Reading List: Gluten-Free Snack Explosion, Nuking Away Bacteria & Dannon's Misleading Claims by Toby Amidor in Food News, September 25, 2009
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In this week’s nutrition news: A grocery store unveils colored-coded product labels, the USDA launches a farm-to-table initiative and Dannon settles a lawsuit for its products’ immunity-boosting claims.
Shopping by Color
Spartan grocery stores, based in Grand Rapids, Michigan, are jumping on the labeling bandwagon. Instead of a seal of approval, they’re color-coding products that meet specific nutrient claims. For example, low-fat foods get an orange label, a teal tag is for high-fiber products and purple means something is sugar-free. This is a smart idea — it’s kid-friendly, easy to identify and great for non-English speakers. Has anyone seen seen these tags firsthand? What did you think?
Dannon Puts the Kibosh on Immunity Claims
You’ve probably seen those Activia yogurts or DanActive probiotic drinks and heard how they “strengthen your body’s immunity.” Well, Dannon recently settled a class-action suit over that potentially misleading claim. Yogurt can be healthy (more on that here), but according to the attorney who filed the suit, “Deceptive advertising has enabled Dannon to sell hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ordinary yogurt at inflated prices to responsible, health conscious consumers.” I agree. My clients swear the yogurt helps them feel better — I suspect they’re just repeating something they saw in a commercial.
A New Era of Gluten-Free Snacks
None of my culinary nutrition students had even heard of gluten intolerance five years ago. These days, everyone’s talking about it. General Mills estimates that 12% of American households want to decrease their gluten intake, and food companies are happily stepping up to meet consumer demand. In 2008, more than 1,000 new gluten-free products hit the market; many more are still to come. Nature’s Path is one of the biggest gluten-free food providers — my kids love their EnviroKidz cereals and Crispy Rice Bars.
Microwaving Can Keep Food Safe
Most folks use microwaves for reheating or defrosting. A new study found that microwaving can also kill off some harmful bacteria in our food. Nuke a pre-cooked hotdog for 75 seconds at high power, and you’ve just wiped out most the Listeria monocytogenes (bacteria linked to deli food and hot dogs) that might be lurking. Bonus tip: Keep the food covered for two minutes after microwaving to evenly distribute the heat and increase the effect.
USDA’s New Sustainable Food Initiative
The USDA has just unveiled “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food”, an initiative seeking to create more sustainable, regional agricultural systems, generate job opportunities and help us better understand foods’ origins. Check out this YouTube video of Agricultural Secretary Tom Vilsack encouraging us all to get involved and voice opinions.