Review: Sorting the Beef from the Bull

Sorting the Beef from the Bull. The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.  Richard Evershed and Nicola Temple. Bloomsbury, 2016.

Media of Sorting the Beef from the Bull

Ellen Messer (Tufts University)

Evershed, Richard and Nicola Temple (2016) Sorting the Beef from the Bull. The Science of Food Fraud Forensics.  New York: Bloomsbury Sigma.

This book systematically covers the categories of food fraud that pervade global food systems and trade.  It carefully explains the biology, chemistry, and physics of food, as well as the tools that have been constructed to test authenticity of species, political-geographic origin places, and toxic dangers of additives. These later include dyes and preservatives, and substances and substitutions added to extend the quantities of shelf lives of particular products.  The first three chapters introduce “Food Fraud 101” and the major categories of falsification, with special emphasis on eggs and poultry.  The next six chapters cover specific adulterations and efforts to detect them in the major food categories: fish, red meat, dairy, spices and condiments, beverages, fruits and vegetables.  There is plenty of fraud to go around with values-based items (organic, ethically sourced) which may not originate where their values claim they do. The final chapter, “thoughts for digestion” reviews main points and technologies available or in the pipe-line for individual consumer, food-processor, retailer, or other institutional detection of misrepresentations.  This chapter also summarizes guidelines for real food sourcing that are quite similar to Michael Pollan’s principles: select whole rather than processed foods, sourced locally or from trusted sources, thereby shortening the food chain with its possibilities of fraud.  Be skeptical of deals that are too good to be true; they usually involve deceptions.  Be willing to take the time and pay a fair price to get the story and connect with the people behind the foods you eat.

These chapters are packed with food biochemistry and clear explanations of the sleuth work that goes into detecting fraud and its harms.  There is particular attention to adulterations that produce life-threatening or -ending allergens, such as peanut or dairy that purposely or inadvertently have been added to products that should not contain them.  The major motivation is greed, although some shelf-life expanding technologies claim they are fighting world hunger and local food insecurity, and reducing waste.  Cases of Chinese, then Indian and Bangladeshi adulterators are most frequently cited, but there are plenty of U.S. and European culprits or co-conspirators eager to profit from food falsification, even where this process introduces human health risks.  There are also some simple guidelines to detecting common frauds in common foods.  Individuals can use their senses (smell, taste, touch, visual observation of cooking properties) to detect products that are not what they claim.  E.g., does the spice mixture in the package or the coffee or tea smell and behave the way it is supposed to? Does the fish fillet unexpectedly fall apart (in which case it is probably a cheaper species, not pricey cod)? Does the unbelievably cheap egg have a membrane inside the shell? If not it is a counterfeit, which in quantity yields huge criminal profits for the manufacturers who operate in many countries.

Surprisingly, the EU up to the time of publication had no official definition of food fraud, in contrast to the US, which defines “the deliberate and intentional substitution, addition, tampering, or misrepresentation of food, food ingredients, or food packaging; or false or misleading statements made about a product for economic gain” (cited on p.262).  Throughout the substantive, food-category based chapters, the authors cite legal cases but bemoan the lack of inspection and regulators, even where the legal framework is in place.  They should also bemoan the lack of time dedicated to food shopping and eating, the “convenience” factor that expands food chains and distances consumers from the sources of their food.  Such distancing layers risks of fraud and harms at every level, and also reduces the consumer’s pleasure, knowledge, and connections to food and to other human beings all along the food chain.  Thin and incomplete government or food-industry oversight of food quality and truth, combined with consumers’ appreciation of convenience foods, are challenges unlikely to be resolved by greater knowledge in food forensics.  The outstanding technical perspectives also raise additional conflicts in values.  Given the emphasis on reducing food waste, should we, the consumers, prefer the apple that rots? Or the apple that, with the application of food technology, stays or appears to stay fresh an unnaturally long period of time? In a world of industrialized foods, can individuals be trained to prefer a natural strawberry to the industrialized fake flavor?

You can use the examples in discussions of traceability, hazard analysis, biochemical and flavor diversity in foods, and other food-system topics.  The book also contains a good refresher course on basic food biochemistry, with helpful chapter by chapter summaries of the major chemical bonds and reactions in an appendix.

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What FoodAnthropology Is Reading Now, December 13, 2016

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Got items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

Just in time for Christmas, President-Elect Trump has nominated Ebenezer Scrooge to be Secretary of Labor in his new cabinet. Or at least, that is what Tom Philpott suggests in an article in Mother Jones. Over at Nation’s Restaurant News, Jonathan Maze writes that employers, and especially restaurant owners, are pleased by this nomination.

Policy think tanks and activists like to lay down briefing memos for new administrations. Over at the Stimson Center, Johanna Mendelson Forman and Lovely Umayam have written a brief memo indicating why global food security should be a high priority national security issue for the incoming administration. We are unsure, at this time, if Mr. Trump will take them up on the ideas presented in the memo, but you could use this with students to generate discussions about what, exactly, we mean by national security in the U.S.

On the domestic side of things, Nevin Cohen, Nicholas Freudenberg and Janet Poppendieck, over at the CUNY Urban Food Policy Institute, provide a list of food policy priorities for New York City-based activists. The list and explanations will be of interest to food activists and scholars elsewhere.

Another analysis of the current situation in the U.S. for food activists comes from Slow Food USA director Richard McCarthy in this article from the Courier-Journal and the linked Mighty Fine Farm and Food podcast.

Fabio Parasecoli explores the intersections of artisanal food, reviving traditions, nationalism, and politics in Poland in this interesting article in The Huffington Post. The revival of tradition and food nationalism is always on the verge of dangerous politics, it seems. There is also an excellent picture of sausage.

How do food activists grapple with questions of race and racism in the United States? Joshua Sbicca and Justin Sean Myers compare two food justice organizations, one in Oakland, the other in Brooklyn, to see how they deal with race and build political projects, in a recent article in the journal Environmental Sociology.

The most recent issue of Human Organization, from the Society for Applied Anthropology, has two articles that could be of interest to our readers. First, Drew Gerkey examines the management of “common resource pools,” in this case reindeer herds and salmon fisheries, in post-Soviet collectives in Kamchatka. This has some important environmental and economic implications that should be of comparative values elsewhere. Second, Kathryn S. Oths, Frank J. Manzella, Brooke Sheldon, and Katy M. Groves draw on research in Alabama in order to look into why different kinds of farmers markets appeal to different sorts of people. This has implications for both the future of markets and for the future of the food movement.

We recently received notification of a new book by Robert Biel, Sustainable Food Systems: The Role of the City (2016, UCL Press). The book is about urban agriculture and food security and we have not read it…but you can download it for free, here. Biel teaches political ecology at University College London.

There are end-of-year best-of lists everywhere and Civil Eats has one that focuses on their favorite food and farm books of the year. It is an intriguing selection.

On the weird side of things, there is this blog posting and video in which Abbie Fentress Swanson enthusiastically describes her food finds at convenience stores in Japan. The selection is, of course, rather different from what one finds in U.S. convenience stores. Swanson provides some context for understanding Japanese enthusiasm for these stores. But watch the video: the food, wrapped in plastic, encased in what looks like soggy bread, is vaguely gray and old…and has, at least through the computer, exactly the same visual appeal as convenience store food in the U.S.

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Review: Chickenizing Farms and Food

Chickenizing Farms and Food: How Industrial Meat Production Endangers Workers, Farmers and Consumers Ellen K. Silbergeld.  Johns Hopkins University Press, 2o16.

Ellen Messer (Tufts University)

Silbergeld, a medical scientist, became concerned about drug-resistant microbes in 1999, as a Maryland-based researcher and physician confronted with the problem. This volume, as she states multiple times in her introduction, “is not about food” but “how we got the agriculture we have now.” It outlines the steps that must be taken to protect workers and consumers against the drug-resistant bugs that industrial, mass-production ways of doing things have unleashed.  The introduction explains her stance and outlines her historical approach, which savages both the modern industrial producers and their opponents as insufficiently attentive to the challenges of producing enough affordable food to nourish a world of 9 billion while simultaneously protecting the public health all along the food chain.  Her story begins in the 1920s with the Maryland farmers’ scale-up of poultry production through systematic confinement of increasing numbers of birds throughout their short life cycles. It details vertical integration and concentration of marketing orchestrated by Perdue and Tyson, who recognized and seized the business opportunity to develop and then dominate industrial production of animals for human food.  “Chickenizing,” which included concentrated feed and antibiotics that supposedly enhanced growth, was soon imitated by swine producers and processors, who similarly exposed their workers and consumers to rapidly co-evolving microbes resistant to existing antibiotics.  

Silberberg’s solution to this public-health disaster is not small-farmers and local agriculture, but greater regulation and monitoring of corporate meat production.  She wants everyone to acknowledge that food and agriculture is an industry, which should be subject to the same strict human, as well as environmental-protection codes that regulate other industries.  At the very least, and immediately, pointless antibiotics should be banned.

In advancing this conversation, Silbergeld finds most advocates for small, organic, local farming annoying, if not wrongheaded.  On p.8 she protests that their passionate “support for small farmers because they are ‘stewards of biodiversity,’ protectors of the climate, and the core of rural communities” fails to convince: “Where’s the evidence that small farmers can feed the world? Even a medium-sized city?  At prices that most of the people—even in our relatively affluent country—can afford?”  Her self-righteous antagonists respond: “This is not about evidence…This is about which side of the future you are on.” Whereas she self-righteously worries about more immediate and mundane matters, like the prices of fresh fruits and vegetables and uncontaminated meats low-income people in crowded cities might be able to access in the absence of the modern food industry with its systems and economies of scale.  

Her chapters, which focus not on environmental sustainability, but on the various openings these systems create for hazardous microbes to contaminate food and destroy human health, are packed with observations and numbers describing microbe-filled wastes and their propensities to infect human beings: “Wastes are the major output of food animal production … Over its short lifespan of some 7 weeks, each chicken produces about 10 lbs. of waste, which is considerably more than the weight of a fresh broiler chicken at the supermarket (about 4 lbs.).  For swine, the amount of waste produced per hog also far exceeds its market weight of 200-300 lbs.  To reach that weight, each hog produces about one ton of waste. … Each American produces about 5 lbs. of waste a day or about 1,600 lbs. per year.”  Whereas “human waste undergoes stringent management…there is little regulation of animal waste management” because it is not a direct part of the food chain. (p.116).  After tracing the histories of concentrated but porous animal-production operations, the author describes in detail the process of antimicrobial resistance, the “collateral damage” to tropical forests and peoples cut down and reduced to urban penury in order to produce soy for animal feed, the inadequacies of hazard regulation of the food-chain (“have a cup of coffee and pray”), and the need to hold corporations rather than consumers responsible for food safety.  She singles out differential “risks of food borne illness” as a topic ripe for health-disparities research, and offers an evidence-based but less rigorous account of food deserts, cheaper but unhealthier products targeted at low-income consumers, and the unwillingness of large food processors or retailers to prevent or solve these problems. 

The conceptual outline of the penultimate chapter, “Can we feed the world?” could provide the basis for lively class discussions around the sub-themes, “what do we mean by ‘feeding’?”, “what is the world that we commit to feeding?”, “‘what’ are we to feed the world?” and “how are we to feed the world?”.  This last section returns to the theme of sustainability of people (workers and consumers), rather than food or environment.  She ultimately is unconvinced by the evidence that small organic and local farmers can feed the world.  Therefore, industrial agriculture is necessary but must be regulated.  This final focus on the food industry, in her concluding chapter, offers “a path forward, not backward” toward a regulated food industry that protects people as well as the environment.  But readers might reasonably protest that such strengthened and bolder regulations by federal, state, and municipal institutions are unlikely in the current U.S. political environment, where moneyed interests buy political influence to act against government regulations at multiple scales. 

The strengths of this volume are its clear presentation of concepts and evidence, lucid explanations of the supporting science, and spirited critique of both sides in the Big Ag/Food vs. Small/Local Ag/Food encounter.  The weaknesses are obviously the proposed solutions and their politics.  Moreover, there is surprisingly little attention to agriculture’s emergent “middle way,” the current explorations of the potentials of regional food systems to provide livelihoods, healthy food, and ecosystem services, and intermediate marketing mechanisms.  The author might have consulted more with the Johns Hopkins University Center for a Livable Future, where Kate Clancy is a champion for this middle way, and where the author is a professor of environmental health sciences, epidemiology, and health policy and management in the Bloomberg School of Public Health.

 

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Review: What’s So Controversial about Genetically Modified Foods?

Editor’s Note: This is the first of two reviews I have planned of this important new book.

What’s So Controversial about Genetically-Modified Foods? John Lang. Reaktion Publishers. 2016

Jacket Image

Ellen Messer (Tufts U)

On October 30, 2016 the Sunday NYT ran a large front-page article on the failed promises of genetically-modified organisms (GMOs), which have yet to demonstrate significant productivity gains or pesticide reductions for food producers and arguably raise risks of health or environmental harms for everyone.  Without argument, the increase in GMO seeds and related agronomic management practices have put more control over agriculture and the food supply into the hands of a few large and ever more concentrated ag-industry players and thereby reduced farmer and consumer leverage over their food resources.  As food and nutrition anthropologists are well aware, food is basic to social, cultural, and biological life, and therefore of utmost concern to most people.  It is in this context that increasing industry dominance over the food supply, intellectual property rights over genes and consumers’ lack of trust or trustworthy information about food have become the hottest food controversies in the US and many other places.  For proponents, GMOs symbolize that great possibilities science and technology plus global corporate management systems offer for improving agricultural efficiency and effectively reaching growing populations with nourishing food.  For opponents, by contrast, GMOs are symbolic of scientific arrogance and corporate greed; they encapsulate all that is wrong with twenty-first century, un-sustainable, unhealthy, and environmentally destructive food systems.  

Most non-experts are confused; they wonder what to believe about the claims and counter-claims regarding the health and safety of GMOs, including whether they should be embraced or banned.  This small-format volume, in 139 short pages of text, sorts out the major controversies surrounding genetically-modified (GM) foods that since the late 1980s have been “remaking the global food system.” The author, a sociologist, argues that GM foods epitomize the risks that industrial, Big Ag and Big Food control over world food systems pose to sustainable food systems. A virtue of these controversies is that, in the best of all possible worlds, they awaken consumers, producers, marketers, and regulators to the challenges of ensuring healthy and sustainable diets and food supplies now and in the future.  The most pressing issues concern climate and environmental change (including degraded soils, scarcer clean water, reductions in biodiversity), inequitable access to nutritious food, and poorer nutritional choices with harmful health consequences.  These elevated risks are connected to the economics and politics of food and agriculture, which find increasing concentration and vertical corporate control over globally integrated food-value chains from farm to fork. Anti-GM positions assert that solutions must be tied to greater citizen awareness, activism, and actions that can hold the private corporate sector accountable. Pro-GM advocates similarly call for greater citizen understanding of GM crops and foods to reduce unwarranted fears and anxieties. These issues need even more urgent attention in an era of rapid scientific and technological change, which includes genetic engineering of plants, animals, and foods that no longer fit the definition of GM because gene-editing (CRISPR technique) does not involve transfer of foreign genes between species, but instead re-arranges the organism’s own genetic make-up to eliminate unwanted and enhance desirable products or characteristics.

The focus on GM as opposed to the underlying issues, Lang argues, undermines attention to these essential core concerns, which he summarizes in four chapters: (1) “The Illusion of Diversity,” (2) Intellectual Property: Protection or Overreaching?” (3) “Scary Information? Labelling and Traceability,” (4) “Scientific Fallibility: Contested Interests and Symbolic Battles.”  The final chapter (5) articulates “the tension between idealism and doom” that characterizes social and cultural responses to perceived threats of the public’s loss of control over their food, which is basic to human biological, social, and cultural life.  He suggests that “getting back on track” will require all players in these controversies to attend to the real and present dangers, instead of flash points and conflicting self-interests.  

These immediate and longer-term threats include chemical pollution in agriculture; scarcities of land, water, and fertility in areas that should be producing food for local people to eat; and the need to have genetic and pest-response resources in place for the changes already taking place in the context of environmental and climate change.  This final chapter articulates the well-known “systems” adage that would-be correction of one factor in the food system usually raises another of equal or greater concern (e.g., conservation tillage reduces run-off and soil erosion but increases soil-surface phosphorus concentrations that can pollute waterways, raise algal blooms and cause fish die-offs).  It also homes in on the lack of consumer trust in those promoting or regulating GM foods, a focus that serves as a substitute for their more general lack of understanding and distrust of expert scientists and the government officials who oversee food safety.

Lang, who at the end admits to holding a “neutral” position on GM foods, sees the GM controversies as a chance to address the underlying inequalities in production and distribution, the lack of democratic control over food systems, and the challenges of global environmental and political-economic change.  Only through greater consumer education and activism, based on more transparent food systems, can more sustainable approaches to healthy nourishment and agricultural environments address these pressing challenges.   These generalizations, with supporting information carefully organized into focused chapters are the volume’s strength.  The lack of complete scientific clarity in accounts is the volume’s weakness. Its weaknesses are inadequate communication of the science and technology; the text misses the mark by not emphasizing that, despite no surprising findings of impaired health or unexpected environmental consequences (i.e., co-evolution of pests and higher applications of herbicides were anticipated) all future GM products must be evaluated for the new risk factors they introduce.   

As a bio-cultural anthropologist who has been tracking agricultural biotechnology since its beginnings, I found the introductory explanation of the GM process, which the author attempted to simplify, overly technical and unduly difficult for non-scientists to understand. His presentations of the major GM scientific publications and public-relations controversies were either incomplete or misleading.  For example, the Cornell study that showed Bt-corn-pollen-kills-monarch-butterflies was controversial because the scientists presented known, uncontroversial information (that Bt-corn pollen, if consumed by butterfly larvae, will interfere with their feeding so that they die) but did not clarify the risk that the pollen would be present and persistent on the milkweed, the preferred food-source of butterfly larvae that feed at the edge of GM cornfields. Lang summarized the controversy surrounding the findings of organ damage to experimental rats fed GM modified potatoes carrying a pesticidal protein.  He pointed out that Pusztai, the researcher who reported these scary findings to the media, not to his scientific colleagues for peer review, lost his job and professional standing, an outcome that Lang contrasts with the Cornell researchers, who were able to continue their work because they acknowledged the additional studies that might be required.  But Lang missed the opportunity to enlighten readers more about scientific method and standards of evidence, based on replication and verification of contested studies, which in the Pusztai case apparently never happened.  On the science and public—and  professional—opinion management, food and nutrition anthropology courses would be better served by a selected set of articles, beginning with Glen Stone’s “Both Sides Now” regarding polarizations, more recent writings by him and his students, and updates to my own writings on “food systems” analysis of ag-biotech, and country- and crop-specific case studies comparing, say, Food First’s (Institute for Food and Development Policy) and Monsanto’s treatment of the same issues.

Agricultural biotechnologies and genetically-engineered crops and foods are, furthermore, a moving target.  Already, the specific cases of industrial mergers and acquisitions are out of date.  Monsanto is not buying Syngenta, but is under purchase and sale scrutiny regarding its acquisition by the German firm, Bayer.  Syngenta now is under scrutiny in a proposed merger with Chem China.  The gene-editing techniques introduced by CRISPR promise to thoroughly revolutionize molecular breeding of crops, which use their own DNA without GM gene transfers, and so will be subject to a different regulatory apparatus.  China is positioning itself to be the largest player in molecular-based breeding and crop developments.  

The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is a major facilitator in transferring technologies to the Third World and paying for transparent and trustworthy communications in the First World.  The book’s appendix on “organizations” lists seven sources of information (Codex Alimentarius, Council on Biotechnology Information, FAO, Greenpeace International, ISAAA, the non-GMO Project, and WHO).  Superior, up-to-date resources can be found on the U.S. National Research Council’s Genetically-Engineered Crops (2016) interactive website https://nas-sites.org/ge-crops/, which is searchable. An hour-long seminar presented by one of the NRC panel’s participants, Tim Griffin, clearly summarizes the findings, showing risks and benefits (no health or safety issues—yet; and no demonstrable intrinsic improvements in basic-commodity crop yields). It also emphasizing the need for constant vigilance (abstract and video available on-line at: https://nutrition.tufts.edu/event/2016-10-05/friedman-seminar-tim-griffin).  Another place to follow technical developments is Cornell University’s (pro-GM) “Genetic Literacy Project” (access at: https://www.geneticliteracyproject.org ). Cornell also posts (free) on-line course websites, where issues can be studied along with the blogs of their anti-GM respondents, e.g., http://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/05/cornell-faculty-refuse-to-defend-gmo-crops/ ).  

These sources ably cover the science-technology issues, but there is no comparable university or government website neutrally analyzing the social and ethical concerns.  The social and ethical issues, to the extent that they are discussed, relate more to human than food-crop genome-editing.  New CRISPR techniques promise to revolutionize crops tailored to hazardous environments and particular health risks.  New start-ups are endeavoring to engineer multiple components of soil micro biomes or mobilize a plant’s own genetic resources against pests or environmental perturbations.  But what are the implications for production and distribution of food crops that might reach those who are most vulnerable to higher temperatures and sea levels, undernourishment, and insecure livelihoods? In what ways might the priorities and products of genetic engineering improve equitable access to the nutritious foods particular peoples need and want to eat?  Do particular hungry places require genetically-engineered crops? Or do they need more democracy and socioeconomic access to land and livelihoods, that are being undermined by the very processes of globalization associated with GMOs?   It is this social-ethical gap in understanding that Lang’s book tries to fill. 

This is the second entry in the “Food Controversies” series edited by Andrew F. Smith, who authored the first contribution: Fast Food. The Good, the Bad, and the Hungry.  Responses to these writings can be productive and instructive, even or especially where one encounters inadequacies.

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Conference Report: 6th annual Asian Food Study Conference, Kusatsu, Japan

While there are many conferences of potential interest to food anthropologists, last weekend (December 3-4, 2016), I attended a conference that I found particularly useful and inspiring: the 6th annual Asian Food Studies Conference.

This is a conference that attracts historians, nutritionists, anthropologists, and researchers from fields like hospitality and tourism. The diverse presentation topics included these titles: “Chinese Ancient Food Culture Implied in Oracle-bone inscriptions” (Cheng Xuerong), “The Comprehensive Discourse on Edible Flowers in Pre-modern China” (Liu Jun Li), “Plagiarism and Originality: Focused on the Study of Modern Printed Cookbooks in Early 20th Century Korea” (Ra Yeon-jae), “Nutrition Education Affects the Use of an Escalator and Elevator to Reach a Women’s College on a Hilltop” (Ishihara Kengo and Takaishi Tetsuo), and “Beyond the ‘Super Shark’ Myth: Promoting Sustainable Shark Foodways in Japan and Asia” (Akamine Jun).

What really impressed me, however, was the true sense of internationalism evident at the conference. The conference’s venue changes every year. Last year the conference was held in Shangdong, China, this year in Kusatsu, Japan (hosted by Ritsumeikan University), and next year the conference venue will be in Korea. There are presentations in multiple languages (this year: Chinese, Japanese, and English). The first day’s keynote speeches, one in each language, were translated into the other two. But beyond this, the conference theme—Exchange and Dynamism of Food Culture in Asia—encouraged presentations of research that was itself transdisciplinary and transnational, with a mission toward forging connections and sharing knowledge.

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Takagi Hitoshi explaining how the Miskito categorize and use different parts of the sea turtles they hunt.

Let me give some examples. One of the panels on the first day included presenters from Malaysia, the Philippines, the US, Bulgaria, and Korea. All of the research on this panel had an obvious transnational component. A key example of such a project would be Korean scholar Ja Young Choe’s (Hong Kong Polytechnic University) research on the relative popularity of various Asian cuisines (Japanese, Korean, Thai, Indian—in that order) in Hong Kong. On the second day Francoise Sabban’s research on the culinary perceptions of French and Chinese diplomats and envoys in the 19th century, Takagi Hitoshi’s observations from fieldwork conducted among the sea turtle hunting Miskito of the Caribbean, and Osawa Yoshimi’s probing of the simultaneous global appeal of umami and distrust of MSG are other examples.

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SAFN member Shingo Hamada describing traditional foodways–fishy and fermented–in Fukui prefecture, Japan.

Representing SAFN at the conference, Shingo Hamada presented new research on obstacles to commoditizing traditional fermented foods in Japan’s contemporary Fukui prefecture and I explained how Kyoto cuisine has benefited from international support (collaborators, promoters, funders) and resources (ingredients, ideas, technology) from far outside of Japan.

Next year, the conference will be hosted in South Korea. I heartily recommend attending to anyone interested in the topics of transnationalism, food, and Asia.

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ASFS Student Paper Awards

Students! Check out these awards for undergraduate and graduate essays from the Association for the Study of Food and Society. These are great opportunities for fame and recognition. If you have been studying and writing about food and have an essay, you should submit it. A brief summary is below, along with a link to the web site with complete details on how to apply. The deadline is February 1, 2017.

The ASFS invites current undergraduate and graduate students to submit a paper for the William Whit (undergraduate) and Alex McIntosh (graduate) prizes, respectively. These awards recognize students’ contributions to the field of food studies. There will be one award each for an undergraduate student paper and a graduate student paper. ASFS welcomes submissions on a wide range of issues relating to food, society and culture, and from the diverse disciplinary and trans-disciplinary fields that ASFS encompasses. The author of each award-winning paper will receive:

  • $500
  • payment of annual membership and conference fees to be applied to the following year if student is not attending in the current year
  • a free banquet ticket for the coming year’s annual meeting or the following year’s if a ticket has already been purchased or the student is not attending the conference in the current year; and
  • the opportunity to present prize-winning papers at an ASFS/AFHVS conference. Winners who wish to present the year they receive their award must have submitted a conference abstract in that same year.

Please note

  • Authors are highly encouraged to simultaneously submit an abstract to the ASFS/AFHVS conference by the conference deadline. Conference organizers cannot add your paper to an already completed program; you MUST submit an abstract by the deadline.
  • Prize winning papers may be presented at an ASFS/AFHVS conference within two years of award. Those prize winners who submit a conference abstract in the subsequent two years, should indicate their award status (year and name of award) with the abstract.
  • Prize winners may also postpone their registration and banquet ticket use for one year following the award.

Deadline for Annual Submission (all required material): February 1. NO Exceptions! Electronic submissions ONLY!

For complete details, visit this site.

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What FoodAnthro is Reading Now, December 5, 2016

A brief digest of food and nutrition-related items that caught our attention recently. Do you have items you think we should include? Send links and brief descriptions to dberiss@gmail.com or hunterjo@gmail.com.

This past week, Peng Chang-Kuei, the inventor of General Tso’s chicken, died at aged 98:

As Hunanese chefs adopted General Tso’s chicken, the dish entered a strange second career. In a sweeping act of historical revisionism, it came to be seen as a traditional Hunan dish. Several Hunanese chefs have described it in their cookbooks as a favorite of the 19th-century general’s.

The end of the year is fast approaching, which means it’s already time to look back on food in 2016. Forbes tells us about 5 trends to look for in 2017. The Guardian reviews a few of the best food books of 2016, though they are mainly recipe-focused. I’m sure there’ll be more digests looking back at our food year– let us know if you see a good one.

Here’s an article reporting on divided U.S. food attitudes, basically dividing Americans into two distinct camps, which I’m not sure our readers would be quite so ready to do:

“Food has become a flashpoint in American culture and politics,” the researchers wrote in their report, released Thursday. “The way Americans eat has become a source of potential social, economic and political friction.”

For personal inspiration, we loved this story about using paying customers to support non-paying customers:

“The inspiration came from Pope Francis, who’s spoken again and again about the importance of giving people dignity, whether it’s through bread or through work,” said Father Ángel.

Haddad, Hawkes and colleagues wrote about creating a new research agenda for food. We think it gave a lot of space for the work of food anthropologists:

Pairings of single foods and diseases are the basis of risk-factor analysis in global burden studies, but tell us little about diets as a whole.

Do you have readings we missed? Let us know!

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