What’s Behind the Label: The Hidden World of Codex Alimentarius and Jerri Husch

Who among you have heard of Codex Alimentarius?  Not many I bet.  I’d like to consider myself relatively informed, but last night’s talk was my first introduction to Codex Alimentarius.  Jerri Husch, Ph.D, our presenter is a sociologist and professor.  She was a member of the WHO/FAO evaluation team that analyzed Codex Alimentarius.  She speaks from a place of integrity, experience and deep knowledge.  Her passion is evident as well as her commitment to get her hands dirty–literally and make change happen.

So back to Codex Alimentarius. This is a very complicated, contentious and controversial organization.  It is ostensibly an organization that creates global standards for food production and safety.  Yet it is also charged with decisions about the food we eat being made on the basis of trade agreements, politics and vested interests. Read more about Codex Alimentarius on Wikipedia, and here. This video, produced by the Codex Alimentarius describes how, in their words, the process works.

And a an alternative viewpoint:

Most of the people  reading these words  are conscious about the how the choices they make affect their health and wellness.  Yet the choices we make go far beyond our personal health to “hidden implications” world wide.  These are implications on indigenous cultures,  global economies and  the environment. Case in point–Quinoa.  Quinoa is a nutrient dense grain that has become very popular among the health conscious.  Grown for centuries in the Andes, this “lost crop” of the Incas has traditionally been a staple of the diet in places like Bolivia. As demand for quinoa has exploded, some of the implications for farmers who grow it has been an increase in income.  In an effort to increase production, Bolivian farmers are abandoning traditional farming techniques which endangers the eco-system.  Due to increased demand, fewer Bolivians can now afford this grain that has been a part of their culture for centuries.  When you can no longer afford quinoa, how do you feed your family? Cheaper, processed food with little nutritional value which, in the long run is sure to have far reaching affects on health and wellness.  Here are two links that go into greater detail on the global implications of the increasing demand for quinoa:  a 2011 article from the New York Times and a 2013 article from the Huffington Post.  Another example is the devastating effects of palm oil production, (most recently highlighted in the Girl Scout cookie controversy, but found in many processed foods), on health, natural habitats, indigenous people and subsistence farmers. Read more on that here in a report by the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

So it’s good to really get a feel for some of the issues.  Beyond good, at this point, I think it is crucial, if we are to be informed, responsible consumers with not just our health in mind, but the health of the global food system as a whole.  However, knowledge brings with it a myriad of emotions ranging from disbelief to outright anger.  Individually it is hard at times to imagine that anything we do would result in real change.  But when individual band together, neighborhood, communities, cities, states and beyond begin to make very real differences that have larger, far reaching implications on the food system.  In the words of Margaret Mead:

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”

One of those ways is to grow food.  Individual, families, schools, churches, businesses.  Create sustainable, edible gardens throughout your communities.  I am going to share two TED talks that are inspiring beyond words. Two men who have created movements, changed their communities and the lives of those living in these communities. Watch them both and see what dedication, determination, drive and passion can do. An individual, leading to a small group that is changing the world.

This is just the teeny tiny tippity tip of the iceberg.  If you want to read more, these are resources recommended by Jerri.


From Farm to Table: Farmboxes

We are in the season of gardening and farmer’s markets.  Here in the lowcountry, between Savannah, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Bluftton, there are a lot of farmer’s markets. Despite my best intentions, I know I don’t always make it to the farmer’s markets and vegetables from my garden?, well, it remains to be seen what nature will bring! For people like me, there is another option:  Farm Boxes.  I love the idea of these.  The produce is going to be what is in season and theoretically you will be getting it at it’s freshest. But I also love the surprise of getting this box of fresh fruit and veggies and having to creatively include it in meals. The challenge of figuring out what to do with something you may have bypassed in the grocery store or getting varieties that aren’t usually available. This also seems like a good way to increase the variety in your diet. There are 2 farms that I have recently seen advertising farm boxes.  I don’t have any experience with any of them, but if you do or if you have used farm boxes in the past, I would love to know your thoughts.

Earth to Table Farmbox Delivery:

Brought to you by Jason and Stacy Berry of Berry Farms. This farm, located outside Vidalia, GA has been certified organic since 2007. It offers farm box pickup or delivery locations in Savannah, Tybee, Hilton Head, Bluffton, Wilmington Island and more. The farm box comes in 3 sizes:  Small, Medium and Large. Add on’s such as locally caught fish, wild Georgia shrimp and artisan cheese are available. Some of the produce available this week included:

  • rainbow swiss chard
  • rainbow carrots
  • broccoli
  • strawberries

Heritage Organic Farm:

This 20 acre farm in Guyton, GA claims to be the first farm in GA to be certified organic. There farm boxes are designed by a nutrionist. Options include:

  • Family Box:  three types of fruits and vegetables
  • Petite Box: same variety, smaller amount
  • 80/20 Box:  8 different veggies, 2 different fruits
  • Custom

Special orders include:  extra fruits and veggies, certified organic egg, meat, cheese and coffee. Recipes and nutritional information are either emailed or included in the boxes.

There are pick-up locations for these boxes in Savannah, Okatie, Bluffton, Richmond Hill or from the farm.

If you know of any others, or have experience from using farm boxes, please share them here.

Urban Roots and From Seed to Plate- Edible Inspiration in time for Spring

This is going to be a a quick friday morning post because I am inspired and I want to share that inspiration.  Here in the Southeast, spring is definitely in the air. My hands are itching to begin their first real attempt at growing food. If we really want to know where our food is coming from, control how it is grown and get it at its peak, then it is best to just grow it yourself.

There is a increasing trend of people in urban areas finding ways to grow large amounts of food in small spaces. Check out how Detroit is educating a community, inspiring kids and working toward sustainability.

Urban Roots Trailer from Tree Media on Vimeo.

In this video, an edible roof top garden.

Seed to Plate: A Garden Story from Riley Hooper on Vimeo.

The infamous Chipotle video: will it help get rid of gestation crates?

If you don’t know who Marion Nestle is, you should. To say she is a nutritionist is just the tip of the iceberg. She is a huge proponent of food safety and had been very influential in bringing food politics into the light. Her book “What to Eat” is a fascinating and illuminating read. Earlier, I posted the Chipotle video depicting a farmer’s change of heart as he transitions from a factory farm. Marion Nestle has some thoughts about the video and wrote about it on her blog. There are a lot of things I still don’t know (and probably don’t want to know) about factory farming. It is definitely worth reading.

The infamous Chipotle video: will it help get rid of gestation crates?.

Sustainable, Poisonous, & Recipes

Back To the Start

There are many reasons for adopting a meatless diet. One of them is the treatment of animals in America’s factory farms. If you have ever read accounts from Michael Pollan and the like, or seen videos, then I don’t know how you couldn’t look at cellophane wrapped packages of meat or poultry a little differently. It is really, really bad. But I am heartened that there does seem to be a movement on the horizon which will hopefully lead to some positive changes. This video from Chiptole Grill chronicles a farmer turning his farm into a factory farm then going back to more sustainable practices.  It is one of the best commercials I’ve seen in a very long time.

Organic Brown Rice Syrup and Arsenic

Many foods marketed to the health conscious contain an ingredient called brown rice syrup as a sweetener. A study was recently published that found high levels of Arsenic in foods such as baby formula, energy bars and cereal bars. Read more here.


Cathy Fisher creates and demonstrates recipes at 2 inpatient nutrition facilities: True North Health Center & The McDougall Program. Both facilities promote improving health through low-fat, plant based diets. Her philosphy?

My philosophy and teaching focus on the belief that health is the body’s normal state and that chronic disease and discomfort are not the inevitable outcomes of aging or bad genes (in the majority of cases), but are the result of lifestyle and nutritional habits cultivated over a lifetime.

And best of all:  the recipes look great!  Check out this Split Pea & Yam Soup. If you try any of them, let us know!  Post your comments.