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Food Insight Blog

Shedding light on the science behind nutrition and food safety.

By: Dayle Hayes, MS, RD

Over the past two weeks, media coverage of America’s school lunches has – thankfully – gone from worse to wonderful. First, the pizza-as-veggie headlines erupted into ridiculousness after Congress voted on November 17th to make some changes in the proposed rule for new USDA school meal standards.

For the record,“Congress did not declare pizza as a vegetable.” Tomato paste did become one more topic for partisan political bickering In DC, as outlined by the St. Petersburg Times Truth-o-Meter on November 22nd.

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By: Betanya “Mimi” Alemu, University of Maryland Dietetic Intern   Date: 11/23/11

It’s November and Thanksgiving is almost here. It’s time to consider all the planning, shopping, preparing, cooking, serving and wrapping leftovers without being traumatized.

The Meal
Every year my family gathers at my older sister’s house. We all come with our appetites ready for the unveiling of the food, and when it’s ready, everyone’s excitement just suddenly appears, almost as if we were all secretly waiting for that single moment since we arrived.

Eating on Thanksgiving is like running a marathon you haven't prepared for," my step-father jokes. Every year we load up the plates full of every possible item, all the while thinking, "Of course I can eat all this." Halfway through the process, the realization hits us. "What were we thinking?"

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By: Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, International Food Information Council Foundation   Date: 11/22/11

On Saturday, I was in Atlanta with several hundred middle and high school student leaders, parents, and teachers as part of the 2011 National Cluster Meeting of Family, Career and Community Leaders of America (FCCLA), a network of over 205,000 members in nearly 6,500 chapters in the 50 states, the Virgin Islands, and Puerto Rico. We had a fun time talking about “Understanding Our Food” and the “9 Billion-People Question” and how they can be part of the solution.

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By: Katie Burns Date: 11/18/11

Yesterday, in anticipation and preparation for Thanksgiving, we at IFIC took to Twitter with our friends from the National Turkey Federation for our second annual #turkeychat. We covered a lot in the one-hour Twitter chat, from Thanksgiving preparation to what to do with leftovers; however, the most important message we covered is the importance of being food safe. Thanksgiving finds many first-time chefs who many not be familiar with the steps involved in preparing a delicious and safe meal. There are also many extended families who gather around the table, which may mean grandparents and grandchildren, both of whom are at an increased risk of foodborne illness. Read on to find out how you can be sure your meal is nutritious, safe and enjoyable!

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By: Tony Flood Date: 11/16/11

Thanksgiving is a time for reflection and thanks – a time to be thankful for the bountiful blessings of life, family and home. It is especially memorable for the festivities and memorable celebrations where the meal is the special guest and is welcomed by family and friends.

If you’re like my family, Thanksgiving and all other large dinners are meant to be enjoyed and not to be feared. We’ve never been afraid of food. However, news of a recent report might cause some to ask questions and keep many from enjoying a traditional Thanksgiving dinner. A new report by the Breast Cancer Fund is yet another of the many generated to cause unnecessary concern for families who just want to enjoy a safe, nutritious and memorable dinner this Thanksgiving.

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By: Emily Yu, MS candidate at American University Date: 11/15/11

Did you know that, according to the American Diabetes Association, diabetes kills more people each year than breast cancer and AIDS combined? This November is Diabetes Awareness Month, and it couldn’t have come at a better time. Staggering research findings from the International Diabetes Federation estimates that someone dies from diabetes every 7 seconds. These numbers project that if we do not make a change, by 2050 as many as 1 in 3 Americans will have diabetes!

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By: Terry Fleck, CAE, Executive Director, Center for Food Integrity Date: 11/9/11

Food Choices - Challenges – Realities was the theme for the Center for Food Integrity’s recent annual gathering in Chicago which was co-hosted by IFIC and the National Restaurant Association. It was our largest, most diverse group in the five year history of this event, possibly reflecting the growing challenges created by the public’s growing interest in what they eat and how it is produced.

We chose this theme because each of us is working to balance the choices, challenges and realities we face every day whether as a consumer or in our role in the food system. An outstanding lineup of speakers and panelists brought meaningful perspective on a wide array of issues.

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By: Dave Schmidt, President & CEO, International Food Information Council & Foundation Date: 11/7/11

I was somewhat amused, yet disappointed, recently when I read a media article highlighting sensational claims, that I quickly surmised were unfounded, about biotech sweet corn. It was like Groundhog Day for me, because I remembered the same individual from the article making similar claims about risks of food biotechnology more than a decade ago. Science prevailed then and continues to prevail now over such misleading rhetoric.

Since the 1990’s people around the world have been safely consuming many food products containing biotech crops. I attended a conference in Edinburgh, Scotland in early 2000 that was hosted by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), which convened a “who’s who” of proponents, opponents, experts, regulators, industry and other stakeholders involved in the food and agricultural biotechnology issue. The meeting was chaired by Sir John Krebs who would later become one of Europe’s top food safety officials. After hearing much debate and discussion about the benefits and risks of food biotechnology, Dr. Krebs brilliantly asked his audience: “Is there anyone in the room who can present any evidence of any harm from human consumption of foods produced using biotechnology anywhere in the world?” The answer was the most deafening silence I’ve ever experienced, particularly because some of the world’s most vocal activists were part of that audience. Fast-forward more than a decade, that silence continues and the answer is the same.

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By: Terry D. Etherton, PhD   Date: 11/4/11

Sustainable is a popular word these days in conversations about the practices used to produce our food. The word is used and misused extensively.

I have asked many folks what sustainable food production means. The answers are diverse, and astonishing in some instances. Some convey that sustainable food production is the only “way” and that unsustainable agriculture doesn’t work. The latter response is more than puzzling to me. If the business is not economically sustainable then it is unsustainable.

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By: Fran Seligson, PhD, RD Date: 11/2/11

On October 20, 2011, the Institute of Medicine (IOM) released a report titled, “Front-of Package Nutrition Rating Systems and Symbols: Promoting Healthier Food Choices.” I was honored to have participated in the committee and an almost two-year process that produced the report. The committee was tasked to consider the potential benefits of a single standardized front-label food guidance system regulated by FDA, assessment of which icons are most effective with consumer audiences, and development of conclusions about the systems and icons that best promote health and how to maximize their use. The report recommends that FDA and USDA should develop, test, and implement a single, standard front-of package system to appear on all products. Among other characteristics the system should display calories in common household measure serving sizes and zero to three nutritional points, one each for saturated and trans fats, sodium, and added sugars.

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Note: This is blog is part of our new series called "From the Pantry" which will take a historical look at the food we eat and the culture around food.

By: Liz Williams, Southern Food and Beverage Museum Date: 10/31/11

In our national attempts to address all obesity in the US – both childhood obesity and adult obesity – we tend to focus on food. We all know that we eat too many calories and that we do not expend enough energy. But we want to solve the problem by simply changing the food that we eat. Often the food that we eat, the times that we eat it, and why we eat it are so culturally engrained that simply understanding that we are not eating healthily is not enough to change. It is not simply a matter of will, it is a matter of cultural imperative.

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By: Emily Chin Date: 10/28/11

Throughout the month of October, IFIC has been celebrating various Food Days, including the World Food Prize on October 13 and World Food Day on October 16. On Monday October 24th, we recognized another Food Day here at IFIC. Simply called Food Day, it was a nationwide, grassroots effort that began this year and was composed of hundreds of grassroots events held to raise awareness of food and the role it plays in our health and well-being.  


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By: Kris Sollid, RD Date: 10/26/11

Let’s play a quick game of nutrition word association. I’m going to give you a word and I want you to remember the first thought or image that comes to your mind. Ready?...Low-Fat. What did you think of? Did it have a positive or negative connotation for you? It wasn’t so long ago that eating healthfully was as simple as eating low-fat. If only it were that simple. Unfortunately, the low-fat mantra is entrenched in the minds of many consumers to this day and continues to obscure the beneficial role of fats in our health. Recently, I had the enlightening opportunity to get the lowdown on low-fat at a briefing in New York from Dr. Eric Decker, Professor of Food Science at the University of Massachusetts and Bonnie Taub Dix, MS, RD, Author of Read it Before You Eat It. Here’s some of what I learned.

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By: Cheryl Ghesquiere Molinatto Date: 10/24/11

The fall harvest season is here which brings a time to celebrate food and the choices we have with regard to the food we eat. Living in the United States affords us numerous options for healthful, safe and enjoyable food year-round. We can provide food for our families from a variety of sources each with unique benefits, and in celebrating food this fall harvest, it’s beneficial to remember these benefits.

Let’s take a look at some of the options we have when it comes to the food we eat and the benefits we receive:

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By: Eric Mittenthal   Date: 10/21/11

Two years ago this week, we launched our blog with the hopes of posting a few blogs a week on nutrition and food safety topics.

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By: Christina Di-Marco Crook, Intern and PhD Candidate, University of Massachusetts, Amherst Date: 10/20/11

While the term agriculture immediately brings to mind its primary role to provide food on the table, others challenge us to look beyond the customary definitions.  Dr. Lowell Catlett, Dean of Agriculture at New Mexico State University (NMSU), is one such visionary of the unseen opportunities that lie ahead for the role of agriculture both today and in the future.

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By: Marianne Smith Edge, MS, RD, LD, FADA   Date: 10/17/11

This past weekend I returned to the family farm in Northern Kentucky to visit my 86 year old parents and reflect on the their years of constant labor on the now cow-less dairy farm. All the while, I was appreciating that I’m one of the lucky ones to experience the farm to fork process! Growing up on a dairy farm was not deemed glamorous by me or my friends, but maturity brings wisdom, so as I look back, here are some of my reflections:

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By: Dayle Hayes, MS, RD Date: 10/14/11

Last week Sarah Wu revealed that, as Mrs. Q, she had documented a year of unappealing meals in her Chicago school classroom. Looking at the photos, I understand why she was fed up and, in fact, I agree with many of the action steps suggested in her book.

The problem is that Mrs. Q’s view of school lunch was a narrow snapshot in one school. The good news is that her book does not in any way represent the revolutionary changes that are leading what I like to call the Health-ification of School Lunch. This good news is showcased every day in the entries on School Meals That Rock.

I urge Mrs. Q and anyone concerned about food at school to visit districts of excellence and taste the difference where the food meets the tray. Here are five key facts and outstanding schools where children are well fed every day:

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By: Kimberly Reed, Executive Director, IFIC Foundation Date: 10/13/11

Greetings from Des Moines, Iowa! As part of our International Food Information Council (IFIC) Foundation celebration of "Food Days" and the achievements of modern food production, I am pleased to be with 1400 participants from 75 countries celebrating the 25th anniversary of the World Food Prize.

The World Food Prize is the foremost international award recognizing the accomplishments of individuals who have advanced human development by improving the quality, quantity, or availability of food in the world.

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 By: Eric Mittenthal Date: 10/11/12

Last week I was honored to be one of just 17 people selected to go to the White House for the first ever Let’s Move tweetup. The tweetup was arranged to coincide with the White House garden harvest hosted by First Lady Michelle Obama. Hopefully you followed all my tweets and pictures on the day itself, but if not, here are some of my takeaways from the experience and some of the pictures I took.

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