March 28, 2014
Bittman on fat. Mark Bittman (@bittman) really stepped into it this week, when he cited findings from a meta-analysis suggesting that saturated fat does no significant health harm to humans. Unfortunately for Bittman and lovers of butter, that meta-analysis has some significant errors, as Walter Willett, chair of the nutrition department at the Harvard School of Public Health, points out in this Science article (@kakape). (The controversy should serve as a warning about meta-analyses of nutrition studies given their heterogeneity compared with drug trials, Willett says in the article.) The authors of the meta-analysis have already had to correct factual errors in the paper, and a number of nutrition scientists, Walt Willett among them, have urged that the paper be retracted. While the controversy rages on, Bittman points out that, regardless of immediate effects on human health, consuming meat at our current rate is damaging the health of our planet. He urges, “eat less meat but eat better meat,” which is something we at CLF and our colleagues at Meatless Monday (@Meatless Monday) all agree on. And this article in The Atlantic takes down the notion that any diet is the holy grail, repeating Michael Pollan’s very sensible advice from years ago: “Eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”
Infections from hospitals. This week the Washington Post covered a CDC report indicating that 1 in 25 hospital patients contracts an infection while in the hospital but makes no distinction between antibiotic resistant infections and those hospital-acquired or nosocomial infections that are susceptible to antibiotics. The 2011 study covered 183 hospitals and says that 648,000 patients nationwide suffered 721,000 infections resulting in 75,000 deaths. Earlier this year the CDC reported that 23,000 of these deaths were from antibiotic-resistant infections. Although far from the top of the list, methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), a staph infection that has become resistant to common antibiotics, plays a part in those hospital-acquired infections. Quoting from the story: “When coupled with the growing risks posed by antibiotic resistant bacteria, the prevalence of hospital-acquired infections remains a serious problem.” Our policymakers need to do more about the misuse of antibiotics so that the threat of antibiotic-resistant infections can be reduced, and hospital staff need to pay more attention to simple measures like handwashing after seeing each patient.
Korean poultry. We learned yesterday from The Hill (@thehill) that the U.S. has approved sale of Korean poultry in our markets. Some suggest that this is a spectacle of strategy aimed at getting South Korea to join the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a multilateral trade agreement the United States is currently negotiating with about a dozen Pacific countries. Food & Water Watch (@foodandwater) executive director Wenonah Hauter called it an “irresponsible” decision by the USDA.
More bad news for California. Here’s an interesting story about the damage done to the Golden State’s croplands by almonds. Now in the grips of extreme drought, the crop—and the state—is in trouble.
Precedent in the Pacific. The Pacific nation of Palau said that it wants to ban all commercial fishing vessels from its waters (@Guardian). Ocean conservationists hail the move, but the tuna industry is worried. Palau’s president says, “Our conservation efforts would ensure that the stocks are healthy and that they gain in economic value as they move out of our territorial waters into other waters. … We feel that a live tuna or shark is worth a thousand times more than a dead fish.” But a spokesperson from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says that if Palau bans American boats it may risk losing some of the $215 million it currently receives from the U.S. in economic assistance and grants.
Gotcha! Here’s an article about how enforcement agencies are using radar and cameras to help to catch oyster poachers. This technology, which was designed as a homeland-security measure, could reduce illegal harvesting of the mid-Atlantic’s precious—and troubled—oyster population.
Cesar Chavez Day. On Monday, we wish a happy Cesar Chavez Day to all. The Cesar Chavez movie opens today. Here’s a good story from the Los Angeles Times about a special screening in the middle of grape fields in California.