Food & Nutrition 2000-2009: A Brief Recap

Fast Food Nation

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The first decade of the millennium brought both good and bad developments in the food and nutrition space. Mostly, this decade was a wake up call for many families and individuals that they cannot blindly trust government and market powers to provide the healthy food that they deserve.

2001Fast Food Nation: The Dark Side of the All-American Meal, by investigative reporter Eric Schlosser, is published. People begin to understand that there is a very high price society is paying for cheap food.

2003 – The FDA announces plans to permit food manufacturers to make “qualified health claims”. Industry can now rely on “Some scientific evidence” or “Very limited and preliminary scientific research” to make a health claim. Opponents criticize it as opening the door to ill-founded claims. Advocates believe it will make more information available to the public. We shoppers get more confusing marketing messages than ever.

2003 – the low carb diet craze is launched with the publication of the South Beach Diet. The trend peaked in 2004 and pretty much died off by the end of 2005.

2004 – Morgan Spurlock’s Supersize Me, a documentary film following the health of its director eating only McDonald’s for an entire month, is released and meets with mixed reactions. Fast food chains duck for cover.

2004 – Passage of the Food Allergy Labeling and Consumer Protection Act. Requires labeling of any food that contains one or more of: peanuts, soybeans, cow’s milk, eggs, fish, crustacean shellfish, tree nuts, and wheat. People suffering from allergies still confused over statements such as “produced in a factory which also processes peanuts”.

2005 – Blogging goes mainstream, and people find new and useful sources of information on any subject, including food, nutrition, and health.

2006 – Wal-Mart joins the Organic Food bandwagon, signaling the mass acceptance of a once hippy movement.

2006 – Trans-fat is proclaimed the new evil. It’s labeling is required on all packaged foods. As a result, many manufacturers reformulate their products.

2007 – Author, professor, and food lover Michael Pollan publishes The Omnivore’s Dilemma, and continues the theme of Schlosser’s Fast Food Nation. The result is a mass yearning for organic, sustainable fare. A follow-up book in 2008, In Defense of Food, argues against the “nutritionism” and suggests a creation of a food culture where  we “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

2008 – COOL (country of origin) Labeling goes into effect. fresh beef, pork, and lamb. After repeated debilitation and stakeholder pressures, the law that was enacted in the 2002 Farm Bill finally went into effect on Oct 1, 2008, and even then with many loopholes.

2008-9 – Front of Pack Nutrition Labeling becomes a food industry pastime, with over 15 different systems competing who will become the dominant player. In late 2009, the FDA decides to start thinking of maybe possibly beginning a process of evaluation which could eventually lead to government regulation in this area. While Guiding Stars and NuVal still survive, Smart Choices is nixed.

2009 – In January, a salmonella outbreak caused by a dirty peanut butter processing plant in Georgia, leads to one of the largest recalls of products in the history of supermarkets. Hundreds of products are recalled after the unnecessary deaths of innocent peanut butter aficionados.

2009 – As the recession takes hold, many  turn to comfort foods. Although home cooked meals are generally healthier and cheaper than restaurant fare, McDonalds’s stock has never done better. Coupon usage increases for the first time since 1992.

Here’s a graph of McDonald’s (red)  vs. Whole Foods Market (blue) stock performance over the course of the decade. How’s your (nutrition) performance changed over the last 10 years?

Note #1 : Apologies for not mentioning any TV shows, of which surely some deserve mention, as we have not watched TV since the late 1990′s. Perhaps a fastidious reader would like to add these in the comments section.

Note #2:  many good ideas for this post appeared in Delish.

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