Michele Simon

Michele Simon is a public health lawyer specializing in industry marketing and lobbying tactics. She is the author of Appetite for Profit: How the Food Industry Undermines Our Health and How to Fight Back. She is grateful to live in Oakland, Calif., within walking distance of a farmers market. You can follow her on Twitter.

Food

What’s wrong with the USDA’s new MyPlate graphic? Plenty

The collective wisdom in press reports last week was that the USDA’s new “easy to understand” ChooseMyPlate image is “better” than the old pyramid. Well, that’s not saying much. But it’s also completely beside the point. Sure, it’s easy to poke fun at how bad the pyramid image was (and I had a ball doing so in my book), but just comparing images misses the larger issue: that the whole damn exercise of trying to educate the American public with a simple image is beyond pointless — it’s downright insulting. But before I explain, allow me to get a few …

Scary Food

Jack in the Box surprise: How E. coli became a household word

Double your trouble.Photo: theimpulsivebuyFor most of us working in food policy, it’s hard to remember a time when food outbreaks of bugs like E. coli didn’t happen pretty much weekly. But reading the new book Poisoned by Jeff Benedict made me realize that bacteria-contaminated hamburgers are a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s a striking reminder of how our food system has gone very, very wrong. Given that the first headline-grabbing E. coli outbreak — the Jack in the Box debacle of 1993 — happened so long ago, it seems odd that no one has devoted a book to the topic before. …

Scary Food

Mimicking Big Tobacco, Big Soda blows smoke in Philadelphia

Big Soda can blow smoke with the best of ‘em.Coke image: Andrew AtkinsonFor years now, numerous commentators (myself included) have made comparisons of the food industry with Big Tobacco. The most recent example should become the poster child for how the most egregious tactics of tobacco companies are alive and well. Last month came the announcement that the American Beverage Association (the lobbying arm of soft drink companies) was donating $10 million to the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. Why Philadelphia? Could a proposal to place a tax on soft drinks have anything to do with it? Here’s how the Philadelphia …

Trix are for kids

As in U.S., European food giants use shenanigans to continue marketing junk to children

Big burger, little bugger: Fast food marketing to small children knows no borders.Photo: (C) sean dreilingerI just returned from a two-day meeting in Brussels. I was asked to participate with other experts from around the world (mostly from Europe) to address the problem of cross-border marketing of unhealthy food to children. In the age of satellite TV, the internet, and other technologies, one country’s standards may be insufficient to protect children from being exposed to junk food marketing. Because the meeting was not open to the general public, I cannot share all of what was discussed (the standards are still …

Some cuffs with that fancy suit?

Victims of tainted peanut butter outbreak demand criminal charges

Peanut Corporation of America execs knowingly sent out tainted peanut butter — that eventually killed people. Will they pay the price? Last Friday, I spoke at the Government Accountability Project Food Integrity Campaign conference. During the lunch break, food safety attorney and advocate Bill Marler hosted a press event with 10 family members of victims of the 2009 salmonella outbreak in peanut butter. Hundreds of companies recalled thousands of products made with peanuts from Peanut Corporation of America (PCA). At least 700 people became ill with salmonella infections after eating those products, and nine died. Earlier that day, Marler and …

Pyramid scheme

Time to retire the USDA’s dietary guidelines?

Once every five years, the federal government goes to great lengths to update its recommendations for how Americans should eat. In fact, Congress mandates that the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) be based on the most current science available. Yet over the years, the DGA process has been wrought with politics, which should come as no surprise. With each cycle, we gather to witness just how strongly the food industry has managed to exert its influence. Last week’s release of the 2010 version was no different. Like most versions before it, it inspired plenty of spin and criticism. But really, …

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