Darin Detwiler and I conducted this interview on Thursday. Detwiler is the senior policy coordinator for Stop Foodborne Illness and an instructor on regulatory affairs and food industries at Northeastern University. As I do, he has a deeply personal motivation to be in his line of work: His son was one of four young people who died in the 1993 E. coli outbreak at Jack in the Box restaurants in the Northwest. He tells that heartbreaking story in the interview, while also sharing vital information of use to anyone who eats.
S U S T A I N A B L Y
For a few years, a small set of food-product entries have been boasting that they have “real” sugar, instead of the demon high fructose corn syrup. But that trend appears to be slowing, says this story from foodnavigator-usa.com.
This goes back a bit, but it has good content, and I'll bet you haven't seen it. Running time is less than 8 minutes.
Nobody admirers a hijacker, so I’m being imprecise, at best, when I opine that “environmentalists have hijacked sustainability.” I don’t meant to impute evil at all — hell, until very recently, I’d have self-identified as one, and our aims still essentially align. And I don't mean it literally.
When I was a kid, and maybe still today (I don’t care enough to look it up), Wonder Bread touted that it “buil[t] strong bodies 12 ways.” What was really going on is that its food technologists had started with grain products of nature, “refined” it beyond recognition, and then tossed in a bunch of nutritive additives to make up for what they had taken out. In effect they were saying, “look at all the goodness we’ve added, so you won’t notice all the goodness we took out.”
What resulted, of course, were slices of blindingly white near-paste that could be compressed into a ball that would have hurt if launched in a food fight. It seems so ‘60s, but check this out:
PepsiCo is seeking to patent a method of adding fiber- and polyphenol-rich co-products from fruit and veg juice extraction back to juices and other beverages in a bid to improve their sensory and nutritional profile, and minimize waste from the juice extraction process. ~ FoodNavigator-USA.com
Still crazy after all these years — breaking what’s good down into its parts, and then trying to figure out how to put more of it back in. How ‘bout, don’t break it down in the first place?
A central part of the message I deliver to audiences is that nature is the only teacher of sustainability we will ever need. It’s been sustaining life on earth for 3.8 billion years, while humans have been upright only for about 200,000 years; the experience gap is obvious.
I am not, of course, the originator of this idea, that humans are part of nature, not apart and certainly not above it, and the most prudent direction for all of us is to follow nature’s lead. I wouldn’t cast that as an absolute, but only because absolutes are bad every time.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concepts of “restriction” vs. “freedom.” For me, of course, the context is often around how to eat.
All in all, a very good effort on food addiction from the Institute on the Psychology of Eating, presented by its COO, Emily Rosen.
Jim Hartzfeld, a key figure in the rise of Interface, the Ray Anderson-founded carpet company and sustainability engine, offers these "leading indicators of accelerating progress" (closely paraphrased): It's as much about intuition as it is about calculation, about introspection regarding your own story instead of persuading someone else, about learning than being the expert, collaboration more than debate, humility rather than hubris, and always about challenging the conventional thinking, even if it was your idea originally.