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Election Coffee Cup

While your Twitter feed was overrun by Mitt Romney’s “binders full of women” comment, you may have missed out on a lively week in food politics, complete with a 7-Elven straw poll, pork masquerading as beef, and new world hunger statistics.

We’ll start with the news from abroad, in which Sweden grabbed headlines when authorities discovered pork that was injected with dye and sold as beef. As much as 20 tons — roughly 44,000 pounds — of the faux beef, which was imported from Hungary, has been detected in Sweden to date. Dyed beef aside, food companies such as Nestlé and Rémy Cointreau saw third-quarter sales decrease dramatically in the European market, most likely due to the economic downturn. To add insult to injury, winemakers in the EU say that this grape harvest is the worst they’ve seen in half a century.

But the news isn’t all bad across the pond. Major cereal manufacturers Nestlé SA and General Mills announced that they are cutting salt and sugar levels by as much as 12% and 24% respectively in their kids’ cereals — sold outside of North America. And as for the U.S. market? Apparently the demand for cereals that have the nutritional equivalent of desserts remains steady.

In addition to sugar-laden breakfasts, children in the United States are also clamoring for high-calorie lunches.  New USDA school lunch guides that limit calories in high schoolers’ lunch to 850 has outraged Republicans and students alike.

Which brings us to the real state of hunger in the world as determined by the Food and Agriculture Organization’s “State of Food Insecurity” report. The positive news is that hunger is down today from 1990 (12.5 percent of the world is hungry, based on 2010-2012 figures, down from 18.6 percent in 1990-1992). Nevertheless, 860 million people are hungry, and 852 million live in developing countries. The worldwide trend showed a decrease in hunger, yet levels continue to rise in Africa.

In the U.S., genetically modified foods continue to cause controversy, as Big Ag spends millions of dollars on ads attacking California’s Prop 37 (which would label GMOs) — and polls suggest that they’re working. According to The Atlantic, support for Prop 37 is currently polling at below 50 percent, down from 90 percent in previous polls. The beverage industry is also putting its money where its mouth is to defeat New York Mayor Bloomberg’s “soda ban,” which was approved by the NYC Health Board in September and will go into effect this March. The American soft-drink industry has officially filed a lawsuit to overturn the legislation. 

We’ll wrap up this week in food politics with news from the campaign trail. The Washington Post reports on Obama and Romney’s electability based on food straw polls, including 7-Eleven’s red and blue coffee cups and the popularity of BGR’s surf-and-turf Romney versus the hot dog-topped Obama burger. The White House homebrew continues to get rave reviews from The New York Times, and Obama Foodorama analyzes Obama’s fortifying pre-second debate meal of steak and potatoes. Finally, NPR’s The Salt determines whether or not professional women really do race home at five to make dinner, as Gov. Romney suggested.