A recent lawsuit by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA) on behalf of the people of Washington, D.C., alleges that fish distributors Mowi Ducktrap and Mowi USA used misleading marketing for smoked salmon sold under the brand name Ducktrap River of Maine. The fish was sold as sustainable salmon from Maine, but OCA alleges it was raised outside the U.S. with antibiotics, according to internal audit reports cited in the complaint. In addition to the antibiotic oxytetracycline, also used for infections in humans, the lawsuit alleges that a formaldehyde-based disinfectant and bleach were used in the salmon processing. In the defendant’s defense, there is no binding definition for “sustainable” in food or packaging. Additionally, seafood is not required to be labeled with its country of origin unless it is raw or unprocessed. To help provide clear labeling, FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb stated in 2018 that he sought agreed-upon definitions for terms like “natural” and “healthy.” The FDA had asked for public comments on the “natural” term and received more than 7,600 responses. However, the proposal to define terms was never passed, and the Gottlieb resigned. .
According to the World Trade Organization, the United States, European Union, Canada, and Switzerland have urged Mexico to delay the upcoming health warnings that it plans to place on heavily processed food and drinks. The Mexican standard will require front-of-package nutrition labels that state possible health risks of products that may be high in sugars, calories, salt, saturated and/or trans fat. The new labeling standard is set to be implemented this October and is meant to combat soaring rates of obesity in Mexico, which have surpassed those in United States, making residents of Mexico the most obese in the world. Several studies show that obesity in Mexico escalated to epidemic proportions after Mexico joined the North American Free Trade Agreement with Canada and the U.S. in the early 1990s. Last week, to help protect the next generation of Mexicans, the southern Mexican state of Oaxaca became the first to prohibit the sale, distribution, and advertising of junk food and sugary drinks to children. The U.S. delegation of the World Trade Organization stated that it supports Mexico’s public health goal of cutting back on diet-related non-communicable diseases. However, the delegation stated that the labels might be “more trade restrictive than necessary to meet Mexico’s legitimate health objectives.” As of now, the United States, Switzerland, Canada and the E.U. are resisting the October 1 implementation date.
Takeout containers that may contain fluorinated compounds can stay in the soil and within our bodies long after the food has been ingested. These compounds are just one of nearly 5,000 perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, a class of compounds that have been connected to health hazards such as liver damage, impaired immunity, birth defects, and cancer. First created in the 1940s, PFAS repel grease, oil, and water, making them very useful for packaging greasy French fries and burgers. According to the Centers for Disease Control, PFAS have been found in nearly every American tested for them. Last week, the Food and Drug Administration announced an agreement with three major manufacturers of chemical products to phase out the PFAS known as 6:2 fluorotelomer alcohol (a.k.a. 6:2 FTOH). It is incumbent upon food retailers to implement PFAS-free packaging. Companies like Taco Bell and Whole Foods have promised to quickly implement chemical-free wrappers and containers. FDA spokesperson Peter Cassell said that not all PFAS have been found to be dangerous, and current food packaging does not warrant any immediate health risks. The phase-out has been given up to five years for completion. Starting in January 2021, packaging manufacturers must curtail production within three years, and existing products may be used for another 18 months after that. The FDA will track their progress in reducing 6:2 FTOH and will continue to study PFAS in general.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney signed a City Council bill restricting the practices and procedures of food delivery services such as DoorDash, Grubhub, and Postmates. Delivery has become a lifeline for independent restaurants struggling during the pandemic but high delivery fees have made many third-party services unaffordable. “Ultimately, I hope restaurants get to keep more money from deliveries, and in turn, that money goes to the restaurants’ employees,” said Council member Cherelle L. Parker, who introduced the bill. For the duration of the pandemic, delivery services are now limited to a 15% overall cut on all orders, including a max of 10% of food costs and 5% for other services such as drivers. Delivery services are also restricted from reducing a delivery driver’s compensation to offset any losses from the 15% maximum. Additionally, the law mandates that delivery services reveal to customers the fees charged to the restaurant for the service.
The Tavern League of Colorado represents more than 200 restaurants and bars in this state. The League just sued governor Jared Polis and the state health department regarding the newly instituted last call mandate at 10 p.m., instituted to combat a recent surge in COVID-19 among 20 to 29 year olds.
The suit contests both the last call order and capacity limits in bars and restaurants. “Defendants have singled out bars and restaurants for unfair and different treatment, despite the lack of any evidence that bars and restaurants are unique vectors for the spread of COVID-19,” the suit states. Governor Polis responded with a statement, saying “The State is looking at data showing that more Coloradans in their twenties are participating in social activities that increase the risk of spreading COVID-19.” The mandate is valid for 30 days.
In this crazy year, when grocery store shelves were empty, many shoppers turned to local meat purveyors who had product available. But most USDA food safety regulations are geared toward the huge meatpacking companies, making it difficult for smaller regional retailers to sell to direct to consumers. Certain codes have also made it challenging for mobile meat processors to travel among smaller regional farms and ranches, restricting production.
That situation is about to shift, according to a recent USDA report detailing the steps the USDA will take to improve direct access to ranchers and farmers who sell meat. The report says: “We understand the addition of direct-to-consumer options for beef producers, small processors, retailers, and others must be done in a way that does not compromise federal food safety standards…USDA is committed to working with stakeholders to balance food safety with these growing consumer preferences and growing e-commerce platforms.”
Six people were arrested in Madrid and Castilla La-Mancha in conjunction with what Spanish authorities describe as an international crime ring. The suspects are accused of producing wine with substitutes such as grain alcohol and corn syrup, ingredients so unusual they tipped off Castilla La-Mancha’s tax office, according to Wine Business International. The crime ring has been linked to acts of fraud, smuggling, money laundering, and criminal organization. It’s estimated worth is $116 million (100 Euros), and the illegal network encompassed many countries, including Austria, Belgium, France, Holland, Moldova, Russia, and Spain. This high-value case is the latest in a recent spate of European wine fraud busts.
In the first three months of the pandemic, six million Americans were added to the food stamp program, formally known as SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). Prior to the pandemic, this program was under federal scrutiny for possible elimination, but data collected by the New York Times for 42 states shows that caseloads increased in all but one state, bringing the total ratio of Americans currently on food stamps to one in eight. Some of the hardest-hit communities include urban centers such as Detroit and Miami as well as affluent suburbs in cities like Atlanta, Houston, and Florida, which added almost a million people to the program. Economists are concerned that unless Congress extends the $600 weekly unemployment benefit, which currently reaches about 20 million people, millions more Americans will apply for food stamps once the $600 benefit expires at the end of July.
In a recent study by the Urban Institute, 17.7% of adults reported food insecurity, which is much higher than pre-crisis levels. “There’s no question that both food insecurity and hunger have risen,” said Elaine Waxman, a co-author of the study. According to Diane Schanzenbach, an economist at Northwestern University, “SNAP is the universal safety net.” Unlike unemployment compensation benefits, food stamps allow for quick enrollment and relatively fast payments via debit card.
In 2004, California lawmakers banned the state’s farmers from producing and selling foie gras, the rich delicacy of fattened goose or duck liver. Chicago banned foie gras in 2006, however the rule was repealed two years later. New York City also instituted a ban in 2019, ruling that restaurants and grocery stores are not permitted to sell foie gras beginning in 2022. Since the 2004 California ruling, producers, animal rights activists, restaurateurs, and lawmakers have battled over the decision. Animal rights activists applauded the ban, citing the cruelty of the fattening method, which involves force-feeding the birds a corn-based mixture through a tube in their throats. Foie gras producers, on the other hand, claim that the animals are treated humanely and don’t suffer during the fattening process. Restaurateurs say their customers are clamoring for the delicacy. In the latest court case, out-of-state producers challenged the California ban, claiming that foie gras produced outside of the state does not violate the existing law. Last week, U.S. District Judge Stephen V. Wilson agreed, ruling that foie gras can be legally bought by Californians as long as the product and transaction are made out of state and the product is brought into California by a third-party delivery service.
Top U.K. supermarkets Tesco, Waitrose, Sainsbury’s, The Co-op, Aldi U.K., and Marks and Spencer have said that they will not sell chlorinated chicken or hormone-injected beef from the U.S. The rejection is meant to uphold UK food standards rather than forego them to close a post-Brexit trade deal. The U.S. President has been firm that American agricultural goods must be a part of any free trade agreement between the U.S. and U.K. Currently, the U.K.’s food standards do not allow importation of chlorinated chicken and hormone-injected beef. However, last month, the U.K. government dropped its pledge to ban the products in 2021, when Britain will no longer be bound by European Union trade rules. Despite dropping the ban, several top U.K. supermarkets reiterated that they would never stock the products. Multiple U.K. Members of Parliament and a handful of Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservative party have pushed for Johnson to decline U.S. agricultural imports and uphold the E.U.’s higher food standards. More than one million Europeans have also signed a petition requesting that the U.K. government block food imports that do not meet the U.K.’s standards of animal welfare, environmental protection, and food safety.