Turnips, Happy Meals and Tainted Eggs: The Year's 10 Biggest National Food Stories
Food lovers must talk with their mouths full, since there was plenty of discussion of many, many food-related topics in 2010. But a few national stories struck us as most important. Let us know what you think.
1. The food safety bill
The massive food safety bill had been left for dead when the Senate unexpectedly revived it this month, paving the way for the first overhaul of the nation's food safety system since the Depression. The bill - which is just an assured presidential signature away from law - would give the Food and Drug Administration the authority to recall food and inspect internal records at farms and food production plants. What the bill doesn't do is establish a funding mechanism; supporters worry a Republican-dominated Congress may not approve the $1.4 billion needed over the next five years.
2. Weight Watchers revamps its point system
For 13 years, Weight Watchers members didn't have to distinguish between pretzels and an apple. The weight loss system's beloved point plan treated every calorie equally. When Weight Watchers rolled out a new points plan in which protein, fibers, carbohydrates and fat were considered (fruits and vegetables were downgraded to zero points, while processed foods were bumped up) many of the group's 750,000 members were outraged. "I do NOT like veggies or fruit," an online commenter grumbled.
3. Michelle Obama keeps up her healthy food fight
Michelle Obama's healthy food crusade wasn't new in 2010, but her Let's Move initiative proved she's seriously committed to making fruits and vegetables the hallmark of her tenure. Or, as Sarah Palin puts it, she "said we should not have dessert."
4. Municipal crackdowns on unhealthy eating
Further infuriating Republicans, the cities of San Francisco and New York this year enacted laws intended to reduce obesity and unhealthy eating. San Francisco banned Happy Meals, while New York asked the USDA to prohibit food stamp recipients from using their benefits to buy sugary sodas.
5. Egg recalls
Two Iowa egg farms terrorized Americans eaters this year with salmonella-contaminated eggs. More than 1000 people were sickened in the outbreak, which resulted in the recall of 380 million eggs. And the nation's egg problems didn't end there: Food safety regulators uncovered another batch of tainted eggs in November, recalling 288,000 eggs.
6. BP oil spill
The Gulf seafood industry was devastated by the BP oil spill this summer. While the oil did damage to shrimping and oystering grounds, what really hurt was the perception that the waters were contaminated. In September, nearly one-half of consumers said they wouldn't eat Gulf seafood.
7. Meatless Mondays
The Atlantic named "the meat trend" one of its top ten food stories of 2010, so maybe this year didn't belong entirely to vegetarians. But the Meatless Monday concept gained traction this year, thanks in part to a sophisticated marketing campaign.
8. Food journalism is redefined
Food blogging gained a measure of legitimacy this year when the James Beard Awards made online writers eligible for its highest writing awards. But someone apparently forgot to tell the now notorious editor of Cook's Source, a regional magazine that made a habit of stealing whatever online content looked appealing. "But honestly Monica, the web is considered 'public domain,'" Judith Griggs chided an author with the temerity to complain.
9. Food trucks
There's not a single thing left to be said about food trucks. They're everywhere, and where they're not, they're desperately coveted.
10. Americans go hungry
Whether or not food's served from a truck or worth a certain number of Weight Watchers points is of absolutely no interest to members of the 10 million American households who don't know where their next meal is coming from. One in eight Americans now receives groceries from a food bank. And the numbers are trending in the wrong direction: Feeding America, the nation's leading domestic hunger-relief charity, now serves one million more Americans than it did in 2006.