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The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year's food politics coverage below -- only this time we take account of the things that didn't go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year's good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people -- about a seventh of the U.S. population -- now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America's food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

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Confessions of a former Coke addict

Coked out.Photo: Lazurite Yes, I've battled a Coke "addiction" more than once. Just when I think I have it beat, it worms its way back into my life. No, this Coke isn't that white, powdery stuff; it comes in a can, and my drug of choice is Cherry Coke Zero. Do you ever wonder why soft drinks and processed foods have such power over us? Are we just weak? Or are our bodies simply outmaneuvered by the tactics of slick food companies? An interesting 60 Minutes episode entitled "The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings" sheds some light on the subject. …

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Thanksgiving turkeys can’t have sex because their breasts are too big

Steven Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, recently told Marketplace that almost 100 percent of Thanksgiving turkeys are the product of artificial insemination. The problem, apparently, is Americans' appetite for gigantic breasts. "The modern turkey has quite large turkey breasts, and it actually physically gets in the way when the male and the female try to create offspring," says Julie Long of the USDA. That never seems to be a problem in porn! This may be industrial agriculture at its most absurd, but it's far from automated. Dubner: A team of workers has to pick up each male breeder, the tom, which …

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FDA fights fish fraud

Not only is eating fish not the most sustainable of food choices, it's likely a rip-off. If you're eating a pricey fish like cod or salmon, there's more than a one in five chance that it's something much cheaper. The FDA, though, is developing a new regulatory program to fight fish fraud. The agency is building a library of fish DNA that it can use to test samples of raw, frozen, steamed, or deep-fried fish and determine the sample's species. This genetic identification process is known as DNA bar coding, and it's gotten so cheap that the FDA can do …

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Oh man alive you will not believe what’s in the McRib

McDonald's McRib sandwich has kind of a cult following, like Phish if they were only around for like a month every year instead of seemingly forever. And like Phish, it is jam-packed with synthetic ingredients. (I kid, I kid. I'm sure all of Phish's enhancement is purely herbal.) For instance, one of the bun ingredients is azodicarbonamide, which Time describes as "a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes." The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England's Health and Safety …

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The unmasking of a school lunch hero: Mrs. Q speaks

Sarah Wu, aka Mrs. Q.Photo: Jill BrazelSome of you may already know of Mrs. Q, the teacher who blogged anonymously about her adventures eating lunch in the cafeteria of the public school where she worked every day in 2010. Her daily posts included pictures of each day's meal (pizza, chicken nuggets, pasta with meat sauce, etc.) and brief descriptions of how they tasted and made her feel. This simple formula gained Mrs. Q a huge following of teachers, parents, students, and citizens interested in changing the food system (improving school lunch, many reformers say, could be a step toward combating …

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No girls allowed: Dr. Pepper's latest is dudes-only

Thank godessa.Image: Dr. Pepper Snapple GroupThe internet is fizzing over a new diet soda marketed strictly to men from, of all companies, Dr. Pepper. In a wildly misguided effort to get Bro Six-Pack to start calorie-counting, they've deployed an array of Axe-Deodorant-style "viral" marketing initiatives that are about as stale and musky as Tim Allen's man-cave. And boy oh boy, is "Dr. Pepper Ten" corny. From the AP: Instead of the dainty tan bubbles on the diet can, Ten will be wrapped in gunmetal grey packaging with silver bullets ... A Facebook page for the drink contains an application that …

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What do you know about GMOs? [Infographic]

October is National Non-GMO Month, so it's a good time to ask yourself how much you really know about what exactly GMOs are, why they're produced, and how prevalent they are. On that last point, most eaters remain in the dark, because the U.S. and Canada -- unlike Japan, Australia, and the European Union -- don't require GMOs to be labeled as such, even though 80 percent of packaged foods in this country contain genetically engineered ingredients. Check out this nifty infographic for a primer on GMOs. [Disclaimer: It comes to us from Nature's Path, an organic food company that …

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Without GMO labels, we all eat in the dark [VIDEO]

You'd think that if 93 percent of Americans could agree on something, their government might just pay attention. In the case of labels for GMO foods, you'd be wrong: Polls show overwhelming consumer support [PDF] for labels. But for some not particularly convincing reasons, neither Congress, the FDA, nor the USDA have been willing to respond. As this excellent new report from Food and Water Watch documents, it's now virtually impossible to avoid eating GMOs. As much as 94 percent of the soy and 88 percent of the corn in the U.S. is grown from genetically modified seed. Supermarket meat comes …

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Beauty and the Beastly BPA-Soaked Soup

Disney princess-mania can strike 3 to 5-year-old children at any time. That’s bad enough for kids (and mostly their parents), but now these bedazzled damsels are harming all children in a whole new way -- by enticing them to ingest high levels of BPA. Campbell's has been using Disney princesses and other Disney characters to sell kid-targeted food. Cartoon labels and "cool shapes" -- i.e. noodles that are supposedly, though unidentifiably, made to look like kids’ favorite characters -- help entice "healthy kids" into eating chicken in salty chicken broth. And of all the soups tested for BPA in a …

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