Monday, March 2, 2009

Food News Roundup

No time for a long post today, so here's some of the interesting food news that's making the rounds:

• Frito-Lay has discovered that women eat twice as many "snacks" as men, but also feel more guilty about it. Their solution? Packaging junk food like Sun Chips and Baked Lays in plain brown bags, with copy that emphasizes their "healthy" ingredients. Also an infuriating-sounding marketing campaign, which will target "fab, funny, fearlessly female" women with jokes about pushup bras and Cindy Crawford.

• One market that's doing better than ever in tough economic times is vegetable seeds--especially organic seeds, whose sales have jumped nearly 50 percent since last year. Observers credit fuel costs, the economy, and the fear of tainted produce caused by last year's salmonella outbreaks for the spike in sales.

• Surprisingly, one thing that isn't selling so well is alcohol--in the fourth quarter of last year, take-out alcohol sales (differentiated from drinks bought at bars) dropped 9.3 percent, four times as much as overall consumer spending. The drop shatters the previous record of 3.7 percent, set in the fourth quarter of 1991.

• Sprig has a roundup of the "ten most dangerous foods," most of which qualify because of high levels of PCBs and pesticides. A few that surprised me: Conventional bell peppers (which had the highest pesticide levels per serving of any vegetable); non-organic strawberries (which, in addition to having high pesticide levels, may have been irrigated with NutraSweet-laced water, for sweetness), and farmed salmon (which contains dioxin levels up to 11 times higher than their wild equivalents).

• Finally, this is a couple of days old, but I found it fascinating: According to food-science whiz Harold McGee, there's no reason to boil your pasta in gallons of water; moreover, if everybody in the US started boiling their pasta in just a few cups of water, we could save between 250,000 and 500,000 barrels of oil every year.

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