For Food On The Go, Bars Are Eating Up The Competition

Stretch your food budget

( PHOTOS: 18 times the government has shut down ) The governments food safety functions are far more pressing than the unrealistic demands being made by petulant extremists in the House. The situation at FDA seems critical. The agency is maintaining 55 percent of its 14,779 employees while in shutdown mode, but this includes workers who focus on drugs, tobacco and other nonfood areas, many of which have budgets propped up by industry user fees. Remarkably, the shutdown plan is more generous than the outline floated in 2011, the last time the federal government was facing the brink. Under that plan, the administration deemed only 14 percent of FDAs workforce essential. Still, food safety advocates are very concerned about the direct hit to food safety. ( Also on POLITICO: Senate CR to strip Monsanto rider ) Ceasing routine food inspections is not ideal, experts say, especially because FDA is already so short-staffed compared with the size of its jurisdiction. During the 2012 fiscal year, the agency inspected about 10,000 of the 167,000 domestic food manufacturers. Overseas, it was able to get into 1,300 of the 254,000 food facilities registered with the agency. According to the plan released by the administration, FDA will be unable to support the majority of its food safety, nutrition, and cosmetics activities. That includes routine food manufacturer inspections, compliance and enforcement of food safety regulations and food import monitoring. When it comes to the CDC, which is operating with 32 percent of its 12,825 employees during the shutdown, health experts worry the disease surveillance system for detecting foodborne illness could be hampered by the loss of personnel. ( Also on POLITICO: Harvard, NRDC: Expire dates key to stopping food waste ) While the public learns of maybe only a dozen high-profile national foodborne illness outbreaks each year, at any given point there are dozens of clusters of illnesses tied to food and investigators try to pinpoint the cause.

Margaret Hamburg is shown. | AP Photo

The culinary celebration launches at 12:30 p.m. on Oct. 4, featuring the cooking demonstration and sake-tasting event Ten Ways to Sushi with Shibuya Executive Chef Heather Zheng. By 8 p.m., splurge on sample delights and refreshing cocktails at the First Course Kick-Off Party. The All-Star Brunch with celebrity chefs opens the Oct. 5 festivities at 11 a.m. If you have a big appetite, dont miss the poolside All-Star Burger Bash with Joel Robuchon and Michael Mina at 1:30 p.m. If youre a wine lover, check out Syrah That Will Change Your Life, led by Master Sommelier Jason Smith at 2 p.m. Satisfy your epicurean cravings with Six-Course Bliss with Joel Robuchon at 7 p.m., then take home his personally signed cookbook. The weekends highlight happens at 7 p.m. with a specialized menu and exemplary wine pairing in A Harvest Dinner with Michael Mina.

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American fast food has gone global. You’ll find KFC and Subway in every language – it isn’t exciting (and costs more than at home), but at least you know exactly what you’re getting, and it’s fast. They’re also kid-friendly and satisfy the need for a cheap salad bar and a tall orange juice. They’ve grabbed prime bits of real estate in every big European city, providing a cheap seat (with no cover charge) and an opportunity to savor a low-class paper cup of coffee while enjoying high-class people-watching. Many offer free Wi-Fi as well. Each country has its equivalent of the hamburger stand; I saw a McCheaper in Switzerland. You might say to yourself, “I didn’t travel all the way to Venice to eat in a McDonalds,” but consider fast food as comfort food – something fun halfway through your trip. Street food: Every country has a cheap specialty that’s sold at take-out stands or shops, where you can grab a filling bite on the go – French creperies, Greek souvlaki stands, Danish polse (sausage) vendors, Italian pizza rustica takeout shops, Dutch herring carts, British fish-and-chip shops, and Turkish-style kebab and falafel kiosks. Of all of these options, the ubiquitous kebab stand is my favorite. The best ones have a busy energy, and a single large kebab wrapped in wonderful pita bread can feed two hungry travelers for $5. Don’t miss ayran – a healthy yogurt drink popular with Turks – which goes well with your kebab.

Food and Wine All-Stars Hit Vegas

From left to right: Shawn McClain, Michael Mina, Masa Takayama, Jean-Georges Vongerichten, Julian Serrano and Jean Philippe Maury

In many cases, Walters says, bars are fast food and not so different from the drive-through. What they can do is fit in a pocket or purse and last for a long time in the glove compartment. Long-distance runners can eat them on the course, and busy travelers can make a meal of them on the plane or subway. The popularity of bars “is a perfect reflection of where we are culturally,” says Mollie Katzen, who has been writing cookbooks since the counterculture days. Her latest, “The Heart of the Plate: Vegetarian Recipes for a New Generation,” is out this fall Bar makers are slicing the market to attract very specific customers: dieters on Medifast ; the socially responsible with This Bar Saves Lives (which donates to abate hunger); or athletes with Builder’s Max bar, which has 30 grams of protein, made by the 20-year-old company Clif. Many consumers are looking for protein sources that are cheaper than meat, so that’s one draw, but bars are not necessarily cheap; they can top $5. Whatever happened to packing a sandwich or leftovers from last night’s dinner, asks Katzen, who says her daughter, a young adult living in New York City, carries bars in her bag because they’re easy. Shane Emmett, chief executive of Health Warrior, which makes Chia Bars, gets that. The former college swimmer now has a baby, runs and even does push-ups in his Richmond, Va., office. “I wish I could make a giant pot of kale for lunch every day, but I’m too busy,” he says. “Americans genuinely aspire to be healthier, genuinely aspire to push back against the modern Western diet, but they are not going to sacrifice taste and convenience.” Many people are, however, willing to sacrifice a meal by substituting a bar. “By their nature you make certain compromises from a nutrition standpoint,” says David Heber, director of the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition. But sometimes “that’s your best choice.