Ten Top Food News Stories of 2011: Part Two

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In today's post we continue our Top Ten Food Stories of 2011.

Yesterday's piece focused on the food swap phenomenon, the new My Plate icon, record hunger in America, a year's worth of lies and deceit on the food front, and the latest food fad: eating insects.

Today's five items:

Contaminated cantaloupe proved deadly across American this year.
Contaminated cantaloupe proved deadly across America this year.

6. Record Food Recalls: This year was marked by big drama in food safety circles around the country and contaminated meat wasn't consumers' greatest concern. The cantaloupe catastrophe saw a record-breaking listeria outbreak, the deadliest for that disease in recent U.S. history with 29 deaths reported. Other notable U.S. food-borne illness scares included the Cargill callback of more than 36 million pounds of ground turkey due to salmonella in August, which was followed by a ground beef recall by Tyson in December.

Local angle: California salad company Ready Pac Foods recalled more than 5,000 cases of bagged romaine lettuce because of E. coli contamination.

Food Desert Locator
Food Desert Locator

7. New Food Alliances: First Lady Michelle Obama joined forces with Wal-Mart and other major retailers in an effort to get more fresh and healthy grub into food deserts around the country. FoodCorps launched its national service program, in partnership with AmeriCorps, in school garden sites in several states with the goal of fighting obesity and diet-related disease in the younger set by promoting school gardens and farm-to-school programs.


Local angle: The $200 million California FreshWorks Fund, launched this year, is designed to encourage major grocers to expand into underserved communities to improve access to affordable, nutritious food. As reported on BAB, the Oakland-based People's Community Market may well benefit from this new initiative.

Alice Waters at School Lunch & Levi's T-shirt launch event for Chez Panisse 40th Anniversary. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Alice Waters at Levi's T-shirt launch event. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

8. Food Celebrity Fest: Bon Appetit put Gwyneth Paltrow on the cover, which caused many in the food world to gasp in dismay at the elevation to culinary icon of the actress-singer behind Goop. Spain's Ferran Adria of el Bulli fame shut up shop, wowed a sold out crowd in San Francisco, and published The Family Meal, an homage to the meals he fed his staff at his iconic eatery, shuttered after 25 years. (Look for it to reopen in 2014 as a culinary school/foundation.) Dressed-to-impress actress Eva Longoria was in the news for her work on behalf of farmworkers while buffed, bird-loving actor Ryan Gosling stood up for chickens.

Local angle: Alice Waters was here, there, and everywhere in August, which marked the 40th anniversary of her iconic restaurant Chez Panisse in Berkeley. She also made breakfast for Michelle Obama, lunch for the downtown crowd at her Levi's T-shirt launch, and dinner for Chinese cultural leaders. Waters also sought to educate adults with a lecture series sponsored by her foundation at UC Berkeley as part of Edible Education 101.

On the lighter side, ex-Berkeleysider DJ Dave scored a viral hit (3.3 million views to date) with his Whole Foods Parking Lot, which proved one of the top five BAB posts of the year.

Childhood Obesity Epidemic
Childhood Obesity Epidemic

9. New Face of Obesity Epidemic: An eight-year-old child weighing over 200 pounds was taken from his family and placed into foster care because Ohio officials maintained the boy's parents were not doing enough to reduce his weight, which poses a serious health risk. The move sparked a renewed debate on whether parents should lose custody of their obese offspring.

Local angle: In a sobering sign of the times, Slow Food San Francisco hosts its first annual Childhood Obesity Bay Area Conference.

Oakland March Calls on Trader Joe’s to Support Rights for Farmworkers. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend
Oakland March to Trader Joe’s in Support of Farmworkers. Photo: Wendy Goodfriend

10. Occupy Big Food: It didn't take long for the Occupy movement to branch out into a food and farming focus, with food advocates and farmers joining in protests at Wall Street's Zuccotti Park in New York City this fall. Occupy Food saw some farmers occupy the pasture, while others opted to occupy the kitchen. Late in the year long-time Farm Aid advocate Willie Nelson added his name to the Occupy Food cause.

Local angle: Feeding the 99 percent in the food-focused Bay Area proves a bonding experience in the Occupy camps. Oakland Occupiers called on Trader Joe's to support farmworkers' rights, while Occupiers in San Francisco went after Tacolicious, in a misguided protest of the local chain's latest restaurant in the Mission.

What other 2011 food news is worthy of inclusion in this list? Share your thoughts below.