• Winner: Risk takers • Loser: Anyone who doesn't think food should be fatal
For those among us who might like to live -- and eat -- on the edge, this was a good week. For those who don't want a tasty meal to end in disastrous illness, not so much. A listeria outbreak in 18 states has qualified as the deadliest outbreak of food-borne illness in more than a decade. Traced to cantaloupe from a Colorado company (which had issued a recall earlier this month), the illness has sickened more than 72 people and killed at least 16, with those numbers expected to rise. You may not want to trade your fruit course for a salad just now, though. By the end of the week, listeria fears had prompted a California company to recall romaine lettuce. At a time when the government's food-safety funds are under fire, and at least one presidential hopeful is calling food regulation 'overkill' (have some cantaloupe, Michele Bachmann?), eating seems oddly akin to playing Russian Roulette.
• Loser: Hungry kids everywhere
With the news that we may be hardwired to crave sugar and food manufacturers doing their level best to work that craving, we have to wonder if any of us ever stood a chance at healthy eating. Kids, certainly, seem to be at disadvantage. While school administrations across the country debate the (de)merits of chocolate milk and potatoes in school lunches, many in this country struggle simply to keep their kids fed. On the upside, readers of Mark Bittman can sleep (and eat) better after reading his economic comparison of fast/junk food and homecooked meals (sorry, McD's, no slam dunk for you). And at least one mom assures us that even a kid (like her) who recoil at the sight of green foods can grow into a well-rounded food lover (like her). We know at least one other mom just like that. Gulp.
• Hung Jury: U.C. Berkeley's 'Racist' Bake Sale
When the Cal student group College Republicans decided to protest California's pending Affirmative Action bill with a tongue-in-cheek (and cupcake-in-mouth) Increase Diversity Bake Sale, they touched off more than a spirited debate. The group posted a tiered pricing structure on Facebook based on a buyer's race, gender, ethnicity and other factors. 'If you don't come, you're a racist,' the post ended (satirically, according to a subsequent post). While some Cal students supported the bakers' freedom of expression, others called the stunt hateful, among other things. Despite the name calling and threats, College Republicans held their bake sale and sold out of cupcakes (although not cookies, go figure).
• Winner: Weatherbeaten farmers (down but not out) • Loser: Peanut lovers
Proving once again that farmers are the salt of the earth, many of those who saw their livelihoods disappear in the swirling floodwaters of Tropical Storm Irene have bounced back with, if not gusto, then a huge helping of creative energy. One tomato farmer in upstate New York has used turned his egg-laying hens into pooping bingo markers. After all, lost tomatoes can't pay the bills, but chicken-scat bingo just might make a dent. Sadly, all the creativity in the world may not be enough to save consumers from shelling out more for our pb & j's. A severe peanut shortage has farmers scrambling and peanut-butter makers facing hefty price hikes. And that's not good news for anyone. Except maybe almond growers?
• Loser: Anyone who wasted an hour watching 'The Chew'