December 21st, 2010
08:00 PM ET
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The al Qaeda group that built two toner-cartridge bombs in an unsuccessful attempt to blow up planes in October also has contemplated spreading poison on salad bars and buffets at U.S. hotels and restaurants, U.S. officials told CNN Tuesday.

But U.S. officials sought to downplay the threat - first reported by CBS News - saying it was months old, and that it was more in the nature of a discussion of "tactics" than an actual plot. Officials implied the tactic is beyond the capabilities of the terrorist organization, which is based in the Middle East.

The United States has received information the group - al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula - was considering the tactic of placing ricin and cyanide poisons into food supplies, Department of Homeland Security officials confirmed to CNN.

Read Al Qaeda group contemplated poisoning food in U.S., officials say

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Filed under: News • Tainted Food

Comment of the day
December 21st, 2010
07:45 PM ET
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From our post Hungry at the holidays:

As a middle school teacher I see this all the time. There are so many more students who need this aide than who are allowed to apply for it. Many parents are too ashamed or proud to apply for this because they work so hard to try and provide for their children. I and many of my colleagues regularly give away our lunches to kids who need it. Trust me, I know that I can afford to skip a meal here and there. We keep a desk drawer stocked with simple foods like raisins, cereal bars, crackers, juiceboxes, etc. that we pay for ourselves.


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Filed under: Buzz • Comment of the Day • From the Comments • Hunger • School Lunch

5@5 - Ingrid Hoffmann
December 21st, 2010
05:00 PM ET
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5@5 is a daily, food-related list from chefs, writers, political pundits, musicians, actors, and all manner of opinionated people from around the globe.

Looking to spice things up in the New Year? In the kitchen, that is? (Hey now, we're not that kind of Web site.) Well, look no further than Ingrid Hoffmann.

Hoffmann is the host of "Delicioso" on Univision and "Simply Delicioso" on the Cooking Channel, where she jazzes up American dishes with bold Latin flavors. And with a little strategic pantry stocking, you can do the same.

Five Latin Ingredients You Need to Keep in Your Pantry: Ingrid Hoffmann

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Filed under: 5@5 • HolidayShopping • Think

December 21st, 2010
04:45 PM ET
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UPDATE – The House has passed Food Safety Bill (S.510) 215 to 144 - with the provision of S.372, The Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act. The bill now goes to President Obama to sign.

Read House passes food safety bill to send to Obama

Sanjay Gupta spoke with chef Tom Colicchio and editor-in-chief Erick Erickson about the growing controversy over governmental oversight of food safety, spurred on by the recent unanimous Senate vote in favor of the Food Safety Modernization Act.

Get more on S.510 - the Food Safety Modernization Act:

- Food safety bill, thought dead, passes unanimously

- Republicans block food safety bill

- Digest this: the new food safety act (and some very weird rumors)

- Senate approves long-delayed food safety bill

- Advocates: Food safety bill doesn't have teeth

- Food safety bill 'not perfect' but historic

- Op-ed: Jane Velez-Mitchell – Food safety doesn't end with S.510

- Poll: How much control should the federal government be allowed to exercise over food safety?

- S. 510: Food Safety Modernization Act – the basics

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Filed under: FDA • Food Politics • S. 510 • Sanjay Gupta • Tom Colicchio

Lunchtime poll – the seat of power
December 21st, 2010
12:23 PM ET
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Yesterday when I was interviewing legendary poet, civil rights activist and autobiographer Maya Angelou (and you can rest assured I'm gonna be dropping that into conversation for the next decade or so), she shared a story about a recent lunch with a young woman she'd hired.

Dr. Angelou fixed them each a plate and sat down at the table to eat. Her assistant remained standing. Worrying that her guest was just being polite or was intimidated, Dr. Angelou gestured toward a chair. The offer was refused, "I just feel more comfortable standing up to eat. I never sit at the table."

This was cause for concern for the author, who has just published her second cookbook, 'Great Food, All Day Long' and sees the table as a nexus for connection in the midst of a frenzied life. The 'welcome table' is, to her, a place to catch up with family, debate the issues of the day, seek solace and sustain one another with words as well as meals and she fears the loss of that in our increasingly plugged-in, but disconnected society.

And sadly, with that, I'm off to the CNN cafeteria, where I'm going to assemble a salad that I'll eat bites of at my desk between e-mails.

Box lunch
December 21st, 2010
12:00 PM ET
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Sink your teeth into today's top stories from around the globe.

  • A new terrorist plot targets food in hotels and restaurants. Erm, we'll pass on the continental breakfast then. - CBS News

  • Environmentalists have beef with grass-fed cattle. - Slate

  • You know those scary, flesh-eating Tyrannosaurus Rex and Velociraptors? Yeah, they were probably vegetarians. - Gizmodo

  • We prefer to think booze is calorie-free this time of year, but juuuuust in case you aren't on that train, the calorie counts of the holiday's booziest concoctions. - Houston Chronicle
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Filed under: Box Lunch • News

Hunger by numbers
December 21st, 2010
10:00 AM ET
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The use of food stamps has increased dramatically in the U.S., as the federal government ramps up basic assistance to meet the demands of an increasingly desperate population.

The number of food stamp recipients increased 16% over last year. This means that 14% of the population is now living on food stamps. That's about 43 million people, or about one out of every seven Americans.

In some states, like Tennessee, Mississippi, New Mexico and Oregon, one in five people are receiving food stamps. Washington, D.C. leads the nation, with 21.5% of the population on food stamps.

"The high unemployment rate caused the high participation rate," said Dottie Rosenbaum from the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, a think tank.

READ: "1 in 7 Americans rely on food stamps" on

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Filed under: Food Politics • Hunger • News

Hungry at the holidays
December 21st, 2010
09:11 AM ET
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CNN’s “In Focus” series explores ways people are giving of their time, their resources and their love. Watch the CNN photojournalist special “Giving in Focus” Christmas Day at 4 p.m. ET.

Heaping platters of turkey, bowls of gravy-slathered mashed potatoes, endless pies and more than plenty for leftovers; for millions of children across the United States, a meal like this is as far-fetched a Christmas fantasy as Santa actually dropping down their chimney.

Winter break is anything but a wonderland for children in many of the nation's estimated 44 million food insecure families, who rely on school lunch for sustenance.

Nearly 16 percent of US households with children were food insecure during 2009, according to the most recently published United States Department of Agriculture figures, meaning that they did not have consistent access to adequate food for active, healthy lives for all household members. CNN Money reports that 14 percent of the nation's population - or 1 out of 7 people - is now living on food stamps.

Breakfast buffet
December 21st, 2010
09:00 AM ET
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While you're frying up some eggs and bacon, we're cooking up something else: a way to celebrate today's food holiday and the most delicious finds on TV.

December 21 might have given us a total lunar eclipse to mark the winter solstice, but the meat of the matter is today is National Hamburger Day.

Hamburgers are being touted as hip chow by new restaurants dedicated to redefining the classic staple. Not that the patties needed any help - according to a survey conducted by Men’s Health, Americans eat about 40 billion burgers every year, which comes out to about 150 per person.

Go on and add your favorite toppings, but don’t go overboard, says Chef Jason Paolini, creator of America’s best cheeseburger. “We wanted to just keep it simple and make it perfect.”

What's on TV?

December 2010
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