8 U.S. Foods That Are Banned In Other Countries via Buzzfeed

Outsourcing today’s food commentary to Buzzfeed:

8 Foods We Eat In The U.S. That Are Banned In Other Countries

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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™.

Bounty!

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My haul after the first veggie share of the season from Lancaster Farm Fresh Cooperative! The raw chard tastes like butter and the radish microgreens are 1) adorable and 2) crazy spicy. And the other stuff? Adventures in Using Fancy Greens I Have Never Heard of Before to come!

Roadmap for the Supermarket or, How Not to Eat Dog Food

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A handy flowchart from Summer Tomato.

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.

What Does 200 Calories Look Like? How About 2000?

AKA breakfast at the airport vs. the Hilton continental breakfast

AKA breakfast at the airport vs. the Hilton continental

What Does 200 Calories Look Like? (photos from Wisegeek)

&

What 2000 Calories Actually Looks Like (video from Buzzfeed)

These two resources have been floating around the internet recently and for those of you who haven’t stumbled across them yet, I thought it would be helpful to repost them here.

Neither tries to tackle the fact that not all calories are created equal or that the more processed food is, the more likely it is to contain harmful hidden ingredients, but they are a fun way of visualizing a day’s worth of food (give or take a couple hundred calories, depending on your age, gender, and activity level). It would be interesting to see a rough price estimate per calorie for the foods profiled as well as the number of ingredients contained in each.

Taking a moment to think about how my stomach would feel after eating any one of these foods for a whole day ended up being a pretty good indicator of the food’s overall healthfulness. I recognize that the correlation falls apart with milk and I’m not saying eating avocados or whole wheat pasta all day would be much fun, but I do think it would go over better than just eating soda or donuts.

Which reminds me of that important life lesson we all learn some time freshman year of college or during the first year we become responsible for feeding ourselves and we make the mistake of eating one thing for three meals in a row. Oh come on, we all did it at least once. I think I remember my brother learning it over a loaf of white bread, a jar of Nutella and a box of Tropicana orange juice. For a roommate, it was with slices of red velvet cake. For me, the culprit was Smartfood popcorn.

I had locked myself away to complete a final 24 hours before the deadline. The giant bag of popcorn came out sometime around lunch, made cameos appearances throughout the afternoon, was the lead at dinnertime, and guest-starred in a midnight snack. I think it was somewhere around 4:00 in the morning, as I reached into the bag only to find white cheddar dust, that it occurred to me that popcorn was an entirely inappropriate form of sustenance, and it was then that I like to think I joined the ranks of Responsible Adults Who Don’t Eat Only One Think for 24 Hours, Especially Not Popcorn at 4AM.

The Vegan Conspiracy to Destroy Fast Food, Tradition & America

Excellent article from Mark Bittman today on the future of fast food. Fingers crossed that the next ten years will bring more options and less compromises, more tempeh and less additives, more veggies and fewer calories and absolutely no more of this or this.

Keep demanding these things from food providers, and maybe we can one day live in a world where real food is affordable food and eating meals made up of ingredients you can count on your fingers is no longer a privilege predicated on wealth.

If you don’t get around to reading the article,* here’s Bittman’s conclusion:

“Good Fast Food doesn’t need to be vegan or even vegetarian; it just ought to be real, whole food. The best word to describe a wise contemporary diet is flexitarian, which is nothing more than intelligent omnivorism. There are probably millions of people who now eat this way, including me…. My advice would be to skip the service and the wine, make a limited menu with big flavors and a few treats and keep it as cheap as you can. Of course, there are huge players who could do this almost instantaneously.

But the best thing they seem able to come up with is the McWrap or the fresco menu. In the meantime, I’m throwing out a few recipes to the entire fast-food world (here, here and here) to help build a case that it’s possible to use real ingredients to create relatively inexpensive, low-calorie, meat-free, protein-dense, fast food. If anyone with the desire can produce this stuff in a home kitchen, then industry veterans financed by private equity firms should be able to produce it at scale in a fraction of the time and at a fraction of the price. You think people won’t eat it? There’s a lot of evidence that suggests otherwise.”

1) Does anyone want to make some Bittman black bean burgers and mexican chocolate shakes with me?

2) Does anyone happen to know some private equity firms that would back me on a healthy, cheap, amazing fast food (ad)venture? Maybe call it Burger Bliss? Burger Queen? Any takers?

* Its ok, I won’t tell. After spending some time on the numbers (WordPress tells you how many times readers click on each link), I’ve determined that you guys need more summaries, catchy titles and barely relevant goofy photos and less reading. If I could coax you here with puppies you know I would.

What about the other 112 ingredients? Fooducate does some sleuthing on the new McDonalds McWraps

Another piece on the new “taste of freshness” McDonalds McWraps from the folks over at Fooducate (which is, by the way, an awesome resource for the next time you find yourself in a grocery aisle trying to decipher a nutrition label. I recommend you get the app). The article breaks down the nine one hundred and twenty one ingredients in the new McWrap.

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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This weekend in cooking adventures:

Tragically, Thursday’s Pasta Carbonara was made, scarfed, and fondly remembered before having ever been immortalized on my iPhone. If a foodie prepares a meal and doesn’t take a picture, was the food ever really made at all?

At least Saturday’s Sourdough Pancakes & Mexican Sausage (recipe here) and Sunday’s Cauliflower & Butter Bean Salad (recipe here) both enjoyed stylish 10 second-long photo shoots before promptly being turned into energy.

I had never made either recipe but quickly found things to love about both. Sourdough pancakes? A bread maker’s life saver. Something about sourdough starter that you may or may not already know: if you don’t use half of it every week, you have to throw that half out. Not a huge deal, since it is just flour and water, but still a bit of a bummer and a waste. And since bread takes time and a bit of scheduling to bake, and some weekends there just isn’t enough sunshine to get through the kneading, fresh loaves don’t happen as often as I would like them to. Sourdough pancakes to the rescue: swap out the baking soda for starter, throw the batter on the cast iron, and try to remember to chew at least a little. Now, I finally have an excuse to make emergency pancakes. Feeling left out? Let me know if you want any of my starter or, if you just want to get straight to the pancakes, to come over for brunch 🙂

I got the recipe from a great blog called Frugal Feeding, which makes an effort to profile delicious recipes that can be made cheaply. According to Frugal’s math, two servings of the pancakes would set you back about $4 (I swapped in tomatoes and arugula for spinach, but used a cheaper meat).

The butter bean salad is worth adding to the recipe rotation for the same reason–its main components are cheap and filling. The barley, canned beans, head of cauliflower, parsley and lemon cost me about $16 for 8 servings. I doubled the beans and barley and still had over half of the barley, parsley and tarragon left. The cost doesn’t take into account the price of the olive oil, mayo, and mustard. And no, a serving isn’t the tiny amount pictured below–I just thought that it might look a little nicer in a white ramekin than in the plastic tupperware I was actually eating out of when I remembered to take a picture…

But most importantly, I am now set on lunch for the week and have enough left over pancakes for tomorrow’s breakfast which means at least 76 minutes worth of sleeping in over the next 5 days. Delicious.

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