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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.
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In 2016, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) finalized a rule allowing up to 20 permits for fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico's federal waters. This September, the Hubbs-SeaWorld Research Institute applied for a NOAA permit to farm sushi-grade tuna in federal waters off the San Diego coast. But so far no permits have been issued. Advocates says U.S. ocean aquaculture is vital to establishing a resilient food supply and relying less on farmed fish imports from Asia. Critics say it's fraught with negative impacts like fish escapes, disease, antibiotic use, and waste accumulation. Here's a deep dive into the murky world of farming our oceans.
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The US Food and Drug Administration announced additional traceability record keeping requirements for companies that manufacture, process, pack, and hold foods on its Food Traceability List. Under the rule, manufacturers must keep supply chain records for growing, shipping, receiving, creating, and manufacturing various food products. The new rules aim to help the Agency prevent food borne illness outbreaks and identify foods with potential adverse health consequences due to misbranding or food adulteration. The proposed rule is open for public comment until January 21, 2021.
After pressure from Congress, the Agriculture Department reported last week that it would permit schools to offer free breakfast and lunch to any child or teenager until the end of the year. The move was commended by hunger advocates for keeping children at need fed during the pandemic. The USDA decision was a slight reversal, as the department previously said that when the school year began, districts would only be required to serve meals to students enrolled in the school and would charge students who failed to qualify for free or reduced-price meals. In the spring, when schools were first shut down, the Agriculture Department approved districts to give out subsidized to-go meals to any child or teenager under 19. The change was meant to ease accessibility of meals to low-income children during lockdown. Some districts offered meals at curbside pickup, while others had them delivered at bus stops or directly to students’ homes. Roughly 20 million children in the US typically get free school lunches, and two million more collect meals at reduced prices. Just behind food stamps, the school lunch program is the second-largest nutrition assistance program in the country. Children in households with incomes at or below 130% of the federal poverty level have access to free meals through the program. Children with household incomes between 130% and 185% of the poverty level can access meals at reduced prices with a maximum of 30 cents for breakfast or 40 cents for lunch.