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Food News

Whole Foods prevails in ‘humane’ lawsuit | Posted on April 30, 2016

A federal judge in California has dismissed, with prejudice, a lawsuit filed against Whole Foods by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, alleging that the high-end “natural” and organic food retailer is deceiving consumers with its claims of “humane” treatment of the animals from which Whole Foods derives its meat products.

According to court documents, the U.S. District Court judge in San Jose granted Whole Foods’ motion for dismissal, saying that PETA and its co-plaintiffs had failed to back up its allegations with affirmative examples or any demonstration that information omitted from Whole Foods’ marketing claims had compromised consumer safety in any way.

Mandatory GMO Labeling Is Completely Unnecessary

Inside Sources | Posted on April 29, 2016

Advocates of mandatory GMO labeling claim they are simply fighting for consumers’ right to decide for themselves. This is misleading. Consumers who really care can already “decide for themselves.” Simple instructions on avoiding GMOs are available from many sources, such as Whole Food’s website. And there are at least 10 apps designed to inform consumers on which foods contain GMOs and which do not.

Plus, GMO labels already exist for concerned consumers. The non-profit Non-gmo project has begun certifying and labeling foods that contain little to no genetically modified ingredients. The Non-GMO Project’s label is now “the fastest growing label in the natural products industry.”

They’re probably doing a better job at labeling than the FDA or USDA could. A 2010 Inspector General study found that the USDA’s organic certification requirements have been poorly enforced. The same problems would likely arise if the USDA were given control over GMO labeling requirements.

Despite what anti-GMO activists want you to believe, there is no scientific justification for GMO labeling. Eighty-eight percent of scientists at the American Association for the Advancement of Science agree that GMOs are safe, higher than the percentage of AAAS scientists who think climate change is human-caused.

Chef Ann Foundation Accepting Applications for School Fresh Produce Program

Philanthropy News Digest | Posted on April 29, 2016

The Chef Ann Foundation provides tools that help schools serve children healthy and delicious scratch-cooked meals made with fresh, whole food. To that end, the foundation, in partnership with Skoop, is accepting applications for Project Produce: Fruit and Veggie Grants for Schools, a program that aims to expand students’ palates and encourage increased consumption of and exposure to fresh produce.

Grants of up $2,500 will be awarded to school districts for programs that engage students in lunchroom education activities that encourage students to taste new vegetables and fruits offered either in a dish, cooked, or raw. Grant funds must be used to purchase fresh fruits and vegetables to support each school's planned Project Produce programming. In addition, the majority of the produce must be locally accessible and at a price point affordable to all households.

Any district or independent school participating in the National School Lunch Program is eligible to apply. Applications must be submitted by the school district's food-service director. Districts may apply for up to ten schools at $2,500 per school.

Consumers offer insight on food perception, purchases

Feedstuffs | Posted on April 29, 2016

Taste, safety and price remained consumers’ most important values when purchasing food this month, according to Oklahoma State University’s April “Food Demand Survey” (FooDS). FooDS, a monthly online survey with a sample size of at least 1,000 individuals, tracks consumer preferences and sentiment on the safety, quality and price of food consumed at home and away from home, with a particular focus on meat demand.

The April report shows that consumers’ food values remained similar to those in past months, with slight decreases in perceived values of price and nutrition and increases in perceived values of fairness and convenience.

Similar to previous months, consumers reported that their main challenge was finding affordable foods that fit within their budget; the challenge experiencing the largest percentage increase was "finding foods my children will eat."

In April, 6.21% of participants reported having food poisoning, a 10% decrease from the previous month.

Cage-free purchase pledges not the egg buyers' fault

Watt Ag Net | Posted on April 29, 2016

The Egg Industry Center Issues Forum in Chicago April 20-21, brought together egg producers, trade association representatives, some researchers and even a few activists and representatives from McDonald’s, and, as expected, the hot topic was cage-free egg purchase pledges. It isn’t an exaggeration to say that the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) representative at the forum was the only person who was smiling throughout the two days of presentations and discussions.

Egg producers aren’t happy because they are facing what could be a cumulative $6-10 billion capital outlay to convert an industry that still has around 90 percent of its birds in cages to cage-free. Lenders aren’t happy, according to Jeff Coit, vice presdient, Farm Credit Services of America, because of the uncertainty over what actual consumer acceptance will be of cage-free eggs and whether or not the price that egg producers receive will be consistent and high enough to pay off the loans for the new systems. Just to make the financing of cage-free a little more interesting, you have to consider that houses with cages aren’t as good for loan collateral as they once were since we don’t know how long their useful life will be, Coit reported.

Even activists groups, like World Wildlife Federation, represented by one of its vice presidents, Carlos Saviani, aren’t happy about the cage-free movement, because it puts a subjective evaluation of bird welfare in the driver’s seat ahead of environmental sustainability measures. Simply put, cage housing has a smaller environmental footprint than does cage-free, so more resources to produce eggs means less land for wildlife.

FDA Releases Guide on Pet Food Diets Intended to Treat Diseases

FDA | Posted on April 29, 2016

U.S. Food and Drug Administration released a Compliance Policy Guide (CPG) that explains the criteria FDA will consider when determining whether to take enforcement action regarding dog and cat food diets intended to treat a disease.

Pet food diets labeled with therapeutic claims are specially formulated to address specific diseases (for example, urinary tract disease in cats). In the past, these diets were sold through and used under the direction of licensed veterinarians. However, FDA has observed an increase in marketing of these diets directly to pet owners over the internet and in retail stores. This shift toward direct marketing, without veterinary direction or involvement, concerns FDA because these diets are formulated for specific health needs and may not be suitable for all pets.

In the interest of animal safety, dog and cat food diets labeled with therapeutic claims (e.g., renal failure, diabetes) should be available only through licensed veterinarians or through retailers and internet sellers under the direction of a veterinarian. In addition, comprehensive labeling information and other manufacturer communications for these diets should be made available only through licensed veterinarians.

Can food hubs boost rural farming economies?

High Country News | Posted on April 29, 2016

Nationally, the demand for local food is far outpacing the supply farmers can provide. As the general public becomes more aware of how distant we are from the farmers who grow what we eat, more organizations are emphasizing local food production as a means to support rural economies. But much of the increased access has been in urban areas; food hubs are one way for rural communities to have access to local food, too. To make it work, however, farmers have to shift growing practices and cooperate with local organizations, and governments may need to provide the physical infrastructure, if local organizations can’t afford to lease on their own like the Arkansas Valley Organic Growers did.

To help these rural food systems grow, the Department of Agriculture is putting more resources into food hub funding and research, building on older local food initiatives. In the 1990s, it tracked farmers market development, which increased in the 2000s with the agency’s “Know Your Farmer, Know Your Food” initiative. By 2008, Congress had provided over $10 million to fund direct farmer-to-consumer sales like agrotourism and food cooperatives; and in 2014, amendments to the Farm Bill focused more on local food promotion, aggregation, and distribution. From 2009 to 2015, the department put about $1 billion into 40,000 local food infrastructure projects across the country.

Wal-Mart to drop its organic brand, Wild Oats,

Market Watch | Posted on April 29, 2016

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is phasing out its Wild Oats organic food brand, according to people familiar with the matter, dropping a line of products introduced two years ago to bring inexpensive organics to the masses.

The world’s largest retailer has unwound a complicated deal with private-equity firm Yucaipa Cos. that allowed it to sell Wild Oats pasta sauces, cereals and other shelf stable products, the people said. The products will disappear from Wal-Mart shelves in coming months.

Now Wal-Mart is switching tactics, hoping to add organic products to shelves in other ways, including selling more fresh produce and going it alone by adding more organic food to its existing store brand, Great Value.

Osteopaths’ study damning meat is ‘weak’: NAMI | Posted on April 28, 2016

A review of large-scale studies involving more than 1.5 million people, calls out meat for its connection to a host of mortality causes, but is based on “weak correlation data,” said Betsy Booren, vice president of scientific affairs for the North American Meat Institute.

The review was conducted by physicians from Mayo Clinic in Arizona, and is titled, "Is Meat Killing Us?"

The authors analyzed six studies that evaluated the effects of meat and vegetarian diets on mortality with a goal of giving primary care physicians evidence-based guidance about whether they should discourage patients from eating meat. Their recommendation: Physicians should advise patients to limit animal products when possible and consume more plants than meat.

But, the study is “another example of taking weak correlation data from a few studies and trying to make a broader conclusion from it,” Booren said. “The authors do not provide any reasoning for why they chose the studies included in their analysis, and they left out studies that contradicted their findings. It is also unfortunate that the authors chose not to include extensive research on the nutrition and health benefits of meat as well as potential health deficiencies from vegetarian diets, which the same authors documented in another paper.

How the World Health Organization's cancer agency confuses consumers

Reuters | Posted on April 25, 2016

Processed meat, such as bacon, ranks alongside plutonium as a carcinogen, according to an arm of the WHO. Here’s how such assessments happen – and what they mean.

Thanks to scientists working under the auspices of the World Health Organization, you can be fairly sure your toothbrush won’t give you cancer. Over four decades, a WHO research agency has assessed 989 substances and activities, ranging from arsenic to hairdressing, and found only one was “probably not” likely to cause cancer in humans. It was an ingredient in nylon used in stretchy yoga pants and toothbrush bristles.

All the other 988 substances, however, pose some level of risk or need further research, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the WHO. Some things in IARC’s top category of carcinogens are pretty obvious nasties, such as plutonium, mustard gas and smoking tobacco. Others are more surprising: Also ranked as “Group 1 Carcinogens” are wood dust and Chinese salted fish.