that contributes to our nation’s obesity. At the same
time some people are allergic to the vegan alternatives for meat or animal products. Moreover it is
more difficult to receive proper nutrition when living on a vegan diet. Many people have issues of
malnutrition and some cases vegan diets have led to eating disorders. Also there are also many other
caloric and processed foods that people can eat instead of animal products that can contribute to
obesity.
Overall like everything else there needs to be a balance between eating meat and animal products and
plants.  This is not saying that vegans have to eat meat to be healthy.  There needs to be balanced options for consumers.  The goal of the nation and nutritionists should be for Americans to be healthy which means that some can be vegans while others will eat animal products.  Both options come with important standards and cautions that consumers need to be aware of.  Our current food system allows this, however it does not work because there is so much information because there are so many options and ways to have a balanced healthy diet.  Some of these options work better for others.  This issue is further hindered and made confusing by the lack of transparency in our food system.  For example in our university cafeteria there are options for students to eat meat and animal products, but limited options for vegetarians and vegans.  The situation is worsened by the fact that we don’t know the ingredients of our food.

Marion Nestle’s article specifically points out the issues surrounding the lacking qualities of veganism.  The main three issues are lack of B12, getting enough food, and eating enough of a variety of food.  She argues for a vegetarian diet that allows people to address these three issues without eating meat.  By doing so it is possible to lose weight and improve your overall health.  Overall I agree with her main point that any diet works as long as if it is balanced and provides necessary nutritional requirements. 
All of these articles make it sound easy to eat a balanced diet but there are so many other challenges and structures that are at play.  For some low income families or people it is difficult to get a variety of healthy unprocessed foods daily.  On one level it is hard to reach places that sell this type of food, they have to have the cultural capital to identify healthy food, and they have to be able to afford the food.   It is also very uncommon for people to be able to maintain one diet for a period of time longer than four months.  By consistently changing their diets it will be less likely that they will lose weight or feel healthier.  There is a variety of issues that surround dieting, vegetarianism, veganism, and food consumption.  These issues are difficult to address on a public level because of the varying opinions.

 

                Should GMOs feed the world? No.  I think that countries and its citizens have the right to chose what they eat, even if they have limited options.  We live in a capitalistic society that is based on supply and demand.  Sadly Americans have a blind demand because we are unaware that we are consuming a great deal of GM foods.  Yet for those countries that have decided that GM foods and crops are not something they support or want to introduce they have every right to not purchase them.  Ideally this will lead to the decrease in this product (because of less demand).  The problem is that GM crops are invasive and spread naturally throughout fields infecting natural crops.  From my understanding it is difficult to successfully plant natural seeds after the soil and environment have been infected by GM seeds.  So I question whether the demand in existing countries that use GM crops can actually decrease?  But I remain optimistic because we were able to develop this technology so shouldn’t we be able to maintain or work to redevelop the natural environment?
                This issue of GM foods addresses the larger issue of food and economics and food and international relations.  The fact that economics rule our system is uncomfortable but it should be accepted because that is how our society is formed.  What should not be accepted is when economic value and success overcome the value and importance of food.  In terms of GM foods I question whether the Western governments (particularly the US) actually want to feed the world and help developing countries or if big companies that control the government through state capture just want to expand their market.  Also in terms of international relations, it is understood that food is internationally traded and there is already a problem of standards of food quality.  GM foods introduce another layer to this problem by encouraging African nations to use GM seeds and foods to feed their citizens.  Just because Western countries have these resources and use GM foods does not mean that they should impose them on other countries.  Yet referring back to capitalism it is logical that they are because they want to make a profit, but they have no right to bitch if Africans reject GM foods.

 

                Marion Nestle’s article “Food politics in action: the White House vs. the FDA” uses president Obama’s demand of science based regulation to attack the weak labeling standards proposed by the FDA.  In theory Obama is leading a movement against regulation based on ideology of foods and consumerism toward one that is based on scientific fact.  I find it interesting that he is promoting science as the leading reason, but not transparency in the food industry.  He is not demanding that companies are open about the scientific methods of production or rising of food; he is just saying it should be based on science.  This is the topic of Nestle’s introduction, but it is unclear how these ideas directly connect to calorie labeling.

                The rest of the piece clearly explains that the FDA is developing legislation that will mandate restaurants to state the amount of calories in their products.  The problem is that when the original idea of calorie labeling was proposed in the health care bill it mandated restaurants including movie theaters must provide calorie counts on their menus.  Ironically the current bill being proposed does not require movie theaters and other entertainment industries to include calorie labels.  Moreover, restaurants are able to put ambiguous calorie ranges on their menus such as 200-800 calories.  In general these two aspects of the labeling legislation deviate from the values of science that Obama stated.  I would presume Obama does not wish to exclude the entertainment food industry from the scientific understandings and mandates of this part of the food world. 

                Overall I don’t think that Nestle’s article is very clear and straightforward but it addresses interesting points.  First of all I would argue against Obama’s value of science saying that science is based on current ideologies and understandings of our society and natural world.  So it isn’t possible to separate the two.  Furthermore science in the food industry can be helpful, but is that what consumers want?  Personally I would rather understand the process that my food went through and the methods of production more than how it is scientific.  As for her points about the FDA labeling legislation it is not surprising that a limited amount of the food service industry are being regulated because the government is afraid of the economic or political effects of complete regulation.  This is stupid and makes the government look weaker than excluded corporations, but that is an issue at the base of our system.

The discussions on fat tax this past week brings up many interesting issues especially when imagining similar fees in the US.  On one level the tax in the Netherlands is supporting economic growth for the government.  At the same time it is very questionable as to whether the system is effective.  Will the Dutch eat less fatty food because they have to pay a few more cents?  I would say that only few people will change their spending habits.  Those who are a part of the upper socioeconomic classes will most likely not change their ways.  In this way the fat tax will increase inequalities in food consumption.  It is even more a problem because the foods with unsaturated fats that are taxed, such as cheese and milk, are only bad for you if you consume them in mass quantities.  There is still great nutritional value in those products that some people may chose not to purchase any more.  Moreover, high calorie foods are not being taxed yet they are equally unhealthy.  Will there be an increase consumption of high calorie food?  It would also be interesting to understand whether this tax was ageist; whether younger populations will turn away from foods with the fat tax.  There are clearly arguments for and against the tax.  It will be interesting to see how it effects the Dutch population over time.

It is hard to conclude whether a fat tax in the US would work or not.  On one hand there are the same economic benefits and stratified drawbacks.  Another influential factor on the effectiveness is the method of instituting the tax.  I think that it would be interesting to understand how the tax was publicized or how aware Dutch consumers are of the tax.  If the fat tax was instituted in the US there would be a lot of publicity in schools, restaurants, and on television.  Consumer awareness of the tax and the purpose of the tax could be the most effective method of decreasing consumptions of the products.  If people are aware that milk, cheese, or any other product is more expensive because the government deemed it to be unhealthy they may not buy it or buy less of it.  In this way the tax is not an economic burden, but an economic identifier of an ‘unhealthy’ product.  This is something that could be going on in the Netherlands; I am just unaware of it.

 

Another way nutritionists and doctors are trying to promote healthy eating is reducing sodium consumption.  Marion Nestle’s post in food politics describes the many opinions concerning current sodium consumption, capacity of changing the food industry, and issues with over consumption of sodium.  Most sodium consumption comes from processed foods.  The American health association argues that a reduction in salt is good for your health.  At the same time the Institute of Food Technologists is worried about decreasing salt consumption too fast.  Moreover there is the struggle of actually decreasing consumption when consumers do not purchase low sodium products or have a demand for them.  The only way to decrease consumption is through government regulation of the levels.  The problem is that industries and especially small businesses or bakeries cannot afford a shift to a product that is not desired by consumers.  Overall the article points out that people realize Americans need to eat less sodium but that we don’t want to change our eating habits. We want to eat salt.

The efforts in the Netherlands to control unsaturated fat consumption and sodium consumption in the US are stupid.  Particularly in the US we value our first amendment rights and even if this does not include the right to eat whatever you want, it is implied.  It is understandable that the government wants healthy citizens, however, that is not the views of the industries that make up our food system.  They are a part of the capitalistic society, just trying to make a profit.  So the best way for the government to help its citizens is to educate them on the diversity and flaws of food offered in the US.  Sadly our government cannot even really do that because of state capture.  We have too many wealthy interest groups and food associations that protect the funds of the meat and processed food industries.  So will anything really change?

 

It’s important and interesting to debate local and organic food; however issues of hunger and malnutrition must not be forgotten.  From my understanding it is not possible to eradicate hunger and malnutrition in a capitalist society because it is purely based on supply and demand.  Companies and corporations cater their products to consumers who they think will buy their product.  They do not consider moral or ethical impacts of their methods of marketing, distribution, or pricing.  Employees of the food system do not consider poor quality, limited access, and high prices for impoverished neighborhoods.  I have no expectations or beliefs that food companies will go out of their way to help populations in need.

Right now it is the US government, non-governmental organizations, and non-for profit organizations that are working to supply food to these areas.  The problem is that giving food stamps or creating soup kitchens is only a quick fix.  People need higher paying jobs or knowledge of how to grow their own food so they can become self sustainable.  The World Food Organization is a part of the UN that works with national governments and independent agencies to deliver food around the world.  Their program has the same problem as food stamps in the US.  The WFO is giving people food instead of teaching communities how to farm produce or raise animals.  People will only continue to rely on these systems until we create better economic and agriculturally aware communities. 

Our capitalistic system with government assistance is not working.  Americans are still going hungry at night.  We have the capacity and resources to feed all of our citizens and more, so why don’t we?

 

Nestle’s response The Lancet on nudging and nagging vs. environmental change makes fun of political simplicity in the UK.  Recently the government has realized that physicians in the National Health Service will not be successful in supporting healthy lifestyles through nudging patients.  It is necessary to nag patients about healthy eating and lifestyles.  Yet this is not enough, Nestle and The Lancet point out that higher taxes on unhealthy products are a more effective method of increasing citizens’ health.   Even these methods are not enough when the capitalistic system and a range of socioeconomic statuses prevent equal opportunity of buying healthy food.  Citizens need to be educated on how to eat healthy and be provided with resources to access that food.

 

The issue of health and quality of life addressed here is similar to the issues of hunger and malnutrition.  It would be interesting to learn whether these are also problems in the UK.  As for the US doctors I know from experience that they inquire whether you’re eating a balanced diet and exercise.  Nevertheless, many people who are not getting enough nutrients may not be able to go to checkups where doctors will tell them how to be healthier.  Even then if a person of lower socioeconomic status can go to the doctors it can be difficult to change your diet because your doctor says so.  It’s understandable that the UK and in some forms the US are trying to promote health, but at the same time there are better ways to address the system.

This past week we have discussed the values of local food v. nationally/internationally distributed products.  What I have concluded from this is that both systems should exist simultaneously.  These are both extremes and either are possible all the time.  Even when food trade was developing and at its peak local food sales did not completely disappear.  Throughout time there has been and always will be a constant push and pull between these two systems.  Ideally the local food system will promote transparent exchanges for larger scale food exchanges.  The environmental and organic movements can also contribute to both of these systems by encouraging ecologically friendly farming techniques, opposing cruel treatment to animals, and supporting fair treatment of laborers.  Our utopia cannot be one of these movements because if we focus solely on the local movement developing nations that supply us with produce will be significantly impacted.  If we continue to heavily trade and transport food the quality and level of safety of the food is at risk.  Furthermore if we only grow organically or environmentally friendly the cost of food can increase to a point that is unattainable for people of lower income.  This is not to say that each person has to be neutral and buy tomatoes from Florida, bananas from South America, and locally grown blueberries.  The point is that it is good to have foodies who only eat exotic and authentic food that is locally grown, while their neighbor shops at the grocery store for produce from around the world organic or not.  In the US we have such a diversity of food purchasing methods that it doesn’t matter if one person does something different.  The purpose though is for everyone to interact and learn about the other systems and their benefits in an effort to make the system the best as possible.

 

Many people understand that the government is in charge of food safety, yet regulation is heavily influenced by farm and meat industries that are looking to make a profit.  Nestle points out that advertising agencies also use the law and government protections to use manipulative methods of advertising junk food.  The problem is that marketing agencies are smarter than what some consumers would like.  They have come to understand the powers of children; so instead of marketing junk food to parents they target children in hopes that they can convince their parents to buy the product.  Many people view this as unfair manipulation because the children do not understand that the product is unhealthy.  Some nutritionists are connecting child obesity to advertising methods such as this.  In response they are proposing regulations that limit the population that can be targeted for junk food.  The marketing agencies are using their first amendment rights to continue their ways.  There are two problems with this situation.  The first is that consumers would like to believe or would like to make a food system that produces what is best for consumers and looks out for their well being.  This is far from true.  The food system is an economic system out to make a profit; they care little about the effects their products have on their consumers.  The only way to convince them to care is to not buy their product but buy one that is healthier.  In this case consumers are in control.  So instead of trying to limit advertising capabilities agencies working against childhood obesity should try and change American’s consumer habits of buying junk food.  The other problem is that when large corporations were founded the government decided to treat each one as an individual meaning that they are held to the same standards as one citizen.  In some ways Nestle is arguing that corporations should be held to higher standards one that protects the well being of US citizens.  In conclusion I agree that advertising agencies unfairly use children, but at the same time there are consumer misunderstandings and flaws in our political system that allows them to do so.

Throughout this week of class we have learned that the organic movement is not as good as we thought.  Many farms that grow organic produce only reserve a section of their farm for organic products.  But how can they keep the crops separate in terms of soil quality and types of pesticides used?  At the same time organic foods are not free of pesticides, there are defined organic pesticides that farmers commonly use.  Furthermore a majority of farmers that grow ‘organic’ foods do it because it is profitable because people believe they are getting produce that has no pesticides and was grown on a small farm.  Overall consumers associate organic with quality; they understand it as not being messed with.  Sadly this is not true.  The farmers are not trying to make the world better or Americans healthier.  In this way organic farming has combined with industrial farming.  This all has caused me to reevaluate the value of purchasing organic foods in grocery stores.  When there are organic sections or just food labeled organic, what does that mean? Is it worth spending the extra money for organic products?  I have learned from conversations on this subject that it is worth buying organic apples, strawberries, peppers and potatoes.  Nevertheless I do not understand why these products are worth buying organic and others such as tomatoes are not.  I’m also led to believe that there are varying beliefs pertaining to what products are worth buying organic.  My personal debate leads me favor the local movement.  Even though, local food can have pesticides or be genetically modified at least I would be able to know.

Since I felt uninformed about organics I looked it up.  This post I found presented the standards for organic products including: animals who have not been fed antibiotics, or growth hormones, animals have been fed organic food for no less than a year, they can go outside, food isn’t genetically modified, fertilizer does not have sewage or synthetic materials, and produces does not have pesticides on it made from synthetic chemicals.  This is a good list yet there are flaws.  I have no problem with the first standard however the fact that animals must eat organic food for a year is a little ridiculous.  If they aren’t eating organic food for more than a year what are they eating? They cannot eat anything with antibiotics, growth hormones, or something with animal byproducts.  Also what is organic food? Is it the same for humans and animals? As for the third point, animals can have a small door in their pen of hundreds of animals, but that does not mean they physically can or will go outside.   Finally the last point implies that there are specific fertilizers that you can use instead of those that are synthetic.  In general organic food does not have to grow naturally without pesticides.

The article also describes the terminology of labels.  For example organic means that at last 95% of the ingredients are organically produced.  How many consumers are aware of this?  In addition organic does not mean environmentally friendly.  That food had to be transported and packaged before arriving in the store.

Finally the article lists the foods that you should by organically and those that you do not really need to.  The only reason for the separations given is that some pesticides cannot be washed of produce.  I would think that there are more reasons than this.  An interesting point about seafood is that wild or farmed fish can be labeled organic, but that does not mean it is free of contaminants.  Isn’t that great?

This article is very informative, but it also shows the flaws in our regulation system of defining organic.  Overall I have more of an understanding of what foods are organic.  At the same time I do not feel as though this article provides a complete picture.