Eat the Week National: Organics Overseas and the Tussle for Farm Bill Transparency

Eat the Week National: Organics Overseas and the Tussle for Farm Bill Transparency

1. In a decision that will most likely triple U.S. produce exports to Europe within three years, the USDA and the European Union agreed Wednesday to standardize their respective definitions of what makes fruits and vegetables “organic,” rendering regulatory semantics equivalent. Previously, this or that fertilizer used on this or that side of the ocean, and other small production issues of the sort, prevented essentially organic produce from being called organic once it reached the other side. And now all has been made right, come June 1, effectively doubling domestic farmers’ consumer base.

2. Portion sizes have seriously come under the gun in the fight against obesity and food waste as of late. A study conducted at a Chinese restaurant, by a research team at Duke University, turned up proof that approximately a quarter of diners opt for half-size side orders of rice or noodles regardless of being charged for the standard helping. Rather than attacking entrée portions, the researchers found reducing quantities of less expensive, starchy sides, heaped onto plates to create the illusion of value, is the key to subtly cutting back waste and, simultaneously, slimming waist-lines.

3. On the subject of smaller portions, Mars — god of candy bars — has announced that, by the end of 2013, all of their myriad chocolaty offerings will be chopped in size to comply with a (ballpark) 250-calorie top-off. King-size goes kaput.

4. Nearly a year back, the spokesman for the tongue-in-cheek Las Vegas burger joint Heart Attack Grill — 29-year-old, 575-pound Blair River — died after a nasty case of pneumonia, much to the invalidation of many people’s presumptions. But this week, on Saturday, a customer in his 40s hit the irony right on the head: while seated in the Heart Attack Grill consuming a sandwich known as the Triple Bypass, a (nameless) man went into cardiac arrest. Thankfully, he’s alive and well and, hopefully, chuckling about not having to pay for his meal.

5. The anticipation is almost over, folks. Taco Bell announced on Thursday that the Doritos Locos Taco will indelibly debut as a permanent menu item on March 8. (For those of you not in the know or somehow left stumped by the name, Doritos Locos Tacos are tacos with crispy shells made of whatever it is Nacho Cheese Doritos are made of. Also pertinent: this was urged into existence by thousands upon thousands of Taco Bell/Doritos enthusiasts. Peer pressure lives.)

6. The nearly impenetrable and incalculably vital national legislation known as the farm bill gets tossed around Congress, beginning this week. Apparently, even politicians and trained professionals struggle to comprehend its complexity. If you need to know just one thing about this year’s bi-decade update to the bill, SNAP takes up a majority of the budget (~68% in 2008), and we basically have no idea where relevant taxpayer money (~$72 billion to SNAP in 2011) is actually going (e.g., no itemized receipts required of retailers who accept food stamps). This may soon change.

7. If you’re under the impression that the best beer to use when playing beer pong is Big Flats or Beast Ice or Game Day, you are incredibly behind the curve, my friend. All of those fine beverages can be bought in units smaller than a box of 30 and none of those fine beverages include complimentary ping-pong balls. Say hello to Pong Beer, the winner of this year’s national “Our Product Excels at Openly Encouraging and Actively Advancing Binge Drinking” Award. Available in certain states since last December, Pong has now popped up in the South and is quickly spreading like a communicable disease at a frat party.

8. Ready your most convincing surprised face, everyone: Chris Matthews believes and un-self-consciously voices his opinion that it’s “weird” when husbands cook dinner. Never mind fathers or uncles or brothers or sons, because if they’re cooking dinner, it’s probably some kind of special occasion, like single-parenthood or Mother’s Day, and, in which case, it isn’t weird. But when a man married to a woman goes ahead and prepares food for his family while they tend to the finer, more challenging points of domestic existence usually relegated only to non-mom entities, it’s time to pull out the bizarro-meter and take a reading. Off the charts.

9. The ceiling’s the limit at Chicago’s Michelin-ranked restaurant Alinea, where the freshest food wizardry is their inflatable dessert — flavored, floating balloons. They’re just toying with us, at this point.

10. As if the globe needed further proof of Monsanto’s villainy, French grain farmer Paul Francois steps forward to announce they poisoned him while he routinely cleaned the tank of his crop sprayer, back in 2004. What the globe definitely does need is a foot in the door to curbing Monsanto, and that foot comes in the form of a guilty verdict: in a landmark ruling — as in, first-of-its-kind — against pesticide makers, Monsanto are shown to have failed to provide adequate warning labels on one of their weedkillers (banned by the EU in 2007) and are consequently being held accountable for causing neurological damage to Francois. Gouge ‘em good, guy!

Photo: daveparker