Under pressure from Big Canned Tuna, FDA lax in mercury regulation

Under strong pressure from Big Canned Tuna, the Food and Drug Administration is crazily lax in regulating mercury in tuna. Among many examples: In 2000, a draft advisory to pregnant women listed canned tuna as a product highly contaminated with mercury; after FDA officials met with the three largest tuna companies, the final advisory left tuna off the list. When the FDA’s fish mercury guidelines were revised in 2003, canned light tuna was put in the low-mercury group — mainly, according to an FDA official, “in order to keep the market share at a reasonable level.” The FDA doesn’t require …

Slow Food Nation: Farmworkers at the table

Schlosser: Food industry abuses workers as matter of course

Of all the panels I attended at Slow Food Nation’s series, the most powerful for me was the one convened by Eric Schlosser on creating a “new, fair food system.” It featured labor-rights advocates from California and Florida — the poles of industrial fruit-and-veg production in the U.S. Working conditions get little play in sustainable-agriculture discussions. Organic standards make no mention of labor practices; and when foodies swoon over heirloom tomatoes or a fabulous wine, they’ve learned to obsess over where the fruit was grown — but they rarely consider the folks who actually picked it. Schlosser — author of …

Dispatches From the Fields: Fried-food nation

What I saw at the Iowa State Fair, the nation’s most popular annual food event

In “Dispatches from the Fields,” Ariane Lotti and Stephanie Ogburn, who are working on small farms in Iowa and Colorado this season, share their thoughts on producing real food in the midst of America’s agro-industrial landscape. —– Get your deep-fried Twinkies! My roommate at college (one of those snooty, Northeastern Ivy-league institutions) was from rural Iowa, and probably the biggest offense to her about my academic interest in agriculture was that I had never been to the Iowa State Fair. That I was a Northeastern city girl born, raised, and schooled and I wanted to revolutionize our agricultural system was …

Me, in <em>Food & Wine</em> magazine

Merrily pretending I belong amid the glamorous U.S. food scene

An interviewer once saw fit to lump Vladimir Nabokov with his illustrious contemporaries Jorge Luis Borges and Samuel Beckett. Nabokov replied that the comparison made him feel like a “thief between two Christs.”  Well, I know myself (more or less), and I know I’m no Vladimir Nabokov. But his statement does describe how I felt when Food & Wine magazine invited me to attend a special 30th-anniversary dinner last year at the late Phillip Johnson’s iconic “glass house,” along with nine other “important innovators in the epicurean world.” The magazine’s September 2008 issue briefly recounts the dinner. Here are the …

Critiquing the food declaration

The 12 (annotated) principles for a healthy food and agriculture system

Being based in Northern California, I am lucky to be located at the epicenter of the sustainable agriculture and Slow Food movements in the U.S.; it means very tasty cuisine all year round. I was intrigued by the recent 12 principles for a healthy food and agricultural system disseminated by some of the luminaries in the Bay Area. Below is my commentary on the 12 principles, followed by some closing thoughts. Forms the foundation of secure and prosperous societies, healthy communities, and healthy people. Not sure this is correct; there are many very prosperous regions in which agriculture does not …

Slow Food Nation: Unpacking my suitcase

Prepare for a bunch of recaps and videos

I’m just getting myself together after an incredibly packed four days at Slow Food Nation, which wrapped up Monday in San Francisco. Grist was lucky enough to partner with big-time indy movie studio Participant (maker of Syriana, Fast Food Nation, An Inconvenient Truth, and other worthy films) to conduct a bunch of video interviews at the event. I got to talk to many of my heroes, including Eric Schlosser, Raj Patel, Dan Barber, two bright young farmers (Laura Hess and Zoe Bradbury), Lucas Benitez and Greg Asbed of the Coalition of Immokalee Workers, and more than a dozen other important …

RNC: Party party

The party scene is all about the energy debate tonight

The party circuit tonight is oddly exemplary of the energy debate in the country right now. The Minnesota Agri-Growth Council is hosing “AgNite,” where you can be sure that there will be some lively discussion about the ethanol issue. That starts at 8 p.m., and it’s supposedly the hot ticket tonight. Starting at 9 p.m. there’s the American Wind Energy Association and Solar Energy Industries Association Party. And just half a mile away, there’s a competing party sponsored by the Natural Gas Association, the National Mining Association, and the American Petroleum Institute. And that’s just five blocks from the Bipartisan …

Slow Food Nation: A slow food preamble

Wendell Berry’s statement of facts

Poet, essayist, novelist and “local-ist” Wendell Berry kicked off the final panel of the Slow Food Nation “Food for Thought” series on Saturday by reading a short statement describing the current food crisis. For too long, humans have been spared, mainly by the cheapness of the fossil fuels, from the universal necessity of local adaptation. It is ultimately an inescapable biological imperative that human land use economies should correspond as closely as possible to the ecological mosaic. To this, we no longer have even the illusion of a second choice. The increasing cost of energy and the vulnerability of long …

Slow Food Nation: Revolutionary diet

Slow foodies unveil declaration of sustainability

Copies of the Slow Food Declaration at San Francisco City Hall. Some of the leading voices in the movement for a sustainable agriculture system stood together Thursday to unveil the “Declaration for Healthy Food and Agriculture,” a 12-point set of principles for reorienting American food away from corporate farms and long-haul delivery to local producers and land stewardship. The luminaries, including movement bigwigs like Alice Waters, Dan Imhoff, and Marion Nestle, stood together inside San Francisco City Hall to read the declaration. The event was held on the eve of Slow Food Nation, a three-day gathering that promises to showcase …

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