Wednesday, November 21, 2007

And They Have (Bagged Plastic)

whoa! Look what happened yesterday while I was complaining:

Suffolk lawmakers OK plastic bag recycling measure


The Suffolk County Legislature yesterday approved legislation that would require large supermarkets and retailers to collect and recycle plastic shopping bags or face fines.

The bill, passed by a vote of 17-1, aims to curb the proliferation of the ubiquitous carryout bags and to encourage consumers to switch to reusable sacks, said Wayne Horsley (D-Babylon), its sponsor.

"Our intention is to make the recycling of plastic bags easy," Horsley said. "Frankly, this is going a long way to making Long Island greener and cleaner."

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Bag the Plastic

Now this is something I could get into. As long as everyone else does. :)

China wants to take on retailers' use of free plastic bags. Do you remember when Suffolk County or maybe New York State changed the law a few years ago, requiring retailers to offer you a choice of plastic or paper? And do recall the last time the clerk asked you which you wanted before reaching for the plastic? I don't. Time to change, seriously. I'm looking out my window at the moment and can see five plastic bags blowing around the neighborhood. Not good, not good at all.

Maybe at the same time, we could stop using so many plastic bags for the garbage or leaves. I've tried putting some of the leaves in an open recycling bin and the truck workers won't take them. They want everything in bags. Pretty silly.

Plastic carrier bags should be restricted for clean environment

BEIJING, Nov. 19 -- We find the trail of plastic "flags" lining our main railroads embarrassing. We hate to see plastic bags flying in our face on windy days, or those permanently stuck on tree branches.

Disposable plastic carrier bags we take home from shopping trips are a main source of such "white pollution". An obvious solution to it, therefore, is to reduce our use of such environmentally harmful packaging. This is both reasonable and simple.

The ongoing debate over the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone's draft decree to prohibit retailers from offering free disposable plastic bags is a sad example of a prevailing ambivalence among us. We all want a clean and tidy environment free of plastic bags, but few of us want to sacrifice the convenience of free plastic bags.

Originally posted at Going Green on Long Island

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Pathmark Dix Hills

Ah, Pathmark in Dix Hills. So much to be said. This is another store that improved once construction began on new Stop&Shop store just west on Jericho.

It suffers from being at the far end of a truly difficult, overcrowded and sometimes dangerous parking lot in a center with about 10 other stores.

Some good points--it is much brighter and cleaner than it used to be and has made a real effort to open up the entranceway, which used to be hard to get through. As soon as you get through the door, you're greeted by rows of flowers and, usually, stacks of pies or cakes to the side, followed by the produce section.

The produce section is good, above average, and the store has added a number of health-food items right near the produce area.

The deli is busy, offering mostly Deitz and Watson meats and cheeses, providing good service. They always have a nice choice of rotisserie chickens--a favorite in our house--and lots of cheeses, dips and packaged meats near the deli.

There's also a pharmacy and an ATM. Bottle returns are in the far rear of the store.

Prices are decent, comparable to other stores in the area (and still cheaper than Stop&Shop). Aisles are packed and I'm still trying to figure out where some things are because they've moved since the reconstruction.

But checkout is a nightmare. Smack in the middle of the checkout aisles are some self-checkout sections, broken up by the understaffed courtesy desk. Pathmark must have gotten a discount on the self-checkout system though. You absolutely can't do anything until the shopper in front of you has completely removed all items. So you have to stand there stewing until the previous shopper is clear. It's obvious that many people don't realize that. They swipe their items, they figure out how to pay, they saunter to the end and begin packing up, not realizing that others can't make a move until they clear out of the way. I hope no one's falled for the con that these self-checkouts are faster; they aren't, anywhere that I've seen.

I was in this store three times in the last couple of days and each time, the checkout area seemed to get worse as pre-holiday shoppers seemed to be packing the place. Emptied carts were piling up near the courtesy desk. Not enough staffed checkouts moving quickly enough.

The store just seems a little understaffed; the help often seems really rushed, though polite in most cases.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Friday, November 16, 2007

Food Recall Site

A government site attempts to track information about food recalls (and other products elsewhere on the site). I haven't been tracking this long enough to know how well it works but it's useful to know it's there.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thinking About Food Appeal

From TED (Technology,Entertainment,Design), a talk about "What we can learn from spaghetti sauce"

36 kinds of Ragu?

Defending LI Wines

Lenn Thompson at Lenndevours is disputing the opinions of Alice Feiring, who wrote a piece entitled "The World's Most Overrated Wines." She wrote "The fact is, soils are just too shallow on Long Island and the weather's just too humid to make world-class wine, especially from Merlot and Cabernet."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Waldbaum's, Huntington Station

Waldbaum's, at 711 E. Jericho Tpke., Huntington Station, NY.

This store's qualities are mixed. It does seem a store in transition, aiming to serve its demographics a little better.

First, the prices aren't bad. They compare favorably to the nearby Stop&Shop.

Second, a while back, the store's managers redesigned the layout and upgraded, in response to the arrival of the new stop&Shop. It is much cleaner and, mostly, better organized, except for some reason, the bread wound up near the produce area. I'm still looking for it somedays.

Third, a big improvement was the elimination of the rabbit warren design of the produce area, which, until the change, forced shoppers to weave and bob down every row of produce to escape the area. Now you can bypass, or, more important, go more directly to the wanted item, without cutting off contact with other items.

Fourth, it has added a lot of Latino products in recent years, clearly trying to woo the growing Hispanic population of Huntington Station. This doesn't seem to have cut into other products for shoppers not interested in Goya or other products.

Fifth, it does seem to have resolved its freezer problem. More than once, I've bought less than frozen food and either tossed it or even taken it back. Often, the lights in the freezer (breakfoods, pizzas, etc.) were off. Whatever the problem was, I haven't seen it lately.

Through no fault of its own, the store lost a lot of meat when we had a huge power failure a year and a half ago. But the handling of it was weird--I went past two checkouts where workers were wearing gloves and figuratively holding their noses as they scanned meat packages. Apparently they had to prove that the product was lost to the outage by scanning it first--it was pretty disgusting to see dripping packages work their way down the counter.

On the downside:

First, the entranceway is jammed. Get behind a slower shopper and it's tough to clear the entranceway. Good luck trying to get around someone who's decided to stop right there to read the advertising fliers.

The store has other spots that are hard to navigate, with too many things parked near the checkout or filling the aisles that too often make it difficult to get around.

Second,the checkout aisles are wretched, extremely tight, to the point of silliness.

The store has a deli but no pharmacy, Coinstar, Western Union and an ATM.

The staff is mostly helpful, especially the more seasoned people working at the courtesy desk. The checkout people are mostly good.

We go here occasionally, mixing up our shopping among various stores in the area.

Waldbaum's on Wikipedia.

And Anti-Genetically Modified Foods

Three million people "vote" to make Italy GM-free
ROME (Reuters) - More than 3 million Italians have signed a petition calling for Italy to ban all genetically modified foods, an alliance of food producers, consumers and environmental groups said on Tuesday.

Campaigners collected signatures at marketplaces and food fairs across the country over the last few months and hope the government will respond by banning all imports and cultivation of what they consider "Frankenstein foods."

"We gathered 3,086,524 votes, of which 3,068,958 (99.43%) were in favor of banning GMOs and 17,566 (0.57%) said no," said a spokesman for the campaign group "Italy Europe - Free from Genetic Modification."

Italy does not allow the cultivation of GM plants but imports GMOs as animal feed. European consumers have expressed concern that genetically-modified crops might increase health risks, or pose threats to the natural environment.

Pro-Genetically Modified Foods

‘Luddite views’ on GM crops waning, says Lord Haskins

ROG WOOD November 14 2007
Food inflation is beginning to worry some governments and it threatens to slow the global economy. That could lead to a rethink on renewable energy policies that are diverting increasing areas of land from food production to energy crops.

"We are moving to a world where politicians will want to protect consumers from rising food prices," said Lord Haskins of Skidby, former chairman of Northern Foods.

Speaking at the Scottish Agricultural College's pre-conference dinner at Murrayfield Stadium, Edinburgh, Haskins reminded guests that Argentina and Russia had already limited their food exports to keep domestic prices at an affordable level for their consumers.

advertisementIn a thought-provoking speech, Haskins predicted that the world's population would rise by 30% in the lifetime of the guests, but the world's supply of land suitable for cultivation was unlikely to increase by more than 10%.

The population was predicted to rise from 6.5 billion to 9 billion in the next 40 years. There would also be more problems with climate change, dwindling water supplies and increasing levels of disease in intensive livestock.

"There is also the problem of waste. 30% of our food is thrown in the bins of western consumers. We need dramatic scientific innovations and improvement in the performance of poorer farmers, as well as less waste by consumers," he stated.

"The Luddite views in Western Europe and America are now on the wane. Folk are gradually beginning to accept the arguments for GM (genetically modified) technology."


Watching this hearing on TV turned my stomach.
Food industry defends carbon monoxide use in meat
Christopher Doering
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Two of the biggest U.S. meat processors on Tuesday defended a packaging technique designed to keep meat looking fresh at grocery stores even as U.S. lawmakers criticized it as unsafe and misleading.

Packers use carbon monoxide to stabilize the color of meat, but some Democrats said the process misleads consumers by making the products look safer than they really are, and puts the public at risk of eating spoiled meat.

Rep. Bart Stupak, Michigan Democrat and chairman of a House Energy and Commerce subcommittee, called the practice deceptive and "a potential health threat," and accused U.S. regulators of "turning a blind eye" toward health dangers.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Stop&Shop, Dix Hills

I'm going to expand on this at another time but I wanted to get started.

The first supermarket reviewed is the relatively new Stop&Shop on Jericho Turnpike in Huntington/Dix Hills.
My assessment is decidedy mixed. Ther are two other chain supermarkets within a short distance of this store. When it was getting ready to open, I was extremely happy--it was even closer than the other two; of the two older stores, one routinely has freezer problems, the other has parking lot issues and noisy crowds. More on those later.

Here are some observations:

As always, their prices are high, higher than the other two nearby chains' stores.

It is huge, a super store, certainly, with, oddly, less brand choice than some other stores. You can't, for example, buy Quickie brand mops; there's only one main brand offered. Instead, what you get is every conceivable size, scent or type of a particular product.

Stop&Shop is big on self-checkout counters that usually work pretty well. The problem with the self-checkouts at all stores, of course, is that they rarely save time; in fact, it's almost always slower because you're running back and forth, scanning items, making sure the stuff isn't jamming up, and, if you're buying a lot of stuff, trying to find a place to set your filled bags (because you have to start bagging before you're done scanning) while you finish up.

The staff is reasonably courteous, not great. There is one odd thing about this store--the courtesy counter and, I think, employee area, are near one of the exits. Something about its location seems to encourage employees returning to work to walk in front of people with loaded, hard to maneuver baskets. Last week, I had to wave away a young woman who persisted in walking right into my path, expecting me to swing the cart out and go around her.

The other courtesy issue was this: about a month ago, I bought a bottle of wine and went through the self-checkout, which then requires that an employee come over to doublecheck your age. Apparently he didn't know why the system had summoned him but once he got there, he read the scanner device, looked at me and sang out,"HA!" before punching in the code to approve me.

Other issues: the deli has one of those little computerized machines so you can punch in your order, get an ETA on your stuff and then go about your shopping while the order is being prepared. IT IS ALMOST ALWAYS OFF. Sometimes, there's a note that says that they're so busy, they've shut it off, which makes no sense. Other times it is broken.

The store is neat and clean and jampacked with an embarrassment of goods. There's a Starbucks, a fair number of fresh Boston Market items, the deli, a seafoods area, a pharmacy and fresh flowers. We got some nice flowers there not long ago. I do wish some of these stores would invite shoppers in and ask their opinion.

Starbucks, bakery, deli, no ATM.

It also has scooter-carts for people who can't get around.

We still go there because it's quite convenient but we've returned to occasionally shopping at other stores.

Stop&Shop on Wikipedia

and from Rateitall

Wine Reviewed

The Hudson Valley Wine Goddess comments on Long Island wines--not entirely in keeping with supermarket issues but not off, either.

Better Policing Needed

Product Safety chief off track

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 11/09/07

Traffic cops too disinterested to enforce the law aren't much use in preventing accidents and saving lives. That's also true of the Consumer Product Safety Commission, the lackadaisical federal agency that has let manufacturers run roughshod over consumer protection standards.

A raft of high-profile recalls this year involving imported household items from toy trains to toothpaste brought the feebleness of the commission into sharper focus. Created in 1972, the agency is responsible for ensuring that more than 15,000 products sold for use in and around our homes are relatively safe and free of harmful substances. But unlike its regulatory peer, the Food and Drug Administration, the CPSC has the authority to issue mandatory recalls and impose stiff fines against manufacturers.

However, the agency has been slow to use such powers, in part because it is badly understaffed and underfunded given its scope of responsibilities. Its staff of 400 has fallen by more than half since the agency was created in 1973.

In addition, the agency's leadership seems less interested in protecting consumers than in building friendly relations with the businesses it regulates. The Washington Post, for example, recently reported that acting CPSC Chairwoman Nancy Nord and a former colleague took $60,000 worth of "information-sharing" trips, including junkets to China, paid for by industry.

Given her questionable commitment to protecting the public, Nord should resign.

US Pot Pies Recalled in Barbados

It's not just imports into the US that are carrying hazards. Barbados challenges US:
Pot pies recalled
Published on: 11/10/07.

The Ministry of Health has issued a recall of food products imported from the United States. The following brands and all varieties of frozen pot pie products, including chicken, turkey and beef, are subject to this recall: Banquet, Albertson's, Food Lion, Great Value, Hill Country Fare, Kirkwood, Kroger, Meijer and Western Family.

The ministry advises those in possession of these products, with the above brand names, to refrain from using them and to return them to the point of sale.

These frozen pot pies may be linked to an outbreak of the food-borne life-threatening illness, salmonellosis, in several states in the United States and were also distributed to retail outlets in the Caribbean. (PR)

Expect More Food Recalls

From the Baltimore Sun. This can't be good for people OR business.

Food recalls likely to become more common
Foodstuffs' increasingly global origins, multiple agencies bar thorough checks

By Dan Thanh Dang and Larry Carson

November 6, 2007
Consumers suffering from recall fatigue should get used to news of contaminated food as underfunded regulatory agencies struggle to police a burgeoning food system that's supplied by all corners of the world market, food safety experts said yesterday.

Just this weekend, more than 1 million pounds of E. coli-contaminated ground beef was recalled by Pennsylvania-based Cargill Meat Solutions Corp. from stores including Giant Food and Wegmans in Maryland.