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This week in food choices – Mar 20 2011 – Food safety, high food prices, and local food

After the earthquake and tsunami in Japan on March 11, and associated nuclear power plant accidents, a number of countries in East Asia have stopped import of Japanese foods and countries further afield are also questioning its safety. U.S. consumers generally don’t trust the food supply, such as seafood from the Gulf Coast and foods that make people sick through pathogens. Higher food prices are also causing concern. Local food was discussed this week – in restaurants, supermarkets (very popular in the UK), and schools.  Other popular discussion points included Kosher for the upcoming Passover holiday, and celiac disease and gluten-free foods.

Safety of the food supply – Japan food safety and radiation, Gulf Coast seafood, illnesses from food

Radiation from Japan and risks to food supply Mar-17-11 Food Product Design
While radiation fears from the nuclear power plant disaster in Japan have many countries in Asia screening food imported from Japan for signs of radiation, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has issued a statement saying there is no current risk to the U.S. food supply. According to the FDA, foods imported from Japan make up less than 4 percent of foods imported from all sources. (Food products from Canada and Mexico each make up about 29 percent of all imported foods.) The most common food products imported include seafood, snack foods and processed fruits and vegetables. See also FDA press release.

Safe seafood from the Gulf Coast Mar-15-11 Slash/Food
As recently as December, a survey found that 71 percent of consumers still indicated a level of concern about the safety of consuming Gulf seafood. Last week, higher-ups at NOAA, the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition, and the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals penned an op-ed pointing to the safety of Gulf seafood and their rigorous testing standards. “The seafood has consistently tested 100 to 1,000 times lower than the safety thresholds established by the FDA for the residues of oil contamination,” they write.

U.S. consumers don’t trust that the food supply is safe Mar-16-11 Food Navigator-USA
The CDC estimate that 48m Americans become ill as a result of foodborne pathogens each year, about 375,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die. Organic or natural foods were perceived to be safe when hygienic procedures were followed in food preparation. The researchers found that consumers would be willing on average to spend an extra 12% on foods positioned as ‘safe’.

High food prices – highest increase in 36 years, higher prices here to stay

Higher food prices are here to stay Mar-15-11 Reuters
Prices for meat, dairy and fresh fruits and vegetables, which fluctuate with market forces, are already seeing “eye-popping” increases. Packaged food makers, who are able to lock in purchases for some items over certain time periods, have been able to delay some increases because they are “living on their hedges,” and those prices will eventually head higher as “all hedges eventually end.” Where are the reports on how higher food prices are affecting people’s food choices?

Highest food price increase in 36 years Mar-16-11 Bloomberg Businessweek, reported in SmartBrief for Nutritionists
Food prices at the wholesale level rose last month by 3.9 percent, the most since November 1974, 36 years ago. Cold weather accounted for most of it, forcing stores and restaurants to pay more for green peppers, lettuce and other vegetables, but meat and dairy prices surged, too.

Local foods – in restaurants, supermarkets, and schools

Local seafood and other ingredients Mar-16-11 Nation’s Restaurant News
McCormick & Schmick’s Seafood Restaurants is testing a farm-to-table program that would shift to the use of local suppliers of produce, dairy and other ingredients in markets across the country.

Local foods popular in UK supermarkets Mar-17-11 Wall Street Journal
Britain is far ahead of the U.S. in selling local food in supermarkets. Overall, research firm Mintel forecasts sales of local food in Britain to reach £6.2 billion by 2013, up from an estimated £5.1 million in 2009, the most recent data available.

Locally produced food in schools Mar-14-11 Twin Cities Daily Planet, reported in Food Management
Minnesota schools are embracing locally produced food, according to a new report by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP).

Gluten-free and celiac disease – what’s the difference, weaning babies, certification, and products

Difference between celiac disease and gluten sensitivity Mar-10-11 MyFox Twin Cities, reported in SmartBrief for Nutritionists
Researchers at the University of Maryland say they have proven that gluten sensitivity is different from celiac disease. Evidence shows a difference at the molecular level and in the response elicited from the immune system; however, it also shows that both are part of a spectrum of gluten-related disorders.

Baby weaning and celiac disease Mar-14-11 Prepared Foods Network
Food Standards Agency, UK: Introducing gluten-containing foods before three months (13 weeks) might be linked to an increased risk of celiac disease. The evidence currently available is not strong enough to make specific recommendations about when gluten should be introduced into infants’ diets beyond three months of age. There might be an increased chance of infants developing celiac disease if they are not being breastfed when gluten is introduced into the diet.

Gluten-free certification for restaurants Mar-17-11 Nation’s Restaurant News
Rosa Mexicano in New York’s Union Square has become the first restaurant to join a new gluten-free certification program established by Celiebo, a New York-based advocacy group for the celiac and gluten-intolerant community. The certification requires that a restaurant staff take a three-day education program addressing safe practices, menu development, food preparation and service.

Gluten-free leads natural foods expo Mar-17-11 SmartBlog on Restaurants
The gluten-free product trends continued to explode at Natural Product Expo West.  Most product categories have made the effort to grab their slice of the gluten-free pie, but there is room for debate about whether the demand is warranted.

Kosher for Passover

Costco expands Kosher for Passover offerings Mar-14-11 KosherToday
Costco has significantly upgraded its selection of foods for the upcoming Passover holiday in April. Their most successful stores selling Kosher products are in the Tri-State area around New York City, and they are expanding these offerings in Maryland, South Florida and Massachusetts.

Kosher for Passover and for non-Jews Mar-13-11 NorthJersey.com, reported in The Food Institute Daily update
Passover represents less than 40% of Manischewitz Co.’s revenues, a number that decreases yearly. It also is introducing packages with labels that emphasize nutrition and health and wellness information, such as “zero trans fat.” Approximately 55 percent of their sales are to people who aren’t the traditional kosher customer, and appreciate that the food preparation has been supervised.

Other – sustainability, salt reduction, calories on receipts, and more

PepsiCo develops 100% plant-based PET bottle Mar-15-11 Beverage Industry, reported in FMI dailyLead
PepsiCo announced it developed the world’s first PET plastic bottle made entirely from plant-based, fully renewable resources, enabling the company to manufacture a beverage container with a significantly reduced carbon footprint. PepsiCo will pilot production of the new bottle in 2012.

McDonald’s and sustainable food Mar-14-11 Food Product Design
McDonald’s Corp. unveiled its Sustainable Land Management Commitment (SLMC), a long-term commitment to ensure the food served in its restaurants worldwide is sourced from certified sustainable sources. Initially, the fast-food giant will go green through sustainable practices in the areas of beef, poultry, coffee, palm oil and packaging. The commitment will be supported by an external, third-party annual evaluation process.

Recycled paper food packaging risks Mar-14-11 Food Production Daily
Nestlé said it is collaborating with paper manufacturers to evaluate different approaches for developing “new grades of recycled paper” in light of concerns about migration oil leakage into foods from packaging using newspaper based recycled board.

Salt reduction and Millennials Mar-11-11 Food Navigator-USA
Of all the generations, Millennials have the highest sodium intake, consuming on average 3,485mg of sodium per day. They also have the fewest health concerns and about 32 percent regularly checking labels for sodium compared with 41 percent of all adults.

Legalizing hemp foods Mar-15-11 NutraIngredients
Australian regulators are considering allowing non-psychoactive versions of fatty acid and nutrient-rich hemp into the food supply and have opened a public consultation on the matter. Hemp foods are widely available in Europe, Canada and the USA.

Restaurant receipts showing calories Mar-14-11 9News.com (Colorado) reported in Restaurant SmartBrief
Modmarket in Colorado will give you a receipt with a breakdown of everything you have just eaten: carbs, calories (including % of daily calories), fat and protein.

Study shows organic milk is better for you Mar-18-11 Slash/Food
In addition to containing omega-3 acids, organic milk’s conjugated linoleic acid (also called CLA) has anti-cancer properties and is believed to have many health benefits for the heart. Milk harvested in summer tends to be richer in essential fatty acids.

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