A fast-food ploy? Shocked, shocked to find that going on here

From the Excruciatingly Obvious Newsdesk:

“Is this a ploy that McDonald’s is using in creating a whole new generation of consumers that will be brand loyal specific to McDonald’s?” asks Arizona State University nutritionist Simin Levinson in an American Public Media story about how McDonald’s across Arizona are giving kids a free breakfast during their standardized test week.

APM doesn’t attempt to answer the question, but the answer is the fact of the story itself: the fast-food purveyor’s giveaway just got national news coverage for doing what a single public school district in Arizona does every day: provide income-qualifying children — thousands of them in one district alone — with free breakfast.

And, presumably, the Creighton School¬† District in Phoenix doesn’t do so with the expectation that parents will return to the school cafeteria later in the week to spend their own money on a high-fat, high-salt, processed packaged meal.


Processed foods: Bad for your IQ?

Here’s a disturbing bit of research published in the Journal of Epidemiology & Community Health: Three-year-olds who ate a diet high in processed foods (ie, high in fat and sugar) showed a reduction in IQ at the age of 8 1/2, compared to young children who started life eating more salad, rice, fruit, fish and pasta.

Two words that shouldn’t go together: Rice … and lead

What do you think of when you think of rice? One of the major grains that helps feed the world? An essential food staple for billions who often can afford little else?

What about arsenic and, now, lead … sometimes at levels known to pose a “particular risk for young children”? Especially disturbing — as research from the American Chemical Society has found — is that some of the highest levels of lead are found in rice-containing baby foods.

This, clearly, is about so much more than sometimes lax environmental and agricultural regulations in major rice-exporting countries like Taiwan and China. As this kind of news from the world of globalized food indicates, environmental problems anywhere can become health threats everywhere (and this extends to health threats from drought, ocean acidification, disruptions to the nitrogen cycle, climate change and much more).

This is not a problem any one of us will solve by resolving to eat only organic domestic rice or to skip rice altogether. This is the kind of news that proves that anyone’s problem is eventually everyone’s problem.

Good enough for other people’s kids

If you haven’t yet read Michael Moss’ extraordinary New York Times article (excerpted from his new book) on how the junk food industry gets people hooked on its products, be sure to do so. While many of the stories are fresh, the strategies he outlines will already be familiar to those who’ve read the various food exposes by people like Michael Pollan and organizations like the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

A small, but telling, revelation in the account, though, reveals that the grandchildren of the man who invested Lunchables have never eaten one of the high-fat, high-salt, high-sugar processed meals he made into such a huge market success. But they’re apparently good enough to sell to millions of other people’s kids.

How old is that apple?

I should have realized this one before, but never really thought about it until I read this article today: those “fresh” apples you buy in the supermarket are probably anything but … unless you’re buying them at peak apple harvesting time. Otherwise, they’re stored for nearly a year in cold, low-oxygen and high-carbon-dioxide conditions — often after being gas-treated with 1-methylcyclopropene to block the ethylene that causes ripening and aging — before being shipped to market.

The wonders of technology, right? What’s wrong with being able to buy and eat “fresh” apples year-round? Well, research has shown that cold-stored apples gradually lose some of their nutritional punch over time. One paper concluded that, “An individual would probably need to consume at least 2 apples stored for 6 mo or more to obtain the health benefits provided by 1 freshly picked apple.”

This isn’t an argument to stop eating apples, but it is one to raise awareness that your so-called “fresh” apples aren’t equally fresh — or nutritious — every month of the year. Caveat emptor.