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Editors tabulate the Top 10 food stories of 2005

The year 2005 was an active news year for food, it turns out. Every December, a public relations firm in New York City surveys food editors across the nation to identify the Top 10 most memorable food-related stories of the past 12 months. The firm submits a list of some 20 suggestions; we are instructed to rank the 10 most significant, in order from 1 to 10.

So what won first place nationwide, you ask? Answer: The expansion of the food pyramid by the USDA. Again.

Last year, another pyramid tinkering made only fifth place.

Maybe the new top position came from the fact that the USDA finally replaced its one-size-fits-all advice to 12 different pyramids, according to age and gender. The new Web site allows further personalization.

And will that spawn healthy eating habits in an obese, couch potato society? Maybe that will be the top news story of 2006.

In second place in terms of significance was the trans-fat food labeling reform which will be required starting Sunday (although it will take a while for the stuff on the shelves to catch up with the the law).

But it's already making its mark. Food companies are so afraid of negative reviews that they are rushing trans-fat free products to market. Recently even Girl Scout Cookies got into the act.

The No. 3 story was Katrina's impact on the New Orleans food industry. I ranked this first, by the way. The No. 4 story was the bankruptcy of the Atkins food company, hurt by the decreasing popularity of the carbohydrate-free diet.

No. 5 was even more poignant. Earlier this year, PBS announced that "Sesame Street" would kick off its 35th season with a storyboard featuring healthy habits. All well and good.

But the beloved Cookie Monster is now advocating moderation in cookie consumption. He's even singing a new song, "A Cookie is a Sometimes Food." Perhaps it is an inevitable thing. No. 6 was also child centered. The self-imposed restrictions by manufacturers on children's ads on shows watched by kids from age 6 to 11. Sounds great. But the catch here, I think, is that word "voluntary." We shall see.

Would you believe No. 7 was the return of Martha Stewart? Well, I suppose there was a lot of ink spilled on that one. No. 8 was a big one for New York State. The U.S. Supreme Court voted to allow consumers to have wine shipped from other states. I ranked it second.

The food editors also thought that it was a big deal that Cristeta Comerford became the first woman and first minority member to serve as executive chef in the White House. It made No. 9.

And No. 10 was a tie between two stories. One -- the fat cats are getting fatter. Obesity, a condition that for decades has been more prevalent among lower-income eaters is now growing faster among Americans who make more than $60,000 a year.

That tied with the reports that Whole Foods supermarkets are revolutionizing grocery shopping across the country. The chain, which sells organic and preservative-free food, has only 171 stores nationwide at present; it tends to be expensive and in a certain sense elitist, I suppose.

But reports insisted that Whole Foods is making its mark by staking its future on the premise of shopping as entertainment. Hmmmm.

Western New York has no Whole Foods (yet?) but we do have good supermarkets. Sometimes, on a good day anyway, food shopping is already entertainment right here.


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