Food

Do dirty coal plants make us more vulnerable to swine flu?

Scientists have discovered that exposure to a common pollutant may make people more likely to experience severe symptoms from swine flu — and it’s a pollutant emitted in large quantities by coal-burning power plants and other industrial facilities. The culprit is arsenic, a highly poisonous semi-metal which, according to a new study by researchers at the Marine Biological Laboratory and Dartmouth Medical School, compromises a person’s ability to mount an immune response to the H1N1 swine flu virus.  Most disturbingly, the study — published last month in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives — found that arsenic can weaken the immune …

Good Fish, Bad Fish

Is your favorite seafood unhealthy for the planet?

When I was growing up, my family lived in New Orleans for several years, on the north shore of Lake Pontchartrain. One of my father’s friends had a boat, and he liked to take it out shrimping. My dad and I would often join him and his son. I loved those early morning boat trips (except for the time that I got very seasick — probably my fault for snacking on Fritos — and the trip that I’m about to tell you about). The lake was so big that you could barely see the shoreline. On one occasion, our nets …

A disturbing fish tale

‘The End of the Line’ is a compelling indictment of industrial fishing

If scientists are correct, 2048 will be a terrible year for sushi restaurants. And diners selling tuna melts, too. The End of the Line isn’t going to make you feel so good about hitting the neighborhood sushi bar.In fact, if I had any money to invest in a seafood venture, Carl Safina’s suggestion to “consider the jellyfishburger” may be the best advice. By mid-century, jellyfish may be the only “fish” left to catch. Though it lacks the starpower of a certain former vice president, The End of the Line does for the fish what Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth did …

Food safety beefs

Big Meat says, “Keep the FDA away from our CAFOs!”

National Cattlemen: butt out of our business, you … regulators!Roll Call is reporting that Big Meat is less than pleased with the food safety bill currently moving through Congress. While on its face, this might be surprising, what’s been notable to this point, as Jill Richardson recently pointed out, is the overwhelming support the bill has found among other industrial producers. Nothing like a $1 billion in losses from some a little bit of contaminated peanut butter to convince you that maybe, just maybe, the government has a role to play in food safety. But of course, that logic didn’t …

Jellyfish Fry

On World Oceans Day, consider the jellyfishburger and fries

Photo: Christopher ChanAround the world, fishermen and swimmers are running into a problem: jellyfish. The slick, stinging blobs are showing up in increasing numbers, earlier in the year, and in more places than ever before. Is there a reason for the jellyfish invasion? Unfortunately, yes—and like most reasons for ocean decline, it relates to how we are changing the environment. Data is lacking, but it’s likely that warmer waters help jellyfish grow faster and reproduce better. Also, overfishing can mean both fewer jellyfish predators and fewer competitors, which means more peace and more food for jellies. As large predatory fish …

Philly Phights Back

Philly’s universal school lunch program lives on — for now

Sometimes sanity prevails. Philly’s Universal Feeding school lunch program–whose announced cancellation caused an uproar the other week–just got a reprieve, at least until 2010. The Philly Inquirer has the story: The U.S. Department of Agriculture has decided not to discontinue a Philadelphia school breakfast and lunch program that provides free meals to poor students, members of the city’s congressional delegation announced yesterday. Democratic Sens. Bob Casey and Arlen Specter and Rep. Chaka Fattah said Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack had reversed an agency plan to end the program, which allows more than 120,000 students in poor schools to eat free meals …

A fine bromance

Snap, son! Baseballer Ryan Howard gets White House garden tour

Here’s some good stuff, via Obama Foodorama: While a camera rolls, White House chef/gardener Sam Kass shows baseball star Ryan Howard around the White House garden. They have some great dialogue, climaxing with Howard’s reaction to the garden beehive: “Oh snap, son!” Kass hips Howard to the genius of composting–food scraps go from the White House kitchen to the compost pile to garden beds, from whence more food and more scraps. “You can’t keep taking away without giving back,” Kass lectures, a gloss on the “law of return” propounded another great Howard, organic founder Sir Albert. For his part, Ryan …

While the West will have to eat less meat, Africa might have to eat more

Jim Motavalli of E/Environmental Magazine has a piece in Foreign Policy (!) on the difficulties we face in lowering meat consumption on any significant scale: …Giving up meat is tough, and arguing people into it is probably a losing proposition. Even with all the statistics out there about the dangers of meat, there are fewer vegetarians in the world than you’d think. A Harris poll conducted in 2006 for the Vegetarian Resource Group found that only 2.3 percent of American adults 18 or older claim never to eat meat, fish, or fowl. A larger group, 6.7 percent, say they “never …

Seedy business

Beyond the compost heap: what to do with fruit and veggie seeds?

So many seeds … so many uses? In Checkout Line, Lou Bendrick cooks up answers to reader questions about how to green their food choices and other diet-related quandaries. Lettuce know what food worries keep you up at night. Dear Lou,At Halloween we look forward to the pumpkin seeds as much as anything, but lots of other fruits–watermelons, squash, avocados–are full of beautiful seeds and it seems a shame to throw them away. Are they edible, and can anything be done with them?Debbie from Ohio Dear Debbie, Not only do seeds symbolize hope, opportunity and potential, but, as embryonic plants, …