2022: The Good, The Indeterminate, and The Ugly

Another year has passed, and what a year it has been! Apologies to Clint Eastwood for the title of this post. I hope that he won’t track me down to make his day! Just when it looked like we would emerge from the COVID plague, a natural disaster hit! It became a very personal year for me, one in which events overwhelmed me as well as impacting the worlds of processed and ultra-processed foods. I am in transition. How will 2023 shape my perspective and the direction of this blog? Only time will tell.

The Good. It was a good year for confronting the gorilla in the room, NOVA. Almost universally accepted in the press, NOVA labelled and demonized foods they did not like. Ultra-processed foods, suggested NOVA, were responsible for shortened lifespans and most chronic diseases. At last, there was pushback from scientific journal articles, a written debate, and an oral one at the annual IFT meeting. In a surprise, the two most cogent oral debaters were an NIH scientist and a futurist. While Marion Nestle and Michael Gormley rehashed old arguments, Kevin Hall introduced scientific reason and Amy Webb pleaded for nuance in the discussion.

The Indeterminate. The White House had its first conference on food, nutrition, and health since 1969. These conferences are very important. The one in 1969 established fat as the major harmful component in food. All the king’s horses and all the king’s experts could not get carbohydrates, with specific reference to sugar, to be public enemy number one. This conference has established what constitutes a healthy food. Did they get it right? What matters is that the definition will be the government standard for the next few decades and the basis for all food debates. I confess that I have not paid this issue the attention it deserves as I was distracted.

The Ugly was personal. Hurricane Ian hit the coast of Southwest Florida and became a life-changing event for me. It left an eight-week gap in the posts on this site. It caused me anguish and led to soul searching. I still contemplate how it will affect my commitment to this site.

Themes. Hunger both at home and abroad were important themes I took on this year. As the health status of Americans remains level, lifespans around the world are catching up. Food cravings and how they lead to the consumption of a less healthy diet was another theme. Supply chains affect what is available to us with particular relevance to perishable fruits and vegetables. An emphasis on nutrients in foods captured the most posts on the site. Vitamins occupy much of what we learn about foods on the net, and almost all of what we read is either wrong or misleading. Even the questions asked are wrong. Controversy over consumption of protein from animals leads to a search for alternatives from plants, cultured animal cells, and insects. But are these sources as nutritious as those in intact, whole foods? Many posts were cast in the context of global climate change and implications for fresh and processed foods.

Reduce food sources, feed hungry people, feed animals, industrial use, composting, landfill,
Recovery of wasted food

Milestones. The 300th post on the site appeared on June 21 titled Global climate change—a personal journey describing my switch from skeptic to believer. The number of views on the site was off this year from the high of 19,046 last year. Eight missed posts between early October and late November were only part of the reason. The trend from 2020 to 2021 showed a leveling-off effect. The site was on track to record fewer visitors and views without the Ian interruption. In addition, I wrote about topics that I thought were of particular importance rather than playing to the interests of my readers.

Best books reviewed in 2022. My focus this year was on extending my knowledge base rather than criticizing perspectives that diverged from mine. I made some very good selections. Among the top ones were

Next Generation Plant-based Foods

The Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health,

Ending Hunger: The Quest to Feed the World Without Destroying It

How the Other Half Eats: The Untold Story of Food and Inequality in America

Arriving Today: From Factory to Front Door—Why Everything Has Changed About How and What We Buy

Top Ten Posts

10.Challenges in handling perishable foods in small stores that sell food on the side

9.A culinary nutritionist, a food marketer, and a food science professor walk into a bar . . .

8.My personal experience with Hello Fresh

7.The End of Craving from a different point of view

6.Are we eating real food, or edible foodlike substances?

5.Food waste from two different perspectives

4.How much does home-made mayo differ from store-bought mayo? By Judy Jones

3.How Big Food hides undesirable chemicals in its clean labels

2.Fast food and its effect on regional cuisines

1.Supply challenges from the perspective of an ingredient supplier by Christine Addington.

Biggest surprise was that three of these choices were posted this year—numbers 1, 7, and 9. Last year none of the Top 10 were posted in 2021. No posts in 2021 made this year’s notables either. Ones I wrote in 2017 (3, 5 & 6) and 2018 (2 & 8) resulted in a more lasting impact.

Future directions remain uncertain. I am still interested in ultra-processed foods, but I am not sure that I have much more to say about the topic. Linn Steward, a friend and critic of my views, has encouraged me to pursue the new definition of healthiness and the effects of the food matrix on quality. There is way too much information on what makes a food healthy to distill the message down to a few, cogent posts. There is way too little information on the food matrix to go beyond a single post. I am looking for book-length materials on each topic to stimulate discussion. On specific topics I prefer books to blogs, articles on the net or in scientific journals. A book gives the author an opportunity to develop a core idea and explore its ramifications. It also reveals shallow ideas where there is little there there. I may also look beyond food to a broader science perspective.

New Year’s resolutions. Last year I resolved to comment less on LinkedIn. I utterly failed. I am too emotional. I come off as a troll in pretend discussions with predetermined conclusions. I need to avoid those discussions. I may engage in a few serious ones that encourage give-and-take. Like everything else these days, polarization rules. I may try to repost some of my more controversial perspectives on the site to see what kind of response I get.

 

Coming Soon: In defense of the Food Safety and Modernization Act

4 thoughts on “2022: The Good, The Indeterminate, and The Ugly

  1. I have some catching up to do! I switched writing formats, to a farm newsletter, and missed seeing several of the posts listed. They sound interesting, especially the books about food insecurity.

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  2. Thank you for today’s reading.  I noted that packaging and plastics were
    not mentioned let alone stressed, but you did imply that some things are
    scientifically wrong.  This is my main concern, why__people need to
    believe impossibles
    .  I have said it’s a residual from infancy when
    explanations are impossible, but it’s more than that.  I see now the
    function of miracles in maintaining ordered relations, sanity and
    organization of a social group, be it a family, a religion or a
    country.  I also see food choice as an important expression of personal
    positions, less a result of science-based decisions, and often depending
    on cost and availability.

    Some of this comes from watching relatives — an otherwise brilliant
    mother (43) and a less brilliant daughter (46) — behave  with their own
    and the child’s food.  What the kid says he likes matters.  He (8) isn’t
    interested in the food, the other adults or anything much beyond his own
    fun and pleasure.  Attention is important, and he’ll go off into a
    corner and read rather than sit at the table and listen.   No-one talks
    about nutrition.   Mommy avoids some meats but not others (chicken OK
    for Thanksgiving but not turkey), glorifies greens (the popular
    images).  My daughter will eat what she thinks keeps her less fat, but
    both can alter their principles as needed to maintain the personal
    relations they want.  Biological nutrition, which depends on personal
    physiology, quantity and balance, and self-control ability, is
    virtually ignored in this mix.  They all get “enough.”  I wish they
    would accept their chances of carrying COVID as strongly as the”evils”
    of red meat and carbs.

    It’s now two years(?) since you published my work on reasons people eat
    and reject what they do.  It’s just as valid now, and describes what is,
    rather than an ideal that can’t apply to all us
    biologically-differents.  Also, we don’t make our choices alone, as even
    if we are physically alone we still have our fears and desires and
    cultures with us.

    Like

    1. All great points! It is good to hear from you again. You are right that there were no articles on packaging. It is a topic where you are either for it or against it. I have very little to add to the topic that has not been covered. If you have a topic that you would like to throw into the mix, I will consider taking it on.

      As far as people’s opinions, that is just something we have to deal with. There is the old saying, “My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts!” Education is frequently posed as the answer, but education usually means getting the other person to think more like the person proposing it as the solution.

      I was involved in a nonproductive conversation on LinkedIn. I said that education is overrated. Education is a complex concept involving teaching and learning. We can teach a motivated learner, but we can’t learn anyone anything. That emphasizes the strength of marketing which appeals to a person’s hopes, fears, and biases.

      Like

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