A Week Of Good News: Taco Bell Vs. Veggies, Better Gatorade, Less Food Illness

It's a rare week in food politics when the news is overwhelmingly positive. In a battle between Taco Bell and vegetables, vegetables won; drink industry giant PepsiCo agreed to remove a flame retardant from Gatorade thanks to one teenager's petition and the CDC announced a measured drop in foodborne illnesses. This is the food politics equivalent of New York City's 36 hours without violent crime, and we're going to savor it while it lasts.

Taco Bell and PepsiCo made nice with health and food policy advocates this week with two major (and fast) concessions. Taco Bell, swept up in the spirit of the Super Bowl, has already offended health advocates with its "Veggies on Game Day" commercial in which the company famous for the "Doritos Locos Tacos" makes it clear that anyone who would bring a veggie tray to a Super Bowl party probably isn't worth inviting in the first place.

The ad equates the move with "punting on fourth and one" and says people will "secretly hate you for it." Nutrition advocacy group, Center for the Science in the Public Interest (CSPI), was quick to condemn the ad, arguing that vegetables need all the help they can get. In a surprising twist, Taco Bell agreed and pulled the commercial. CSPI praised the fast food company, which seemed to catch them off-guard by its unusual responsiveness.

If that wasn't enough of a win for health advocates, PepsiCo joined in on the fun by agreeing to eliminate Brominated Vegetable Oil (BVO) from Gatorade in response to a 15-year-old's petition. BVO, which is a flame retardant, is not banned by the FDA, but animal studies suggest it can damage the liver. The Center for Science in the Public Interest has been trying to get BVO out of PepsiCo products for years with little success.

In other food policy victories this week, the Marine Stewardship Council has approved McDonald's fish-sourcing methods and the council's logo will now appear on all Filet-O-Fish wrappers. While the council has had critics, the proliferation of its certification logo will raise awareness about sustainable sourcing to millions of Americans. Japan has eased its restriction on American beef imports as fears of mad cow disease have subsided, giving the cattle industry a boost out of its current economic slump. And perhaps the best news of the week — foodborne diseases (or at least those that are reported) are declining in America, according to a new CDC report.

So enjoy the respite from grim food news — we can't promise that next week will be this reassuring.