Last week, Monster Beverage filed an unusual lawsuit against the San Francisco City Attorney’s office to stop an attempt to place restrictions on the company’s highly caffeinated and potentially harmful products aimed at youth. This aggressive move is a form of backlash against using the legal system to hold the food and beverage industry’s accountable for deceptive marketing practices. Read more
Our founding fathers, white-maleness aside, did get a few things right. One of them was the concept of “separation of powers,” to ensure a system of checks and balances among the three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial. But a dangerous provision snuck into the budget bill passed last week in Congress upends that system. Without any hearings on the matter, the Senate included language that would require the U.S. Department of Agriculture to essentially ignore any court ruling that would otherwise halt the planting of new genetically-engineered crops. Read more
This week, food labor advocate Saru Jayaraman is releasing her new book, Behind the Kitchen Door, which relates heartbreaking stories of just some of the 10 million restaurant workers in the U.S. In a chapter called, Serving While Sick, she tells the disturbing tale of a fast-food worker who had no choice but to come to work with a bad cold since she couldn’t afford to go unpaid. When this worker tried to explain to her manager how perhaps handling food while coughing and sneezing was not such a good idea, she was laughed at. She later wondered how many customers she got sick that day because she couldn’t leave the counter every time she needed to wipe her nose. Read more
Recent reports of secret meetings among industry reps and the Food and Drug Adminstration over GMO labeling piqued my interest, mostly because this critical aspect was missing: any effort to label GE foods at the federal level could bring the current grassroots movement to a grinding halt by preventing any stronger local laws from ever being enacted. But I am getting ahead of myself.
Last month, Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association and one of the leaders of the GMO labeling effort, recently published an article about how “representatives of Wal-Mart, General Mills, Pepsi-Frito Lay, Mars, Coca-Cola and others” met with the FDA on January 11 “to lobby for a mandatory federal GMO labeling law.” Read more
Rarely does the mainstream media bother to connect the dots when it comes to our broken food safety system. Consider these two recent headlines:
The latter story celebrating government action to “help farmers”—prompted by this U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) press release—was trumpeted by major media outlets across the nation without any questions raised. Of course American farmers need help during times of drought and that effort is well worth supporting, but is the indiscriminate buying up of meat really the best and only idea the feds can come up with? Read more
The food industry really hates it when you compare them to Big Tobacco. They try to deny the negative association by claiming that food is different than tobacco. Of course that’s true, but why are the same consultants that have worked for the tobacco industry now shilling for Big Food, opposing the ballot initiative that would require labeling of all foods containing GMO ingredients? Read more
In case you had any doubt that California’s Prop 37—which would require labeling of food containing genetically modified organisms (GMOs)—is a significant threat to industry, a top food lobby has now made it perfectly clear.
In a recent speech to the American Soybean Association (most soy grown in the U.S. is genetically modified), Grocery Manufacturers Association President Pamela Bailey said that defeating the initiative “is the single-highest priority for GMA this year.” Read more
With the debate over the 2012 Farm Bill currently underway in the Senate, most of the media’s attention has been focused on how direct payments—subsidies doled out regardless of actual farming—are being replaced with crop insurance, in a classic shell game that Big Ag’s powerful lobby is likely to pull off.
Meanwhile, the Senate may hurt the less powerful by cutting $4.5 billion from the largest piece of the farm bill pie: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly called food stamps). Reducing this lifeline for 46 million struggling Americans (more than 1 in 7—nearly half of them children) has become a sideshow in the farm bill circus, even though SNAP spending grew to $78 billion in 2011, and is projected to go higher if the economy does not improve. Read more
After years of debating, petitioning, rulemaking, and outright stalling, this week the federal government is finally implementing new requirements for testing E. coli in ground beef.
Why is this cause for celebration?
Because while the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has for years required testing of the deadly 0157:H7 strain of E. coli, numerous other strains have also become a significant safety threat.
So now, any ground beef that tests positive for six additional strains will be considered adulterated under the law, which means the product cannot be placed into commerce. That’s what makes this such a big deal. Read more