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About 42 million Americans will soon get an increase in their food stamp funds, officially known as the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP). Following a lengthy review, the USDA determined that current SNAP benefits are too low to pay for a healthy diet. On average, beneficiaries will receive an increase of about $36.24 per month beginning on October 1, and the change is permanent.
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Hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs) are common refrigerants used in air conditioners and refrigerators. But scientists say these greenhouse gases are thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide, and supermarkets are releasing the lion's share of the planet-warming gases into the atmosphere. The nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) visited 45 food retailers around Washington DC in 2019, and found HFC refrigerant leaks in 60% of Walmart stores and 55% of all other stores. To achieve an 85% reduction in HFCs, the new Environmental Protection Agency rules phase out HFCs over the next 15 years. Many supermarket chains have already begun upgrading their dairy cases and freezer stalls to more sustainable refrigeration systems. Will the costs affect food prices? We shall see.
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The market for halloumi cheese has grown to $267 million, and cheap knockoffs have come along for the ride. But no more. The European Union has granted the salty, firm, grillable cheese Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) status. Cheese labeled "halloumi" must now be made in Cyprus and consist of at least 50% sheep and goat milks. Everything else is an imposter, and the Cyprus government is currently fighting 80 court cases against them.
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A recent congressional report found dangerous levels of toxic metals such as arsenic, lead, cadmium, and mercury in baby foods. In response, US lawmakers have introduced a bill to limit the heavy metals. The Baby Food Safety Act would set new maximum levels of inorganic arsenic, lead, cadmium and mercury in baby food. Manufacturers would be required to comply within one year, and levels would be lowered further within two years following Food and Drug Administration guidance. The bill also mandates that manufacturers test final products for toxic heavy metals and post test results online. While the FDA claims that children are not currently at risk, the report says the baby food industry "has been allowed to self-regulate baby food safety, and the results have been appalling and extremely harmful to our kids.” Let's hope the lawmakers and FDA come to a resolution. For the kids.
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Responding to a long-running dispute over aircraft manufacturing, the US government imposed tariffs on $7.5 billion worth of European wine and foods like cheese and olives in late 2019. By the end of 2020, Washington had stepped up sanctions, placing a 25% tariff on virtually all French and German wine imports. Despite persistent lobbying from the US restaurant industry, the new administration has said that it will not end the tariffs anytime soon. US restaurants, which are already struggling to survive through the pandemic, will ultimately pay the price. According to Ben Aneff, president of the US Wine Trade Alliance, more than 80% of the tariff burden is absorbed by US businesses and consumers rather than European ones.
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The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has approved yellow mealworms for human consumption, paving the way for their use whole and ground into pasta, bread, and other baked goods. Insect foods are currently prohibited for sale in France, Germany, Italy and Spain, but with EFSA approval, the European Commission has seven months to authorize their use, then it goes to a vote by the EU member states. Many Europeans are squeamish about eating insects, but “with time and exposure, such attitudes can change,” said Giovanni Sogari, a social scientist at the University of Parma. Many say that protein-rich yellow mealworms taste similar to peanuts.
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The FDA has approved a genetically modified pig that does not cause allergic reactions. The new swine is free of an allergen called "alpha-gal," making its products safe for those with the allergy, also known as mammalian meat allergy (MMA). The new pig can be safely used to manufacture an allergy-free version of the widely used blood-thinning drug heparin, which is made from pig intestines. The pigs' tissues and organs can also be safely used for transplants, and the pork can serve as allergy-free meat for human consumption. Before the "GalSafe" pig, the FDA had given the green light to only one other genetically engineered animal for food: A genetically engineered salmon approved in 2015.