Tuesday, February 16, 2010

ACCI's Scholar-Activist Connect Program

The American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) is requesting proposals as part of its second annual Scholar-Activist Connect Program. The focus this year is on U.S. food policy issues.

Here is the announcement from ACCI:
The American Council on Consumer Interests (ACCI) invites Members to submit a letter proposal for the second annual Scholar-Activist Connect Program at Consumers Union (CU). ACCI is co-sponsoring a funded Scholar-Activist Connect program in cooperation with CU as means of strengthening collaborations between members of the consumer policy research community and consumer advocacy organizations.

This year, the Scholar-Activist Connect Program will focus on the important issue of Food and Food Safety. The program will offer an ACCI scholar the opportunity to visit Consumer’s Union for informal meetings with CU technical and advocacy staff as well as writers/editors of Consumer Reports to (1) explore and exchange ideas about research and public policy issues pertaining to food and food safety and (2) to present a brown bag research and policy seminar for CU staffers with varying amounts of background on this issue.

Interested Members are invited to select a seminar topic and to make a proposal dealing with one of the following issues:

1. Third Party Food Certification
In conjunction with the FDA’s Docket on Third Party Food Certification Programs (.pdf), Consumers Union is interested in identifying and learning about research pertaining to the reliability of third party certifiers. (See for example, Jahn et. al. “The Reliability of Certification: Quality Labels as a Consumer Policy Tool” JCP 2005; Albersmeier, “The Reliability of Third Party Certification in the Food Chain”, Food Control 2009).

A Brown Bag Seminar might cover such matters as the elements of reliable third party certification of food safety. What lessons can be learned from other experiences (e.g. medical devices, eco labels)? Have certification systems been sufficiently tested and validated in the field? (e.g. EU certification of organic products)? What are the costs and benefits of third party certification?

2. Food Labeling, Messaging and Obesity
In 2006, the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) petitioned the FDA to promulgate new rules for simplified “front of the package” nutritional labeling (patterned after the system used in the UK and Sweden).

Consumers Union would be interested in a Brown Bag Seminar synthesizing research on the impact of labeling and messaging on obesity and the closely allied question of policies that succeed in encouraging people to adopt healthier diets. What works? What doesn’t?

3. Antibiotics in Livestock Feed
Last summer, the FDA testified in support of a ban on the low dose use of antibiotics in livestock feed. As far back as 1998 the Union of Concerned Scientists and CSPI petitioned the FDA to withdraw its approval for antibiotic uses which threaten human health.

Consumers Union is interested in research on the costs and benefits of a ban on low-dose antibiotics in livestock feed. The issue of costs and benefits continues to stir controversy. Hayes and Jensen estimated the incremental cost of banning antibiotics on disease treatment in pigs based on Danish data. (“Lessons from the Danish Ban on Feed Grade Antibiotics” Iowa State University, Center for Agricultural and Rural Development Briefing Paper 03-BP 41). Offsetting that, however, are savings from reduced antibiotic resistance in humans.

The Project
The one day visit will be to the Consumers Union campus in Yonkers, New York. The visit must be completed no later than May 31, 2010. Within that parameter, scheduling is flexible and will be arranged in direct consultation with CU.

Travel and Honorarium Available
ACCI and Consumers Union will offer a travel stipend not to exceed $1,000 for this project. In addition, an honorarium of $1,000 will be offered.

Proposals and Eligibility
Interested members should respond by email to Larry Kirsch, Chair of the ACCI External Relations Committee. Larry@IMRHealth.com. Proposals are due on or before March 1, 2010.
Letter proposals should:
1. Indicate which of the brown bag seminar topic(s) you wish to present.
2. Certify that you are enrolled as a member of ACCI as of the date of submission.
3. Append a list of your relevant publications and related qualifications.
4. Demonstrate your awareness and any special contributions you have made concerning public policy in the food and food safety area.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Friedman Sprout

I have been enjoying the Friedman School graduate student publication, The Friedman Sprout.

One recent article offers Caroline Carney's advice on eating local in New England in winter.
Historically, New Englanders have always been culinarily challenged in the winter months, forced to be creative with what the cold earth offers up. Cooks must know what local foods are at their peak, or at close. The foods that do survive are those hearty, rugged compatriots who have always been there for us: tubers, brawny leafy greens, sturdy root vegetables, members of the strongly-scented allium family, and those thick-skinned, nearly invincible gourds. Winter is also an opportune time to experiment with local seafood offerings. These same old winter foods can provide inspiration that will make for a happy and healthy winter season.
A companion piece by Kelly Dumke has suggested resources, including winter Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) shares.

Amy Scheuerman reviews the Redbones restaurant in Somerville. Sarah Olliges explains the new WIC package. And Marina Komarovsky and Ashley Colpaart discuss the raw milk controversy from, respectively, a scientific and policy perspective.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Economics of Food Safety and Nutrition

Call for Nominations

The Best Economics Paper: Food Safety and Nutrition

To recognize excellence in research endeavors that advance knowledge of the economics of food safety and human nutrition, the Food Safety and Nutrition Section of the Agricultural and Applied Economics Association (AAEA) is pleased to invite nominations for the 5th Annual Award for the Best Economics Paper in the areas of food safety and human nutrition. Theoretical and applied research papers are equally acceptable. Reviewers will look for innovative original research with a high impact. Authors do not need to be members of AAEA or the Section to be considered.

In order to be eligible, a paper must have been published in an English-language peer-reviewed journal with a publication date of 2009. Nominations, including self nominations, should include a copy of the paper and a brief letter of nomination highlighting the contribution of the piece. Electronic nominations (with a pdf version of the paper) are preferred.

The award and plaque will be presented to the winning author(s) during the Food Safety and Nutrition Section meeting at the 2010 annual meeting of the AAEA in Denver, CO, July 25-27, 2010.

Please submit nominations by March 31st, 2010, to parke.wilde@tufts.edu.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Where is the dairy checkoff Report to Congress?

Where is the Report to Congress from the federal government's fluid milk and dairy checkoff programs?

USDA was supposed to submit the report in July, 2009, but seems unwilling to share it with the public. The annual report is usually full of great detail about the hundreds of millions of dollars spent each year to promote cheese, butter, milk, and other dairy products. Each year, I especially scan for the sections about partnerships with Wendy's and Pizza Hut to promote fast food products containing dairy. The last report on the AMS website is for July 2008. The delay makes me wonder, is there something particularly interesting in the report this year?

Every couple months, the nice folks in the public relations office for USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) respond to my polite emails asking for an update. They tell me the report is still under review at USDA. It seems appropriate finally to do a public post asking for an update.