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Six better reasons not to eat pork

The risk of cancer from processed meat may be small, but that doesn’t let bacon lovers off the hook

The media love a good food scare. So when the World Health Organization recently announced a scientific review of 800 studies that showed an increased cancer risk from eating too much red meat or processed meat, the headlines exaggerated the news. For example, The Guardian ran with “Processed meats rank alongside smoking as cancer causes — WHO,” implying the two are equally risky, which is far from true. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Media coverage of legal basis for sustainability in dietary guidelines

As I posted last week, I conducted a legal analysis to counter the claim that considerations of environmental sustainability do not belong in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The same week, the USDA and HHS announced they would exclude sustainability from the final document not yet out, despite the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations that eating less meat and more plants is best, both for our own health and that of the planet. Below is a media round-up of coverage of my analysis.

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The legal basis for sustainability in the Dietary Guidelines for Americans

This week, the House Agriculture Committee is holding a hearing on the controversy surrounding the current update to the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. I have written about the meat lobby’s tactics previously, and in May submitted a letter on behalf of plant-based food companies supporting the recommendation to eat less meat and more plants.

Today I am releasing a legal analysis aimed at countering USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack’s claim that the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee went beyond the statutory authority in recommending that sustainability be incorporated into dietary advice. As my analysis shows, the USDA and HHS would be well within its legal authority to include sustainability. In summary:

    • A plain reading of the statute does not preclude sustainability;
    • The Congressional intent was to further a broad agenda on health;
    • Previous DGA versions included issues beyond “nutrition and diet”.

You can download and read the analysis here. Thanks to My Plate, My Planet for supporting this project.

Oct. 7 update: You can also read my op-ed on this topic, published in The Hill.

The natural food industry should get political

The popular organic and natural foods sector has been mostly MIA in Washington. That needs to change.

The organic and natural food industry is booming. Last year, sales of organic products topped $39 billion. That’s the good news. The bad news is that most natural food companies steer clear of political battles that can have a significant effect on their business model. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Hampton Creek targeted by USDA-controlled egg industry program

Potential legal violations uncovered in secret PR effort to damage egg-free competitor

Hundreds of pages of disclosed communications from the American Egg Board reveal a coordinated two-year plan to undermine and attack Hampton Creek, the San Francisco-based food company, seen as a “threat” and “major crisis” to the egg industry.

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One of the most important ways that industrial animal agriculture promotes its products is through Congressionally-mandated “checkoff” programs. Each industry member pays into a collective fund that is controlled and managed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The American Egg Board is the egg industry’s checkoff program. Very specific rules govern how it operates, all supposedly overseen by the USDA. The Egg Board’s stated mission (which stems from federal law) is “to allow egg producers to fund to carry out proactive programs to increase demand for eggs and egg products through research, education and promotion.”

And yet, USDA’s recent response to a Freedom of Information Act request reveals a number of highly questionable activities that likely violate federal law. The documents (summarized here) are mostly email exchanges between Egg Board executives and others in the egg industry, or with PR consultants, and reveal a disturbing pattern of attacks on Hampton Creek over a two-year period from 2013-2014. (There’s no indication that the campaign has stopped.)

As I documented last fall, Hampton Creek’s early success has touched a nerve in the industrial food industry. These documents show that the lawsuit by Unilever over the start-up’s Just Mayo product was child’s play compared to the Egg Board’s activities. Below is a summary of the most egregious communications.

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Interview with Natural Foods Merchandiser

Below is an interview I gave to Natural Food Merchandiser:
Plant politics: Michele Simon sees a promising future for animal food alternatives

Michele Simon is a food lawyer and president of the consulting firm Eat Drink Politics. Recently, she organized a coalition of plant-based food companies in support of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendations to eat less red meat and more plant foods. As a keynote speaker at Natural Products Expo East, she’ll offer practical tips on how manufacturers and retailers can become more politically active.

NFM: What are the biggest issues facing the plant-based food industry today?

Michele Simon: Gaining more mainstream acceptance of plant-based versions of animal foods is top of mind. While we are seeing an increase in consumer interest, companies face ongoing regulatory barriers such as outdated labeling rules, as well as marketplace obstacles such as placement in stores. Also, political forces have historically created an uneven playing field. For example, most plant food companies don’t benefit from the economic subsidies the animal food industry currently enjoys. True competition requires breaking down those barriers.

NFM: How can retailers help on the front lines in their stores?

MS: First, retailers should sell plant-based versions of meat in the meat section, and plant-based versions of butter and cheese in the dairy section. It’s not fair for consumers to have to hunt down these foods in the niche sections of grocery stores. We’ve already seen an explosion of soy and almond milks because they are commonly sold in the dairy section. Retailers should also encourage tastings of these plant-based foods to increase familiarity.

NFM: How can companies have their voices heard on these issues?

MS: This spring, I organized 22 plant food companies to have their collective voice heard on the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. This campaign was the first step in getting plant food companies engaged in policymaking. Now we are talking about formalizing the coalition into a bona fide trade group. This sector can be a powerful voice, and taking collective action is key to the continued success of these mission-based companies.

If folks want to get involved, they can either sign up on the mailing list at or contact me.

The End of Chicken

Economic devastation caused by bird flu points to plant-based future

While the western United States is suffering from crippling drought, the Midwest is reeling from an unprecedented outbreak of avian flu, mostly among egg-laying chickens and other forms of poultry. Read rest at Al Jazeera America …

Media Coverage for Report on Big Food Influence over American Society for Nutrition

Last Monday, I released my latest report, called: Nutrition Scientists on the Take from Big Food: Has the American Society for Nutrition lost all credibility? Here is the media coverage so far:

Leading U.S. Nutrition Scientists Forge Cozy Relationships With Major Food Companies and Lobbying Groups, Report Charges, International Business Times

Is the Leading Nutrition Science Group in Big Food’s Pocket? Mother Jones

Do big food companies have too much sway over nutrition research? WBEZ Radio

Report Questions Nutrition Group’s Ties to Food Companies, Food Manufacturing

Food companies, nutrition researchers getting too friendly: reportFoodDive

Does Big Grape Juice Control Nutrition Research? An Interview with Michele Simon, Public Health Perspectives

The food industry’s undue influence on the American Society for Nutrition, Food Politics

Industry-funded nutrition groups shouldn’t dictate health policy, Al Jazeera America

Huge Number of Nutritional Experts May Be Bought off by the Big Junk Food Companies, AlterNet

Advocate criticizes a science group’s ties to Big Food, San Antonio Express-News

Nutrition Scientists on the Take From Big Food

New Report from Eat Drink Politics asks: Has the American Society for Nutrition Lost All Credibility?

In my new report, I expose the American Society for Nutrition (ASN), the nation’s leading authority of nutrition scientists and researchers, for its cozy relationships with the likes of PepsiCo, Coca-Cola, Nestle, McDonalds, Monsanto, Mars, and even the Sugar Association. Such conflicts of interest are similar to those exposed in my previous report about the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Powerful junk food companies purchase “sustaining partnerships” from the American Society for Nutrition, gaining access to the nation’s leading nutrition researchers at their annual meetings, and in their policy positions. ASN’s “Sustaining Member Roundtable Committee” includes PepsiCo’s Chief Scientific Officer and the Chief Science Officer at National Dairy Council.

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5 ways to be a better advocate: what I learned from Susan Linn’s leadership

Last night I had the honor of celebrating Susan Linn, who is stepping down as executive director of the Campaign for a Commercial Free Childhood, an amazing organization that she co-founded. I wanted to share a few of the ways that Susan has inspired me; maybe she will inspire you too.

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