I’m going out on a limb and predicting Glitter Wine in 2014

According to today’s Federal Register (the daily roundup of announcements from the US Government’s agencies), the FDA is “amending the color additive regulations to provide for the safe use of mica-based pearlescent pigments…in distilled spirits…in response to a petition filed by E. & J. Gallo Winery.”

I’m not really sure what to make of that, except that E. & J. Gallo Winery (which according to their website is “the world’s largest family-owned winery and largest exporter of California wine”) had a vision of a world in which wine wasn’t merely white, red or whatever color this is, but instead shimmered with a panoply of magical iridescence, and the FDA wanted to help make that vision a reality.

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I have no idea what the health ramifications are of ingesting mica-based pearlescent pigments. Presumably, if the FDA OK’d it, it means it’s probably fine, although the FDA has been known to make bad calls in the past. Common Sense seems to suggest that we probably don’t need glittery wine, and that rather than amending the color additive regulations to allow for more additives the FDA could revisit some of the controversial color additives already in use.

But who knows? Maybe I am totally wrong and the FDA was right to prioritize green-lighting mica-based pearlescent pigments over their other duties. Its not like they have more pressing things to worry about, procrastinating like a college student watching kitten videos at three in the morning the night before finals until, to pull a hypothetical out of thin air, the Center for Food Safety sued them for taking too long to implement several major provisions of the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA). This law, ratified on January 4, 2011, represents the largest overhaul of our food safety system in decades. Its delay, hypothetically speaking, “is putting millions of lives at risk from contracting foodborne illness” and “constitutes unlawfully withheld and unreasonably delayed agency action.”

This suit is actually almost a year old and the court ruled in April, finding that the FDA’s delay in implementing the FSMA was in violation of the Administrative Procedure Act. The judge ordered the FDA and CFS to work together to set a mutually acceptable schedule for implementation. In a turn of events that was surprising to no one, the FDA refused to set any specific deadlines so both parties submitted different timetables to the court. F for group effort on that one kids.

The FDA, explaining that “because there are numerous factors and variables that will affect the length of time required for the development of draft final rules for regulations that have already been proposed, as well as the development of proposed rules that are not yet completed,” concluded “it is not feasible to predict with anything approaching certainty when the final FSMA regulations will be ready to be published.” So they decided to give themselves the “aggressive but achievable” timeline of well into 2014 with the caveat “that future developments, such as the need to supplement the administrative records with additional information, or the need to re-open one or more regulations, may render FDA unable to act within all of these timeframes.” So basically they accomplished the opposite of setting a timeframe.

In response, CFS stated that the FDA’s proposal “utterly fails to comply with the Court’s Order…A deadline is a deadline, a firm parameter with meaningful consequences, not a “target timeframe.” Contrary to Defendants’ mischaracterization, Defendants’ Proposal provides nothing remotely resembling a closed-ended process, not in accordance with the Court’s Order and congressional intent in setting firm deadlines for rulemaking in FSMA.” CFS wants everything finalized by 12/31/13, with final rules submitted by 5/1/14.

Part of the problem here is with the Office of Management and Budget, which the FDA doesn’t have any control over and which likes to sit on finalized rules for a long time with no reason because otherwise our democratic system of government might actually work.

To summarize, this whole fiasco is basically the story of FDA, the hapless undergrad, trying to get a paper extension from stern professor CFS. Thanks to helicopter parent OMB, FDA is probably going to walk away with an Incomplete with option to submit the paper after a long summer break sipping on Glitter Wine™.

WLF “In All Fairness” Advertorial Appears in National Edition of New York Times

This advertorial was featured on the op-ed page of the NYTs two days ago by the Washington Legal Foundation (tagline, “Advocate for Freedom and Justice”). Rather than share my thoughts on this creative piece of freedom and justice advocacy, here are three reactions from good friends:

  • “Pretty obvious where the money to fund these ads is coming from. I’m so sick and tired of the “freedom” marketing because the companies behind it are the ones taking away any type of choice. lskdjfslkdjflksdjalksdj.”
  • “I like how they condemn alarming catchy phrases and use the term “self-appointed diet overlords” in the same paragraph.”
  • “I’m guessing these guys just pulled their pro-smoking file and just pressed control replace cancer with obesity.”

Actually, I will share just one thought:

“The purported goal — reducing obesity — may be worthy, but their misguided approach will only succeed in enriching these self-appointed diet overlords at the expense of American consumers and their health.”

 

As a self-proclaimed self-appointed diet overlord, I just wanted to say that when I read the sentence above, and then thought about my paycheck, I got a little bummed out that maybe the other self-appointed diet overlords might be getting more enriched than me. I know it is wrong to covet another diet overlord’s income, but here I am wondering if I shouldn’t be charging more per condescending demonization and request tips next time I knock someone’s freedom soda out of their hand and shout “fat bomb” while trolling mall cafeterias. Maybe its time to rethink my pricing structure; “Let’s Sue!” bumper stickers don’t grow on trees, after all.

The WLF Legal Pulse

IAFMay20As part of its Eating Away Our Freedoms project, Washington Legal Foundation (WLF) today placed an advertorial on the op-ed page of the National Edition of The New York Times. WLF first debuted its “In All Fairness” advertorial column in 1998 in The Times, and it has appeared on the newspaper’s op-ed page over 150 times. The Times national edition reaches 75% of America’s population and according to one survey is read by 90% of major newspaper editors.

We encourage you to peruse the Eating Away Our Freedoms site and please consider signing up to receive updates as WLF supplements the site and continues to counter those “public interest” activists, regulators, and lawyers whose approach to reducing obesity enriches them at the expense of their intended beneficiaries.

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Questions about the ongoing farm bill fiasco?

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Great post from Tom Laskawy, founder and executive director of the Food & Environment Reporting Network, here.

“Congress tried and failed to pass a farm bill last year. The question now is whether Congress can do it this time.

Actually, the question really is whether Congress will ever pass a farm bill again. For the first time, those close to the legislative process are starting to have their doubts. And that may be a really bad thing.

Bah, humbug, you say! The farm bill is larded with bipartisan subsidies for the largest-scale farmers who grow commodities like corn, soy, and cotton. It’s also the bill that authorizes the federal crop insurance program, which has grown like gangbusters over the last decade. Last year (thanks to the drought) farmers received over $17 billion in insurance payouts — almost all of which benefited large-scale commodity agriculture. A chicken pox on all their coops!

That not an unreasonable reaction. But also at stake in the farm bill are billions of dollars for conservation programs that help farmers mitigate the environmental effects of their work, and pay them to set aside marginal farmland as wildlife habitat. It also contains millions in federal funds that support organic farmers, help younger and “new” farmers get their start, and prop up local food efforts, organic research, and farmers markets.”

via Undead farm bill: Everyone’s favorite legislative zombie shuffles on

 

EVERYTHING YOU NEED TO KNOW ABOUT FOOD (Part 1 of ∞)

OK. So. My excuse for not blogging over the last two weeks is that TOO MANY THINGS. Lame excuse, I know. But for real, I have a 40 pg. document in Word of links to articles that probably only I think are interesting. Has anyone charted what the first 6 months of blogging looks like? I am just going to assume that this stage of wanting to write about everything and getting overwhelmed and going into hiding to watch my favorite Jamie Oliver clips on YouTube was totally normal and now over.

Among the many things I had hoped to share and didn’t get around to were some details on the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference, which I attended in Washington, DC. CFA works to advance pro-consumer policies at the Federal and state level and their annual NFPC brings consumer advocates, food industry and government together in one room to talk about agriculture, food and nutrition policy. The panels tackled so many meaty (ha!) issues —including immigration reform, food waste, and FDA regulation—that I couldn’t come up with any opinions about anything because I was too busy absorbing everything about everything. I learned a lot and want to pass some of the highlight along to you, because what’s the point of having a conference if the juiciest bits never make it out of the Capital Hilton?

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For starters, the top sponsors: Cargill, Inc., International Dairy foods Association, Nestlé USA, General Mills, Kraft Foods Group, and Wal-mart.

The conference opened up with Mike Taylor, Deputy Commissioner at the FDA, who, instead of getting to give a boring keynote speech which I think is what he had signed up for, instead got grilled by Helena Bottemiller, an awesome young spunky reporter from Food Safety News in an informal question and answer session. Among the hard-hitting questions: his conflict on interest given his past involvement with Monsanto and what is taking the FDA so long to come out with its really overdue rule-making on menu labeling, food labeling, serving sizes, sodium limits, GMOs, and finalizing the Food and Safety Modernization Act. To his credit, the Deputy Commissioner stuttered through the answer to the first question—saying he has gone on public record and written a number of papers on GMOs that don’t always align with Monsanto’s interests—and pointed to the Office of Management and Budget by way of answering the second. (Want to find out why OMB is behind so many delays in regulation, particularly food regulation? I recommend this great post by my coworker over on Food Day’s blog.)

During the Q&A it also came up that the FDA is pushing to levy inspection fees on the food industry, given the cash crunch from the simultaneous increase in mandate from the Food and Safety Modernization Act and the Federal budget cuts. Industry obviously doesn’t want these fees to happen and has gone on record as saying that “imposing new fees on food facilities would represent a food safety tax on consumers,” since they plan on immediately passing inspection fees along to consumers. This is annoying. E. coli free meat doesn’t grow on trees people! It costs money to keep our nation’s food supply safe, why shouldn’t industries have to shoulder some (all) of that cost? Because, shareholders, quarterly earnings, etc., etc., & blah blah blah. Whatever, I am annoyed.

Another issue on FDA’s table is Front of Pack labeling. If you don’t already know, front of pack labeling refers to any summary of the nutrition fact’s panel on the front of a food product. Here is an example:

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Basically it is the new way for companies to mislead consumers about the healthfulness of the foods inside. The only part of a food label that is subject to stringent regulation is the nutrition facts panel. Everything outside of that little white and black box is in food labeling wilderness. You would think the FDA has to sign off on what goes on food labels, both in and out of the nutrition facts panel, before they hit the market, but they don’t. They only really police the market retroactively and no one is actually checking every box of Cocoa Krispies to make sure they aren’t making bogus immunity claims, for example.

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The industry has figured out that consumers don’t know this and assume that anything that looks vaguely official looking was approved by the FDA. This is not to say that the front of pack labels are factually incorrect, but they are misleading. The official formatting, green check-marks and selective highlighting of ingredients and nutrition facts are carefully designed to make consumers think a serving size is larger than it actually is, doesn’t contain an unhealthy number of calories or amount of added sugar and that the highlighted fiber or potassium content distracts from the not so nutritious ingredients also lurking inside. The FDA has been slow to catch on, but they finally have, and Mike Taylor came as close as a Federal government employee can to promising that we should expect those regulations to come out within a year. Great quote, paraphrased, from Taylor: “We would like to regulate this kind of labeling so that consumers can find a portion of the front of pack labeling that is actually true.”

After the interview there was a panel on the “Future of Food Shopping and How Consumers are Changing.” An optimistic highlight: one of the panelists explained how over the last 50 years we have gone from shopping at Mom and Pop shops to grocers to supermarkets to hypermarkets (think Target or Wal-Mart) and predicted that the next step will be a return to the Mom and Pop shop. Fingers crossed. To cheer you up even more, here are two examples of exciting initiatives that consumer advocates are working on to make shopping easier for consumers:

  • The Food Trust, pretty much the coolest cat in non-profit nutrition advocacy, has launched a program that labels foods with three different stickers. Red stickers for “less often foods” like soda, orange for “sometimes foods” like juice, and green stickers for “always foods,” like water and low fat milk. That is some front of pack labeling I can get behind.
  • Rudd Center at Yale, which conducts indispensable research on obesity and marketing to children, is pushing a recommendation for supermarkets to offer a “family friendly” aisle in the stores. The aisle would basically have no crap in it, especially not at a children’s eye level. Imagine: a tantrum free shopping experience could be in our future.

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During the breakout panels I got to hear about food waste. Man. Reduce, reuse, recycle. We hear the most about that third one, but as eaters and cookers, we really ought to put some thought into the first two. I will put a post about reusing and reducing food on the to-do list. This panel made me think the most about my habits as a consumer and what I can personally do about the food that ends up in my trash at the end of the week. Daunting, but here are some things to be optimistic about:

  • Feeding America has started partnering with farmers and food processing factories to reduce food waste before it ever gets to the supermarket. For example, they recently worked with Del Monte to can the tops and bottoms of their peaches for donation, because these parts of the fruit are usually discarded because they don’t have the same uniform shape as the rest of the peach.
  • No matter how on top of it farmers and shippers and supermarkets are, there is a certain amount of food, called shrink, that will be too damaged to sell at the supermarket. Supermarkets try to offset the costs of these losses by using this damaged produce in creative ways. An apple a little too beat up for the display case goes into the Safeway salad bar and those fancy stuffed chicken breasts at the Whole Foods meat display would have otherwise been trashed. Some people might be worried about food safety issues, but if I would trust anyone to know when to draw the line with perishable foods, it would be the people in the business of buying, stocking and reselling them. I think this reusing of food is brilliant and something the stores should brag more about. Take away lesson? If you can introduce a cost incentive for eliminating food waste, the industry will get creative fast.

And here is a tip for what you can do in your own home:

-‘Sell by’ dates versus ‘best by’ dates. Maybe you know this already, but a refresher won’t hurt, because apparently 60% of Americans are getting it wrong. The ‘best by’ date is not for consumers. It is a message from the producer to the seller (i.e., Kraft’s to Wal-Mart, or Campbell’s to Harris Teeter), promising them that the product will meet the standards of the brand up until that date. Things like crunchiness, color and flavor, which differentiate Kraft’s or Campbell’s from the knockoffs. It is in the best interest of these companies that their products are only sold when they meet these standards to protect their brand’s identity. The ‘best by’ date does not speak to food safety standards, which are what the ‘sell by’ dates indicate (although these aren’t standardized). In the UK, to reduce consumer confusion, they have started hiding the ‘best by’ dates, incorporating the information into the bar code. So if you see a ‘best by’ date, ignore it. As for the ‘sell by’ date, use your best judgment. Please don’t sue me if you get food poisoning, but just give that juice an extra sniff before chucking it down the sink next time, OK?

And then there was lunch. Lunch was ridiculous. I guess it was to be expected because what would a DC conference be without corporate doublespeak? Here is what happened: instead of the hotel catering the way they always do at these kinds of conferences, Nestlé, one of the biggest corporate sponsors, rolled out a four-course meal made up entirely of their frozen dinner lines, Lean Cuisine and Stouffer’s. This wouldn’t have been so bad, except that while we were eating, we had to listen to this pseudo-French chef from Nestlé gargle on and on about how they use the freshest ingredients, have cutting edge culinary advancements, and how together, we can change the way Americans cook and eat. Calling bullshit wasn’t an option, so I started counting the ingredients in these oh-so-fresh-and-healthy convenience foods on the boxes Nestlé has kindly left displayed at each of the tables. Between the Thai spring rolls (minus the salsa); southwest grilled chicken salad (minus the SALAD); coconut-crusted salmon filet with ginger-lemongrass sauce, grilled pineapple and mango; and the Harvest apples I counted 139 ingredients. 139. The salad (again, minus the actual lettuce) had the most ingredients at 53.

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I was so grumpy from the lame food and patronizing corporate nonsense that I spent the next panel doodling on one of Nestlé’s stupid brochures for their new “balance your plate” initiative.

Image  I am sorry Nestlé, but you guys can’t be in on the conversation about a healthier America because your food has no place on a balanced plate. I’m not going to take you seriously, no matter what you do and no matter what you say, unless it’s the truth. Just be honest. You are the world’s largest food and drinks maker, in 2012 you posted 11.55 billion in profits, you are in the business of unhealthy food, and if it means you get to feed Lean Cuisine to a captive audience of a couple hundred and talk about your initiatives for 40 minutes, sponsoring these kinds of conferences pays for itself.

After lunch, there was an incredible panel about immigration reform and its impact on our food landscape. A lot to cover here, and I still need to do my homework on the background, so I am going to save the heart of the conversation for another post. One thing I will mention, because it came up both on this panel and a panel on the impact of natural disasters on our food supply was the following: when you buy a $10 six-pack of beer, 6 cents goes back to the farmer. The rest goes to marketing, packaging, and all the fancy additives and processing techniques that go into most modern foods before they make it to your table. Because this isn’t just about beer—over all, very little profit made from food and beverage sales in this country go back to the farmer. Even for milk, which you would think ends up on your table largely thanks to the farmer, only about 25% of the profits make it back to the farm, since most farmers have to pay to get the milk to the processing plant.

This is, on one hand, bullshit for the farmer. Their services are worth more, and it makes it awfully hard to convince Americans that farming is a viable career when food profits never make it back to the farm. And we need more farmers. A move away from a reliance on industrialized agriculture and a return to smaller, diversified farms will benefit farmers, our health, and the environment. On the other hand, all that marketing, packaging and additives protect consumers from volatile food prices. If the price of wheat doubles because of drought, or a late spring or wet fall, the price of your beer won’t double if only 6 cents was tied to the price of the wheat in the first place. Instead, the price will only go up by a few cents. Now I’m pretty shaky on matters of national finance and I don’t know what this tradeoff means from a policy perspective, so if there are any econ dorks (sorry, scholars) reading this who want to weigh in, by all means.

The conference also included a debate on sugar sweetened beverages. Michael Jacobson, Executive Director of CSPI, was on the panel along with a professor from the Food and Environment program at Tufts University, and my new favorite shit-stirrer, Harold Goldstein, Executive Director of the California Center for Public Health Advocacy (favorite quote: metaphor equating the oil BP dumped into the Gulf Coast with the sugar the soda industry is ‘dumping’ into the American market place). And somehow, someone managed to get Susan Neely, President and Chief Executive Officer of the American Beverage Association on this panel of liberal public health advocates and academics. OK, I’m super biased against the soda industry and was unlikely to like anyone the ABA sent. Also, being outnumbered 3 to 1 on a panel is going to make anyone look bad. But seriously, you would think that the President and CEO of the ABA would be an eloquent and powerful advocate for the soda industry. Instead, she was crazy-pants, very antagonistic and very unconvincing. She played the mom card HARD, which is unnecessary when no one in the room is in any way suggesting that being a mom and keeping your family healthy is easy. When asked why vending machines exist in schools, she stuttered, saying the schools benefit financially and it’s entirely up to schools to decide what they sell. The valid point was made that arguing that schools benefit financially from soda sales makes no sense, because the money is coming from the kids, so they might as well just pass around a hat for collections.

The last panel covered “Food Issues in the Age of Social Media.” Take away: industry is scared of millennials. Don’t underestimate the power of your tweet or Facebook post, these large corporations are finally listening and recognize that we as a demographic have no patience for misleading messaging or the withholding of important information.

Finally, Senator Mark Pryor, Chairman of the subcommittee on agriculture, rural development, FDA and related agencies, showed up for 15 minutes and used words like “stakeholder,” “bipartisan compromise,” and “community collaboration,” and was very successful in actually saying absolutely nothing.

After the conference ended I went out to lunch with a vegetarian and a vegan to this place called Lincoln (slogan: Food for the people by the people), a farm to seasonal-small-plate restaurant and had a salmon burger and some Brussels spouts. WHAT IS MY LIFE. And then a week later, that is to say, two days ago, I met Michael Pollan and we made eye contact and it was magical and I will tell you about it in my next post.

Phew.

Michelle. You know I love you. And the bangs look great. But you know who really needs a makeover right now? MyPlate.gov. Seriously. Someone go get Tim Gunn.

Mrs. Obama aka Mrs. Worldwide aka Mrs. 202 aka The Closer aka Love-You-In-Salamander in Chief. You know so much more about America than I do. You have shaken so many hands, held so many children, danced in so many school cafeterias, eaten in so many local food establishments, have probably been to South Dakota, and could most definitely pull off one of these. Whereas I drove through South Carolina that one time.

Tomato and avocado were booked, so USDA invited pineapple and papaya to the pita puke party instead!

But I am pretty sure that if you are trying to get Americans to eat healthier, you don’t want to open with this monstrosity. Canned fruit, spinach, cilantro, peanut butter, fat-free cream cheese, soy sauce and ‘reserved canned fruit juice’ all in a whole wheat pita pocket? It sounds like we are a packet of jello away from the culinary dark ages.

This would make a great Lady Gaga hat.

Lady Gaga, call me. I have an idea for your next hat.

Oh, I’m sure the Fruity Thai Pita Pocket is healthy and on budget. There are probably other things you had to take into account while designing these recipes that I am overlooking. But show me the person that is going to put that pita pocket disaster in their mouth, especially if they aren’t used to eating fruit and veggie based meals? With enough beer I could maybe eat 3/4 of one, but I’m willing to bet that the kids who order fries and chicken nuggets at lunch every day are not going to dive head first into a spinachcilantro-cannedfruit-soysauce-peanutbutter fiesta. Did someone at USDA just throw darts at a wall of ingredients to come up with this one?

There are a few good recipes on Myplate.gov’s recipe page, but the Fruity Thai Pita Pocket is not the only recommendation that sounds like the side dish that one aunt brought to Thanksgiving from 1953 to 1967. Sweet and Juicy Raisin Tapenade, Shrimp Confetti Salad Sandwich with Grapes, Celery with Apricot Blue Cheese Spread, Curried Chicken with Raisins and Mushrooms, and Ham and Swiss Breakfast Casserole are all raising red flags. Also, the Fruity Thai Pita Pocket is the first one you list. And about that list.

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Who designed this webpage? I know its the Federal government and there has been a pay freeze forever and the squester has been a major buzzkill, but no one pays interns anyway. Could you really not find anyone to look up photos of food on Pinterest for 15 minutes and spruce this baby up?

In all seriousness, there is so much potential here. What if Myplate.gov was a free resource with easy to use recipes that all met nutritional guidelines and were on budget with a reliable search engine organized by meal, ingredient, season and cost? Myplate.gov could feature celebrity chef recipes and video demos, partner with cooking schools and farmers, and there could be a place for people to upload photos when they try a recipe (#MamaObamaWouldBeProud).

Imagine a go-to site for families trying to figure out what to do for dinner. Because we need one of those. While its easy to find a recipe online, most sites don’t indicate a price tag or nutrition info for their recipes and searches as simple as “fruit salad” come up with results as godawful as this one.

Basically what I am saying, Mrs. Obama, is hire me. I will make this website look like the a .com instead of a .gov and then we can go have brunch and you can tell me about South Dakota.

Seriously FDA, do you do ANYTHING?

“We have worked very hard to sort of figure out what really makes sense and also what is implementable.”

‘Sort of figure out’? Strong words from the FDA, justifying the three-year delay in finalizing a rule that will specify where and how nutritional information will be displayed on menus. Also, pretty sure ‘implementable’ is not a word.

A little background–the FDA is currently (read: for over two years) working to issue final menu-labeling rules governing how restaurants will provide nutrition information to consumers. The rules will affect companies with 20 or more locations operating under the same brand name.

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So next time you, the consumer, are trying to decide if it would be healthier to eat one order of Bistro Shrimp Pasta from The Cheesecake Factory, or three orders of Lasagna Classico plus an order of tiramisu from Olive Garden, you would be empowered to make an informed decision. Well with both options at over 3,000 calories, neither decision is a great one, but if you were counting calories, go with the lasagnas. (Don’t believe me? This and other insane calorie revelations here.)

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So if its going to help you, the consumer, and any other American trying to navigate a restaurant menu without totally blowing their recommended caloric intake for the day, why the delay? Well, according to FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, “There are very, very strong opinions and powerful voices both on the consumer and public health side and on the industry side” and the issue “has gotten extremely thorny.”

Translation? The National Restaurant Association doesn’t want these rules finalized. Mississippi probably doesn’t want them finalized either. And the restaurants definitely don’t want the menu labeling rules finalized (although if they are finalized, they do want groceries and convenient stores to be regulated too, because less federal regulation is more, unless your competitors aren’t also being regulated…).

Why are these powerful interests against menu labeling? Because it would be a cost on business owners to tweak their menus. But let’s not forget that we are talking about companies with 20 or more locations. These are not your struggling Mom & Pop shops, and we aren’t exactly asking for space age innovation in food.

Bottom line: FDA, maybe its time to, you know, sort of figure it out?

Now whether this will all actually result in accurate menu labeling is a question for another day…

Well maybe the board wouldn't be this big if McDonalds stopped using 117 ingredients in its McWraps...

Well maybe the board wouldn’t be this big if McDonalds stopped using 117 ingredients in its McWraps…

Dear Fellow Millennials, in case you were wondering, this is the reputation we have purchased:

You can almost hear Foster the People playing when you look at it long enough.

According to McDonalds Has a Millennial Problem, a great AdAge article from today which I recommend you read in its entirety,

“Here are some common themes and values held dear among all Millennials:

Fresh and organic food: Millennials place an emphasis on the importance of organic and fresh food. Fast-casual chains do well with the demo because many of them promote a fresh or organic message.

Variety and customizable products: In the food world, millennials appreciate the ability to build their meals from an array of choices. Chains like Chipotle and Subway do well in this regard because each item is made to order.

Social change: Millennials care about social issues and tend to support companies that are actively helping address problems across the globe.

Sustainability: Particularly with food, millennials value companies that are proactive with sustainable farming practices and are environmentally conscious.

Social-savvy brands: Brands that have active Facebook and Twitter pages and engage in conversations with customers tend to have more long-term support from millennials.”

In the ongoing question of whether consumers, corporations or the government are responsible for improving our food landscape, this is good news for anyone who wants to be a part of the solution using the space between their fork and knife.

While I’m proud to know that as an aggregate these are the values my generation is looking for and that companies are listening, I still think that food producers that only think about the bottom line are not totally beyond reproach and the government as regulatory body is definitely not redundant.

So Millennials may be empowered to demand food from more ethical sources (although probably not, given the lack of transparency with significant portions of the supply line, like CAFOs and wages paid to migrant workers). But many of us are also demanding healthy food that is actually healthy, and companies are not delivering. They are not delivering because they can get away with producing food labeled as healthy that actually isn’t. For example, these guysthese guysthese guys, oh and these guys.

The argument that “industry always only supplies what consumers demand and so its on consumers to demand ethical and healthy foods” falls apart so long as food corporations keep labeling their products with misleading health claims and the FDA doesn’t do anything about it.

And yeah, sorry to bear the bad news, but eating butter probably won’t help you with your cholesterol, drinking sugar-water won’t help you sleep, eating cookies isn’t the same as eating spinach, and drinking vegetable juice that has been totally stripped of all its naturally occurring nutrients and fibers and has then had artificial fibers added back in isn’t the same as eating a tomato. Just eat the tomato.

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