Food News Today transcripts for the week of April 16th, 2012

April 20, 2012

Is your reusable shopping tote a food safety risk, consumers mistake fair trade for healthy, and, this year’s salmon catch expected to exceed all expectations.

Good morning, Food News Today is sponsored by ConAgra Foods, who shares with me the desire to provide the most current, interesting, and unbiased food news.

>Several cities and stores around the globe have started charging for plastic shopping bags at the grocery store, many counties in California have banned retailers from handing out free single use plastic bags; instead they will be available for purchase or not at all. So now the focus is on reusable totes – but with some hesitation – or should I say cautions - a study sponsored by the Environment and Plastics Industry Council (EPIC) reported some not so friendly finds. “The moist, dark, warm interior [of reusable totes]… that have acquired… water and trace food contamination... [are] an ideal incubator for bacteria.” The study also concluded that coliforms, intestinal E.coli causing bacteria, were found in several reusable bags, and thus raises similar (but more rare) Salmonella concerns.

A recent warning prompted by a survey issued by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics in partnership with ConAgra foods- found that only one in six Americans frequently washes their reusable shopping bags.

The combination of crumbs, condensation from cold or frozen foods, and possible leaks from raw meat, poultry or fish is not uncommon in our grocery bags. And with reusable totes, this foodstuff should not be ignored! We must extend our food safety practices to include grocery totes, and make sure that they are regularly cleaned and aired out to dry. It is also important to replace (or machine wash if possible) reusable totes when they look as if they have passed their expiration date.

>There's something fishy about this next guest, oh that's right, it's Susan Chambers director of media for The West Coast Seafood Processors Association (WCSPA). We recently heard the news that 2012 will be the biggest Pacific salmon catch in years! In the Klamath River, which runs through northern California and southern Oregon, fishery managers are projecting 1.6 million adult chinook this fall, four times more than last year, and 15 times than in 2006. Wow! So here’s what Susan had to say.

Thanks Susan – wow I’m looking forward to cooking some great Chinook salmon this year!

>The illusion of “healthy” drives consumers to eat more, buy more, and therefore spend more (not to mention gain more weight!). Moreover, claims on food labels that a product is organic, locally produced, or fair trade may mislead consumers into thinking that such foods are low in calories, according to a recent University of Michigan study.

Norbert Schwarz and colleagues Jonathon Schuldt of California State University-Northridge, and Dominique Muller of the University of Grenoble in France conducted two studies to see if ethical claims on food packaging, such as fair trade (where workers receive appropriate compensation for their work), exhibit the same “halo” effect as those of other food claims.  In their research, Schwarz and colleagues found that a fictional brand of chocolate was judged as significantly lower-calorie when it was described as fair trade.

Both studies revealed that not only was fair trade perceived as lower-calorie, but that the effect is not restricted to the fair trade advertising claim—among those participants with strong ethical food values, the product was also judged as lower-calorie when a company is described as treating its workers ethically as compared to unethically.  Jonathon Schuldt commented, “Finally, beyond demonstrating positive health halos from social ethics claims, our work suggests that negative information about a company's actions can lead perceivers to judge products as less healthy. To our knowledge, this is one of the first demonstrations of a negative health halo arising from a food's production methods."  A similar study from Cornell in 2010 found that organic snack foods were perceived as more nutritious than their conventional counterparts – an assumption that is not always correct.

Let me know what's on your food mind. Do you find yourself fooled by front of package claims? And remember to log on to Food News any time to access the archive and replay this episode as well as access our transcripts. Thanks for watching!