Archive: Food Politics

PB-Salmonella Sandwich Update

There have been several developments in the nationwide outbreak of salmonella-contaminated peanut butter. Here's the latest since last week's update in this space. As of Friday, Jan. 30, The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the count for salmonella-related illnesses from peanut butter contamination now stands at 529 (an increase of 28 people since Jan. 25). The number of related deaths remains the same, at eight. Meanwhile, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) announced that it is pursuing, in concert with the Department of Justice (DOJ), a criminal investigation of the Peanut Corporation of America (PCA), the company responsible for the contaminated peanut butter and peanut paste. The investigation comes on the heels of the discovery that PCA knowingly sold and shipped peanut butter and paste to food manufacturers in 2007 and 2008. On Feb. 11, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA) will hold a Energy and Commerce Committee...

 

By Kim ODonnel | February 2, 2009; 01:01 PM ET | Comments (4)

High Fructose Corn Syrup Meets Mercury

You may have seen this television commercial (or one like it) last September: Brought to you by Sweet Surprise, a Web site of The Corn Refiners Association, the ad campaign came on the heels of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA)’s decision in July that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) can be labeled as “natural.” The clip reiterates the theme that HFCS is “made from corn, has the same calories as honey or sugar and is fine in moderation.” To back up for a second, HFCS is a man-made sweetener that has taken the place of sugar in soda over the past 20 years and has found its way into a slew of processed foods, including cookies, cereal, ketchup, bread and dairy products. Making HFCS requires sundry chemicals, including caustic soda (also known as sodium hydroxide or lye) which is used to help separate corn starch from corn kernel....

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 28, 2009; 10:00 AM ET | Comments (20)

PB and Salmonella: The Latest Sandwich

When I walk into attorney Bill Marler’s downtown Seatttle office that overlooks the Puget Sound, it’s not just the view that I’m taken with: it’s Marler’s computer screen, which has a browser window open to the Web site of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) which he checks vigilantly throughout our interview. These days, Marler, who has been representing victims of foodborne illness since 1993, is consumed by the nation’s latest food scare, Salmonella-contaminated peanut butter. Since late August, 488 people in 43 states have been infected with Salmonella Typhimurium, and the common link is peanut butter and peanut paste from a processing plant in Blakely, Ga., owned by Peanut Corporation of America. The outbreak may have contributed to six deaths. Peanut paste is the stuff that food manufacturers use to flavor a plethora of processed foods, peanut butter-cheez snack crackers among them. Although the paste is not sold...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 23, 2009; 08:43 AM ET | Comments (14)

Q&A: The Voice of Obama Foodorama

I was right; Obama Foodorama Editor Eddie Gehman Kohan was indeed swept up in the “Onaugural” hoopla, but the intrepid blogger from Los Angeles, who claims to have slept “five hours over the past four days” came up for air yesterday after “Bam” was sworn in. Gehman Kohan, who checked in with me yesterday from somewhere near the parade route, reports that she’s been having an inaugural blast. Despite having blown into town last Saturday with nary a party invitation, she says that has managed to “crash my way into a handful of inaugural balls.” Obama Foodorama Editor Eddie at the Green Inaugural Ball on Monday night. (Courtesy Eddie Gehman Kohan) I asked the self-described “ag policy wonkette” to share the story behind her blog and to offer her thoughts on a buffet of topics, including newly confirmed Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack to the fuss over the White House...

 

By Kim ODonnel | January 21, 2009; 06:32 AM ET | Comments (5)

Where's Food on the Next Presidential Agenda?

Unless there are chads hanging in the balance a la Campaign 2000, we’ll know before going to bed tonight who will be the next president. (Courtesy of Grist.org) Both candidates have talked extensively about the ailing economy, the health care crisis and the war in Iraq, and their respective platforms on these issues may well have informed your decision today at the polls. But when it comes to food, farming and agriculture, do you know where your candidate stands? Probably not. Although too late to press the candidates, food is hardly a moot point for the next administration and is no longer going to sit quietly on the back burner, argue those close to the issue. As one Texas farmer told a reporter for Scripps Howard News Service, “As long as you put food in your mouth, have clothes on your back and you get in an automobile and turn...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 4, 2008; 08:55 AM ET | Comments (6)

Spooky Food-Related Costumery

A friend announced on Twitter that his wife is dressing up as the $700B bailout for Halloween. Brilliant! Why can’t I be that creative? (lstockphoto). It’s been years since I cooked up a Halloween costume. Would I dare this time 'round? Only 10 days remain until the festivities; is there enough time to concoct a get-up that’s both spooky and food related? Here’s what I’ve scribbled down thus far: A farmed salmon that just flew in from Chile with a bad case of jet lag -- or maybe it’s the flu? An ear of genetically modified (GMO) corn Here’s one to do as a team: Go as FDA-approved cloned cow twins! Your favorite partially hydrogenated oil, aka trans fat, the fat that keeps those packaged cookies, crackers and baked goods oh so fresh for...eternity. A peck of three-month-old salmonella-contaminated jalapeno peppers A McDonald’s Happy Meal. Smile! The latest daily allotment...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 21, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (13)

World Hunger: By the Numbers

Tomorrow, Oct. 16, is World Food Day, a day designated by the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in 1979 to bring attention to world hunger and food (in)security. Flash forward nearly 30 years, and the world is facing not just a credit crisis (as we watched the Dow tank last week), but an ongoing food-price crisis that is proving catastrophic, particularly in the developing world, a crisis that is causing riots and deepening the wounds of mass starvation. In lieu of attempting to dissect the hows, whys and what-ifs of the world’s hunger crisis, I’m going to paint this gargantuan, mind-boggling and dire picture with numbers instead. It won’t solve anything, but it will get us talking, and maybe even get us thinking and doing and creating -- who knows – some itty bitty shred of change. 6.7 billion: The current world population (based on July 2008 estimates...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 15, 2008; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (5)

Getting Hip to COOL

Beginning next week, you may notice more labels at the meat counter and in the produce aisle of your neighborhood supermarket. As of Sept. 30, the federally mandated Country of Origin Labeling (COOL) law will go into effect at supermarkets nationwide. The COOL requirements for beef, lamb, pork, seafood, produce and peanuts have been on the books since 2002 as part of that year’s Farm Bill; however, implementation has been painfully gradual, rolling out with seafood labels in 2004. The list of COOL-required categories has since expanded; as part of the 2008 Farm Bill, the rules now apply to chicken, goat, macadamia nuts, pecans and ginseng. With COOL, shoppers will now know, for example, if a head of garlic was grown in California or in China, which has earned a grisly reputation for exporting tainted food. (Remember last year’s pet food nightmare?) It should also help eliminate some of the...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 24, 2008; 12:40 PM ET | Comments (5)

A Taste of Slow Food Nation

Like a really good lunch buffet, Slow Food Nation was enormous, a feast for the eyes, belly and mind. The four-day event in San Francisco drew a crowd of 60,000 over Labor Day weekend, according to organizers, who are calling it the largest celebration of food in America. It was also a first for parent organization Slow Food USA, the North American arm of the international Slow Food movement. The entryway for Slow Food Nation, with San Francisco's City Hall in the background. (Kim O'Donnel) The choices for what to see, taste, hear and discuss were many and varied, and my biggest challenge was in deciding what to do first. There were lectures with star-studded panels, smaller workshops with artisans and activists, a farmers' market, Victory garden and open-air food court, book signings, film screenings, a rock concert and a "Taste Pavilion," an indoor regional/artisanal foods expo. As a member...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 3, 2008; 01:40 PM ET | Comments (7)

The Edible Money Crunch: Real, Imagined, Virtual?

Yesterday, the bean counters at the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released their latest Consumer Price Index (CPI), and on the surface, the picture ain't pretty. According to the report, food prices for the first half of 2008 shot up by 6.8 percent on a seasonally adjusted annualized basis, already surpassing the 4.7 percent annual increase for all of 2007. Based on these numbers, that means that a 10-dollar bag of groceries is now closer to 11 bucks, and that 100-dollar weekly food bill is more like $111. Multiply those numbers by four, and you're shelling out $44 more per month -- for now. Worldwide, however, the jump has been much more substantial. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), which tracks global commodities such as rice, sugar and wheat, the food price index has increased 57 percent between March 2007 and March 2008. And...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 17, 2008; 09:29 AM ET | Comments (12)

Who Wants to Take an Eat Local Challenge?

In November 2006, when I wrote a Food section story about preparing a 100-Mile Thanksgiving, the word "locavore" was a new word familiar to a small group of like-minded people in the Bay area, practicing what they preach, which is to eat food grown and raised within 100 miles of where you live. Yellow wax beans from my local foodshed. (Kim O'Donnel) Now the word locavore is filtering in the mainstream and becoming part of the vernacular - last year, Oxford American Dictionary declared locavore the 2007 Word of the Year. By now, you've probably heard about or read "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle", the memoir Barbara Kingsolver and her family wrote about moving from Tucson to a small Appalachian town in southwestern Virginia and eating locally for a year. Shortly after the publication of Kingsolver's book in 2007, "Plenty," by Vancouver, B.C. couple Alisa Smith and J.B. Mackinnon, hit the bookstore...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 27, 2008; 10:42 AM ET | Comments (0)

Sorting Through the Tomato Pulp

As expected, there were several questions about the salmonella-tainted tomato scare in yesterday's chat, so I'll try and break it down. Tomatoes: Hey Kim. I'm trying to remember 8th grade home ec...what exactly is salmonella? According to the Centers for Disease Control and Infection (CDC), salmonella is a group of bacteria that can cause diarrhea and related illnesses. It is passed through both animal and human feces. There are several kinds of salmonella strains; the strain associated with the current tomato scare is Saintpaul. The infection caused by salmonella contamination is called salmonellosis. And how have tomatoes contracted it (from what I remember, vegetables weren't the potential contaminates my teacher warned us about.) It's not like e. coli that you can just wash off, correct? Usually, salmonella is associated with animal products - poultry, beef, milk or eggs, but vegetables are not out of the question, and here's why: It's...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 11, 2008; 08:26 AM ET | Comments (21)

Celebrating the Potato

A friend reminded me that 2008 is the International Year of the Potato, organized by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The timing is impeccable. With the global cost of wheat 83 percent higher than a year ago and that of rice up by 20 percent since the beginning of this year, the potato is being touted as a low-cost solution to easing the global food crisis. After wheat and rice, the potato is the world's number three crop, but unlike the grains, it's not a global commodity. According to the FAO, about six percent of the world's potatoes are on the international market, compared to approximately 17 percent for wheat. That's because the potato is more perishable -- prone to rot -- and because of its bulky nature, more costly to transport. The upside of this lesser export potential is that countries can think local...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 8, 2008; 11:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

Breaking the Farm Bill Down on Netflix

I've been trying to come up with a way to talk about the 2007 (now 2008) Farm Bill that has been extended yet again to May 16. The nearly $300 billion five-year spending bill is so complicated it will turn your eyes inside out. If it was only about subsidies for wealthy farmers (and non-farmers), that would be one thing. But, as a quick aside and to keep you up to speed, just a few days ago, President Bush threatened to veto the bill over the income limits ($500,000) proposed last week in Congress (and given the thumbs up by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi). Under this bill, non-farmers would still get payments until 2009. But it's also about money for school lunch programs in the developing world, money for organic growers, food stamps, land conservation, and shucks, even tax breaks for thoroughbred race horses -- and that's just...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 6, 2008; 09:52 AM ET | Comments (4)

Hank Hill Gets Schooled in Food Politics

I was minding my own business the Sunday before last, my legs propped up, one eye on the crossword puzzle, the other half-focused on an episode of the Fox cartoon series, "King of the Hill". The episode, entitled "Raise the Steaks," (scroll down page to view on demand) opens with the star of the show, Hank Hill, grilling steaks for his neighbors, all gathered 'round the picnic table eagerly awaiting their steak dinner. The Hills getting into the holiday spirit. (Fox Broadcasting Company) "With great meat, son, comes great responsibility," Hank says to young Bobby, proud and confident in his grilling abilities. Unfortunately, the meat, purchased from the neighborhood supermarket, aptly called "Mega-Lo-Mart," is so tough no one can penetrate it with a knife, and Hank, an embarrassed host and angry customer, goes straight to the source -- or is it?-- of the problem. When he arrives at the Mega-Lo-Mart...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 27, 2007; 09:16 AM ET | Comments (5)

United States of Corn

"From the corn syrup in your soda pop to the corn starch that makes your paper more printable -- corn is all around you!" -- Iowa Corn Growers Association Web site It also happens to be in your hair. That's what filmmakers Curt Ellis and Ian Cheney find out when they have their hair analyzed for carbon isotopes at a University of Virginia lab. The results: Their hair is loaded with the stuff. This startling discovery sets the stage for a year-long corn-growing experiment in Iowa and the raison d'etre for their documentary, "King Corn." Best friends at Yale (class of 2002), Cheney and Ellis -- along with Ellis's cousin, documentary filmmaker Aaron Woolf, who directs the film -- moved to Greene, Iowa in 2004 and chronicled their adventures of growing a leased acre of corn in the middle of the corn kingdom. (To wit: in 2005, Iowa farmers grew...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 19, 2007; 07:33 AM ET | Comments (0)

Ugly Food Fight In the House

Man, have I got a headache. This week's political drama called "The 2007 Farm Bill" is the culprit. Today, a final vote is expected on the House floor for the massive piece of legislation with an estimated price tag of $280 billion over the next five years. At the heart of the discussion has been the debate over caps on farm subsidies, which currently stands at $2.5 million. Over the course of the past 30 years, the subsidy system has morphed from a safety net for farms of all sizes to a commodity-crop slush fund for a small fraction of extremely wealthy farmers, some who also appear to be dead -- but that's another bale of hay altogether. As I mentioned in last week's blog space, some 66 percent of all farm benefits went to just 10 percent of all farmers during the years 2003-2005, according to Environmental Working Group,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 27, 2007; 10:55 AM ET | Comments (1)

Has the Farm Bill Made Us Fat?

If it's called a Farm Bill, why should the average citizen care? I'm talking about the omnibus legislation currently under discussion in the House Agriculture committee. I posed this question to Daniel Imhoff, a California-based publisher and public speaker on environmental and food issues. The author of "Food Fight: The Citizens Guide to a Food and Farm Bill," which was published this spring, Imhoff touched on several issues including the environment, agribusiness and our health as a nation. He went so far as to call the Farm Bill the "fat bill." I couldn't help but think about this notion as I caught an episode of "Shaq's Big Challenge," the latest reality show in which basketball superstar Shaquille O'Neal rides herd on six Miami area middle schoolers to shed some major, life-threatening weight. Got me thinking when the last time these kids, who live in the citrus state, last had an...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 19, 2007; 01:16 PM ET | Comments (7)

So What's This Farm Bill?

While the nation's attention turns to the Senate all nighter over troops in Iraq, there's another huge omnibus bill up for discussion this week that's worth a collective looksee: the 2007 Farm Bill. This piece of 5-7 year legislation, worth about $274 billion dollars in 2002 (when it was last passed) is about our food system. It's about what we eat, what grows on our land, how much food costs, and as some critics contend, how fat we've become. The bill is up for markup discussion in the House Agriculture Committee, chaired by Rep. Collin Peterson (D-Minn.), through tomorrow. In response to the Great Depression, President Franklin D. Roosevelt and Agriculture Secretary Henry A. Wallace created the Agricultural Adjustment Act of 1933, which was originally created to help ailing farmers and strengthen rural communities. Over the years, in addition to farm subsidies, it's come to include food stamp, school lunch...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 18, 2007; 12:33 PM ET | Comments (17)

Seafood: Another Reason To Think Local Over Global

Last month, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) banned the import of several kinds of Chinese farm-raised seafood, including catfish, shrimp, eel and dace (a kind of carp). It is a complicated story involving restricted antibiotics, unregulated (and unsanitary) overseas fish farms, a disproportionate ratio of FDA inspectors to imported seafood (85 to 6.6 million) and a whole lot of politicking. It is also another compelling reason to eat local. Remember last year's big food safety imbroglio, when E. coli-contaminated spinach killed three people and sickened at least 200 others around the country? Yeah, it's hard to forget -- and have you resumed buying those prewashed bags in the supermarket? It was early fall at the time of the nationwide scare, when spinach, a cool weather crop, was coming into season along the Northeast and in the Midwest. It was also an appropriate time to reflect on buying seasonally and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 17, 2007; 11:19 AM ET | Comments (0)

'Round the World in Sushi

Did you know that the prized and beloved fatty tuna (aka toro) was once considered unfit for human consumption and relegated to cat food? Or that Canada was central to shaping sushi as we know it today? These are just some of the interesting tidbits tucked inside "The Sushi Economy," a new book by Sasha Issenberg, a Philadelphia-based writer. If you ever wondered how and where that sushi traveled before it appeared on a pretty plate next to the lump of wasabi, this book may satisfy your curiosity, and perhaps have you asking even more questions. The book reads much like a spy novel, traveling back and forth in time, among five continents, with a cast of characters that include fishermen, business moguls, auctioneers, rising star sushi chefs, airport officials, pirates, launderers, fish surveillance and of course, the blue fin tuna. Last week, I caught up with Issenberg, who was...

 

By Kim ODonnel | May 29, 2007; 11:17 AM ET | Comments (0)

A Little Tuna With My Mercury

All week, I've been dissecting the debate over eating seafood, including the latest health and environmental reports and the issues at play. Today, I look at mercury, a naturally occurring substance that has found its way into the oceans and into the fish we eat. There's been a lot of discussion lately over the risks of mercury, with fervent arguments coming from both sides. Even two of the most recently published scientific papers vary in their assessment of the mercury issue. The recent Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) report concludes that the risks of mercury are outweighed by the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids obtained from eating fish. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) report is less strident, arguing that "considerable uncertainties are associated with estimates of the health risks to the general population from exposures to methylmercury and persistent organic pollutants at levels present in commercially-obtained seafood." Known since...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 30, 2006; 04:42 PM ET | Comments (8)

No More Shrimp Cocktail?

As I wrote yesterday, environmentalists have warned that we are on a fast track to wiping out our seafood supply if we're not careful. The writing has been on the wall, say experts, but we keep eating anyway. In fact, we're eating more. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service of the Department of Commerce (NMFS), US annual per capita consumption of seafood in 2004 was 16.6 pounds per person, up from 14.8 pounds in 2001. Short of giving up seafood altogether, how do we do our part to help save the oceans? Part of the problem is not how much fish we eat, but what kinds of fish we eat, according to one expert. When it comes to seafood, Americans are narrow minded. According to NMFS, we love shrimp, canned tuna and salmon, in that order. Unfortunately, these national seafood faves also happen to be environmental troublemakers. "As they're...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 29, 2006; 02:55 PM ET | Comments (0)

Fishing for Clarity

All autumn long, seafood lovers have been subjected to a tug of war that won't quit. While one side is praising its health benefits and putting your fork to your mouth, another is pulling the other way, warning about contaminants and environmental impact. In mid-October, two prominent reports were released, focusing on weighing the health benefits and risks of eating seafood. On one hand, there are the heart-healthy omega-3 fatty acids to consider; on the other, there are the toxins, particularly mercury and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). Depending on the source, advice for seafood lovers has been all over the map, creating mass confusion over what to eat, how much or to even eat it at all. In fact, both reports -- one from the Institute of Medicine (IOM), the other released by the Harvard School of Public Health and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) --...

 

By Kim ODonnel | November 28, 2006; 01:09 PM ET | Comments (4)

Wanna Bite of My 'Twin' Burger?

With the news that the Food and Drug Administration is getting closer to approving the sale of meat and milk made from cloned livestock, the Jetson Age officially may have arrived. Does anyone else think that the state of the food chain is getting weirder by the day?...

 

By Kim ODonnel | October 18, 2006; 12:47 PM ET | Comments (0)

Solving the Spinach Scare

In the midst of the media frenzy over E. coli-contaminated spinach, there's a fact that few people are talking about: the supermarket isn't the only place to get the stuff. It's hard to believe, given that our constantly replenished supermarket shelves are constantly replenished with pre-washed and pristine greens, as if packaged by elves. With gift-wrapped spinach always for the taking, who would want to bother looking anywhere else for salad fixins? But sustainable agriculture advocates beg to differ. "If there ever was a reason to shop local, this is it," says Jennifer Baskerville-Burrows, a home gardener and food blogger from Syracuse, N.Y. The latest contamination scare makes it "more critical than ever to eat closer to the source," adds Baskerville-Burrows. "If we patronize smaller, local farms and something goes wrong, we can trace it back directly to the producer." What's more, the coverage of the E. coli scare has...

 

By Kim ODonnel | September 19, 2006; 01:27 PM ET | Comments (6)

Gilroy, Where Has Your Garlic Gone?

Amid the hubbub at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, I stole a few moments for a sobering conversation on the state of garlic in this country. After all, the reason for my being in Gilroy in the first place was my recent discovery of Chinese garlic and its prominent figuring into American supermarket produce aisles. I had the good fortune to meet Don Christopher, founder of Christopher Ranch, the largest U.S. garlic grower, and his son Bill, a managing partner of the business. I shared my tale with the Christophers, and they shook their heads in resigned acknowledgement that Chinese garlic is taking a big bite out of the American garlic industry. Now in its 50th year, Christopher Ranch started out with a modest 130 acres, expanding to a cap of 5,000 garlic-centric acres in the late 1980s. Their cash cow began to suffer with the onset of Chinese garlic exports...

 

By Kim ODonnel | August 1, 2006; 08:36 AM ET | Comments (0)

Trans Fat Fighting

Fat is not a four-letter word, but in this country, it's treated like one. As a country, we are obsessed with fat, yet we are getting fatter and fatter. No matter your shape or size, fat does play an important positive role in our diets. We all need fat to help maintain healthy skin and hair, body temperature, healthy cell function, plus we need the help of fat for energy storage and the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K. Naturally occurring fats come from food -- meat, dairy, eggs, nuts, some fruit. There's saturated fat, which increases cholesterol levels, and then there's unsaturated fat, which helps keep cholesterol levels down and lower the risk of heart disease. There are lots of factors that contribute to our overall cholesterol level (which, according to the American Heart Association, ideally should be below 200 mg/dL) -- genetics, physical activity, and...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 21, 2006; 10:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

Celebrate Local Garlic

Last week, I shared my tale of exasperation over Chinese garlic in the supermarket. Why, I wondered out loud, at the height of local garlic season, was I only finding garlic from the other side of the world? Local garlic has arrived at farmer's markets. (Kim O'Donnel) In particular, I was concerned about the supply of Chinese garlic at my local Whole Foods, which touts itself as a steward of sustainability. If a woman in Austin, Tex. can deliver 17 heads of lettuce a week from her farm to a nearby Whole Foods store, why can't a similar relationship be arranged among garlic growers in the Maryland-Virginia-West Virginia region and Washington area Whole Foods locations? I have not yet given Whole Foods a chance to respond to this question, but it's at the top of my to-do list and I will keep you posted on my progress. In the meantime,...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 18, 2006; 10:13 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Irony of Organic Garlic From China

After working (and shopping) at market in local produce bliss yesterday, I arrived home, only to realize I was out of garlic, a pity since I had Virginia-grown bulbs within arm's reach just a few hours earlier. Oh well, I thought, I can pick up some when I'm at the Thai grocery, where I needed to pick up some soy sauce and gingerroot. In the back of the store, I found garlic grouped in threes, packaged in white netting. The label said, "Made in China." Garlic from China? Something is wrong with this picture. I promptly returned it to the bin, thinking of a plan B. My neighborhood Whole Foods Market surely would have garlic that had not traveled across two or three continents to get here. The American garlic capital of Gilroy, Calif., was a long way from Arlington, Va., but it was a lot closer than China. My...

 

By Kim ODonnel | July 10, 2006; 10:53 AM ET | Comments (33)

Michael Pollan vs. Whole Foods?

It was a busy spring for journalist Michael Pollan and the summer is proving to be even more so. Since the publication of his controversial book on the state of American agriculture and food systems, "The Ominivore's Dilemma,", Pollan has been interviewed in countless publications, (including The Washington Post Food section and in a live chat on washingtonpost.com. In May, Pollan began writing dispatches in blog format as a guest columnist for the New York Times Select Web site. His first post, dated May 7, challenged the business practices of Whole Foods Market, the subject of an entire chapter in his book. In a bold move, the corporate world bit back, but this time in the form of an "open letter" available for public consumption. In his blog on the Whole Foods Web site, CEO John Mackey responds to Pollan's challenges on May 25, asserting that Pollan paints an inaccurate...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 29, 2006; 12:04 PM ET | Comments (3)

Is That Carrot You're Eating a Neighbor or World Traveler?

Tonight, when you sit down for dinner, consider the following challenge: Look at what's on your plate and ask yourself if you know the geographical origin of the primary ingredients that make up your meal. Forget the salt, pepper and olive oil for a moment. Where does that salad come from - or the chicken breast, the green beans? Any of it hail from neighboring towns or farms? Jot down your observations and let me know of your discoveries. I ask you the same question I am continuing to ask myself: Do I know where my food is coming from and how it was grown or raised? The issue of food origin as it relates to sustainability is a hot one, with fossil fuel topping the list of factors to consider. In the latest issue of Time Magazine (which is entirely devoted to food, by the way), reporter Margot Roosevelt...

 

By Kim ODonnel | June 6, 2006; 11:55 AM ET | Comments (0)

 

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