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[VIDEO] A Local Investigation of Shark Fin in Oakland’s Chinatown

As a student in Berkeley, California, I often make trips to Oakland’s Chinatown for cheap pineapple buns or Vietnamese Bánh mì sandwiches. On one of my recent visits, I planned to explore the small shops and markets in search of shark fin. Given that it is a highly controversial product, only one store had shark fin stock out on display. This video project is a product of my personal findings, from interviews with a local expert on the topic, as well as a brief account of shark fin history. Enjoy and feel free to provide feedback in the comments!

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Not Your Grandmother’s Cottage: How CA’s Homemade Food Act Reinvents Entrepreneurship

A box of homemade cupcakes (photo courtesy of flickr user Rachel Lo)

A box of homemade cupcakes (photo courtesy of flickr user Rachel Lo)

Often my blog posts tackle the heavier sides of food bans and regulations. However, I remain optimistic that change is occurring in the industry through policy, such as in the case of California’s Homemade Food Act. As various government decrees limit the sale and consumption of certain products, this cottage industry bill aims to lower barriers for everyday cooks and artisans to sell their homegrown edible goods. One might imagine that this bill will bring to life the romantic picture of a grandmother at the edge of her window selling giant cookies and scones for a dollar apiece. However, this measure represents much more for the food world in the present moment. Continue reading


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Where the lines are blurred: who gets to legislate the ocean?

Sharks off the coast of Costa Rica (photo by flickr user Christian Haugen)

Less than three weeks ago, Costa Rica’s President Chinchilla signed a ban on shark finning. This marks a move in the direction of global action, in a market that lacks any sort of international regulation.

Between 1996 and 1998, several east coast states enacted bans on shark finning. Maryland, Delaware, North and South Carolina, Virginia, New York, and Maine prohibited finning. However, there remains a discrepancy between the management programs of these states and those that did not adopt protective measures. The issue here is that sharks swim. They swim in, around, and out of regulatory boundaries set by governments. Continue reading


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[VIDEO] Polar Bears & Coca-Cola: An Analysis of the Marketing of Bans

Today, I break from my usual spiel about the bans of fancy-sounding and unusual dishes. After attending a lecture last night on the relationship between sugar-sweetened drinks and obesity in America by Yale professor Kelly D. Brownell, I watched the above video by the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). We all know that soda, sports drinks, and the like are damaging to our physical health. Labels and advertisements might say otherwise, but there’s pretty much a tacit agreement that large-sized drinks ain’t so great for your teeth, weight, or history with chronic diseases, such as diabetes. While these are some obvious red flags, it’s apparent that consumers still need that nudge to make healthier decisions.

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[INTERVIEW] Hey this is crazy, but label me, maybe? UC Berkeley Prof. Addresses Labels for Banned Foods

Professor Van Houweling in her UC Berkeley office

In her sunlit office at Berkeley’s Boalt School of Law, behind a stack of loose papers and hardcover textbooks, Professor Molly Van Houweling discussed a recent ‘ah-ha’ moment she had at a Starbucks. In line with the chain’s efforts to consciously label calories and nutritional values under its glass displays, Van Houweling said she noticed their food items growing more and more miniature. Vanilla-frosted cupcakes and decadent cookies were now bite-sized. It wasn’t an immediate reaction, she added, but one that garnered her attention after facing the display over several visits.

My conversation with Professor Van Houweling, who co-taught a course on food law, emphasized that labels are all the rage in the food world at the moment. As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) of 2010, restaurants with 20 or more chains were required to provide calorie and nutrition information. On November 6, Californians will have the chance to alter the market for genetically modified foods through labeling, with Prop 37. So, you must be wondering, how do labels tie into the topic of food bans?

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Shark Fin Soup: A Dangerous Delicacy

Credit: flickr user Alpha

A bowl of shark fin soup
(photo by flickr user Alpha)

Talk to a group of Chinese or Chinese-American people and ask if they have ever eaten shark fin. Chances are they’ve eaten it several times. Served at weddings and other celebratory events, shark fin soup is a symbolic delicacy in East Asia. It bears roots in the Ming Dynasty as a dish for the elite, specifically for the Chinese emperors, lending to its significance of a dish of power and wealth. Today, with a growing demand of shark fin, fishermen struggle to supply this commodity through the cruel practice of ‘finning.’

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[VIDEO] The Foie Gras Parable

Maybe you’ve tasted or noticed fatty goose or duck liver on the menu at a fancy restaurant. Though, you’ve probably seen it under its more common French name, foie gras. This stuff, this creamy, delicious delicacy, so beloved by world-class chefs and culinary experts around the world, is at the core of one of the food industry’s hottest debate. Today, the debate is split between two camps: team “save the foie” and team stop gavage.

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