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What’s so bad about making food easier to produce?

Brooklyn Paper | Posted on September 11, 2017

The friend politely declined, which set Kennedy to thinking. His family drank conventional milk. Did that make him a dad who didn’t care about his kids’ safety, or the environment? That would be odd, since he was nominated for an Oscar for his film about a community garden blooming in South Central Los Angeles. So it’s not like he didn’t care about food, or farming, or bettering the world.It was fortuitous, then, that just as he was processing these ideas about how organic produce had become almost like a secret handshake among his “well-educated and well-intentioned” friends — something they all shared, and trusted — he was approached by the Institute of Food Technologists, a group of 18,000 food scientists. They wanted him to make a movie celebrating their 75th anniversary.The idea was to somehow illustrate the intersection of food and science. Eventually Kennedy and his fellow producer, Trace Sheehan, a Brooklynite, decided to delve into a single issue: GMOs, or genetically modified organisms. That is, plants where a geneticist has taken DNA from one organism and inserted it another to make a food easier to grow, or healthier, or hardier.Like Kennedy’s organic-only neighbor, many folks consider GMOs “Frankenfood.” The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart called G-M-O the three scariest letters in the language. With emotions running so high, Kennedy made sure he and Sheehan would have complete control over the movie. And then they started wading into the debate.What they found was a war.“People were losing their minds on both sides and I didn’t know that much about it,” said Kennedy. But as he began interviewing scientists, he realized one thing quickly. There’s a huge disconnect between the science world, which overwhelmingly believes that GMOs are safe, and the public, which does not.


Dairy producers say GMO-free labeling is 'fear based'

USA Today | Posted on September 7, 2017

A dairy-industry lobbying group has urged food companies to stop using labels such as “GMO-free” for marketing purposes, saying they have turned to "fear-based" labeling.The National Milk Producers Federation, based in Arlington, Va., says food manufacturers are raising fears about of things like genetically modified organism products, synthetic animal-growth hormones and high fructose corn syrup.In its “Peel Back the Label” campaign, the dairy industry trade group says nearly 70% of American consumers look to food labels when making purchase decisions, but that some of the information is misleading.For instance, one company has labeled its table salt as “GMO-free,” when it could never have been GMO in the first place because salt has no genes to modify.


Healthy meat demand boosts business, red tape for small processors

Agri-Pulse | Posted on September 7, 2017

The nation’s small meat processors are confronting a new market reality: an increasing demand for healthier local meat options coupled with the often-labyrinthine set of regulations that accompanies it. As a result, some processors in Missouri, Illinois and other parts of the nation’s heartland have changed their model from a slaughter-only facility to one that includes a specialty meat operation and opted for federal certification, allowing them to sell across state lines but increasing the amount of regulatory infrastructure. Small meat processors, who number approximately 800 nationwide, according to the latest USDA figures, have had to adjust to realities imposed from outside the industry. State authority over inspections, which used to be the reality as little as 10 years ago, is only active in 27 states, as funding has dissipated because of budgetary constraints, said Rebecca Thistlethwaite, manager of the Niche Meat Processors Assistance Network at Oregon State University.


The raging legal battle over what makes a food “natural”

Denver Post | Posted on September 7, 2017

More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration signaled that it would soon nail down exactly what the word “natural” means, the agency has yet to provide any guidance – and baffled consumers are suing. They’ve sued Sargento, the dairy giant, because the cows behind its “natural” cheeses are given genetically modified feed.They’ve sued Walmart over its “all-natural” pita chips, which contain thiamine mononitrate and folic acid – both B vitamins that are made synthetically.They’ve even sued HINT, which makes “all-natural” fruit-flavored waters, for using a common solvent to boost the drink’s taste.Since January, court filings show that there’s been an uptick in lawsuits against food companies regarding “all-natural” and “natural” claims – and some lawyers say the FDA’s continued silence is to blame.Nineteen all-natural class actions have been filed this year, as of July 2017. There were 27 such suits for the entire year of 2016.The suits were brought by individual consumers, or small groups of consumers, on behalf of everyone who purchased a given product. The law suits frequently claim that “natural” labels tricked shoppers into buying a more expensive cheese – or flavored water, or pita chip – by deceiving them about how the product was made. A handful of law firms filed the majority of complaints.


Sargento defends 'natural cheese' claims

Food Navigator | Posted on September 7, 2017

Courts should dismiss the ‘daisy-chained’ logic underpinning a new wave of ‘natural’ lawsuits looking beyond the ingredients list to factors such as animal feeding and rearing practices, says cheesemaker Sargento.


The Future of GMO Food

Scientific American | Posted on September 7, 2017

The recent announcement that a genetically modified (GM) salmon had reached Canadian consumers was a rare leap forwards for GM foods. More than two decades after the commercialization of GM plants, this is the first GM animal to reach the market. The fast-growing salmon can reach market size in 18 months, roughly half the time its non-genetically modified counterpart, and requires less feed. This could bring both business and environmental benefits, and the approval may pave the way for other GM animals.Scientists are working on disease-resistant pigs, bird-flu resistant chickens, hornless dairy cows and highly productive sheep. But don’t expect to be eating genetically modified lamb this Passover; the history of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) has shown that it takes many years to bring a new technology to market (25 in the case of AquAdvantage salmon) and plenty of innovations never make it.


Canada OKs second generation Innate potato

The Packer | Posted on September 7, 2017

The second generation GMO Innate potato has received regulatory approval in Canada.Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency have authorized J.R. Simplot’s Co. second generation GMO Innate potato to be imported, planted and sold in Canada. The OK comes after the Canadian agencies completed a comprehensive safety assessment, and follows last year’s regulatory approval of three varieties of first-generation GMO Innate potatoes, according to a news release.


“Gluten-free” water shows how ridiculous food labeling has become

Quartz | Posted on September 7, 2017

The food labeling craze coupled with banner headlines about the dangers of gluten, genetically modified organisms (GMOs), and hormones are leading to increasingly absurd results. For example, you can now buy “premium” water that’s not only free of GMOs and gluten but certified kosher and organic. Never mind that not a single drop of water anywhere contains either property or is altered in any way by those designations. While some labels provide useful information that is not readily detectable by consumers, others contain misleading claims that exploit a knowledge gap with consumers and take advantage of their willingness to pay a premium for so-called process labels.In my experience as a food economist, such “fake transparency” does nothing to inform consumers about the nature of their foods. Moreover, it can actually decrease well-being when accompanied by a higher price tag. 


The raging legal battle over what makes a food ‘natural’

The Washington Post | Posted on September 5, 2017

More than a year after the Food and Drug Administration signaled that it would soon nail down exactly what the word “natural” means, the agency has yet to provide any guidance — and baffled consumers are suing. They’ve sued Sargento, the dairy giant, because the cows behind its “natural” cheeses are given genetically modified feed.They’ve sued Walmart over its “all-natural” pita chips, which contain thiamine mononitrate and folic acid — both B vitamins that are made synthetically. Since January,  court filings show that there’s been an uptick in lawsuits against food companies regarding “all-natural” and “natural” claims — and some lawyers say the FDA’s continued silence is to blame.Nineteen all-natural class actions have been filed this year, as of July 2017. There were 27 such suits for the entire year of 2016.


FDA Releases Sixth Chapter of Draft Guidance for the PC-Human Food Rule

FDA | Posted on August 31, 2017

Today, the FDA announced the availability of guidance for food facilities that explains how to establish and implement a heat treatment, such as baking or cooking, to prevent contamination by disease-causing bacteria. This is the sixth chapter of the draft guidance, entitled “Draft Guidance for Industry: Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food,” designed to help food facilities comply with the preventive controls for human food rule, mandated by the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act.The final rule, entitled “Current Good Manufacturing Practices, Hazard Analysis, and Risk-Based Preventive Controls for Human Food,” published on September 17, 2015, builds on previous food safety requirements and introduces others that together establish a more modern, preventive, and risk-based approach to food safety.This draft guidance is intended to help food facilities comply with specific requirements of the rule, such as developing a written food safety plan, establishing preventive controls, and taking corrective actions. The FDA intends to publish at least 14 chapters of the guidance and will continue to announce the availability of each chapter as it becomes available.   A compliance date is approaching on September 18, 2017 for small businesses (those with fewer than 500 full-time employees) that are required to comply with the preventive controls for human food rule.


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