All the News That's Fit to Eat: Vermont's GMO Lawsuit, Fish + Pregnancy, and False Advertising | Civil Eats

All the News That’s Fit to Eat: Vermont’s GMO Lawsuit, Fish + Pregnancy, and False Advertising


Food news doesn’t take a summer break. Get caught up here with our weekly round up:

1. Lobbyists Loom Behind The Scenes Of School Nutrition Fight (NPR’s The Salt)

In the ongoing battle over healthier school meal rules in the House Agriculture Appropriations Bill, several news outlets have pointed to the Big Food dollars behind the School Nutrition Association (SNA)–the group that has been advocating for waivers that would allow schools to opt out of the new rules. In a post on the Environmental Working Group (EWG)’s site this week, the group wrote:

Tax records show that $6.7 million of $10.5 million the SNA collected in 2012 came from sponsorship fees from processed food companies like Schwan Food, whose subsidiaries include frozen pizza companies like Tony’s and Freschetta, and Con Agra, maker of such empty-calorie icons as Reddi Wip … Schwan is one of the largest donors to the SNA’s foundation, giving more than $50,000 to their 2013-2014 annual fund, and more than $25,000 the year before.

As we reported a few weeks ago, Michele Obama is in the ring, but it’s unclear whether that will make a difference. The vote will most likely happen next week.

2. Trade groups Sue Vermont Over GMO Labeling Law (Burlington Free Press)

The state has been bracing for a lawsuit since before the law passed this spring and, sure enough, the Grocery Manufacturers Association and other industry groups, including the Snack Food Association and International Dairy Foods Association have filed one. In a statement, the plaintiffs called the new law “costly and misguided” and said it would “set the nation on a path toward a 50-state patchwork of GMO labeling policies.”Governor Peter Shumlin seemed fairly calm about the whole thing. “I will want to see what the nature of the attacks on the law, but I don’t think there are going to be any surprises,” he told the press. “We have been gearing up.”

3. FDA Moves to Dampen Fears it Will Ban Cheese Aged on Wood (Reuters)

After reports earlier this week that the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) was “cracking down” on the wood boards many cheese makers use in the aging process, and subsequent industry outcry, the agency is clarifying it’s intent. In an update on the FDA’s website, it wrote: “To be clear, we have not and are not prohibiting or banning the long-standing practice of using wood shelving in artisanal cheese. Nor does the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) require any such action. Reports to the contrary are not accurate.” Cheesemakers have had plenty to say.

4. Court Rules for Pom Wonderful in Dispute With Coke (Associated Press)

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in favor of Pom Wonderful, which had taken Coca Cola to task over deceptive labeling, claiming that the label on Coke’s Minute Maid “Pomegranate Blueberry” is misleading because it was made of 99 percent other fruit juices.” The decision, which could open the door to more litigation against food makers for deceptive labeling, is a also a case of the pot calling the kettle black. Pom was judged to have falsely advertised the health benefits of their products back in 2012. An attorney formerly representing POM told Food Navigator, “We can expect more vigorous litigation between competitors as well as more class actions arising from consumer product labeling issues.”

5. FDA Criticized for New Advice on Eating Fish During Pregnancy (Boston Globe)

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Pregnant women have been moving away from eating fish out of concerns about mercury exposure in recent years. This week, the FDA made a small but important edit to their seafood guidelines by adding a recommended 8-ounce-per-week minimum in order to ensure that pregnant women get Omega-3 fatty acids, seen as important for fetal development. Because high-mercury fish is still not labeled, however, it’s up to consumers to keep track of their choices and fish isn’t labeled so it’s not clear that this advice is actually helfpul. The matter gets especially murky because many varieties of seafood with the lowest levels of mercury also have lower levels of Omega-3s.

6. House OKs More Funding for Massive Meat Recall Probe (CNN)

Consumers and farmers may finally get some answered about what caused the giant Rancho Feeding Corporation recall this spring. This week, Congress agreed to spend $1 million to complete the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) investigation. So far, we do know that nearly 9 million pounds of meat were recalled, ranchers lost a lot of money, and “a government inspector and a Rancho foreman were involved in an inappropriate romance.”

7. ‘Dairy Junk Foods’ under Fire in Report Highlighting Dramatic Shift in Dairy Consumption Patterns (Food Navigator)

A new report from food lawyer Michele Simon calls out the dairy industry for advertising and lobbying that has lead to “shifting patterns of consumption away from plain milk toward dairy products laden with sugar, fat, and salt.” The report also looks at the USDA’s dairy checkoff program, which Simon says subsidizes leading fast food chains. Some facts from the report:

– 11 percent of all sugar goes into the production of dairy products;

– McDonald’s has six dedicated dairy checkoff program employees at its corporate headquarters who work to ensure that dairy plays an important role in McDonald’s product development; and

– The dairy checkoff program helped Pizza Hut develop a 3-Cheese Stuffed Crust Pizza and the “Summer of Cheese” ad campaign.

8. Meat Is Murder—but It’s People Being Killed (and Not How You Think) (TakePart)

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This deep dive on unnecessary use antibiotics in livestock production asks the question: Will the industry find alternatives to antibiotics before the “end to modern medicine as we know it.” On the optimistic side, the article details several alternatives to antibiotics, that meat execs are currently experimenting with. At Cargill, for instance “researchers have been experimenting with competitive exclusion, a technique for getting chicks started by inoculating them with ‘good’ intestinal bacteria so there’s no room for ‘bad’ bacteria to take hold.” If approved by the FDA, Mike Robach, vice president of food safety at the company, told TakePart, “it would allow us to continue to reduce the use of antibiotics in these animals.”

9. Claim: California Could Save Enough Water to Supply all the State’s Cities (Central Valley Business Times)

A new report form the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) found that California could be saving up to 14 million acre-feet of untapped water, or more than the state’s cities use every year, “with an aggressive statewide effort to use water-saving practices, reuse water, and capture lost stormwater.” This is big news, as the drought continues to baffle farmers and scientists around the state and beyond. On NRDC’s blog, the group also details the techniques of “the drought-resilient farm of the future” which include drip and scheduled irrigation.



Did we miss any other big stories this week? Tell us about them in the comments below.

Since 2009, the Civil Eats editorial team has published award-winning and groundbreaking news and commentary about the American food system, and worked to make complicated, underreported stories—on climate change, the environment, social justice, animal welfare, policy, health, nutrition, and the farm bill— more accessible to a mainstream audience. Read more >

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