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.
Last week, China announced a suspension of poultry imports from an Arkansas Tyson Foods facility linked to hundreds of COVID-19 cases. Among the 3,748 Tyson workers tested at the Springdale, Arkansas plant, 481 or 13% tested positive for the coronavirus, and 95% of them were asymptomatic. While all global and U.S. health organizations agree that there is no evidence to support transmission of COVID-19 via food, China’s General Administration of Customs explained its suspension by saying that the company “recently occurred employees with new pneumonia aggregation infection.”
The suspension comes just 6 months after China lifted its five-year ban on U.S. poultry imports, which had closed off $500 million worth of American poultry products due to avian flu. Tyson was quick to assure the poultry market that its poultry products are safe for human consumption. “At Tyson, our top priority is the health and safety of our team members,” said Tyson spokesman Gary Mickelson, “and we work closely with the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service to ensure that we produce all of our food in full compliance with government safety requirements.”
President Trump has signed a memorandum directing the Department of Agriculture to provide U.S. lobster fishermen with financial aid to compensate for lost income due to Chinese tariffs. White House trade adviser Pete Navarro says Trump also ordered U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer to provide a report on how well China is complying with the $150 million in purchasing commitments Beijing made under the Phase 1 U.S.-China trade deal. Depending on the outcome, Trump suggested placing retaliatory tariffs on the Chinese seafood industry. Maine Senator Angus King welcomes the memorandum, saying, “This is definitely good news. The timing is good. This has been a tough summer for our lobstermen.” Maine lawmakers have repeatedly asked for aid in the lobster industry, a trade supporting 4,500 state-licensed lobstermen and an additional 10,000 people, contributing $1.5 billion to the economy each year. Get the full story here at Associated Press, or find more information here at Reuters.
Restaurateurs facing months of back rent may have caught a break. A bankruptcy court in Illinois ruled that the force majeure or “Act of God” clause in a restaurant lease can excuse the tenant’s responsibility to pay the entire rent amount during forced business closures due to the coronavirus. Giglio’s State Street Tavern, an Italian restaurant in Chicago, filed for bankruptcy protection in February and was unable to pay rent from February through June. The landlord, Kass Management Services Inc., told the restaurant owner, Bobby Hitz, to either pay the rent from March through June or leave the premises, according to Illinois court documents.
The judge, Donald R. Cassling, ruled that the restaurant must pay the full rent due for the month of March. However, for the remaining months, the judge ruled that Illinois Governor J.B. Pritzke’s executive order to suspend on-premise consumption was evidence of force majeure. According to judge Cassling, since the restaurant still offered takeout, curbside pickup and delivery during those months, the business is only required to pay rent “in proportion to its reduced ability to generate revenue due to the executive order.” The restaurant estimated that 75% of its locations were unusable due to the executive order, so the judge ruled that the tenant should pay 25% of the rent from April through June with monthly rents likely increasing as coronavirus restrictions are eased. The ruling sets a precedent for other restaurateurs in similar legal battles with landlords.
Bayer AG announced it would pay $10.9 billion in settlements after lawsuits with U.S. plaintiffs alleged that Bayer’s (formerly Monsanto’s) Roundup herbicide causes cancer. The weedkiller is widely used in both industrial and residential farming. An estimated 95,000 cases were filed and the settlement includes $1.25 billion for potential future plaintiffs from Roundup customers that could be diagnosed with the form of cancer known as non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. According to two people involved in the negotiations, individuals will receive between $5,000 and $250,000 in payments, depending on their case. The $1.25 billion for future claims will be applied to a class-action suit filed by Judge Vince Chhabria’s U.S. District Court in San Francisco. A portion of the $1.25 billion will fund an independent expert panel to uncover whether glyphosate, the active chemical compound in Roundup, causes cancer; and if so, in what dosage. If glyphosate is found to be a carcinogen, Bayer will not be able to argue in any future cases.
At California ports in Los Angeles and Long Beach, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency intercepted 19,550 pounds of prohibited meats such as pork, chicken, beef and duck en route from China. According to a CBP statement, 834 cartons of meat were mixed in with boxes of headphones, door locks, kitchenware, LCD tablets and other household products. All of the products lacked the required USDA entry documentation. In the first five months of 2020, the interception of prohibited meats from China at the Los Angeles/Long Beach Seaport has increased by 70% compared to last year. “Our close collaboration with our USDA strategic partners has resulted in an increased number of prohibited food products interceptions in a relatively short period of time,” said CBP director of L.A. field operations, Carlos Martel.
Last week, Germany agreed to ban the sale of single-use plastic straws and polystyrene food containers as a result of a European Union directive intended to reduce unnecessary waste throughout the continent. The ban is part of an effort to move away from “throw-away culture,” according to Germany’s Environment Minister Svenja Schulze. Single-use plastics make up for up to 20% of garbage collected in the country’s public places. Lawmakers agreed to end the sale of plastics, including single-use cutlery, plates, stirring sticks and balloon holders, as well as polystyrene cups and boxes by July 3, 2021.
Christopher Lischewski has been ordered to serve 40 months in prison for price fixing in the canned tuna market. The former president and chief executive of Bumble Bee Foods was the leader of the scheme, which included three other executives. According to prosecutors, the scheme was in effect from November 2010 to December 2013 and affected over $600 million worth of canned tuna sales. In 2017, Bumble Bee pleaded guilty to its role and was sentenced to pay a $25 million fine. In September, StarKist, the other canned-tuna company involved in the conspiracy, was sentenced to pay a $100 million fine. “Executives who cheat American consumers out of the benefits of competition will be brought to justice,” said Makan Delrahim, assistant attorney general in charge of the Justice Department’s antitrust division, “particularly when their antitrust crimes affect the most basic necessity, food.”
Critically endangered European eels, Anguilla anguilla, are bred in the Atlantic Ocean near Spain and Portugal then released into the expansive Sargasso Sea to reproduce. However, approximately 25% of the eel population is intercepted by eel traffickers for the black market, which nets up to €2.5 billion worth of eels each year. From 2015 to 2017, one smuggler alone carried 6.5 tons of baby (glass) eels into the UK for sale. Traffickers masked as tourists often pack water-filled bags of eels in suitcases on flights to Hong Kong, a trafficking hub with an estimated 900 aquaculture farms that shepherd the eels to dinner tables throughout Southeast Asia.
In the mid-twentieth century, as wetlands were drained, hydroelectric plants were built, and pollution increased, the European eel population plummeted. Eels were soon declared endangered, and in 2010 the sale of eels outside Europe was banned. But wildlife trafficking has become increasingly widespread, forcing authorities such as Europol to use more sophisticated surveillance methods. The huge market for illicit eels not only threatens the endangered eel population, it has also become a revenue stream for terrorist groups, according to Paul Stanfield, Interpol’s director of organized and emerging crime. .
On Thursday, U.S. senators presented a bipartisan bill that would direct the Agriculture Department to encourage farmers, ranchers and landowners to use carbon dioxide-absorbing practices to generate carbon credits. The proposed Growing Climate Solutions Act directs the USDA to create a program to help the agriculture sector gain access to revenue from greenhouse gas offset credit markets. In 2018, the average price of such credits was $3 per tonne, but demand for credits is expected to grow when airlines purchase offsets to comply with the industry’s Carbon Offset Reduction Scheme (CORSIA), which will begin in 2021.
The bill puts new USDA-certified protocols in place for farmers, ranchers and forest owners seeking to develop projects that generate offset credits under existing programs. The bill also offers a new revenue stream for farmers, ranchers and land owners suffering from economic impacts of the coronavirus and global trade tensions.