Next Steps on Arsenic and Rice

This blog was originally posted on FDAVoice on September 12, 2013.

On Sept. 6, FDA announced the results of testing 1,300 samples of arsenic in rice and rice products and found that the arsenic levels in rice do not present an immediate or short-term health risk. As we said last week, the next step is to assess the potential health risk from long-term exposure to the arsenic in rice and foods made with this grain.

And that is where my job starts. I am a scientist at FDA and I’d like to explain the scientific legwork that will be done over the next few months by some of the most preeminent arsenic experts in the country. Keep Reading

Storytelling for Scientists

I had the chance to spend four days at the 2013 IFT Annual Meeting & Food Expo® with the Lead360 cohort, a group of emerging leaders from 20+ countries. It was an inspiring group of young professionals from universities, industry, and government agencies. One of the themes that emerged from our conversations was the need for effective communication, sharing with others what we do and how we can contribute to society. Keep Reading

Farm Bill Outlook Uncertain: The Beginning or the End?

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” Winston Churchill, November 1942

On Tuesday, June 11, the Senate passed S. 954, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act of 2013, by a vote of 66 to 27. Although there were 260 amendments filed to the bill, only a few dozen were actually considered. This agreement also precluded Democrats and Republicans from crafting a package of amendments that could be made to the bill prior to final passage.

Farm bill action moved to the House the week of June 16. The House bill had savings in the food stamp program of $20 billion over the next 10 years, up from $16 billion in last year’s bill. On Thursday, June 21, the House voted to defeat the farm bill by a vote of 195 to 234 for the first time in history. It was the victim of continued divisions over food stamp cuts and the shape of future agriculture subsidies. Keep Reading

Collaborating to Develop New Oil Alternatives to Palm Oil

Palm fruitPalm oil is a major industrial commodity today. It is economical, versatile, immensely popular, and it is being produced in an increasingly sustainable way. An industrial feedstock in food and confectionery goods, cosmetics, detergents, and biofuels, it is also an important food source in large parts of the developing world.

But a number of factors suggest that the future lies in new oils. Rapid expansion of palm oil production has destroyed areas of the rain forest, contributing to greenhouse gas emissions and eroding biodiversity. The planet cannot sustain ever-expanding production levels, which some project could nearly triple by 2050. And while in some food uses palm oil doesn’t require hydrogenation, its ubiquity in packaged foods still makes it a health concern in the developed world, where diets are high in saturated fats. Alternatives are required. Although sustainable palm oil and other vegetable oils are necessary elements in today’s oil portfolio, they are insufficient. Buyers, governments, and nongovernmental organizations need to accelerate initiatives to develop new oil sources. Keep Reading

Macronutrient Intake Recommendations: What Does the Evidence Indicate?

ScientificJournalWith the increased interest in how we address obesity and the associated metabolic risk factors, there has been more focus on greater understanding of how macronutrient intake (source and amount) affects our health. A big splash occurred with the re-issuing of Atkins’ Diet over a decade ago. Since then, and with the ever-increasing impact of social media, societal interest in how food impacts health has exponentially escalated.

Currently, there are discussions surrounding:

  1. Whether calories are as important to health outcomes as we once thought
  2. The “toxicity” of certain ingredients and nutrients
  3. How the source and type of macronutrient influences our bodies and environment
  4. How genetic alterations of our plant-derived food impacts our health

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Industry-wide Impact of FTC’s POM Wonderful Ruling

Last month, the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued a final ruling in a case involving POM Wonderful LLC, determining that certain ads for its juice products made misleading claims about the drink’s health benefits. This case has implications beyond the immediate effects on the company involved. The decision will affect a wide swath of the food and beverage industries by further tightening the criteria that will be required to sustain claims that a given product treats a disease. The FTC said that the claims in the instant case must be backed by two randomized, controlled clinical trials. These are essentially the same criteria employed by Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in assessing new drugs. Keep Reading

Potential Buyers for Hostess Brands: Retailers vs. Food Companies

Twinkies On November 20, Hostess announced that mediation with its bakers union had failed and that the 82-year-old company would proceed with liquidation plans. The good news is that the company’s iconic brands, such as Twinkies and HoHos, may not be gone for good. There may be multiple buyers of the individual product brands under the Hostess umbrella or there may be a single buyer who acquires them all. But rest assured, they will be sold because they have real market value. Estimates are that the combined sale of Hostess could be worth over $2 billion.

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