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CNN IN THE MONEY
American Portion Sizes Out Of Control; Diet Fads Not Best Way To Lose Weight; Organic Food: Hottest Items In Grocery Store
Aired December 31, 2005 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHITFIELD, CNN ANCHOR, IN THE MONEY: Hello again. I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta.
Now in the news. In the big apple another year means another drop of the ball. Workers are putting the finishing touches on the crystal ball. That will drop at Times Square at the stroke of midnight. Police expect up to a million people to crowd into the square to bring you the New Year.
Flight for life, an Iraqi baby is on her way to the U.S. for life-saving medical treatment. U.S. soldiers encountered baby Noor during a raid on her family's home. The infant suffers from a life threatening birth defect. She is scheduled to arrive here in Atlanta just over two hours from now and we'll bring you all the details, as that happens.
In Iraq, insurgents target Baghdad's green zone. Three mortars were fired at the heavily fortified area. Sirens were heard wailing in the zone. But it's not known if there was any damage or injuries from that attack. The green zone houses much of the Iraqi government and the U.S. Embassy.
Those are the headlines. More news as it happens. IN THE MONEY is up next.
ANNOUNCER: From New York City America's financial capital this is IN THE MONEY.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN ANCHOR, IN THE MONEY: Welcome to IN THE MONEY, I'm Susan Lisovicz sitting in for Jack Cafferty with a special holiday weekend edition of the program.
Coming up, thinking outside the styrofoam box. We'll look at how your income helps influence the eating choices you make.
Plus, anybody here order half a cow? Learn how America's portion sizes went from on target to out of control.
And figuring out what organic really means. Find out about the battle to define the sexiest label in your supermarket.
Joining me today a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans. "Lou Dobbs Tonight" correspondent Christine Romans and "Fortune" Magazine's editor- at-large, Andy Serwer.
It is the holidays and in the U.S. that means excess, and if you think about excess it has got to be food. You know I read an interesting statistic that most Americans gain only one pound on average between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Isn't that crazy? It just feels like so much more.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN CO-ANCHOR, IN THE MONEY: It's unbelievable, the amount that we eat at this time of the year. I don't know if it's the pressure or if it is just the availability of the food. But why do we need to sit down and to be happy, to have a 64- ounce soda and humongous triple serving of turkey --
LISOVICZ: Because you can.
ANDY SERWER, EDITOR-AT-LARGE, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Because it's good.
ROMANS: I guess so. Bigger is better in this country, whether it's our cars or it's our food or our butts, I guess.
SERWER: Yeah, I'll tell you, you know why people only gain a pound in that period is because they lie. They're not telling the truth. People gain a lot of weight, I think. They try these diets. I was on Atkins for a while and basically all it made me was unhappy.
LISOVICZ: You really were on a diet, Andy?
SERWER: The constant bacon eating was good I liked that. People try it. They're fads. I think people should enjoy themselves. Eat as much as you want out there this holiday season.
ROMANS: But keep moving.
ROMANS: You've got to keep moving. I think personal responsibility is so important in all of this. You hear people complain about the food companies or complain about the portions they've gotten so much bigger.
SERWER: They made me do it.
ROMANS: Or they are not getting enough exercise. Exercise is free, walk, breathe, and don't eat so much. For most of us, losing weight should be a simple matter of eating less and exercising more. But many Americans want a quick fix.
Preferably, one we can buy off the shelf. We spend an estimated; get this, $46 billion last year on diet food and merchandise. The question is, did any of that stuff really work?
Leah Hoffman is going to tell us about the diet business and how effective it is. She's a staff writer covering culture and technology for Forbes.com. Leah welcome to the program.
LEAH HOFFMAN, FORBES.COM: Hi. Thanks for having me.
ROMANS: This is one of the only kinds of business models where if you're successful than you go out of business. If diets really worked, then you wouldn't have people who need to go on diets. I mean, people are continuing to sign up because they're not losing weight.
HOFFMAN: Right, that's true. The fact the matter remains that with most of the diets on the market, they're just not going to help you keep the weight off, if they help you lose it in the first place.
SERWER: Leah let me ask about the magic bullet. Because that's always intrigued me. What's wrong with thinking you can take a pill and take it every day and it will keep the weight off? I mean so far they haven't discovered one. I'd like it if they did. What's wrong with that?
HOFFMAN: Nothing's wrong with it. The fact remains it doesn't exist though.
SERWER: Oh, there's that problem.
HOFFMAN: Yeah, unfortunately.
LISOVICZ: The other thing, Leah is that one of the reasons why diets perhaps don't work is that they're expensive and you don't stay on them forever and real life isn't as rigid as say, the Atkins Diet or the Zone Diet or the South Beach Diet, whatever they're called.
HOFFMAN: I'm not sure that it's because of the expense most people drop off but I think it's more to do with the rigidity. I mean if you choose a diet, any diet you choose is going to have rules. But for most people, it's the question of -- on Atkins, are you really going to give up carbs for the rest of your life? It is a difficult decision. And a lot of people can't stick with them because they're unrealistic.
ROMANS: They must work well enough, these pills and diets and fads that you lose some weight and that's enough for someone else to say, gee, I want to do that too. Losing weight isn't the problem, right? It's the keeping the weight off and changing the behavior. Tell us about that.
HOFFMAN: Right. Well, a government review found that about two- thirds of people will regain the weight that they lost within a year and as many as 97 percent will regain it within five years. So really, the key to weight loss is not finding something that will help you lose weight because there are plenty of programs if you reduce your calories severely enough and up your exercise for a given time that will help you lose weight. But keeping it off requires, you know, lifestyle changes.
SERWER: I mean it's really about expectations, Leah. You have to do something that you can stick with. I mean, leaving the exercise part aside, although that's actually part of it, too. You should have an exercise program that is realistic, not thinking you're going to run ten miles every morning. So how do to people change so that they're eating better? What are some ways that you can change your mindset? HOFFMAN: I think changing your mind set is probably less to do with finding -- you know, don't dream up the magic bullet because probably it's not going to come around for the next couple of years.
HOFFMAN: Just try and incorporate changes that you can, you know, try and find healthy foods that you will like to eat. Don't make it a chore. Incorporate exercise in as many ways as you can, because that's the number one way to actually maintain the weight loss.
LISOVICZ: Leah I find it amazing that this is the only growth industry in the U.S. where most customers fail.
HOFFMAN: Right, well --
SERWER: That's a good one.
HOFFMAN: If you're trying to lose weight, it's a very heart- wrenching thing. I mean, we keep on going, trying these new diets, because it's something that a lot of people want to do.
LISOVICZ: But are there any success stories? Is there any diet you think actually has a long track record of success or some success?
HOFFMAN: I really -- I can't evaluate that. I think the simplest answer to that question is really just to eat in moderation and exercise more.
ROMANS: And this is the time of year to talk about unrealistic expectations.
SERWER: We have to get real Leah right?
ROMANS: Put the fork down. Leah Hoffman thank you so much, Forbes.com. Thanks Leah.
HOFFMAN: Thank you.
ROMANS: When we come back, eating for two. America's portions are bigger these days and, you know what, so are many of the people who eat them. Learn how we got here and see what to do about it.
Also ahead, the real dirt on the organic label. We're going to bring you both sides in the debate over what that word really means.
ROMANS: Large, tall, king, super. Whatever the food chains want to call it, big has gotten really big. But it hasn't always been that way. Our next guest says food portions are now twice the size they were 20 years ago. That's the number one reason why obesity is such a problem in this country today. Lisa Young is the author of the "Portion Teller, Smart Size Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss." She's also a professor at New York University. Welcome to the program.
LISA YOUNG, AUTHOR, "PORTION TELLER:" Thank you for having me. It is great to be here.
ROMANS: You can't hardly clean your plate anymore these days. Everything is so big. A 64-ounce container of soda. People order this and try to finish it. When did this happen?
YOUNG: This happened really beginning mostly in the 1980s, where we had a lot money. We're producing more food. And food is so cheap. It's really such a cheap thing for the manufacturer that you can pay -- they can charge you an extra quarter and you get twice as much or three times as much and at the end of the day, we're dealing with an extra 500, 600 calories at a time, which totally has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
LISOVICZ: Lisa, let's give examples. The movie theaters, for instance where they make most of the profit, not the actual movie but the junk you see on the way in. Last year, I was taking my nephews and I wanted to get them limited amounts of soda and the woman behind the cash register was saying, but you get a better value for this, this and this. I thought I don't want my nephew having 64 ounces of sugar water. I mean I actually had to have a debate with her about it. You know, I wanted to take control. That's a big offender, right?
YOUNG: It's unbelievable. You go to the movie theater and a small popcorn is seven cups. For an extra 50 cents or 60 cents, you can get a medium, which is 16 cup of popcorn. And you're getting, again, like three times as many calories. A kiddie soda in the movie is a pint, that's 16 ounces. The smallest size that you can buy. And it's just -- you can't even get the small sizes anymore, even if you want them.
SERWER: You know actually Lisa; it's interesting you guys are talking about movie theaters. I know the person who invented super sizing McDonald's actually came from the movie theater business and he was the one who created this, solving the problem because at a movie theater you only go to the concession stand once. He tried to get people to go more than once but the way to get more money was to make the products bigger so that's where that whole thing comes from.
SERWER: I want to ask you about the government's role in all this. You ask the FDA or Health and Human Services, what's a serving, and there's no answer. That way the food companies can play game. There are three servings in this pack of Yodels, when everyone knows that everyone eats all of them at one time. Is that a problem?
YOUNG: It's a huge problem and there's a huge discrepancy between government serving sizes both for the food labels, which is the Food, and Drug Administration, as well as for the pyramid of nutrition and education, which is the Department of Agriculture. I got started with this research because I noticed what these government servings were and how small they are in comparison to what we're served. In a sense they don't really help you in anyway because you're correct, you look at the food label and it says one muffin is three servings. But yet you're going to eat the whole thing at once.
ROMANS: I think it's interesting, I think a lot people don't realize that as nutritionists just recently told me, a serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. Boys and girls you go to a restaurant, a piece of salmon is ten times that maybe. And you talk about some of these things, a glass of wine for example it really isn't a glass of wine all the way to the top. Yet we drink it, because we paid for it. We think that we have to get our value.
ROMANS: Is it our fault?
YOUNG: It's -- you know, it's a combination. I think that it's really -- we're living in an environment that has so many external cues at such toxicity because we're encouraged to buy bigger sizes, we're given more food. And research across the board shows that we eat more. And we don't even feel anymore full. We eat more even if we don't like the way it tastes.
LISOVICZ: You know Lisa, we have really gotten addicted to these generous sizes. Ruby Tuesday's apparently started limiting its portions on french fries and pasta and customers balked. They did not order that anymore, so they went back and started offering less healthy choices.
YOUNG: It's a big problem. We'll see what happens with McDonald's now that they'll sort of post the information on the wrapper. We'll see what the response is. We say we don't want big portions but we do. I mean, I combed through a Zaggette guide for some my research. Instead of saying the food tastes good, what you hear is, ooh, I like this place, they give me Fred Flintstone's portions. So we want those big portions as well. And we are given them, so it's a catch-22.
SERWER: We either eat it all and that's bad or we throw it all away and that's bad too. Isn't this trend sort of crested though Lisa? I mean you are seeing salads getting more popular, McDonald's. I have to think that growth in the french fry industry is slowing.
LISOVICZ: No pun intended.
SERWER: Exactly, thank you. What's your take on that?
YOUNG: I'm actually finding people that are fed up sometimes. Portions are actually getting bigger. I mean, think about the Hardee's monster thick burger, that's two-thirds of a pound of beef and we're getting 1,400 calories. Burger King introduced an enormous omelet sandwich so successful that back in September they introduced something else, even bigger. So we seem to be wanting these big portions.
ROMANS: Lisa, the title of your book is "Smart Size Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss. So if you want to lose weight and you are surrounded by these trends in 30 seconds or less, how can you smart size to permanent weight loss? YOUNG: Eat half of what's on your plate and buy the smallest size available, share with your dinner companion and stop before you take doubles.
SERWER: All right. Lisa Young, author of -- I love the name of this book," Portion Teller, Smart Size Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss." She is also a professor at New York University. Thanks for coming on the program.
YOUNG: Thank you.
SERWER: Coming up after the break. Snails that would be escargot are out and sushi is in. "Food & Wine" editor in chief Dana Cowin will tell us about the hottest trends in food for 2006.
And brain food. Find out how smart you are about eating right with our "Fun Site of the Week."
SERWER: High-end and high-quality restaurants took a hit when the stock market tanked five years ago but our next guest says they're making a comeback. Dana Cowin is editor in chief of "Food & Wine" Magazine, and she joins us now from here in New York to talk about the latest restaurant trend. Dana welcome to the program. A fabulous subject, great restaurants. Where do we begin here? What are some of the big broad trends going on in this business?
DANA COWIN, "FOOD & WINE" MAGAZINE: Well, we're looking at some fantastic high-end restaurants. This is as you said, a new trend. We're looking at Zoell Robison (ph) one of the greatest chefs in the entire world opening in Las Vegas. And you can imagine it's a 295- prefixed 16-course meal that you can get there. Or in Sirius in Hillsburg, in the wine country, fantastic food, beautiful pairings. In New York, we're going to see some big openings here. Mori Moto, who was the iron chef, is going to be opening a restaurant in the city. So that brings me to another trend, which is just high-flying Asian food, fantastic and expensive.
ROMANS: Dana you put out the two most expensive restaurants in the U.S. right now are not French restaurant, they are sushi restaurants. And across the board, whether it's pizza or sushi, everything is sort of being elevated to a little finer level.
COWIN: You're absolutely right. We've got the best two restaurants, Masa in New York, and Asowa (ph) in L.A. We're talking about $500 a person before you walk out the door. That's pricey. But we're also talking about upgrading the low beaux, which is -- you know, partly where I love to live. In New York City, we've got David Chak at Mama-Fuku. This is a sliver of a restaurant, dressed up in plywood. But it has the best noodle soup. And when you have Ramen with pork, you are talking about fancy; fancy pork, just in sort a noodle shop. Or high-end pizza, we're talking about the best crust, like Pizza Neapolitan in New York, or Pizza Ria Daphnia (ph) in San Francisco. These guys are experts they have done their homework. We're talking about elevating the slice. LISOVICZ: Dana, you know we're all salivating here. Thank you very much for that. You have really described this so beautifully. It's interesting; food really goes through fads, just like clothes do, just like the economy does. You know, I remember when meat loaf came back as some comfort food and blackened everything was in vogue. Now I see tiny petite vegetables are cool?
COWIN: This is what I love. We have petite vegetables. We used to have micro vegetable, and now we've gone up to petite. One step up from petite but one-step down from small. We're talking a micro trend with petite vegetable, from a farmer in Ohio, at a place called the Chef's Garden.
SERWER: Dana, I want to ask you a little bit about that. First of all, I'm happy to report that Susan's agreed to take me out to that $500 lunch --
LISOVICZ: If we can get in.
ROMANS: It's right next door.
SERWER: Yes it is. Conveniently located. What about the rest of the country? You are talking about New York; you are talking about Napa Valley, Las Vegas. What's going on in Ohio and Illinois, Iowa, you know are there changes going on in the heartland as well?
COWIN: I think there are changes afoot everywhere, which is something I embrace. There are people who are paying so much attention to what it is that they're eating, what's on their plate. The spread of whole foods, for example, has elevated people's consciousness about organic foods. And, you know, foods that have been handled well that are grown locally. I think that's changed America's diet just a bit.
And the restaurants are trying to do local food and simple food, which, you know, I applaud. So even, you know, in those flyover states, I think we see a huge interest in sort of better quality food and also the mail order world, you know, just the fact that you can go online and get, you know, whatever it is you crave. You heard about Hawaiian sea salt that you shave into your dish. You can order that Hawaiian sea salt if you really wanted to.
ROMANS: Dana, tell us about Portland, Oregon. I would not have picked Portland, Oregon, as the bar restaurant capital of the country, but you say this is where a lot of great things are happening.
COWIN: I'm just so impressed with Portland, you know, I was there years ago and they had fantastic chefs. You know, Greg Higgins, they had the burgeoning food movement. They're really near a wine country, but the chefs in Portland, they're trying to do something new. There's a guy named Michael Hebaroy who has three restaurants, each with an incredible chef, and they are at the Vanguard. They did something called family supper where they illegally served people -- they finally got a liquor license, they finally came clean. But they want to change the way that we look at food and that's what's interesting to me about Portland. One of the greatest mycologists in the country named Lucy Brennan is in Portland at a restaurant called Mint.
LISOVICZ: While we're talking about mixology, let's talk about the buying beverages that you have with the delicious meal.
SERWER: Yeah, let's.
LISOVICZ: What's new there?
COWIN: I am all about the cocktail trend. I feel like we've been really excited about chefs for a really long time. We've got Mari Batali, star in clogs, but now we're moving over to the bar, and we're looking at the mixologists becoming absolute stars, people who go to a restaurant just to see a guy crush --
LISOVICZ: What are we drinking, though?
COWIN: Oh, the drinks have ridiculous names. A combination of ingredients that is seasonal, fresh and delicious, but wacky. I mean this is a food adventure. If you're interested in adventuring in the world of food, that's the place to try it out. Go have a drink at a bar that has an incredible bartender, and you'll be not just happy, but you'll be pleased.
SERWER: All right. Well we could go on and on, obviously. And two words "yum-yum." Dana Cowin is the editor in chief of "Food & Wine." thank you very much for coming on the program.
COWIN: Thank you.
SERWER: Coming up on IN THE MONEY granola sheak goes corporate. Organic food isn't just for sprout heads anymore, you knew that. See what's behind the label that's becoming a status symbol.
And trading the checkout line for online. Allen Wastler of Money.com will tell us who tanked and who thrived in the Internet grocery war.
WHITFIELD: Hello, I'm Fredricka Whitfield at the CNN Center in Atlanta. Here are the top stories now in the news.
An Iraqi infant who stole the hearts of American troops is expected to arrive in the states about two hours from now. Three month old baby Noor is heading here to Atlanta for potentially life-saving surgery. She has the birth defect of spinal bifida and had been given only 45 days to live.
Take a look at this dramatic rescue video just in to CNN. A woman in Thelma, California stuck inside a car in an area over run by floodwaters. It took rescuers an hour and a half to get her out. She was taken to the hospital and treated for exposure. This is just one of several rescue operations going on today in flooded areas throughout the northern and central portions of the state.
And the celebrations are under way. It's already 2006 on the other side of the world. This is how Hong Kong rang in the New Year about 2 1/2 hours ago. Rebellers across the globe are beginning to bid farewell to a year scarred by violence and natural disasters. Be sure to watch the countdown in New York, live here on CNN, tonight beginning at 11:00 p.m. Eastern.
In Iraq, the final few hours of 2005 and the death toll continues to climb. Two Iraqi police officers were killed in Baghdad today by a roadside bomb. North of the capital, five civilians died in a bomb attack outside the headquarters of the Iraqi Islamic Party. That's a major Sunni political group that has been frequently targeted by insurgents.
And a 24-hour subway strike begins in London just hours before the city holds its huge New Year's Eve celebration in Trafalgar Square. Workers are upset with new staff schedules, insisting they compromise safety. Transit officials hope enough nonunion workers will step in to help keep most of the trains running.
I'll have all the day's news at the top of the hour. Now back to more of IN THE MONEY.
LISOVICZ: At the holidays, we give thanks for what we have. We also think of those who have less than we do. Here in the U.S., most people on lower incomes may not be starving to death, but many are living on food that isn't making them any healthier. We were thinking about that and wondering about the connection between income and diet. Marilyn Townsend's going to help us out. She's a faculty member of the Nutrition Department at the University of California Davis. Welcome to the program. You know --
MARILYN TOWNSEND, NUTRITION RESEARCHER: Thank you.
LISOVICZ: It used to be that if you were obese it would be blamed on genetics. That is really not the case anymore. Oftentimes, you're socioeconomic level is a factor.
TOWNSEND: That's true. We know that people living in low-income communities are far more likely to be overweight than people living in middle-income communities.
LISOVICZ: Why is that?
TOWNSEND: Well, probably many factors involved. We certainly don't know precisely, but there will certainly be many more hurtles to maintaining a normal body weight in a low-income community. For example, maybe it's not safe for kids to be outside playing. So they may be in the house, watching television, more often than, say if they lived in a neighborhood where it's easy to meet a group of children outside and be climbing trees.
ROMANS: Marilyn, it's so interesting. Because it used to be-even hundreds of years ago, for example in art if you saw someone who was plump that was someone who had a higher status in the community because they had more money because the bigger you were, the more you could eat and the better it was. Today, are we seeing the opposite where the bigger you are, it could be a sign that for once you're not wealthy in fact, you could be poorer than everyone else, you're family's eating frozen pizza, not eating fresh fruit and vegetables and salmon?
TOWNSEND: That's certainly the case. In upper income communities, people are far more likely to be trim and fit.
SERWER: Let me ask you --
TOWNSEND: Compared to low-income communities.
SERWER: Let me ask you a question Marilyn, and that has to do with food stamps. You get food stamps; you go into a supermarket and can buy anything. That means sometimes low-income people, obviously they are low-income people, will load up on things they think are better value, which is big portions of junk. Couldn't the food stamp program be changed so that your food stamps would go further if you were buying fruits and vegetables, for instance?
TOWNSEND: Well, if-from the eyes of a food stamp recipient, they may not perceive that their food stamps would be going further. Put yourself in the shoes of someone on food stamps and, say, you're buying for a family of four. And you want your family to be full. So the foods most likely to give you that sense of fullness will be foods that are highly caloric, say, that might be high-fat, high-sugar foods.
ROMANS: Marilyn Townsend, we have to leave it there. Nutrition specialist at the University of California, Davis. Thank you Marilyn.
When we come back, the real dirt on the organic label. We're going to bring you both sides in the debate over what that word really means.
DANIEL SIEBERG, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Plasma TVs are hot. Not just at the retail stores but because each tiny cell contains a charged combination of neon and Zeon that actually generates some heat, though a safe amount. The gas is electrically charged to create the color and the picture. This compressed technology allows plasma screens to be flat and thin with wide viewing angle. Plasma TVs can be susceptible to burning images or fading quality. The companies say they're working to remedy those problems. There are plenty of high-tech choices out there including LCD and newer style rear projection.
LISOVICZ: If you buy into the whole "you are what you eat" line of thinking, you probably buy a lot organic food. And you are not alone organic food sales topped $12.7 billion last year. But the definition of what is and isn't organic is creating a big rift in the industry. For more on this subject, we're joined by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumer's Association. And Phil Margolis, president of the Organic Trade Association. Welcome to both of you.
First question to Ronnie, $12.7 billion-huge growth area, of the food business, which is a $500 billion industry. What is the working definition, Ronnie, of organic? RONNIE CUMMINS, ORGANIC CONSUMER ASSN: Well, basically, organic food is food produced the traditional, natural way without chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers or without drugging the animals up. The central focus of organic farming is to have a healthy soil so that you produce healthy plants and healthy animals.
LISOVICZ: OK. So it sounds good for everybody, right, Phil, it's good for the environment, it's good certainly for consumers, and it's good for the livestock. And there's so much interest in this now that even Wal-Mart, for instance, wants more organic food. Your feeling is that the definition of organic could be expanded. How so?
PHIL MARGOLIS, ORGANIC TRADE ASS: Well, actually, the definition of organic is well set out in the statute and the regulations that have been developed. The statue was passed in 1990. The regulations were developed over the next 13 years through comment and rulemaking, public comment and rulemaking. And I don't believe that the standard is set. I mean, standards evolve, but the standard is set and requires a certain methodology to be followed in either growing or processing of organic agricultural ingredients.
LISOVICZ: But Phil, the big debate is about foreign substances. And your feeling is that this is actually OK, that this could-organic could also include a lot of foreign substances.
MARGOLIS: That's an interesting question. The allowance of certain synthetic ingredients is limited to those that meet a rigorous review and testing process and determination by the National Organic Standards Board that they can be used in products which can only be made if you use those ingredients. So for instance, we couldn't have organic cookies or organic soda if we didn't allow for baking powder, which doesn't grow on trees, and carbon dioxide, to be allowed in producing those products. So in that sense yes.
LISOVICZ: Ronnie, what's wrong with that? You know, we want our organic cookies. What's wrong with having a little bit of baking soda in it?
CUMMINS: Well, the expectation of organic consumers is that the number of synthetic substances used in and on organic, processed foods will be limited. And that there will be strict review by the National Organic Standards Board before any synthetic substance is used in these processed foods. Our government allows thousands of synthetic substances to be used in conventional food processing. The National Organic Standards Board in the United States is only allowed 38, plus 8 more, after 10 years of review. So we want to just make sure that any synthetic substance, not just synthetic ingredients, but synthetic food processing substances are carefully reviewed by the National Organic Standards Board, just as they have been for the past ten years.
Unfortunately, the rider that just passed through the Congress limits the review of the organic community's watchdog, the National Organic Standards Board, strictly to organic ingredients. Not the much broader category of synthetic substances, broadly defined. LISOVICZ: Phil, your group, it should be said, represents food manufacturers, like, for instance Kraft, for instance Dole. And they would like an expansion of this definition. What about Ronnie's concern? Three thousand maybe foreign substances and things like Exthantum (ph) gum, which is an artificial thickener, amonnon (ph) bicarbonate, which is a synthetic levening agent. That doesn't sound organic to me.
MARGOLIS: It's interesting that you say that. Organic has to do with methodology of growing of crops and how food can be processed. United States has the strictest standard in the world for the allowance of labeling of finished product as organic. As Ronnie has mentioned and as I agree there have only been 38 substances that have been approved over 13 years. We support the strict review of ingredients used in organic products.
People who produce organic products realize they must comply with the standard. Because there's independent certifying agent that verifies that they have produced those products in accord with what the strictest law in the world, which is ours and the U.S. requires.
LISOVICZ: But, you know, Ronnie, is this really much ado about nothing, though? Face it right now we have an epidemic in the United States. We have a country that is obese. More than half of the people in the United States are overweight. Most of it attributed to what they eat. The fact that they don't exercise. We have a huge increase in childhood diabetes. Isn't it a good thing that ultimately manufacturers are trying to get healthiest products out there?
CUMMINS: It's definitely a good thing that Americans are buying more and more organic and natural foods. Right now in the United States, ten cents of every grocery store dollar is going for products that are either labeled as natural, as made with organic ingredients or organic. That is definitely a good thing. On the other hand, we have to remember that the original impetus for organic agricultural was to consume more fresh, whole foods, fruits and vegetables, grains and beans and nuts, and that organic convenience foods and organic processed foods -- no matter what way you look at it-should not be the basis of a healthy diet.
So we just need to make sure that we continue to have strict review over all synthetic substances used in organic processed foods. And that we keep things into perspective that what we're -- you know, we're not about having organic Twinkies in every Wal-Mart in the country.
LISOVICZ: That's a concept though --
CUMMINS: That's not our highest ideal. We want health. We want a sustainable environment. We want family-firm-based economy and humane treatment of animals.
LISOVICZ: Last word from Phil, you know organic often for the consumer means higher prices. Doesn't Ronnie have legitimate concern that these big manufacturers are going to want to cut corners at consumers' health expense? MARGOLIS: I don't believe so, absolutely not. You know, there are three label categories that consumers can choose from. If you want just 100 percent organic ingredients in your product, there's the 100 percent organic label. If you want, like me, to eat as many organic ingredients as possible, and you want those organic cookies, those organic sodas, there's the 95-percent plus category, which means that those products most have at least 95 percent organic ingredients but they can't get to 100 percent. I want to eat those products and I support people who manufacture them. There is room in the organic tent for people who are willing to follow standards and make organic products and increase organic agriculture, which is the real bottom line.
LISOVICZ: Maybe it is not yet time for organic Twinkies, but we can always hope. We are going to have to leave it at that gentlemen. Ronnie Cummins, National Director Organic Consumers Assn.
CUMMINS: Thank you.
LISOVICZ: And Phil Margolis, president of Board of Directors Organic Trade Assn. Thank you for an intelligent debate on an important subject.
MARGOLIS: Thanks for having us.
LISOVICZ: We've got more ahead for you on IN THE MONEY. Up next, getting the goods without getting out of your chair. Allen Wastler is going to check the state of the online grocery business.
While you're at the computer, tell us what's on your mind this week. The address INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
Love to shop until you drop? The next time you pull out the plastic, consider this. Your credit history dictates your shopping future. Your habits will determine the loans you're going to get when you buy a new home or a new car. Here's how to keep track of where you stand. Order your credit report annually. It's free, thanks to a new federal law. As of September 1st consumers across the U.S. can order free credit reports from all three credit-reporting agencies. Experion, Equifax and Trans-union. These reports are available through Annualcreditreport.com.
Read your report carefully. If you notice any activity you aren't responsible for, contact the credit bureaus. It will take time to clear up any incorrect information. If something looks suspicious, place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus and contact your local police department to file a police report. And watch out for scams. There are scores of businesses out there that offer credit reports and credit counseling. Before doing business with any of these groups, check them out with your local consumer protection agency or Better Business Bureau. For "Money & Family," I'm Susan Lisovicz.
LISOVICZ: The now defunct online grocers like Webvain and Cosmo are still the poster children for the dotcom busts. But some newer and smarter companies have taken their place and seeing some success. That is the focus of Allen Wastler's "Inside Out." Take it away Allen.
ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: Remember they all employed a web van, crash and burn --
LISOVICZ: Sounded great --
ROMANS: All the grocery shopping was going to be on line.
WASTLER: That was the big thing. So they all died and everybody's like, you got to go shop for your groceries. Now seeing them come back a little bit here and there.
LISOVICZ: Well, Pea Pod always stayed.
WASTLER: Well Pea Pod was around. It was always sort of like -- "somebody save me." And there was royal a wholes that came, bought them up and they became part-and that's part of the success story. Concentrating on smaller markets now. Instead of the big web van thing, we'll be everywhere, we will be coast to coast --
ROMANS: It has to be a local model.
WASTLER: Let's just stay where we're going to make money.
ROMANS: Like big cities.
WASTLER: Where there are lots of people and they're Internet savvy and we have a bigger Internet audience right now and they're fairly affluent. So that's one thing. Two, the Pea Pod model, you tie into existing operations. Now, everybody before was like, we'll build a network.
SERWER: Huge warehouse --
WASTLER: You're talking some scratch there, you know? But if you say we'll make it just ancillary to our existing store, you already got the distribution. One exception to that is Fresh Direct.
SERWER: In New York City, right?
WASTLER: Yeah. They have their own distribution system, independent of stores. However, they are another part of the puzzle, now there's minimum orders. OK, no, we're not going to trot a bunch of bananas all the way over to you, cost us $20 bucks to do that and you pay-no, we've got minimum orders and delivery fees and also scheduled windows for delivery. Instead of we'll bring it to you whenever you want. No, you can get it between 12:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. We will deliver it tomorrow. OK, somebody going to be there, good. So all these things together, you're all of a sudden seeing a working business model. Oh, my goodness. And they're actually making money.
LISOVICZ: Who else is in it though?
WASTLER: Oh, we've got Safeway's jumping into it. You got regional outfits like Roche Brothers up in the northeast. We've got Pea Pod that we talked about. Most of the big, national chains are now starting their own --
ROMANS: Grocery stores have always delivered. I can remember grandma calling and getting a carton of milk or something. That was on a smaller scale mostly in rural area. This is a totally different ball game. Like Fresh Direct pays $600,000 a year in parking tickets in New York. I mean, seriously-that's a lot of groceries they're delivering.
WASTLER: Actually as we go back to the old model, neighborhood store actually delivering, the whole question of tipping is coming back in too. You've got the delivery fee do you tip the guy, do you not? Some outfits say don't tip. Others say tip 'em.
LISOVICZ: OK, "Fun Site."
WASTLER: We're talking about food. Found an interesting test on the National Geographic site of all places. So let's test how well you know your food. Butter more fattening than margarine, true or false?
ROMANS: I just saw the answer on your paper.
WASTLER: Andy, you got it, there you go.
SERWER: Butter's better for you.
WASTLER: Margarine has all these trans fats. Talking about fat a lot. How many calories in a gram of fat? We've got some choices there.
SERWER: Calories to grams.
ROMANS: No idea.
SERWER: The old-"c."
LISOVICZ: I never --
WASTLER: It is 9.
WASTLER: Nine calories in a gram of fat.
SERWER: That was "b," not "c."
WASTLER: Imagine that. Moderate exercise lowers your chances of colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and high blood pressure?
ROMANS: All of the above.
WASTLER: All of the above. We've been talking about it all through the show. We got to eat right and exercise right. There you go.
ROMANS: You got it all.
LISOVICZ: Coming up next on IN THE MONEY, it's time to hear from you as we read your e-mails. You can send us an e-mail right now to INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
LISOVICZ: Now it's time to read your answers to our question about whether today's added food choices are making it easier or harder for you to eat right.
Richard in Alabama wrote, "All the attention to obesity has definitely changed more than a few menus. If you can't dine out and eat right these days, you're just not trying. The same is even more true for eating at home."
Jerald wrote, "It's not easier because all the low fat and low carb choices are confusing people. People buy low-fat cookies and then eat the whole box. As always, you should just eat a moderate amount and try to exercise as much as possible." He must be a trainer.
And Shirley in Arkansas wrote, "It's not so much the choices, but how they're presented to the buyer. Bakeries and donut places are using fans and other tricks to send their irresistible aromas all over the malls and shopping centers. Then the supermarket puts the goodies at every checkout counter."
You can send your comments about food or anything else to INTHEMONEY.COM. And you should also visit our show page at MONEY.com/inthemoney that is where you will find the address for our "Fun Site of the Week" quizzing you about food.
Thanks for joining us for this special edition of IN THE MONEY. "Fortune" Magazine editor at large Andy Serwer, "Lou Dobbs" correspondent Christine Romans and Money.com managing editor Allen Wastler. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
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