Pinot EnvyThe year 2004 may not have been the best for food representation at the movies. Sure, there were the occasional concerns about starvation (Shaun of the Dead), the havoc of running a fast-food restaurant (Fries with That) and a dog entering an animal contest to win a lifetime supply of “Tummy Yummies”--no, really--(Clifford's Really Big Movie), but a couple of films took serious issue with the food industry.
The Future of Food billed itself as “an in-depth investigation into the disturbing truth behind the unlabeled, patented, genetically engineered foods that have quietly filled U.S. grocery shelves for the past decade.” Negatively impacted farmers naturally proffered their take on the situation, and the movie went on to elaborate health implications stemming from genetically altered crops in the food supply.
Then, of course, there was Super Size Me, the documentary that chronicled filmmaker Morgan Spurlock's month-long, thrice-a-day McDonald's diet. The Oscar-nominated film purported to show the mental and physical effects of a regimen consisting of nothing but the fast food giant's fare. Good Burger, it was not.
However, on the beverage side of things, one movie is being credited with single-handedly boosting sales of Pinot Noir wine. Sideways also was nominated for an Academy Award, though not in the documentary category with Super Size Me. No, Sideways scored acting, directing, writing and best picture nods; it features a wine snob extolling the virtues of Pinot Noir over Merlot--well, that and a guy taking full advantage of his last week of “freedom” before he is to be married.
Audiences apparently have been captivated by the Pinot Noir elements, for tourism in wine country near Santa Barbara, Calif., has peaked. Furthermore, according to ACNielsen (New York), the benefits have extended to sales of Pinot Noir. While the varietal's sales have been on the rise for years, purchases have been especially strong since the film's release, driven mostly by domestic brands.
A recent FDA decision could benefit sales even further. Willamette Valley Vineyards (Turner, Ore.) announced it has received the first federal government label approval of resveratrol content, the antioxidant, on its Pinot Noir wines.
The In Box:
Victual RealityAnyone who has had to endure the seemingly interminable wait for a loved one to “finish the next level” or “just get past this final boss battle” is well aware of the challenges real life can impose on the serious matter of playing videogames. Never mind that these pursuits are being lumped among the many reasons for the nation's looming obesity crisis, some are taking the opportunity to put a slice of life into the gaming world, so to speak.
To explain, EverQuest from Sony Online Entertainment (SOE, San Diego) is a widely popular videogame, and boasts hundreds of thousands of players. Put simply, a player creates a character, logs in to venture into the online world of EverQuest, finds others that have done likewise, and they go on quests together. Simple enough, right? Yes, some would say too simple, for the game is incredibly addicting. It is not unusual to find users routinely spending eight to 15 hours a day in the realm of Norrath.
With all of those hours spent slaying dragons and battling monsters, such real-world concerns as eating and working can be forgotten--or at least delayed greatly. While a job with a videogame magazine or website may be the only cure for the latter dilemma, SOE and Pizza Hut (Dallas) have devised a solution to the former.
The sequel EverQuest II will offer the gamer the ability to order a pizza in the real world. While playing, the user simply has to type the command “/pizza”, which brings forth a Pizza Hut web page where orders can be placed for delivery. Furthermore, SOE has plans to allow users to charge the order to their monthly game bill.
Considering how heavily the food industry markets to females, it might be important to know that a study by the Entertainment Software Association (Washington) found that 39% of gamers are women, the average age overall is 29, and 66% of most-frequent game players are over 18, with 41% over the age of 35. In light of that data, companies would be well advised at least to consider the marketing possibilities of the virtual world.
Salty BanterWith trans fats quickly on their way out of a great many items on store shelves, food watchdogs are turning their attention to other ingredients to vilify as the downfall of humanity. For a few weeks, it appeared that high-fructose corn syrup would be next to face the wrath of the food police, but that movement appears to have lost steam. Now, sodium levels are at issue.
Michael Jacobson, executive director of the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI, Washington), has selected sodium as his group's latest target. Decrying salt as possibly “the single deadliest ingredient in the food supply,” he announced that the CSPI is suing the FDA as part of an effort to demand a crackdown on sodium levels in food.
Jacobson finds no fault with consumer attitudes; he merely wants requirements to mandate manufacturers and restaurants to use less salt. He drew attention to the sodium levels of a pair of food items: the 5,410mg in a frozen turkey dinner and the 4,462mg in a breakfast offering at a national chain. Each was considerably above the government-recommended 2,300mg and even higher than the daily American average of 3,375mg.
Jacobson wants salt to be stripped of its generally recognized as safe (GRAS) status and re-designated a food additive, allowing the FDA more power to limit salt levels in processed food. This is not the first time the CSPI has attempted the sodium switch; a similar lawsuit was dismissed in 1983.
The FDA declined comment. A spokesperson for the Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA, Washington) noted that the industry has been reducing salt levels in foods for years, though at incremental levels due to the public's general rejection of low- and no-sodium foods. Efforts to find a salt substitute have been to little avail. Unsurprisingly, the Salt Institute (Alexandria, Va.) defended the ingredient as GRAS “because it is safe” and knows of no reason to change salt's status to that of a food additive.