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From the rise in food allergies to the changing economics of agriculture and animal husbandry, documentary series “Rotten” examines a range of factors that affect the food and beverage industry. Episodes include "Lawyers, Guns & Honey," which explores how foreign honey enters the U.S. market; "Big Bird," which documents the effects of JBS' purchase of Pilgrim's Pride on U.S. poultry farmers; and "Milk Money," which examines the benefits and risks linked to the sale of raw milk. The final episode, "Cod is Dead," details the effects of catch limits on commercial fisheries and reviews the case of Carlos Rafael, the "Codfather." Since the release of "Rotten," the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has reportedly sought to prevent Rafael and his businesses from reentering the fishing industry after he is released from prison.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has delayed the effective date of the Organic Livestock and Poultry Practices final rule until May 14, 2018. The rule’s original effective date was set for January 19, 2017. According to the announcement, “significant policy and legal issues addressed within the final rule warranted further review by USDA.” In September 2017, the Organic Trade Association sued USDA for delays in the effective date, including a request for an order to enjoin the agency from further postponing the rule’s implementation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced that it will take no further action to implement the Farmer Fair Practices Rules, which were reportedly created to allow farmers the power to sue corporate entities with whom they had contracted to produce livestock and poultry. In April 2017, USDA announced a delay of the effective date until October 19, 2017, to allow time for further consideration of comments. On October 18, USDA announced that it will not implement the rules because of concerns over potential increases in litigation, vagueness of the draft rules’ language, possible conflicts of law and executive branch directions to use the least burdensome regulations possible. Following USDA's announcement, U.S. Sens. Charles Grassley (R-Iowa) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue stating that they “vehemently disagree with the decision” because their constituents believe that the current practices of multinational agribusiness corporations,…

The National Advertising Division (NAD) has recommended that Sanderson Farms change a campaign claiming that its competitors are tricking consumers with "raised without antibiotics" labels on poultry products. NAD found that the information in Sanderson's ads was accurate, including its claim that "none of the chicken you buy in the grocery store has antibiotics in it. By federal law, all chicken must be clear of antibiotics before they leave the farm." However, NAD recommended that the language Sanderson used to describe its competitors' "antibiotic-free" labels, including "marketing gimmick," "full of hot air," "just a trick to get you to pay more money" and "a phrase invented to make chicken sound safer," should be changed, noting that the scientific community lacks a consensus on the safety of consuming meat from animals raised using antibiotics. Sanderson reportedly "respectfully disagrees" with the decision but will adjust the campaign to reflect NAD's concerns. "The…

Food & Water Watch, a consumer advocacy group, has filed suit against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food Safety and Inspection Service over the agencies’ denial of the group’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests asking for the names of companies that opted to participate in the New Poultry Inspection System (NPIS). Food & Water Watch, Inc. v. U.S. Dep’t of Agric., No. 17­-1133 (D.D.C., filed June 9, 2017). USDA implemented the optional NPIS in an effort to reduce rates of foodborne illness attributable to chicken and turkey contaminated with Salmonella and Campylobacter. Food & Water Watch requested the identities of the companies that chose to participate in NPIS, but their FOIA requests were denied on the grounds that “the responsive records consist solely of confidential future business plans.” Alleging violations of FOIA, the plaintiff is seeking an order for disclosure of the requested records and attorney’s…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has delayed the effective date of a final rule amending organic livestock and poultry requirements and requests additional public comment. The effective date of the rule has been postponed from May 19, 2017, to November 14, 2017. Interested parties may submit written comments by June 9, 2017.   Issue 634

The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) has petitioned the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for "a Label on Processed Meat and Poultry Products Warning the Public that Frequent Consumption May Increase the Risk of Colorectal Cancer." Citing the International Agency for Research on Cancer's finding that smoked, salted and/or cured bacon, hot dogs, ham, sausages and similar products are "carcinogenic to humans," CSPI argues that epidemiological studies backed by "mechanistic evidence" support the alleged link between processed meat and an increased risk of colorectal cancer. The group also points to similar conclusions drawn by the World Cancer Research Fund International, American Institute for Cancer Research, Imperial College London and the American Cancer Society, the latter of which "advises the public to 'minimize consumption of processed meats such as bacon, sausage, luncheon meats, and hot dogs' based on evidence that the risk of colorectal cancer increases by 15…

The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) has urged the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration to investigate Farm Fresh Foods, LLC, arguing the company forced sanitation workers to race against one another to carry and unpack 80-pound crates of chicken. The company allegedly required workers to unload raw chicken after cleaning the processing plant without washing their hands or changing clothes; SPLC asserts that workers’ concerns about contaminating the chicken were ignored. Farm Fresh also allegedly denied workers bathroom breaks, disciplined them for walking around empty-handed and jeered at them while they worked. “It’s clear from the treatment of these workers that Farm Fresh Foods has little regard for its employees,” Naomi Tsu, SPLC deputy legal director, said in a July 26, 2016, press release. “Farm Fresh needs to listen to workers rather than retaliating against them. We’ve seen this happen again and again in the poultry industry—these companies must…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) has proposed amendments to organic livestock and poultry production requirements to clarify “how producers and handlers must treat their livestock and poultry to ensure their health and well-being throughout life.” Based on recommendations from the National Organic Standards Board, the draft rules also specify “which physical alterations are allowed and prohibited” and establish “minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements for poultry.” In particular, the proposed amendments provide for “a feed ration sufficient to meet nutritional requirements, including vitamins, minerals, protein and/or amino acids, fatty acids, energy sources, and fiber (ruminants), resulting in appropriate body condition.” They also limit physical alterations to those performed only at “a reasonably young age, with minimal stress and pain and by a competent person,” and only in cases determined to “benefit the welfare or hygiene of the animals, or for identification purposes or safety.” In…

The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has affirmed a lower court’s decision that California cannot enforce its statute regulating the empty space between a product and its packaging against producers of meat and poultry products, finding that the Federal Meat Inspection Act (FMIA) and the Poultry Products Inspection Act (PPIA) preempt the statute. Del Real v. Harris, No. 13-16893 (9th Cir., order entered February 12, 2016). California Attorney General Kamala Harris appealed a district court’s permanent injunction barring enforcement of the slack-fill law against Del Real, which produces heat-and-serve meat and poultry products. The appeals court’s opinion cites precedent interpreting the FMIA and PPIA as creating a uniform national labeling standard. “When the FMIA and PPIA’s express preemption clauses are read in light of Congress’s concern for uniformity and a lesser level of regulation, it is unlikely that Congress intended for the states to be allowed to develop and apply…

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