Under current rules, regulators can’t stop companies from selling contaminated chicken or require practices that could reduce salmonella on farms, but they may soon have new tools at their disposal.
January 8, 2016
Happy new year! We’re back with the food news you need to know this week.
The 2015 Dietary Guidelines, released yesterday, do not advise Americans to eat less meat, as an expert panel advising the government had recommended last February. But for the first time ever, the guidelines suggest limits on how much added sugar people should consume. They also continue to encourage people to eat more fruits, vegetables, nuts, seafood, and whole grains, and maintain that lean meat is part of a healthy diet. The meat industry spent big on lobbying, with the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association spending more than $112,000 in the first three quarters of 2015. The National Pork Council spent $780,000, and the North American Meat Institute spent more than $220,000. The new recommended limit on added sugars is likely to help the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) move forward on a proposal to mandate added sugar labeling on Nutrition Facts panels.
Campbell Labels Will Disclose G.M.O. Ingredients (The New York Times)
Breaking from its industry rivals, Campbell will become the first major food company to begin disclosing the presence of genetically engineered ingredients like corn, soy and sugar beets in its products. Campbell is also calling for federal action to make GMO labeling mandatory.
U.S. Repeals Meat Labeling Law After Trade Rulings Against It (Associated Press)
Last month, Congress repealed COOL, a labeling law that required retailers to include the animal’s country of origin on packages of red meat. Lawmakers said they had no choice but to get rid of the labels after the World Trade Organization authorized Canada and Mexico to begin more than $1 billion in economic retaliation against the United States.
EPA Says Pesticide Harms Bees in Some Cases (Associated Press)
In the first scientific risk assessment report of neonicotinoids, a much-debated class of pesticides, the Environmental Protection Agency found that the pesticides harm honeybees when used on cotton and citrus, but not on other big crops like corn, berries, and tobacco. Neither pesticide makers nor anti-pesticide advocates were happy with the report.
Mexican Soda Tax Followed by Drop in Sugary Drink Sales (The New York Times)
A new study found that after one year, Mexico’s sugary drink tax caused sales of sugary beverages to fall as much as 12 percent while bottled water purchases rose 4 percent. Public health advocates applauded the study as the first hard evidence showing that a nationwide tax could help reduce obesity rates.
Vegetables Likely To Take More Of Your Plate In 2016 (National Public Radio)
In this trend piece, an NPR commentator says that a decade’s worth of government, consumer, and food and environmental activists’ concerns has led to a focus on vegetables, food waste, and sustainability. New restaurants are moving vegetables from the side to the center of the plate, using the whole vegetable (instead of composting scraps), and offering more overlooked fish. As a result of the United Nations declaring 2016 the International Year of Pulses, eaters could also see more beans, peas, and lentils on their plates.
This week, Wendy’s joined a slew of fast food giants like McDonald’s, Burger King, Taco Bell, Panera, Subway, and Dunkin’ Donuts in making the switch to cage-free eggs. The company will use eggs from cage-free hens in the U.S. and Canada by 2020.
Big Food Makers Launch an Image Makeover for 2016 (National Geographic)
The National Chicken Council and the U.S. Farmers and Ranchers Alliance (USFRA) have launched a transparency initiative intended to reframe consumers’ understanding of large production agriculture. Videos produced by USFRA in collaboration with cooking website Food52 show a day on a pig farm, dairy farm, and cattle ranch.
Around the Country, Organic Farmers Are Pushing For ‘GE-Free’ Zones (The Washington Post)
Only eight counties in the United States have “GE-free zones” that prohibit the cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) crops. But efforts to pass similar measures are springing up in other areas. Proponents say the goal of creating the zones is to protect non-GE crops from contamination by modified crops. George Kimbrell, senior attorney at the Center for Food Safety, says U.S. farmers have lost “literally billions of dollars through these contamination incidents.” Jennifer Kuzma, professor and director of the Genetic Engineering Society Center at North Carolina State University, predicts that the issues will only grow in intensity as organic and non-GE foods become more popular, and that we’ll see more food labeling bills and GE-free zones in the future.
Will Work For Food? Co-Op Programs End Amid Labor-Law Fears (Associated Press)
A changing marketplace and fears of violating labor laws are resulting in fewer and fewer food co-ops each year. Working member programs, which offered cheap labor and aligned with co-op principles like open membership and democratic control, became a basic feature of co-ops decades ago when there was interest in natural living and alternatives to big capitalism. But now, many co-ops are struggling to compete against natural food marketers, and there are fears that labor officials could classify working members as employees rather than volunteers, which would leave co-ops open to charges for violating minimum wage rules.
Chipotle is struggling to rebound from multiple outbreaks of foodborne illnesses in recent months. Sales have dropped as much as 37 percent, its fourth-quarter sales declined more steeply than the company expected, and it has been served with a subpoena in a federal criminal investigation pertaining to an August outbreak in Simi Valley, California.
Blizzard in West Texas and New Mexico Kills 35,000 Dairy Cows (The New York Times)
Some sad news: 35,000 dairy cows were killed in a blizzard that whipped across the plains of West Texas and New Mexico the day after Christmas. Some were buried alive by drifting snow; others froze to death on open fields. Dairy farmers are still tallying their losses and many more animals developed frostbite and could still die.
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