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Food News

Michigan Senate votes to ban local soda taxes

Detroit News | Posted on October 5, 2017

The Michigan Senate on Wednesday voted to prohibit local governments from taxing food, drinks or chewing gum, a pre-emptive strike against local control over so-called “soda taxes” enacted in other parts of the country. Cook County, Illinois, is one of the latest local governments to slap a tax on the sugary beverage, which supporters say will discourage unhealthy diets, but officials there are now considering repealing the penny-an-ounce tax.The Michigan Constitution exempts groceries from the state sales tax, and sponsoring Sen. Pete MacGregor said his bill would close “loopholes” he warned could allow local excise taxes on food and drinks.

2016 National Beef Quality Audit shows room for improvement

High Plans Journal | Posted on October 5, 2017

After years of trying to improve beef cattle, have we made enough progress yet? That question was asked and answered in the 2016 National Beef Quality Audit, the most recent since 2011.For those waiting for the answer, it’s still “no,” Mark McCully said. The Certified Angus Beef brand’s vice president of supply grants cattle are better, but there’s plenty of room for improvement. The NBQA cites a lost opportunity of $15.75 per head in quality grade alone. A glance at actual beef grades vs. the NBQA targets of 5% Prime, 35% Premium Choice, 35% Low Choice, 25% Select and no Standards could lead some to proclaim, “Mission accomplished.” McCully sees more to achieve and said ranchers have the tools and beef genetics to do it.“We can still get better,” he said.Breeding time sets up the most marbling improvement, but that’s only potential.“Anything throughout the management of that animal that sacrifices quality grade is an economic loss to the whole beef enterprise,” McCully said. That’s an opportunity, McCully said, for seedstock producers to use selection tools available to maintain upward pressure on marbling while creating more value down the line. “As genetic designers of the cattle and as the people who manage them, we need to keep yield grade and cutability in mind. Same with carcass weight,” he said.McCully suggests multi-trait selection to produce cattle that capture more of all the money left on the table.

Bill Introduced to Crack Down on Fake Organic Product Imports

Growing Produce | Posted on October 5, 2017

Reps. John Faso (R-NY) and Michelle Lujan Grisham (D-NM) announced the introduction of the Organic Farmer and Consumer Protection Act. The bipartisan legislature provides for a modernization of organic import documentation, new technology advancements, and stricter enforcement of organic products entering the U.S.“Protecting the integrity of organic is critical for the advancement of organic, and we applaud Rep. Faso for introducing this important bill. Our farmers have to have a level playing field, and organic consumers have to be able to trust that they are getting what they pay for when they buy organic,” said Laura Batcha, Executive Director and CEO, Organic Trade Association. “We’re operating in a growing global market. It is essential that we modernize and get up to speed to prevent organic fraud and to ensure that every stakeholder in the organic chain is playing by the rules. This bill takes important steps towards making that happen.”When fraudulent organic products enter the U.S, local producers are hurt by lower prices and consumers are hurt by inauthentic products.

Scientists join forces to save Puerto Rico’s ‘Monkey Island’

The Conversation | Posted on October 4, 2017

The Cayo Santiago Field Station is the longest-running primate field site in the world. Since it was founded in 1938, generations of monkeys have lived out their life with humans watching. Only monkeys live on the island; people take a 15-minute boat trip every day from Punta Santiago on Puerto Rico’s east coast. The huge amount of data on each individual monkey’s life, death and contributions to the next generation allow scientists to ask questions in biology, anthropology and psychology that can’t be answered anywhere else. This microcosm of monkey society opens the door onto these highly intelligent and social primates’ lives – thereby allowing us to better understand our own. After Hurricane Maria made landfall 30 minutes south of Cayo Santiago, scientists in the United States scrambled to make contact with students, staff and friends in Puerto Rico. Several days later we finally managed to reach Angelina Ruiz Lambides, the director of the research station. Scientists arranged a helicopter so that she could survey Punta Santiago and Cayo Santiago. The photos and videos she sent back were devastating. Punta Santiago, where many of the staff live, was destroyed. A phototaken from the helicopter showed a large chalk message: “S.O.S. Necesitamos Agua/Comida” – We need water and food. Cayo Santiago, formerly two lush islands connected by an isthmus, was unrecognizable. The forests were brown, the mangroves were flooded and the isthmus was submerged. Research labs and other infrastructure were in pieces. Yet the monkeys were spotted! Somehow, defying our expectations, many of the Cayo monkeys had weathered the storm. Over the next few days other staff traveled to Cayo in small boats and started searching for each individual monkey, like 00O – a process that will take weeks. Some observers might question our focus on saving animals when people across Puerto Rico are suffering, but this is not an either/or choice. The Cayo Santiago Field Station is the livelihood of many dedicated staffers who live in Punta Santiago. We cannot aid the monkeys without helping to rebuild the town, and we aim to do both.The staff and researchers who work at Cayo Santiago are stewards of these animals, who cannot survive without our help. Many of the Puerto Rican staffers on site have spent years caring for monkeys like 00O. Now they are spending their mornings rebuilding Cayo Santiago, and then working on their own homes in the afternoon.

San Francisco requires grocers to disclose antibiotics used in raising food animals

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on October 4, 2017

Lawmakers in San Francisco this week passed an ordinance requiring major grocery chains to report information about antibiotic use in the raising of livestock that the approximately 120 stores eventually sell as meat to the public. The order by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors wants the grocery chains to collect the information and provide annual reports to the city’s Department of Environment for distribution to consumers. The goal is to spark a marketplace shift toward antibiotic-free meat and poultry. The report adds that the use of antibiotics to speed up growth or protect confined animals has been partly blamed for an uptick in antibiotic-resistant bacteria. The new ordinance does not target processors or producers but includes penalties --including a civil penalty of as much as $1,000 per day -- for grocery chains that do not comply with the reporting standards, the report said.

Raw milk dairy’s defiance prompts WSDA’s health alert

Capital Press | Posted on October 4, 2017

The Washington State Department of Agriculture has issued a rare health alert, advising consumers to not drink raw milk from a dairy that refused to halt production pending an investigation into why its milk tested positive for salmonella. Pride & Joy Dairy of Toppenish maintains that its milk is safe, though the owner said Tuesday that most retailers have stopped selling it.“The impact is horrible,” said Cheryl Voortman, who owns the dairy with her husband, Allen. “It’s killing us, inch by inch.”WSDA reported detecting salmonella Sept. 27 during a routine monthly sampling of raw milk from Pride & Joy. The next day, the dairy declined WSDA’s request to suspend production. The dairy stated in a Facebook post that it was being “targeted again.”

FDA Inspector General Report on Progress of FSMA Inspections

OFW Law | Posted on October 4, 2017

On September 28, 2017, the Department of Health & Human Services’ Office of Inspector General (OIG) released its internal report on the agency’s domestic food facility inspections: Challenges Remain in FDA’s Inspections of Domestic Food Facilities (the Report).  The Report concluded that FDA is on track to meet the initial domestic food facility inspection timeframes mandated by the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA).  But the Report’s key takeaway was: “FDA should do more to ensure that the food supply is safe by taking swift and effective action to ensure the prompt correction of problems identified at domestic food facilities.”

FDA Not Doing Enough To Fix Serious Food Safety Violations, Report Finds

NPR | Posted on October 2, 2017

For instance, FDA often relies on facilities to voluntarily correct violations, which can be ineffective.the report concludes that the FDA "consistently failed to conduct timely followup inspections to ensure that facilities corrected significant inspection violations." And in 17 percent of cases, the FDA did not conduct a follow-up inspection at all. Also, in some instances where inspectors found significant violations, the FDA took no enforcement action.The Food Safety Modernization Act, which was signed into law in 2011, aims to ensure a prevention-oriented approach to food safety. The law gave FDA new enforcement authority so the agency could better respond to problems. But the new report concludes that the FDA has rarely taken advantage of these new tools."We think FDA really needs to do more to take swift and effective action" to ensure that safety problems at food facilities are fixed promptly, Seife says.

The post-antibiotic era is here, now what?

WIRED | Posted on September 28, 2017


Bacterial resistance to antibiotics is both natural and inevitable. By the luck of the draw, a few bacteria will have genes that protect them from drugs, and they’ll pass those genes around—not just to their progeny, but sometimes to their neighbors too. Now, computational epidemiologists are finally getting the data and processing to model that phenomenon. But no one’s using these tools to predict the end of the antibiotic era—because it’s already here. Instead, they’re focusing their efforts on understanding how soon resistant bacteria could be in the majority, and what, if anything, doctors can do to stop them.

How 'corpsumers' are changing the way people shop

Consumer Affairs | Posted on September 28, 2017

Since the early 2000’s, retailers like TOMS have popularized the concept of a company whose brand identity centers on philanthropy and responsible use of resources. Now, public relations firm MWWPR says they’ve inspired a new type of buyer that’s dominating the U.S. consumer landscape: the “corpsumer”. The firm’s study describes this group as shoppers who care as much about company reputation or ethical stance as product quality or value, and they account for a whopping one-third of the U.S. population; approximately 100 million people.This consumer segment is “bigger than so many of the segments that brands target -- bigger than millennials, bigger than moms,” said MWWPR chief strategy officer Careen Winters.A key characteristic of this group is strongly-held values. Corpsumers are fiercely loyal to companies with values and priorities similar to their own. More than half (51 percent) will stick with a product that has disappointed them because they believe in what the company stands for.