Jan 06 2009
Knowing of my interest in food and water, a dear Australian friend of mine sent me a copy of the BBC’s excellent investigative team, Panorama, which was aired Down Under recently. The documentary showed how many Fijians are falling ill and dying from typhoid and other diseases caused by a lack of safe, clean water. The irony of course is that these South Pacific islands have a flourishing bottled water industry, worth over $200 million per year and employing around 700 people. Having visited Fiji twice I can vouch for the purity of its water. Bottles of Fiji natural mineral water are a common sight in restaurants and on supermarket shelves across the US and Europe, some are cleverly called Fiji Water, and it travels up to 10,000 miles to get to your table, depending where you are. Click on the preceding link and you will see how they use Obama’s name to push sales. Follow me for the sick story.
Dec 30 2008
This is my last Water News diary for the year and I’d like to take the opportunity to remind the fighting I/P posters that the Middle East, where a few great waterways are the major source of water for a large area of dry lands spanning a number of national borders, the scarcity of water has played a central role in defining the political relationships in the region for thousands of years. Its ideological, religious, and geographical disputes go hand in hand with water-related tensions and it is becoming abundantly clear that the incoming administration of Barack Obama will have to deal swiftly with the powers of the region as the water crisis is not limited to the Jordan basin, but extends throughout the Middle East, encompassing also the watersheds of the Nile and the Tigris-Euphrates. Because of water’s preeminent role in survival (Israel depends on fresh water resources originating in the occupied territories for about one-third of its total supply) the parched and volatile Middle East must be dealt with because the fact is that the region is running out of water. The people who have built their lives on what was once a reliable source of fresh water are now seeing a shortage of this vital resource impinge on all aspects of their increasingly fragile relations.
Cross-posted on La Vida Locavore and DKos.
Dec 02 2008
This from Richard Spencer in Beijing, this morning:
A statement posted on online government media overnight said that 294,000 babies and young children had suffered “urinary system abnormalities” after drinking formula milk from Sanlu, the company most seriously affected, and other brand names.
It now says as many as six infants died and up to 294,000 suffered from urinary tract ailments including kidney stones. That figure is a lot higher than had previously been reported. More than 850 children are still being treated in hospital; at least 150 of them are said to be seriously ill. Why? Last year, China’s dairy industry was worth $18 billion. That’s a whole lot of dairy products.
Nov 30 2008
Having written some scary diaries on water scarcity, tainted foods and global food shortages among others, it’s high time to write about something positive for this festive holiday. Like the types of foods that would boost your moods in these recessionary (and uncertain) times. Recent research has confirmed the existence of a link between eating certain types of foods and the act of feeling better, relaxed and even happy. Further research from the University of Cambridge in England found regularly skipping, or skimping on meals can mean you’re not getting enough serotonin, a brain chemical that helps keep anger in check. Serotonin needs the amino acid tryptophan (also known as the turkey drug, more on that below) to work, and it only comes from food.
Eating for a better mood boils down to this simple exercise: control your blood sugars by eating every 4 to 5 hours throughout the day, eat a diet rich in soluble fiber, and incorporate foods rich in omega 3 fats, folic acid, B12 and Vitamin D – four nutrients that all researchers have found to be mood lifting.
Which foods, you ask. And will it be expensive?
Nov 28 2008
Being born into a family of hoteliers had some advantages, to be sure. As a kid I used to spend most of my winter time reading in the hotel larder because it was quiet, the overhead lighting was good and the smells were reassuring. And it was also a place where I could sneak in a few slices of bread and hack a bit of hard cheese, sit on my chair and dream about the origins of all the products we managed to store between bouts of reading. René Descartes liked to do his thinking in bed, I did mine in the larder. It was my domain throughout the winters and certainly not the place to be in the summertime as the hotel was taken over from April to October by a brigade of noisy, fellow loons.
So it was in that larder that I became seriously interested in food and I made a point of scrutinizing and itemizing every tin, bottle, bag, boxed spices, jars, blocks of cheese, preserves and all the hanging charcuterie; the country hams from various regions, the army of salamis, the rings of smoked sausages…I became an expert in label reading and developed a nose for sniffing out rancidity and spoiled goods.
Nov 19 2008
A couple of days ago I wrote this diary and copped quite a few unkind comments, mostly from misinformed posters and a handful of hardcore denialists. Yet the problems persist, and shooting the messenger rarely helps. But I’m a tough cookie, comfortable in the knowledge of what I know and write about and in this diary I’m basically tackling the same issues albeit from a different angle: “Big Pharma” and the multinational junk & processed foods companies (“Big Food”) which, worldwide, make gigantic profits on the back of unsuspecting consumers, specifically marketing non-nutritious food appealing to children and adults alike via disingenuous advertising.
Obesity, though some would prefer to call it eating disorders, is a big growth area, not just for the unwitting sufferers, but also for some food companies which contributes so greatly to the problem. “Big Pharma” which works in tandem with “Big Food” would love to “terminate” its main source of competition: the natural products industry and the organic movement.
Nov 15 2008
You think this is harsh and OTT? Dr Donal O’Shea, a famed Irish endocrinologist and Director of the Weight Management Clinic at St Columcille’s Hospital in Loughlinstown, said in a conference in Dublin last week that
“pouring funding into cardiology, cancer and dementia without tackling the obesity epidemic that is fueling these conditions would be a disaster.”
His take on obesity (about 24 minutes long, scroll down to the tenth video) is a sober approach to combating it. “Worldwide, obesity is the driver of a range life-threatening “lifestyles” diseases”, he notes. The British Medical Journal puts it bluntly: “The driving force for the increasing prevalence of obesity in populations is the increasingly obesogenic environment rather than any pathology in individuals”.
Nov 13 2008
There are so many reasons why we should be cautious about GM crops and the huge potential effects on humans whether it be through cross contamination/pollination or yet unknown impacts on the physical body. We still know next to nothing about long term effects of eating GM products and I imagine that this particular area of science is not being thoroughly investigated by the numerous biotech companies whom, supposedly in the name of prevention of starvation for the Third World countries, allow a small band of multinationals to control the sale and distribution of the seed-stocks across the world.
I am writing this diary because an acquaintance of mine, who is the head chef in a fashionable Indian restaurant in London, related this story to me a few months ago. Last week he found more evidence of GM rice (Bt63) in wholesale suppliers. Even though this rice is banned in Europe it seems that it keeps finding its way into Asian eateries. It might have entered the food chain in the US. Always check the labels.
Cross-posted on the Big orange and our blog, La Vida Locavore.
Nov 07 2008
I’m not sure of which the two I am more worried about: food shortages or water scarcity. A lack of water to meet daily needs is a reality for many people around the world and has serious health consequences. I have read that it affects 4 out of 10 people in the world as water demand has more than tripled over the last half-century. Signs of water scarcity have become commonplace. As for the food situation this year, once again world grain harvest is projected to fall somewhat short of consumption due to a number of factors and the new bete noire, ethanol. United States department of agriculture (USDA) data said that in 2007, production of food grain in world was 22 million metric tonnes short of consumption. This year is projected to be a better harvest but by how much? Will there be enough to store? The price of rice has risen by three-quarters in the past year, that of wheat by 130%, and this economic crisis could not have come at a worst time for developing countries as foreign aid is rapidly dwindling to a trickle.
Fortunately Obama will be in charge, the current WH idiot will be a distant memory and better agricultural policies will be put in place.
Nov 05 2008
In our house we went to bed at 6.30am, as we waited for the Obama speech, which was masterfully delivered to a thunderous, energized crowd. Every face glowed with hope, tears of joy were rolling down acres of cheeks, the relief was palpable. Then we watched a few pundits in amusement across the cable news divide, as some suddenly found a few nice words to say about the new president…In France people were dancing in the streets, as they were across Europe. I got calls from Australian friends & family who were partying hard on the heels of this momentous election, and of course most wanted to talk about what to drink next!
I’m in a celebratory mood (and will be for the next few days), let’s talk about what sort of victory drink you may be having…now or later.
Oct 31 2008
I know this is way too early to write about the sort of celebration we will have next Tuesday night and, ahem, the price we’ll pay the following day: a post-celebration that many of us will suffer as the MOTHER of all HANGOVERS! I spell it EXCESS! When Blake wrote “The road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom”, he wasn’t wrong!
Yes, excessive it will be, and we have earned it after enduring 8 years of conveyor-belt propelled BS, false promises, stupid wars, the raping of the constitution, economic downgrading and a lot more. Of course eating right is elitist and since this election is the most important one this century (and possibly the last one) I’m going to throw caution to the wind and celebrate properly by purchasing, bartering, demanding, begging for the primo stuff to be on hand during the long hours of the election results. Here’s to the future!
Oct 22 2008
I wasn’t going to write anything until after the election (Go Obama!) but this is important, IMHO. Yesterday melamine was found in several egg products in South Korea following last week’s similar discovery in Japan, marking the first time the toxic chemical has been found in Chinese egg products.
Some of you have followed my pieces on the Chinese melamine scandal, here is the last one with a comprehensive list of the tainted products. Add egg products to this list now, and God knows what else! Egg products can be found in many items such as cake mixes, cookies and much more, see the list below. Having said that, don’t be alarmed, just make sure you know the provenance of your food products and read the labels carefully.