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Food News

Disqualified from SNAP? SAM I Am!

OFW Law | Posted on October 10, 2018

Owners of retail food stores permanently disqualified from participation in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) are saddled with serious consequences in addition to the loss of the store’s ability to accept food stamp benefits (EBT). After USDA’s Food & Nutrition Service (FNS) permanently disqualifies a store, the agency promptly searches its SNAP retailer database to determine if the disqualified store’s shareholders have ownership interests in other SNAP-authorized stores. A store whose owner has been permanently disqualified from SNAP based on trafficking activity at another store will soon receive a letter from FNS advising that their SNAP authorization will be withdrawn based on the lack of business integrity of the owner. Owners will also not be able to sell or transfer a permanently disqualified store without being subject to a substantial transfer penalty. The transfer civil money penalty (CMP) imposed by FNS is calculated using a complicated formula and can exceed $113,000 – an amount greater than the CMP that FNS can assess against a store in lieu of permanent disqualification from trafficking.

Make Your Voice Heard: Uphold the Integrity of Milk!

American Dairy Coalition | Posted on October 10, 2018

As a branch of the American Dairy Coalition (ADC), the Protecting Milk Integrity Initiative works to advocate for the proper use of federally standardized terms established for the word “milk” on product labels. In an effort to provide clarity and consistency for consumers across the nation, ADC is urging the FDA to stop allowing the wrongful use of the word “milk” in branding on non-milk, plant-based alternative products. It is time to end this confusion and protect the nutritious, wholesome and pure reputation of milk that is confirmed in the current FDA Standard of Identity. ADC is urging the FDA to stop allowing the wrongful use of the word “milk” on non-milk, plant-based alternative products labels. In an effort to end confusion and protect the nutritious, wholesome and pure reputation of milk, ADC requests the administration upholds the current standard of identity for milk. The dairy industry is encouraged to submit their individual comments to FDA. ​Here's what you need to do:1. Submit your comments here. The deadline is October 11th, 2018. ​    You can view a comprehensive list of talking points here.


The biggest hurdle genetically engineered food faces isn’t science—it’s us

Quartz | Posted on October 8, 2018

Today, virtually everything we eat is produced from seeds that have been genetically altered in some manner. If we’re going to feed the growing population without further destroying the environment, then we’re going to have to get comfortable with the idea of eating modified crops. By the year 2100, the Earth’s population is expected to increase to more than 11.2 billion from the current 7.6 billion. What is the best way to produce enough food to feed all these people? If we continue with current farming practices, vast amounts of wilderness will be lost, millions of birds and billions of insects will die, farm workers will be at increased risk for disease, and the public will spend billions of dollars as a consequence of environmental degradation. But there is a way we can resolve the need for increased food production with the desire to minimize its impact.For 10,000 years, we have altered the genetic makeup of our crops, transforming their shape, texture, flavor and yield. The ancient ancestor of our familiar yellow carrot, for example, was likely a purple, bitter, and woody root. Hybridization, grafting or induced random mutation through radiation or chemical treatments gave rise to many of our crops today. These early approaches were somewhat crude, resulting in new varieties through a combination of trial and error, and without knowledge of the precise function of the genes that were being transferred.

American Butter Institute Urges FDA to Address Mislabeled “Butter” Products

Hoard's Dairymen | Posted on October 7, 2018

 As the only dairy food standard established by federal statute, butter is defined as “made exclusively from milk or cream, or both, with or without common salt, and with or without additional coloring matter, and containing not less than 80 per centum by weight of milk fat, all tolerances having been allowed for.” Concurrently, FDA dictates that certain foods should be deemed imitations if that food resembles another but is nutritionally inferior or fails to meet established characterizing ingredient requirements.“The way in which these brands use the term ‘butter’ is false and misleading,” said Tom Balmer, executive director of ABI. “These imposter products don’t contain actual dairy ingredients, and cannot match real butter’s positive attributes – from its unmatched flavor and creamy, rich texture and unique performance in cooking and baking, to its significant level of Vitamin A. We’re bringing this deception to FDA so that it can rectify the issue and ensure truth and fairness in the marketplace.”

McDonald’s shareholder has it wrong on broiler welfare

Watt AgNet | Posted on October 4, 2018

Shareholder activism has hit McDonald’s, as a holder of more than 2 million shares of its stock wants the fast-food chain to make changes to its policy on broiler welfare. The shareholder is the New York State Common Retirement Fund, which handles the state and local retirement system for more than one million members.How McDonald’s responds to this pressure from a trustee of the fund should concern not only those involved in the poultry industry, but also those whose retirement benefits are being managed by the company. McDonald’s already has a sound broiler welfare policy that other restaurant chains might be wise to consider looking to as an example. So what is DiNapoli’s hang-up with the policy? The company stated it will source chickens “that are raised with improved welfare outcomes.” But two organizations – Global Animal Partnership (GAP) and Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) – are pushing slower-growing breeds of chickens the organizations claim have improved welfare outcomes.

The pitfalls of FDA’s GMO food labeling

The Hill | Posted on October 4, 2018

This consumer protection principle will soon be tested across a much wider range of products. Following a law passed by Congress in 2016, the federal Agricultural Marketing Service is devising guidelines for mandatory labeling of food products developed using some specific crop breeding methods. These include improving crops using methods to give them specific characteristics directly, such as the ability to ward off insects without pesticide applications or to require less fertilizer or water, rather than requiring years of development. Even though crops bred using these methods have been grown widely for over 20 years without any harm to consumers, these “Genetically Modified Organism” (GMO) labels or symbols will soon be required on foods in the U.S. in the interest of the consumers’ right to know what is in their foods. Once the labeling law is implemented, all foods that do contain GMO ingredients will be labeled and lists of GMO crops will be maintained and updated by the USDA. Thus, there will no longer be any rationale for the misleading “verification” provided by the Non-GMO Project. Instead, consumers will be able to look for the symbol that will signal to them that crop breeders have used safe and tested methods to make our crops more healthy and productive and more resilient to changing pest and weather patterns. It soon will be time for the FDA to enforce its own rules and crack down on the Non-GMO Project and similar labels that profit from playing on unfounded fears to mislead consumers.

In sudden turnaround, regulators suspend new rules for New Jersey's craft breweries

North Jersey | Posted on October 4, 2018

State alcohol regulators suspended enforcement of new rules for New Jersey's craft breweries after top lawmakers vowed to roll them back in a flurry of critical statements.The state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control, or ABC, said in a statement that the pause would allow it to further consult with the competing factions — craft breweries on one side and bars and restaurants on the other — and potentially work with lawmakers to write new legislation.“We want to make sure that we get this right,” said ABC Director David Rible. “We are committed to supporting the state’s growing craft beer industry, while also balancing the concerns of other stakeholders and ensuring compliance with state law.”Gov. Phil Murphy, who had expressed misgivings about the rules after an outcry from the craft beer industry last week, celebrated the announcement on Twitter."I applaud today’s decision and look forward to continuing to support our vibrant craft beer industry," he wrote. The regulations in question were issued Sept. 21 by the state Division of Alcoholic Beverage Control and sought to clarify what breweries can and cannot do under a 2012 state law aimed at spurring the growth of New Jersey's craft beer industry. Previous guidance was murky or incomplete, causing “significant confusion” about what was permissible, the division said.The rules contained new restrictions, most significantly limiting breweries to hosting 25 events and 52 private parties a year. But they also gave the beer makers new privileges, such as allowing them to host up to 12 off-premises events annually. Breweries were prohibited from selling food, but consumers could bring their own food into tasting rooms.

Chipotle Must Face Class Trial Over ‘GMO-Free’ Deception Claims

Bloomberg | Posted on October 3, 2018

Chipotle Mexican Grill, Inc. customers in Maryland, California, and New York head for trial in a class suit alleging the fast-casual restaurant chain deceptively markets food as GMO-free. A ruling by the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, which certified three separate classes and denied the company’s motion to throw out the case, was notable in important areas of class action and consumer law.The ruling “was without a doubt a victory for Chipotle consumers,” Laurence D, King of Kaplan Fox & Kilsheimer LLP in San Francisco., one of their attorneys, told Bloomberg Law.“Plaintiffs have maintained from the outset that Chipotle’s ‘non-GMO’ campaign was false and misleading, he said.

Austin, Texas, Now Requires Restaurants To Responsibly Dispose Of Food Waste

Huffington Post | Posted on October 3, 2018

The Texas city of Austin implemented a new ordinance this week preventing restaurants from disposing of food waste in landfills.Restaurants may donate unconsumed food, send scraps to farms or compost it under the law that took effect Oct. 1. The measure also stipulates that employees receive training about handling the waste. “The City is committed to helping companies, large and small, find cost-effective solutions and establish diversion programs to ensure food and other organics are put to best use while meeting ordinance requirements,” Sam Angoori, interim director of Austin Resource Recovery, an organization helping businesses sustainably transform food waste, said Monday.Austin, the Texas state capital, decided to focus on restaurants after a 2015 study determined that more than 85 percent of trash and recycling came from commercial businesses, multifamily properties and the food service industry. The study showed 37 percent of what ended up in landfills is organic waste that is compostable. The new law bolsters the city’s goal of zero waste by 2040. In addition to encouraging food donation and composting, the plan calls for expanded  recycling and economic development.

Who Shops at a Mature Farmers’ Market?

Choices | Posted on October 3, 2018

Growth in the number of farmers’ markets is slowing. As of August 2017, there were 8,687 markets, double the number from 10 years ago but only a 0.2% growth from the previous year (U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2018), indicating that growth in the number of markets has leveled off. Many parts of the country, particularly in urban areas, are witnessing a saturation of farmers’ markets. Producers complain that maintaining a presence at multiple markets has increased costs more than it has added revenues (Zepeda and Reznickova, 2018). These vendors question whether adding markets increases the number of shoppers or just makes it more convenient for those customers currently shopping at farmers’ markets. With the number of farmers’ markets leveling off, what do we know about the shoppers who visit these established, mature markets? What are they buying? What are impediments to further growth? We conducted a survey of shoppers at one of the oldest and largest producer-only farmers’ markets in the country to find out.Visitors to the DCFM are not “average” food shoppers. While their incomes are higher than the U.S. average (31% have household income above $96,000, compared to 20% of U.S. households), the characteristic that most distinguishes them is that they are far more educated than the average American. They are twice as likely to have completed a bachelor’s degree (77% vs. 32% of U.S. population) and more than three times as likely to have completed a graduate or professional degree (38% vs. 12%). The average age is somewhat younger: just under 46 years old, versus 50 years for the U.S. population. Household size of DCFM visitors is smaller than the U.S. average (2 vs.2.5 people), but the proportion of children under 18 is similar (20% vs. 21%). Since the University of Wisconsin-Madison has 45,000 students, it should not be surprising that shoppers at the DCFM are highly educated, young, and have small households and few children. While these shoppers may not be similar to the average US shopper, they are reflective of the residents in the town where the farmers’ market is located. These results are consistent with Aguirre (2007), Zepeda (2009), and Conner et al. (2010), who found no significant difference in education, age, or income between farmers’ market shopper and non-shoppers in the United States and Michigan.