Top News from the Food Front: School Lunch Soulsuckers, Animal-Ag Absurdities, & GMO Vetos

Alphabet soup: 'NEWS'

Is your ‘Chef’s Special’ dinner protected by copyright law? Do you know what potentially problematic chemistry your yoga mat and your bread (plus about 500 other grocery items in your pantry) might have in common? Consumers increasingly turn away from genetically modified food: does the food industry give a flip? Does the FDA? For all this food news and more — including a long list of factory-farm foolishness to boggle the noodles of non-sociopathic food fans — read on!

Say What Now?

1. Protecting Food Creations — Apparently there’s a trend towards chefs forbidding diners from taking pictures of their food. Some chefs call the edibles on your plate ‘intellectual property,’ with prohibitions in place to keep you from sharing images of the food you’re about to eat — almost as though the food they prepared is copyrighted material. Is it me, or does this sound a bit ridiculous?

2. Paul Ryan Says Free School Lunches Give Kids ‘An Empty Soul’ — Speaking of ridiculous… hey, wait a minute: is this satire? Am I on ‘Punked’ right now?! I double checked, you guys, and I am so sad to report that (however improbably) this does not appear to be an Onion article. So there you have it: ‘poor kids eating lunch’ equals ‘soul-sucking doom!’ Uh huh: makes perfect sense! Anyway I’m sure it’s fine, because — as everyone knows — nutrition has nothing to do with brain development or learning! Um. Yeah.

(Pssst, Mr. Ryan! Just a friendly heads up: you might wanna have a little talk with your speech-writing team — they’re kinda making you sound like an ignorant over-privileged jerkface with no idea how nutrition shapes brain development, or what it’s like to grow up poor and hungry! Oh wait, that’s what you were going for? Never mind then, you nailed it; carry on.)

GM(n)O Thank You!

3. Kroger and Safeway Move Away from GE Salmon: So, Will Any Markets Sell it? — Even as the FDA continues to ponder whether to approve genetically modified salmon for human consumption, demand for this not-hot-new-food-product plummets. Kroger and Safeway join about 60 food retailers who say they won’t carry it, even if it’s approved: people simply don’t want it, and the public pushback against the ubiquitous and unlabeled GMOs already permeating our food supply make genetically engineered salmon a marketing liability.

4. Company says no more GMO ingredients in Smart Balance spreads — Speaking of consumer demand for non-GMO food, yet another company chooses to provide what people want to buy rather than what the chemical companies like Monsanto wish they’d sell. Price is not expected to increase, as Smart Balance ditches the genetically modified ingredients from their product line. Informed consumerism, you guys: it’s magical!

5. Starbucks slammed for serving genetically modified milk to millions of customers — Do you know why? Because it’s a marketing liability, since so many people don’t want to eat genetically modified food. Dear Capitalism: you tend towards problem behavior, but this time you’re at the top of your game. Do your stuff!

Of Diet and Disease

6. High Protein Diet Risky as Smoking, Study Finds — If you’re considering an Atkins or Paleo-style high-protein diet: don’t do it! New research (yet again) highlights the risk of chronic disease and early death associated with high levels of animal product consumption. Death DOES lead to weight loss, but seriously you guys: there are better ways to slim down!

7. Almost 500 Foods Contain The ‘Yoga Mat’ Compound. Should We Care? — Yes; yes, I think we should! According to a new report by the Environmental Working Group, azodicarbonamide — the potentially toxic chemical being phased out of Subway and Nature’s Own breads — can be found in nearly 500 common grocery items. Mmmm, azodicarbonamide! In an ideal world, we would have really good data regarding whether or not a given substance is dangerous BEFORE it’s all over our food system; we could choose to take this approach, if we insisted the FDA put public safety ahead of food industry interests. Clearly, that’s not the system we have: I propose we file this under ‘PROBLEMS NEEDING ATTENTION.’

Industry Behaving Badly

8. Pepsi Bottler Fails US Workers — Who needs workplace safety, anyway? (Hopefully not workers at this bottling plant, since it sounds like they’re getting precious little of it.)

9. 100-Plus Groups Ask Obama to Ditch New Poultry Rules — You guys will never believe this: meat factories want less regulation! I bet you’re really super-shocked by that, right?! The proposed changes to line speeds and inspection rules in poultry plants are dangerous to workers, add horror to the already misery-laden lives of birds being ‘processed,’ and are extremely likely to result in more fecal contamination, more foodborne illness, and more food safety violations within these facilities. But whatever! As long as Tyson and Purdue can show increased profits next quarter, well then: it’s all worth it, am I right?! (NO.)

Many many groups representing diverse organizations submitted a letter to the White House urging withdrawal of the USDA’s newly proposed rule on the ‘Modernization of Poultry Slaughter Inspection.’ But generally that industry gets the most friendly USDA treatment money can buy, so it’s hard to feel optimistic that the ridiculous downgrading of poultry plant regulation will be thwarted. If you need that last push to get birds off your plate: here you go!

10. FDA: Recalled beef may have reached 35 states — The FDA announced Friday that recalled tainted meat from Rancho Feeding Corp. may have reached consumers in 35 states, rather than 6 — which was the previous estimate. See, folks? What we clearly need in meat production is faster line speeds, less regulation, and more fecal contamination! Because, you know… um, wait.

11. States Fight California’s Chicken Cage Law. But It’s Really About Bacon — California’s newish and rather popular animal welfare law gives chickens marginally less cruel living conditions; other meat purveyors are absolutely terrified they might have to reduce cruelty at THEIR facilities too! OH NOES!!! Obviously less animal cruelty for cows or pigs would be a terrible, horrible, egregious problem, right?

I believe I’m (loosely) quoting Erik Marcus (author of Meat Market) when I say ‘You can always count on the animal industry to do the wrong thing.’ Follow this simple rule and you’ll never, ever, ever be surprised!

12. Egg Industry Caught Making False Claims — See what I mean?! Annoyed, revolted, sickened, and disgusted — these things you’ll definitely be, in spades; but never surprised.

Brain Candy

Let’s find ourselves some positivity needles in this week’s news haystack, what do you say? They’re harder to come by than the head-shaking rage-making variety of food news stories, to be sure; but that makes them incredibly valuable!

13. USDA anti-poverty program rolls out in Louisiana — Generally you get better results when you try than when you don’t try; so this is good news!

14. Al Gore on the Microbiome and Why He Became a Vegan — Neat little interview with the ex-veep, about some really excellent cutting edge medical business regarding, well (the title’s a dead giveaway) microbiomes and veganism!

15. Chipotle Promotes Sustainable Food in “Back to The Start” Video — Ok, look: I realize Chipotle isn’t perfect, and there’s still room for improvement. But I have to say, the pizazz with which they’re courting the Food Revolution crowd (i.e. us) gives me a sense of cautious optimism. Yes, you heard me right: optimism! It’s quite welcome, actually, and I’d like very much to feel it more often please-and-thank-you. Calling all other restaurant chains: batter up!

16. Victory for Pigs! Canada Bans Gestation Crates — Good news: some countries have their s**t way more together than we do in the U.S., regarding treating farmed animals as living things versus as inanimate objects with no cruelty protections whatsoever! Good work, Canada! Last month, Australia moved to legislatively mandate improved living conditions for farmed animals… Could we be seeing an emergent world trend? Here’s hopin’ — maybe someday we’ll even find the courage to join in!

If you’re ready to ditch the animal junk, and opt out of the cruelty that U.S. animal-ag folks are so keen to protect and defend

17. Make It Vegan — This excellent cookbook by Post Punk Kitchen’s Isa Chandra Moskowitz is free right now, for Kindle! Go go go: this is NOT a drill!

(1) Know, (2) Act

As with any area of human endeavor where progress is needed, knowledge necessarily precedes action. So stay informed about all the current events in the food world: subscribe to the EDB newsletter, find us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter, and meet me back here every Saturday for a roundup of the best and worst news in food!

Image credit: photo via Shutterstock.

Positivity credit: You know who you are — thanks for reminding me to look for it! (And happy birthday!)

About The Author

3 thoughts on “Top News from the Food Front: School Lunch Soulsuckers, Animal-Ag Absurdities, & GMO Vetos”

  1. John L. Farthing

    Ms. Sitton’s digest of the week’s news provides enough good news to save us from despair…and enough bad news to save us from complacency. I share her amazement at Congressman Ryan’s public display of hard-heartedness and contempt for the poor. Was that really Paul Ryan speaking—or perhaps Marie Antoinette? (“Let them eat smug moralism”?) I’m not surprised that a wealthy, privileged, well-fed politician harbors such antipathy toward the basic nutritional needs of poor children. What surprises me is that he feels no need to disguise his callousness. The good news, though, is that Mr. Ryan has read into the public record a clear indication of exactly how he feels about those who do not share his affluence (and the sense of moral superiority that so often goes with it). No one will ever be able to say that we just didn’t know where he was coming from. In politics as in the marketplace, caveat emptor: “let the buyer beware.”

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