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Diet Industry In U.S. Huge; Most Want A Quick Fix For Weight Loss; Portion Size Matters; High-End Dining Coming Back; Income and Diet; Organic Foods Are Big Business; Online Grocery Shopping
Aired November 26, 2005 - 13:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: Don't you just love the holidays? Much more ahead on "CNN LIVE SATURDAY." IN THE MONEY is next and here's a preview.
SUSAN LISOVICZ, CNN ANCHOR: Thanks. Ahead on IN THE MONEY we're focusing on food. Up first, the greens are always greener on the other side. We'll look at why bad food looks good when you're on a low income.
Plus you're not going eat all of that, are you? Find out how American portions went from filling to fattening. And later, shelling it out to take it off. See what gets thinner a fad diet. You or your wallet? All of that and more after a quick check of the headlines.
HARRIS: Now in the news, death and destruction in eastern China. An earthquake measuring 5.5 in magnitude rocked the region today. Chinese officials and state-run media say at least 12 people were killed. Nearly 400 others were wounded. Thousands of homes collapsed and about 100,000 others were damaged.
There could be another delay in Saddam Hussein's trial that's supposed to resume on Monday, but one of Hussein's attorneys tells CNN he plans to ask for a delay saying the defense needs more time to prepare. If granted it would be the second delay in Hussein's trial. The first was granted just hours after the trial began last month.
In Azerbaijan, a violent crackdown by police on opposition protestors. They reported started after the protest rally went beyond its two-hour limit. Demonstrators were protest the out of this month's parliamentary elections, which they say were rigged.
A deadly inferno in Samara, Iraq. A result of a suicide car bomb that ripped through a gas station. Iraqi police say three people were killed and nine others wounded. And in Baghdad police say gunmen fired on people putting up election posters, killing one of them.
Those are the headlines. More news in about 30 minutes. Next on CNN, "IN THE MONEY."
LISOVICZ: Welcome to IN THE MONEY. I'm Susan Lisovicz sitting in for Jack Cafferty with a special holiday weekend edition of the program. Coming up, thinking outside the Styrofoam box. We'll look at how your income helps influence the eating choices you make.
Plus anybody here orders half a cow? Learn how America's portion sizes went from to on target to out of control.
And figuring out about what organic really means. Find out about the battle to define the sexiest label in your supermarket.
Joining me today a couple of IN THE MONEY veterans: "LOU DOBBS TONIGHT" correspondent, Christine Romans; and "Fortune" magazine editor-at-large, Andy Serwer. It is the holidays in the U.S., that means excess and if you think about excess it's got to be food. You know, I read an interesting statistic that most Americans gain only one pound on average between Thanksgiving and Christmas. Isn't that crazy? It feels like so much more.
CHRISTINE ROMANS, CNN ANCHOR: It's unbelievable the amount that we eat at this time of year. I don't if it's the pressure or it is just the availability of the food, but why do we need to sit down to be happy to have a 64-ounce soda and a humongous triple serving of turkey.
LISOVICZ: Because you can.
ROMANS: I guess so. Bigger is better in this country whether it's our cars or it's our food or our butts, I guess.
ANDY SERWER, EDITOR AT LARGE, "FORTUNE" MAGAZINE: Yes well I will tell you. You know why people only gain a pound in that period is because they lie. They're not telling the truth. People gain a lot of weight I think. And you know they try these diets and I was on Atkins for a while and basically all it made me was unhappy. So I got rid of that.
LISOVICZ: You were really on a diet.
SERWER: The constant bacon eating was good and I liked that. But you know people try it and they're fads. I think people should enjoy themselves. Eat as much as you want out there this holiday season.
ROMANS: But keep moving. You've got to keep moving. And I think personal responsible is so important in all this because you hear people complain about the food companies, or complaining about the portions have gotten so much bigger ...
SERWER: They made me do it.
ROMANS: Or they are not getting enough exercise. Exercise is free. Walk, breathe, and don't eat so much. For most of us losing weight should be a simple matter of eating less and exercising more. But many Americans want a quick fix, preferably one we can buy off the shelf.
So we spend an estimated - get this -- $46 billion on diet food and merchandise. The question is, does any of that stuff really work? Leah Hoffman is going to tell us about the diet business and how effective it is. She's a staff writer covering culture and technology for Forbes.com. Leah welcome to the program.
LEAH HOFFMAN, FORBES.COM: Hi. Thanks for having me.
ROMANS: This is the one of the only kind of business molds where if you're successful then you go out of business. If diets really work then you would haven't people who would need to go on diets. People are continuing to sign up because they're not losing weight.
HOFFMAN: Right. That's true. The fact of the matter remains that with most of the diets in the market they're just not going help you keep the weight off. If they help you lose it in the first place.
SERWER: Leah, let me ask you about the magic bullet because that's always intrigued me. What's wrong with thinking that you can take a pill and you just take it every day and you can keep the weight off? I mean so far they haven't discovered one. I would like it if they did. What's wrong with that?
HOFFMAN: Nothing's wrong with it? The fact remains it doesn't exist though.
SERWER: Well there's that problem.
HOFFMAN: I mean unfortunately.
LISOVICZ: The other thing, Leah is that one of the reasons why diets perhaps don't work is that they're expensive. And you don't stay on them forever and real life isn't as rigid as they say, the Atkins Diet or the Zone Diet or the South Beach Diet, whatever they're called.
HOFFMAN: Right. I'm not sure that it's because of the expense that most people drop off, but I think it's more to do with the rigidity. I mean if you choose a diet, any diet you choose is going to have rules. But for most people it's the question of an Atkins, are you really going give up carbs for the rest of your life. It's a difficult decision and a lot of people can't stick with them because they're unrealistic.
ROMANS: They must work well enough, these pills and diets and fads that you lose some weight and that's enough for someone else to say, gee, I want to do that, too. Losing weight isn't the problem. It's the keeping the weight off and changing the behavior. Tell us about that.
HOFFMAN: Well a government review found that two-thirds of people will regain the weight that they lost within a year and as many as 97 percent will regain it within five years. So the key to weight loss is not finding something that will help you lose weight because there are plenty of programs, if you reduce your calories, severely enough and up your exercise for a given time that will help you lose weight, but keeping it off requires lifestyle changes.
SERWER: I mean it's really about expectations, Leah. I mean you have to do something that you can stick with. I mean even the exercise part aside although that's actually part of it, too. You should have an exercise program that's realistic and not thinking that you're going to run 10 miles every morning. So how do people change so that they are eating better? What are some ways you can change your mindset?
HOFFMAN: I think changing your mindset is probably less to do with finding, you know, don't dream up the magic bullet because probable it's not going to come around for next couple of years. Just try and incorporate changes that you can, you know, try and find healthy foods that you will like to eat. Don't make it a chore. Incorporate exercise in as many ways as you can because that's the number one way to actually maintain the weight loss.
LISOVICZ: Leah, I find it amazing that this is the only growth industry in the U.S. where most customers fail.
SERWER: That's a good one.
HOFFMAN: If you're trying to lose weight, it's a very heart- wrenching thing. I mean we keep on trying these new diets because it's something that a lot of people want to do.
LISOVICZ: But are there any success stories? I mean is there any diet that you think actually has a long track record of successor some success?
HOFFMAN: I really -- I can't evaluate that. I think that the simplest answer to that question is really just to eat in moderation and exercise more.
ROMANS: And this is the time of year to talk about unrealistic expectations.
SERWER: We have to get real.
ROMANS: Put the fork down! Leah Hoffman, thank you so much, Forbes.com. Thanks Leah.
HOFFMAN: Thank you.
ROMANS: When we come back, eating for two. America's portions are bigger these days and you know what? So are many of the people who eat them. Learn how we got here and see what to do about it.
Also ahead. The real dirt on the organic label. We are going bring you both sides in the debate over what that word really means.
ROMANS: Large, tall, king, venti, super. Whatever the food chains want to call it big has gotten really, really big. But it hasn't always been that way. Our next guest says that food portions are now twice the size they were 20 years ago and that's the number one reason why obesity is such a problem in this country today.
Lisa Young is author of "The Portion Teller: Smart Size Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss." She's also a professor at New York University. Welcome to the program. LISA YOUNG, AUTHOR, "THE PORTION TELLER:" Thank you for having me. It is great to be here.
ROMANS: you can hardly clean your plate anymore these days. Everything is so big. A 64-ounce container of soda, people order this and try to finish it. When did this happen?
YOUNG: This happened really beginning mostly in the 1980s where we had a lot of money, we were producing more food and food is so cheap. It's really such a cheap thing for the manufacturer that you can pay, they charge you an extra quarter and you get twice as much or three times as much and at the end of day we're dealing with an extra 5, 600 calories at a time. Which totally has contributed to the obesity epidemic.
LISOVICZ: Lisa let's give examples. The movie theaters, for instance. Where they make most of their profits, not the actual movie, but the junk that you see on the way in. Last year, I was taking my nephews and I wanted to get them limited amounts of soda and the woman behind the cash register was saying, you get a better value for this, this and this.
I don't want my nephew having 64 ounces of sugar water. I mean, I actually had to have a debate. I wanted to take control. That's a big offender, right?
COOK: It's unbelievable. You go to the movie theater and a small popcorn is seven cups, for an extra 50 cents or 60 cents you can get a medium which is 16 cups of popcorn and you're getting three times as many calories. A kiddie soda in the movie is a pint, that's 16 ounces. The smallest size that you can buy and it's just -- you can't even get the small sizes anymore even if you want them.
SERWER: You know actually Lisa, it's interesting you guys are talking about movie theaters because I know the person who invented super sizing McDonald's actually came from the movie theater business and he was the one who created this, solving the problem because at a movie theater you only go to the concession stand once. He tried to get people to go more than once, but to way to get more money was to make the products bigger. So that is where that whole thing comes from.
I want to ask you about the government's role in all of this. You asked the FDA or Health and Human Services, what's a serving and there's no answer. So that way the food companies can play games, there are three servings in this pack of Yodels when everyone knows all of them eat all of it at one time. Isn't that a problem?
COOK: Oh it is a huge problem and there's a huge discrepancy between government serving sizes both for the food labels which is the Food and Drug Administration as well as for the pyramid of nutrition education which is the Department of Agriculture.
And I got started with this research because I noticed what these government servings were and how small they were in comparison to what were served and in a sense, they don't help you in any way because you're correct. You look at the food label and it says one muffin is three servings, but yet you are going to eat the whole thing at once.
ROMANS: I think it's interesting. A lot of people don't realize that as nutritionists told me that a serving size of meat is about the size of a deck of cards. You know, boys and girls, you go to a restaurant, a piece of salmon is ten times that, maybe and you talk about some of these things. The glass of wine for example. It really isn't a glass of wine all of the way to the top, yet we drink it because we paid for it. We think that we have to get our value.
ROMANS: Is it our fault?
COOK: It's a combination. I think that it's really -- we're living in an environment that has so many external cues that's such toxicity because we're encouraged to buy bigger sizes. We're giving more food and research across the board shows that we eat more and we don't even feel any more full and we eat more even if we don't like the way it tastes.
LISOVICZ: You know Lisa, we have really gotten addicted to these generous sizes. Ruby Tuesdays apparently started limiting its portions on French fries and pasta and customers balked. They did not order that anymore so they went back and they started offering even less healthy choices.
COOK: Yes. It's a big problem. And, we'll see what happens with McDonald's now that they're going post the information on the wrapper. So we'll see what the response is, but we say we don't want big portions, but we do. I mean, you look at -- I combed through a Zagat guide for some of my research and instead of saying the food tastes good. What you hear, oh I like this place. They give me Fred Flintstone's portions. We want the big portions as well and we're giving them so it's a catch 22.
SERWER: Yes I mean we either eat it all and that is bad or we throw it all away and that's bad, too. I mean isn't this trend started crested though Lisa, I mean you are seeing like salads are getting more popular at McDonald's. I mean I have to think that growth in the french fry industry is slowing.
Maybe, yes. Exactly, thank you. So what is your take on that?
COOK: I'm actually finding that people are fed up sometimes and portions are actually getting bigger. I mean think about the Hardee's monster thick burger. It is two-thirds of a pound of beef and we're getting 1400 calories. Burger King introduced an enormous omelet sandwich, which was so successful that back in September they introduced something else even bigger. So we seem to be wanting these big portions.
ROMANS: Lisa, the title of your book is "Smart Size your Weight of Permanent Weight Loss" So if you want to lose weight and you're surrounded by these trends in 30 seconds or less, how can you smart size to permanent weight loss.
COOK: Eat half of what's on your plate and buy the smallest size available. Share with your dinner companion and stop before you take doubles.
SERWER: All right. Lisa Young, author of, I love the name of this book, "Portion Teller: Smart Size Your Way to Permanent Weight Loss. She is also a professor at New York University. Thanks for coming on the program.
COOK: Thank you.
SERWER: Coming up after the break. A snail that would be escargot are out and sushi is in. Food and wine editor in chief, Dana Cowin will tell us about the hottest trends in food for 2006.
And, brain food. Find out how smart you are about eating right with a "Fun Site of the Week."
SERWER: High end and high quality restaurants took a hit when the stock market tanked five years ago, but our next guest says they're making a comeback. Dana Cowin is editor in chief of "Food and Wine" Magazine and she joins us now from here in New York to talk about the latest restaurant trends.
Dana, welcome to the program. A fabulous subject, great restaurants. Where do we begin here? What are some of the big broad trends going on in this business?
DANA COWIN, EDITOR, "FOOD AND WINE" MAGAZINE: Well, we're looking at some fantastic high-end restaurants and this is, as you said, a new trend. We're looking at Joe Elle; one of the greatest chefs in the entire world opening in Las Vegas and you can imagine it's a 295-prefixed 16-course meal that you can get there.
Or Sirius in Hillsburg in the wine country. Fantastic food, beautiful pairings. And in New York, we're going see some big openings here of Mori Moto who was the iron chef. He is going to be opening a restaurant in the city. So that brings me to another trend, which is just highflying Asian food, fantastic and expensive.
ROMANS: Dana you pointed out the two most expensive restaurants in the U.S. right now are not French restaurants. They're sushi restaurants and across the board, whether it's pizza or sushi, everything is sort of being elevated to a little finer level.
COWIN: You're absolutely right. We've got the best two restaurants, Masa in New York and Orisawa in L.A., we're talking about $500 a person before you walk out the door. That's pretty pricey. But we're also talking about upgrading the low brow, which is partly where I love to live. So in New York City we've got David Chang at Mama Fuku.
This is a sliver of a restaurant, dressed up in plywood, but it has the best noodle soup and when you have Raman with pork, you're talking about corabatta (ph) pork. You're talking about fancy, fancy pork. Just in sort of a noodle shop or high-end pizza. We're talking about the best crust like Pizza Neapolitan in New York or Pizzeria Delfina in San Francisco. I mean these guys are experts. They have done their homework. So we're talking about elevating the slice.
LISOVICZ: Dana you know we're all salivating here. So thank you very much for that. You have really described this so beautifully, but you know, it's interesting. Food really goes through fads just like clothes do, just like the economy does. I remember when meatloaf came back as comfort food and blackened everything was in vogue.
Now I see that tiny, petite vegetables are cool?
COWIN: This is what I love. We have petite vegetables and we have micro vegetables and now we've gone up to petite. So one step up from petite but one-step down from small. I mean we are talking about a micro trend with petite vegetables from a farmer in Ohio at a place called the Chef's Garden.
SERWER: Dana, I want to ask you a little bit about that. First of all I'm happy to report that Susan has agreed to get me out to the $500.
LISOVICZ: If we can get in.
SERWER: What about the rest of the country? You're talking about New York; you are talking about Napa Valley, Las Vegas. What's going on in Ohio and Illinois, Iowa, are there changes going on in the heartland as well?
COWIN: I think that there are changes afoot everywhere, which is something, I embrace. I mean there are people who are paying so much attention to what it is that they're eating, what's on their plate. The spread of whole foods, for example, has elevated people's consciousness about organic foods and foods that have been handled well that are grown locally, so I think that's changed America's diet, just a bit.
And the restaurants are trying to do local food and simple food, which I applaud. So even, you know, in those flyover states, I think we see a huge interest in sort of a better quality food and also the mail-order world. Just the fact that you can go online and get whatever it is you crave. You heard about Hawaiian sea salt that you shave into your dish. You can order that Hawaiian sea salt if you really want to.
ROMANS: Dana tell us about Portland, Oregon. I would not have picked Portland, Oregon, as the bar/restaurant capital of the country, but you say this is where a lot of great things are happening.
COWIN: I am just so impressed with Portland. I was there years ago when they had fantastic chefs and, you know, they had the food movement. They're really near a wine country. But the chefs in Portland are trying to do something new. There's a guy named Michael Hevroy who has three restaurants each with an incredible chef and they are at the Vanguard.
They did something called family supper where they illegally served people. They finally got a liquor license and they finally came clean, but they want to change the way that we look at food and that's what's interesting to me about Portland. One of the greatest mixologists in the country named Lucy Brennan is in Portland at a restaurant called Mint.
LISOVICZ: And while we're talking about mixology, let's talk about the fine beverages that you have with the delicious meal.
LISOVICZ: What is new there?
COWIN: I am all about the cocktail trend because I feel like we've been really excited about chefs for a really long time. We've got, you know, Mario Batali, a star in clogs, but now we're moving over to the bar and we're looking at the mixologists becoming absolute stars. People who go to the restaurants just to see a guy crush ...
LISOVICZ: What are we drinking, though?
COWIN: The drinks have ridiculous names and a combination of ingredients that are seasonal, fresh and delicious. But wacky! I mean this, is a food adventure. If you're interested in venturing in the world of food, that's a place to try it out, like go have a great drink at a bar that has an incredible bartender and you'll be not just you know, happy, but you'll be pleased.
SERWER: All right. We could go on and on, obviously and two words, yum, yum. Dana Cowin is the editor in chief of "Food and Wine." Thank you very much for coming on the program.
COWIN: Thank you.
SERWER: Coming up on IN THE MONEY, granola chic goes corporate. Organic food isn't just for sprouts. You knew that. See what's behind the label that's becoming a status symbol.
And trading the checkout line for online. Allen Wastler of Money.com will tell us who tanked and who thrived in the Internet grocery war.
HARRIS: Making news now, one of Saddam Hussein's lawyers tells CNN the former Iraqi leaders defense team plans to ask for another delay. The trial for Hussein and seven co-defendants is scheduled to resume Monday. Hussein's attorneys say the court has not provided enough time for them to do proper legal work. The trial was first delayed just a few hours after it began last month.
A 5.5 magnitude earthquake in Eastern China has left at least 12 people dead and nearly 400 others are injured, 20 of them seriously. Thousands are now sleeping in tents and open-air courtyards. China's state-run media reports more than 8,500 homes destroyed and 129,000 homes damaged.
Police carrying shields and batons broke up a government opposition demonstration in Azerbaijan today. Some 15,000 protestors believed the November 6; parliamentary elections were rigged and called for another election. Azerbaijan is a former Soviet-blocked nation bordering the oil-rich Caspian Sea and Iran.
A car bomb exploded at a gas station in Samarra, Iraq this morning. The city's police chief says the suicide blast killed three people and wounded nine others. Five civilian vehicles were destroyed yesterday. Iraq's former interior minister escaped a bomb attack as he traveled on a road between Samarra and Baghdad. I'll have all of the day's news at the top of the hour and now back to IN THE MONEY on CNN.
LISOVICZ: At the holidays we give thinks for what we have, we also think of those who have less than we do. Here in the U.S. most people on lower incomes may not be out and out starving to death. But many are living on food that isn't making them any healthier. We were thinking about that and wondering about the connection between income and diet.
Marilyn Townsend is going to help us out. She's a faculty member at the nutrition department at the University of California Davis. Welcome to the program.
MARILYN TOWNSEND, NUTRITION RESEARCHER: Thank you.
LISOVICZ: You know it used to be that if you were obese it would be blamed on genetics. That is really not the case anymore. Oftentimes your socioeconomic level is a factor.
TOWNSEND: That's true. We know that people living in low-income communities are far more likely to be overweight than people living in middle-income communities.
LISOVICZ: Why is that?
TOWNSEND: Well, there are probably many factors involved. We certainly don't know precisely, but there will certainly be many more hurdles to maintaining a normal body weight in a low-income community. For example, maybe it's not safe for kids to be outside playing. So they may be in the house watching television more often than say, if they lived in a neighborhood where it's easy to meet a group of children outside and be climbing trees for example.
ROMANS: Marilyn it's so interesting, because it used to be, even hundreds of years ago, for example in art if you saw someone who was plump, that was someone who had a higher status in the community because they had more money, because the bigger you were, the more you could eat and the better it was.
Today, are we seeing the opposite where the bigger you are, it could be a sign that for once you're not wealthy. In fact, you could be poorer than everyone else. Your family is eating frozen pizza and not eating fresh fruits and vegetables and salmon.
TOWNSEND: That certainly is the case. In upper income community's people are far more likely to be trim and fit compared to low income communities.
SERWER: Let me ask you a question Marilyn and that has to do with food stamps. You know you get food stamps and go into a super market and you can buy anything. And that means that sometimes low- income people, and obviously they're low income people will load up on things that they think are a better value, which are big portion of junk.
Couldn't the food stamp program be changed so that your food stamps would go further if you were buying fruits and vegetables, for instance?
TOWNSEND: Well, if -- from the eyes of a food stamp recipient they may not perceive that their food stamps would be going further. Put yourself in the shoes of someone on food stamps and say you're buying for a family of four. And you want your family to be full. So the foods most likely to give you that sense of fullness will be foods that are highly caloric, that might be high-fat, high-sugar foods.
ROMANS: All right. Maryland Townsend. We have to leave it there. Nutritional specialist at the University of California Davis. Thank you, Marilyn.
When we come back, the real dirt on the organic label. We'll bring you both sides in the debate over what that word really means.
LISOVICZ: If you buy into the whole you are what you eat line of thinking you probably buy a lot of organic food. And you're not alone. Organic food sales topped $12.7 billion last year. But the definition of what is and isn't organic is creating a big rift in the industry. For more on this subject we are joined by Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association; and Phil Margolis, president of the Organic Trade Association. Welcome to both of you.
First question to Ronnie $12.7 billion, huge growth area of the food business, which is a $500 billion industry. What is the working definition, Ronnie of organic?
RONNIE CUMMINS, ORGANIC CONSUMERS ASSN.: Well, basically, organic food is food produced the traditional natural way without chemical pesticides or chemical fertilizers or without drugging the animals up. The central focus of organic farming is to have a healthy soil so that you produce healthy plants and health animals.
LISOVICZ: So it sounds good for everybody, right, Phil? It's good for the environment, it's good certainly for consumers, it is good for the livestock and there's so much interest in this now that even Wal-Mart, for instance, wants more organic food. Your feeling is that the definition of organic could be expanded. How so? PHIL MARGOLIS, ORGANIC TRADE ASSN.: Well, actually the definition of organic is well set out in the statute and the regulations that have been developed. The statute was passed in 1990 and the regulations were developed over the next 13 years through comment and rule making public comment and rule making and I don't believe that the standard is set. I mean standards evolved but the standard is set and requires a certain methodology to be followed in either growing or processing of organic agricultural ingredients.
LISOVICZ: But, Phil, the big debate is about foreign substances and your feeling is that this is actually OK. That this could -- organic could also include a lot of foreign substances.
MARGOLIS: It's an interesting question. The allowance of certain synthetic ingredients is limited to those that meet a rigorous review and testing process and a determination by the national organic standards board that they can be used in products which can only be made if you used those ingredients so for instance we couldn't have organic cookies or organic soda if we didn't allow for baking powder which doesn't grow on trees and carbon dioxide to be allowed in producing those products. So in that sense, yes.
LISOVICZ: Ronnie, what's wrong with that? We want our organic cookies. What's wrong with having a little bit of baking soda in it?
CUMMINS: Well, the expectation of organic consumers is that the number of synthetic substances used in and on organic processed foods will be limited and that there will be strict review by the national organic standards board before any synthetic substance is used in these processed foods. Our government allows thousands of synthetic substances to be used in conventional food processing.
The national organic standards in the United States has only aloud 38 plus eight more after ten years of review. So we want to just make sure that any synthetic substance, not just synthetic ingredients, but synthetic food processing substances are carefully reviewed by the national organic standards board, just as they have been for the past 10 years.
Unfortunately, the writer that just passed through the Congress limits the review of the organic community's watchdog, the national organic standards board strictly to organic ingredients, not the much broader category of synthetic substances broadly defined.
LISOVICZ: Phil, your group, it should be said, represents food manufacturers, for instance, Kraft, and for instance, Dole and they would like an expansion of this definition. What about Ronnie's concern? Three thousand maybe, foreign substance and things like xanthium gum, which is an artificial thickener, ammonium carbonate, which is a synthetic leavening agent that doesn't sound organic to me.
MARGOLIS: Well you know it is interesting that you say that. Organic really has to do with the methodology of growing crops and how food can be processed. Now the United States has the strictest standard in the world for the allowance of labeling of finished product as organic. As Ronnie has mentioned and as I agree, there have only been 38 substances that have been approved over 13 years. We support the strict review of ingredients that are used in organic products.
People who produce organic products realize that they must comply with the standard because there's an independent certifying agent that verifies that they have produced those products in accord with what the strictest law in the world, which is ours and the U.S., requires.
LISOVICZ: But you know Ronnie is this really much to do about nothing, though? I mean face it. Right now we have an epidemic in the United States. We have a country that is obese. More than half of the people in the U.S. are overweight. Most of it attributed to what they eat, the fact that they don't exercise. We have a huge increase in childhood diabetes. Isn't it a good thing that ultimately manufacturers are trying to get healthier products out there?
CUMMINS: It's definitely a good thing that Americans are buying more and more organic and natural foods. Right now in the United States ten cents of every grocery store dollar is going for products that are either labeled as natural, as made with organic ingredients or organic. That is definitely a good thing.
On the other hand, we have to remember that the original impetus for organic agriculture was to consume more fresh whole foods, fruits and vegetables, grains and beans and nuts and that organic convenience foods and organic processed foods, no matter what way you look at it should not be the basis of a healthy diet.
So we just need to make sure is that we continue to have strict review over all synthetic substances used in organic processed foods and that we keep things into in the perspective that what we're, you know, we're not go having organic Twinkies in every Wal-Mart in the country.
LISOVICZ: It's a concept, though.
CUMMINS: That is not our highest ideal. We want health and we want a sustainable environment and we want family farm-based economy and a treatment of farm animals.
LISOVICZ: OK. Last word for Phil. You know Organic often for the consumer means higher prices. Doesn't Ronnie have a legitimate concern that these big manufacturers are going to want to cut corners at consumer's health expense?
MARGOLIS: I don't believe so, absolutely not. There are three label categories that consumers can choose from. If you want just 100 percent organic ingredients in your product. There's the 100 percent organic label. If you want to, like me to eat as many organic ingredients as possible and you want those organic cookies, those organic sodas there's the 95 percent plus category which means those products must have at least 95 percent organic ingredients. But they can't get to a 100 percent.
I want to eat those products and I support people who want to manufacture them. There is room in the organic tent for people who are willing to follow the standards and make organic products and increase organic agriculture, which is the real bottom line here.
LISOVICZ: Maybe it's not yet time for an organic Twinkie, but we can always hope. We are going to have to leave it at that gentleman. Ronnie Cummins, national director of Organic Consumers Association and Phil Margolis, president of the board of directors for Organic Trade Association. Thank you for an intelligent debate on an important subject.
CUMMINS: Thanks for having us.
LISOVICZ: We've got more ahead for you on IN THE MONEY. Up next, getting the goods without getting out of your chair. Allen Wastler is going to check the state of the online grocery business.
And while you are at the computer tell us what's on your mind this week. The address, INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
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LISOVICZ (voice-over): Love to shop until you drop? Well, the next time you pull out the plastic, consider this. Your credit history dictates your shopping future. Your habits will determine the loans you're going get when you buy a new home or a new car. Here's how to keep track of where you stand. Order your credit report annually. It's free, thanks a new federal law.
As of September 1st, consumers across the U.S. can order free credit reports from all three credit reporting agency, Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. These reports are available through annualcreditreport.com. Read your report carefully. If you notice any activity you aren't responsible for, contact the credit bureaus. It will take time to clear up any incorrect information.
If something looks suspicious, place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus and contact your local police department to file a police report. And watch out for scams. There are scores of businesses out there that offer credit reports and credit counseling. Before doing business with any of these group, check them out with your local Consumer Protection Agency or Better Business Bureau. "Money and Family," I'm Susan Lisovicz.
LISOVICZ: The now defunct online grossers like Webvan and Cosmo are still the poster children for the dot com buzz, but some newer and smarter companies have taken their place and are seeing some success. That's the focus of Allen Wastler's "Inside Out." Take it away, Allen.
ALLEN WASTLER, MONEY.COM: Remember they all imploded Webvan it was a crash and burn approximate.
LISOVICZ: It sounded great.
ROMANS: And all of the grocery shopping was going to be online.
WASTLER: So they all died and everybody was like what? You know, you have to go shop for your groceries. But now all of a sudden you we're seeing them come back a little bit here and there.
LISOVICZ: What's changed?
WASTLER: Well Peapod was around and it was like, somebody save me and there was royal a hold who came bottom up and that's part of the success story. They were concentrating on smaller markets right now. Instead of the big Webvan thing that we'll be everywhere and coast to coast and everything.
ROMANS: It has to be local.
WASTLER: Let's just stay where we will make money where there are lots of people and they're Internet savvy and we have a bigger Internet audience right now and they're fairly of affluence. That's one thing. Two, the Peapod model. You tie into existing operations. Everyone before was, like, we'll build a network. Well, that's a lot of -- you're talking some scratch there, but if you say we make it ancillary to our existing stores, you already have the distribution. The one exception to that is fresh direct.
SERWER: In New York City, right?
WASTLER: They have their own distribution system independent of stores. However, they're another part of the puzzle. Now there's minimum order, OK?
WASTLER: No. We're not going to try a bunch of bananas all the way over to you; it cost us $20 bucks to do that. And you pay $7.
No, no, no. So you got minimum orders and delivery fees and also scheduled windows for delivers instead of we'll bring it to you whenever you want. No, no, no you can get it between 12:00 and 2:00. We'll deliver it tomorrow.
So all these things together. You are all of a sudden seeing a working business model.
WASTLER: Oh, my goodness and they're actually making some money.
LISOVICZ: Who else is in it, though?
WASTLER: We have Safeway jumping into it; you have regional outfits like Roche Brothers up in the northeast. We have Peapod that we talked about and most of the big national chains are starting their own.
ROMANS: Grocery stores have always delivered. I can remember like grandma calling and getting a carton of milk or something. That was on a very much smaller scale in the rural areas and this is a totally different ball game. Fresh direct pays I think $600,000 in a year in parking tickets in New York, that's a lot of groceries they're delivering. WASTLER: Actually as we go back to the old model of the neighborhood store actually delivering. The whole question of tipping is coming back in, too. Because you have the delivery fee. Do you tip the guy? Somehow they say don't tip other ands say tip them.
LISOVICZ: OK, fun site.
WASTLER: Fun site, we're talking about food. Found an interesting test on the National Geographic site of all places. So let's test how well you know your food. OK.
Butter more fattening than margarine, true or false.
ROMANS: I just saw the answer on your paper. True.
WASTLER: False. You got it. There you go. Margarine has all of these trans fats.
SERWER: Butter is better for you.
WASTLER: We were talking about fat a lot. How many calories in a gram of fat? We have some choices there.
SERWER: Calories to gram.
LISOVICZ: No idea.
WASTLER: Twenty maybe?
SERWER: The old.
LISOVICZ: I never ...
WASTLER: It is 9. It is nine calories in a gram of fat, imagine that. Now moderate exercise lowers your chance of colon cancer, diabetes, heart disease and high blood pressure.
ROMANS: All of the above.
SERWER: E, all of the above.
WASTLER: All of the above. We've been talking about it all through the show, right? You have to eat right and exercise right. There you go.
LISOVICZ: You've got it all.
Coming up next on IN THE MONEY it's time to hear from you as we read your e-mails and you can send us an e-mail right now to INTHEMONEY@CNN.com.
(COMMERCIAL BREAK) LISOVICZ: Now it's time to read your answers to our question about whether today's added food choices are making it easier or harder for you to eat right.
Richard in Alabama wrote, "All of the attention to obesity has definitely changed more than a few menus. If you can't dine out and eat right these days, you're just not trying. The same as even more true for eating at home. "
Gerald wrote, "It's not easier because all of the low-fat, low- carb choices are confusing people. People buy low-fat cookies and then eat the whole box. As always, you should just eat a moderate amount and try to exercise as much as possible."
He must be a trainer.
And Shirley in Arkansas wrote, "It's not so much the choices, but how they're presented to the buyer. Bakeries and donut places are using fans and other tricks to send their irresistible aromas all over the malls and shopping centers. Then the supermarket puts the goodies at every checkout counter."
You can send your comments about food or anything else to INTHEMONEY@CNN.com. And you should also visit our show page at Money.com/inthemoney that is where you will find the address of our "Fun Site of the Week." Quizzing you about food.
Thanks for joining us for this special edition of IN THE MONEY: "Fortune" Magazine editor at large, Andy Serwer; Lou Dobbs correspondent, Christine Romans; and Money.com managing editor, Allen Wastler.
Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
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