Another full week of food policy news has passed you by. But don’t worry, we’ll get you caught up.
Slice The Price Of Fruits And Veggies, Save 200,000 Lives? (NPR’s the Salt)
Computer models created by researchers from the U.K. and Tufts University suggest that lowering the price of fruits and vegetables by 30 percent may lower death rates from heart disease and stroke and save nearly 200,000 lives over 15 years. Lead researcher Johnathan Pearson-Shuttard said lower prices for produce translated to better health across the population, regardless of age, gender, race, and ethnicity. To find this out, researchers created a tool called the U.S. IMPACT Food Policy Model, which included projections of U.S. demographics and cardiovascular rates to 2030. They then combined the data with current and projected fruit and vegetable intake figures, which allowed them to stimulate the effects of different policies on eating habits.
Are Nestlé, Hershey, Mondelez, and other big chocolate companies really doing enough to fix the child labor problem? To try to find out, Fortune Magazine reporter Brian O’Keefe traveled to the Ivory Coast and Ghana, where 60 percent of the world’s cocoa is grown, to visit farming communities during peak harvest season. O’Keefe saw examples of how investment in communities by companies and government can have a positive impact, but came away with an ever greater sense of how much still needs to change.
Appeals Court Puts Temporary Hold on NYC Salt Labels (Grub Street)
Last week, we reported that a state judge upheld a measure in New York City requiring restaurants with 15 or more locations nationwide to place warnings next to menu items that are high in sodium. This week, there’s a new twist: An appeals court agreed to the National Restaurant Association’s (NRA) request to delay the rule. The NRA claims the restaurants it represents will suffer irreparable harm if salt labels become mandatory. If they can make a convincing case, it may mean the salt warnings will never take effect.
EPA Bans a Pesticide Often Used on Almonds and Other California Crops (Los Angeles Times)
This week, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) filed an intent to cancel the registration of the pesticide flubendiamide, which is widely used on California crops such as almonds and alfalfa. It is most commonly used in Belt, manufactured by Bayer CropScience. The EPA says it found that the compound breaks down into a more toxic chemical that is harmful to insects that are an important source of food for fish. The chemical has been used by California growers since 2008, and they applied 42,495 pounds of the pesticide to 521,140 acres in 2013.
Drugs Found in Puget Sound Salmon From Tainted Wastewater (Seattle Times)
Researchers found an “alphabet soup” of drugs, including Prozac, caffeine, cholesterol medicine, ibuprofen, and even cocaine, in sewage-treatment wastewater and in the tissue of juvenile chinook salmon in Seattle’s Puget Sound. They discovered cocktails of 81 drugs and personal care products, with levels detected among the highest in the nation. Jim Meador, an environmental toxicologist at NOAA’s Northwest Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, says the high levels could be caused by the fact that people in that area use more of the drugs detected, or it could be related to the wastewater-treatment plants’ processes. Most of the chemicals detected are not monitored or regulated in wastewater, and there is little or no established science on the environmental toxicity for most of them.
Subway has taken the first step on the road toward transitioning to 100 percent antibiotic-free meat. This week, the fast food chain, which aims to be fully antibiotic-free in the United States by 2025, began selling a rotisserie-style chicken sandwich made with antibiotic-free chicken. Subway says consumer demand prompted the ingredient overhaul. Last fall, a report ranked 25 of the United States’ biggest restaurant chains on their efforts to reduce antibiotics in their meat supply, and only six of them earned a passing grade.
USDA To Give $18 Million To Historically Black Universities (Modern Famer)
Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced this week that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is making $18 million available to historically black land-grant universities. Land-grant universities were originally focused on agriculture, but are mostly big state universities now. The USDA says the program focuses on advancing cultural diversity in the scientific and professional workforce by educating more students from under-represented groups. The grants will be awarded in the categories of research, teaching, and extension with a focus on sustainable bioenergy, food security, childhood obesity prevention, climate change, and food safety.
Federal officials have rejected a complaint by Jonathan Lundgren, a senior entomologist for the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, which says the government tried to suppress his negative research findings about the effect of neonicotinoids on bees and other pollinators (we reported on that here). A USDA scientific integrity review panel “concluded that [Lundgren’s] written complaint did not provide credible and verifiable evidence to support his contention that his research was impeded and that he was restrained from communicating with the media and interacting with the broader scientific community” and ordered the case closed.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney to Introduce Tax on Sugary Beverages (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
This week, new Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney plans to introduce a tax on sugary beverages, in hopes of reducing consumption and funding several large projects, such as universal prekindergarten and the rebuilding of parks and recreation centers across the city. Former Mayor Michael Nutter has already attempted to tax sugary drinks twice, but was blocked by the City Council each time. Opposition from lobbyists is expected to be fierce.
A new study found that a typical U.S. restaurant meal provides enough calories for two or more healthy meals, and not only in fast-food and large chain restaurants. On average, the study found that meals from non-chain restaurants contained about 1,200 calories each, which is more than half the daily requirement for most women, and about 44 percent of the daily requirement for men. A nationwide menu labeling law goes into effect at the end of this year, but independent restaurants and chains with fewer than 20 outlets won’t be required to post their calorie counts, thanks to the “Common Sense Nutrition Disclosure Act,” a bill that was designed to weaken the labeling law and passed by Congress a few weeks ago.