News bites, August 2011

This article was originally published in August 2011

Imagination diet

A study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers shows that when we imagine eating a certain food, it may reduce our actual consumption of it. Researchers found that people who were asked to imagine eating the most M&Ms actually ate significantly fewer than participants who were asked to imagine eating less or none at all. (Carnegie Mellon University/Science)

Organic still growing

Total U.S. food sales were virtually stagnant in 2010, growing less than 1 percent overall, yet the organic food industry grew 7.7 percent. Sales of organic fruits and vegetables grew the most, up 11.8 percent to account for nearly 12 percent of all U.S. fruit and vegetable sales. Organic dairy, the second-largest category, grew 9 percent and comprised nearly 6 percent of the U.S. dairy market. (Organic Trade Association)

UC Berkeley sustainable seafood

The University of California Berkeley is the first public university in the nation to be awarded Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) certification for seafood sustainability. The university’s dining facilities will offer tuna, cod, flounder, mussels and salmon that bear the MSC label. The MSC designates seafood that can be traced through the supply chain to show it has not contributed to overfishing. (UC Berkeley)

House moves to bar GE salmon

The U.S. House of Representatives has voted to block the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) from approving genetically engineered (GE) salmon — the first GE animal intended for human consumption. The House passed an amendment offered by Reps. Don Young (R-AK) and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA) to prohibit use of FDA funds to approve any application for approval. The decision to regulate GE animals as “animal drugs” was announced by FDA in 2009 in the form of Guidance to Industry, a non-binding form of regulation. (Associated Press)

Chinese imports tripled

A report by Food & Water Watch says that by 2008, Chinese imports to America had tripled over the previous 10 years. In 2010 China was the second-largest source of U.S. processed fruit and vegetable imports, shipping in more than a billion pounds, and was the third-largest source of imported fresh vegetables. China is the world’s leading producer of apples, tomatoes, peaches, potatoes, garlic, sweet potatoes, pears, peas, mushrooms and other produce. (Food & Water Watch)

Food inflation

Agricultural economists predict that inflation in food prices this year will run about 4 or 4.5 percent, compared to a normal food inflation rate of 2 percent — but don’t blame farmers. What we pay at the register is being affected by the rising cost of corn, soy, wheat and cattle but also oil, gas, diesel and global unrest. (Associated Press)

Potatoes “heart healthy”

The American Heart Association has designated potatoes a heart-healthy food and the Idaho Potato Commission, for one, is wasting no time getting the message to consumers. The commission ran a month-long Facebook promotion and sent news releases to 1,000 media outlets, dieticians and food bloggers. Some influential media received their release with an Idaho potato. (Capital Press)

Coffee protects against Alzheimer’s?

Drinking caffeinated coffee may help protect against Alzheimer’s Disease. Researchers analyzed mice injected with Alzheimer’s DNA intended to make them increasingly forgetful. Results showed four to five cups of caffeinated coffee every few days led to much improved memories in the modified mice. The researchers say they have data showing caffeinated coffee has the same impact in people. (

Vineyards encroach on redwoods

In California’s Sonoma County, residents are getting riled up over plans to cut nearly 2,000 acres of redwood trees to make room for more grape vineyards. Opponents argue that there’s already a glut in wine grape production and that more vineyards will hurt endangered fish in nearby rivers by siphoning off water and introducing pesticides. (Associated Press)

More food allergies

A study in the journal “Pediatrics” found that 8 percent of U.S. children may have a food allergy — nearly 6 million kids, or one in every 12 under 18. More than 30 percent of those children are allergic to multiple foods, with peanut allergies the most common, followed by dairy and shellfish. The odds of children with allergies are higher in black and Asian children — and far lower in families that make less than $50,000 a year. (

BPA in canned food

FDA scientists report that they’ve tested a range of common canned foods and found 71 of the 78 foods contained “detectable” levels of the chemical bisphenol A (BPA). BPA is used in the lining of food and drink cans, about 40 percent of paper receipts, microwavable containers, and cell phones and CDs. BPA has been found to have estrogenic properties and is believed to be a hormone disruptor and carcinogen. (Grist)

Food waste

Roughly one-third of the food produced for humans worldwide (about 1.3 billion tons) is lost or wasted each year. A study commissioned by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) found that consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food each year as the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa. Fruits, vegetables, roots and tubers have the highest rates of waste. (FAO)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, August 2011

Teacher thanks, Just bananas, Non-GMO labels, and more

GROW bananas fund scholarships

Your purchase of certified organic “GROW” bananas at PCC is helping small banana-growing families in Mexico. Every bunch you buy helps fund community projects.

Grains: Sensitivities beyond wheat

There is little to no medical controversy over whether wheat and other grains trigger allergies or sensitivities. They do. Where controversy enters is in the areas of incidence and symptoms to grains other than wheat.