Tag Archives: Government Standards

Japan Wants To Rate Authenticity Of U.S. Sushi

Here’s an interesting idea that will (and should) never happen (UPDATE: A much better article can be found here – Thanks Stephen!) :

The number of sushi restaurants in the U.S. has doubled over the last 12 years, sparking a shortage of classically trained Japanese sushi chefs.

The Japanese government wants to send inspectors to certify autentic Japanese sushi in U.S. restaurants. They’re working out the details on the certification program.

As much as I respect the food traditions of any culture, I also understand that tastes and trends can and will change. Then add the fact that when you import a food into a different culture, you will almost always end up with a different take on whatever food, product or dish that has been imported.

Then, following the change in the dishes comes the inevitable cadre of purists who will tell you in no uncertain terms that what you are eating isn’t “authentic”.

Yes, I do count myself amongst the members of that cadre from time to time.

But exporting governmental accountability on how a tradition is applied in a different culture? Yeah, good luck with that. Meanwhile, I’ll be eating a Spicy Negihama Roll at Mashiko here in West Seattle. This roll containing hamachi, scallions, and cucumbers, then topped with garlic and shiracha sauce may not be Sushi in the traditional sense, but it certainly has it’s roots in sushi culture.

That being said, the first time I saw sushi being sold in a supermarket, I died a little inside.

UPDATE: Let me clarify my position. When I said that “Authentic Sushi” certification should never happen, I meant mandatory certification. I have no problem in any voluntary program, although I can’t see consumers being worked up enough to care whether their favorite sushi place is certified or not.

tags technorati : Sushi

Philadelphia bans Trans fats

The city of cheesesteaks seeks to give the appearance of preventing clogged arteries:

Philadelphia’s ban on the use of such products begins to take effect on Sept. 1, when restaurateurs will no longer be permitted to fry foods in trans fats or serve trans fat-based spreads. By Sept. 1, 2008, trans fats will be banned in all other types of food prepared in Philadelphia eateries. The ban will not apply to pre-packaged foods – such as a Tastykake Krimpet – sold in city stores and eateries.

As an aside: Yeah, I know I’m kinda mailing it in today on the blog posts. But it’s Friday, and I got some major posts lined up for next week.

Technorati Tags: Trans Fats, Philadelphia

Raw Milk

There’s an article on Salon about Raw Milk (warning: Nag ad click-thru needed) which should not be missed for those interested in said topic. There’s so much to talk about within the piece, that it would be impossible to cover it all in one post here.

Instead, I’m going to quote the item that caught my attention:

Meanwhile, the FDA has just announced that it’s safe to eat meat and drink milk from cloned animals. In such an Orwellian universe, where raw milk from cows that have two biological parents is considered dangerous, while pasteurized milk from cloned cows is safe.

I flip flop a fair amount on raw milk — I don’t believe it’s a drink that should be taken for granted. I have little doubt that the tasteless pasteurized milk is a safer product, especially if industrial dairies ever decided to get into the raw milk business.

Within the article, there’s a raw milk comparison to Sushi which I think is apt. A dairy farmer that has skills equivalent to those a Sushi chef, or heck, even a decent fish monger, would have enough experience to limit risk in the drinking of raw milk. Given proper attention to sanitary conditions, and respect for the cows and their environment and upbringing, I think a safe product could be brought to market. The amount of work and resources needed to create such a product would make it an expensive one, especially when taking the sort shelf life of the milk into account.

But in the real world, I don’t think the USDA or FDA would ever allow it. The primary influence upon food standards is what works best for industrial farms and dairies. And what works best for industrial farms is often counter-intuitive for the local small farms.

At any rate, there’s a fair amount of interesting bits in the piece. As a side note, this quote…

“Milk is big business. When you think milk, think Exxon.”

…is spot on. Or more to the point – Dean’s Dairy is to milk as Exxon is to Oil. In my opinion, they are THAT ruthless in their pursuit of profits.

Technorati Tags: Milk, Raw Milk

FDA approves cloned food

The FDA has ruled that food from cloned animals is safe to eat and does not require special labeling.

The Food and Drug Administration planned to brief industry groups in advance of an announcement Thursday morning. The FDA indicated it would approve cloned livestock in a scientific journal article published online earlier this month.

Consumer groups say labels are a must, because surveys have shown people to be uncomfortable with the idea of cloned livestock.

However, FDA concluded that cloned animals are “virtually indistinguishable” from conventional livestock and that no identification is needed to judge their safety for the food supply.

I love that phrase “virtually indistinguishable”, because it’s a phrase that can mean anything from “there’s no difference” to “there’s kind of a difference”.

I have no problem with the idea of cloned food. There’s almost 7 billion people on the planet and having cheap food alternatives is always a good idea. However, I do have two issues.

First, as with genetically modified foods, it’s not the quality of the food as much as the quality of the production techniques that has me concerned. I’m not sure I trust the Monsanto’s of the world to give this technology and the process involved the respect it is due.

Secondly – I really dislike the idea of the FDA stating that the cloned food doesn’t need to be labeled as such. Rightly or wrongly, there is a sizable segment of the population who will have misgivings about cloned food, and they have the right to not eat the stuff. By avoiding labeling the product, the FDA has essentially said that “You’re going to eat this food whether you like it or not”.

I feel the same way about GM foods – I believe I should have the right to be as an informed as a consumer as I can be. The FDA thinks otherwise.

tags technorati : cloned food

The Questions a Trans ban raises

Parke, over at U.S. Food Policy hits the nail on the head regarding the trans fat bans :

Even so, I must admit to fearing that this ban might overreach. Many products in the marketplace are bad for us. Only those products with the highest risks and no redeeming features should be banned. For those products that merely increase risks and have some merits, well-informed consumers can weigh the risk for themselves.

Trans fats may be a borderline case. In your own reflection, ask yourself why trans fats should be banned in restaurants but not barbecue pork ribs? Why ban trans fats in restaurants but not butter-drenched baked treats?

Technorati Tags: Trans Fat, Trans Fat Ban

New York City passes trans fat ban

via Slate.

The Interesting part?

The ban contains some exceptions; for instance, it would allow restaurants to serve foods that come in the manufacturer’s original packaging.

That means a restaurant, let’s say a burger joint, can’t make french fries with hydrogenated oils, but they can sell Potato Chips made by another company.

Can you say ‘Double-Standard’?

Technorati Tags: Trans+Fat

Labels and Standards

What I find so bleesedly amusing about this recent article in the NY Times, is that you have Big Food complaining about standards that they had no hand in developing.

A brief overview for those not inclined to click on the link – Hannaford Brothers, a grocery store chain in New England, developed a system called Guiding Stars that rated the nutritional value of nearly all the food and drinks at its stores from zero to three stars. Out of all of the products they sell, only 23% received any stars at all. Left out of the star ratings included such notable products as, well nearly everything sold nuder the brand names of Lean Cuisine and Healthy Choice. Also absent were most breakfast cereals that had been touting their “Heart Smart” and “Low-Sodium” labels that had been generously applied to their nutrional labels.

My favorite quote from the piece is thus:

“We don’t like the idea that there are good and bad foods out there, and these sort of arbitrary rating systems,ˮ said John Faulkner, director of brand communication at the Campbell Soup Company. The Healthy Request line of soup, he said, was “aligned with the government definition of what healthy is.ˮ

What Mr. Faulkner doesn’t want you to know is that there are actually three definitions the FDA uses to determine what is “healthy”.

  1. There’s the definition that defines the relationship between a food and it’s ability in reducing risk of a disease or health-related condition. For example: Diets low in saturated fat and cholesterol that include 25 grams of soy protein a day may reduce the risk of heart disease.
  2. There’s the definition that defines a relationship between the nutritional content of food or food product when compared against similar products, or they describe the level of a nutrient or dietary substance in the product.Think “Diet Coke” or “Lean Cuisine”, and you’ll have a good idea on what they’re getting at.
  3. Finally, there’s the definition of Healthy that describe the role of a nutrient ingredient and how it affects normal structure or function of the human body. ‘Calcium builds strong bones’ ‘fiber maintains bowel regularity’ are both fine examples of this definition.

The fact that there is several interpretations of ‘healthy’ is what allows companies such as Campbells Soup and ConAgra to muddy the waters of just how healthy their products are. A statement such as ‘Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes are part of a balanced breakfast’ is a perfect example of this. What Kellogg’s is essentially saying is that Frosted Flakes is part of a healthy diet…as long as you eat other items that supply nutrients that Tony the Tiger missed and, oh yeah, don’t go eating eighteen bowls of the stuff per day, ’cause that’d be really bad. Replace Healthy Choice or Lean Cuisine for Kellogg’s Frosted Flakes and you’ll see how they get to say they are ‘healthy’

The next quote from the article made me laugh:

a spokeswoman for ConAgra Foods, Stephanie Childs, said that her company would like to know how Hannaford concluded that many items in its Healthy Choice line did not merit any stars.

“This is surprising to us,ˮ Ms. Childs said. Healthy Choice, which offers a range of items from frozen meals to pasta sauces and deli meats, “has to use F.D.A.’s very stringent requirements for what is healthy.ˮ

Again, which definition of ‘healthy’ is Ms. Child’s talking about? Is she claiming that Healthy Choice Mesquite Grill Chicken helps maintains cell integrity in a consumer’s body, or that their Salsibury Steak helps prevent the gout? Or is she saying that having one serving of their product is reasonable if they don’t go overboard?

What it sounds like Hannaford Brothers has done with their rating system is to give more ‘stars’ to foods that meet the first and third definitions of healthy mentioned above, while giving no stars for the second definition. In essence, what they’re saying is that food companies don’t get a bonus credit for leaving out an excess of salt, sugar or fat, because it’s something they should be doing anyway. Or to put it another way, just because you choose to refrain from shooting a gun doesn’t mean you’re a pacifist.

Technorati Tags: Food Politics, Healthy, Labels