Category Archives Media Coverage

The Guardian has released "Toxic America," a "major series to investigate the risks of contamination in our food, water, and cosmetics." Articles in the series include: A comparison between the "stringent health and environment review" that the European Union will apply to foods edited using CRISPR-Cas9 and the perceived lack of regulation for similar foods in the United States; An examination of nanoparticles, "which are largely unregulated in the US," and their use in foods; A discussion of additives "with industrial applications" banned in Europe but approved for use in the United States, such as materials that appear in "yoga mats, pesticides, hair straighteners, explosives and petroleum products"; and An interactive tool allowing readers to identify their grocery choices and purporting to inform them about "what additives, pesticides and antibiotics" are in their selections.

A New York Times article has documented how Philadelphia's tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) has affected the residents of the city. The article, published days before the city's Democratic primary for mayor, speculates that the tax could be eliminated if the primary challengers were to beat Mayor Jim Kenney; although the mayor won the May 21, 2019, primary, the article compiles multiple negative perspectives of the tax and its effects. "In my district, 95 percent of the residents hate it," one councilperson is quoted as saying. "The people who buy $7 lattes say the poor should be drinking water, but no one is considering the fact that my constituents live in food deserts with no access to fresh fruit and vegetables." A Philadelphia business owner told the Times that his company has lost customers because the tax has sent consumers to suburban grocery stores to purchase SSBs along with the…

In an effort to combat citrus greening, some citrus farmers have reportedly begun spraying antibiotics on their trees, sparking concerns about antibiotic resistance, according to the New York Times. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) apparently approved the use of streptomycin and oxytetracycline for emergencies "despite strenuous objections from the Food and Drug Administration and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention" and the existence of bans on similar uses in Europe and Brazil. The Times calls the growers' current use and the levels that EPA has approved for the future "the largest use of medically important antibiotics in cash crops" and contrasts the decision to the ban on antibiotics used to promote growth in farm animals. One plant pathologist reportedly told the Times that EPA prohibits the application of antibiotics 40 days before harvest, resulting in "little chance consumers would ingest the drugs."

National Public Radio (NPR) has published a piece on BlueNalu, a company aiming to market and sell fish cultivated in a laboratory. "[U]nlike today's wild-caught or farmed fish options, BlueNalu's version of seafood will have no head, no tail, no bones, no blood. It's finfish, just without the swimming and breathing part," the article explains. "It's seafood without the sea." BlueNalu is one of six companies working on lab-grown seafood, NPR reports, and all are "likely five to 10 years away from having actual product on the market." A BlueNalu executive told NPR that he is confident the products will not "end up languishing within the [U.S. Food and Drug Administration] for years, the way AquaBounty's genetically modified salmon did," partly because lab-grown fish is "not using any genetic modification" such as CRISPR. "We aren't introducing new molecules into the diet. We're not introducing a new entity that doesn't exist…

Quartz has reported on a Michigan State University study purportedly finding that tert-butylhydroquinone (TBHQ), which can help preserve unsaturated vegetable oils and animal fats, may cause a higher susceptibility to influenza. Researchers apparently found that TBHQ caused the T cells of lab mice to become more sluggish and thus unable to fight off the flu virus as effectively. "The researchers’ leading hypothesis is that TBHQ causes these effects by triggering some of the proteins in the body that are known to suppress the immune system," Quartz reports. "The emerging scientific work so far only applies to laboratory mice, which is to say it still has a long way to go before we’ll know whether humans are impacted in a similar way. Still, if the science bears out, it could wind up impacting how food companies operate, and it could give health experts new insight into how people are made more…

The meat industry is moving towards self-regulation for identifying diseased animals, an article in The Washington Post asserts. The article documents a series of changes shifting responsibility for identifying contamination in meat production, especially pork and poultry, from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to employees of the regulated production plants. The Post spoke to a former hog inspector who worked under the trial program for testing the proposed system. “I saw the alleged inspections that were performed by plant workers; they weren’t inspections. They were supposed to meet or exceed USDA standards — I never saw that happen,” the Post quotes him as saying. USDA also states that plants participating in the trial program had fewer worker injuries, but Texas State University researchers reportedly found it “impossible” for the agency “to draw any statistically valid conclusion about worker injury rate differences” based on data the researchers obtained through a…

The New York Times has published an update on proposed state laws defining "meat" as an animal-derived product. In addition to Missouri's existing law, several state legislatures—including Arizona, Arkansas, Nebraska and Washington—will be considering statutes that would prevent purveyors of plant-based or lab-grown meat-replacement products from using the term "meat" on their labels. The policy director of the Good Food Institute, which is alleging that Missouri's definition violates the First Amendment, reportedly told the Times that she believes the issue will be moot after the U.S. Department of Agriculture provides guidance.

The December passage of the Agriculture Improvement Act of 2018, or the Farm Bill, has resulted in several publications speculating about the effects of the bill's legalization of industrial hemp on the cannabidiol (CBD) market. The law, which removed "hemp" from the definition of "marijuana" in the Controlled Substances Act, may "make CBD production legal and cheaper," according to Forbes, while MarketWatch explains that CBD "will remain largely off-limits" in the near future. Rolling Stone predicts that CBD is "poised for [a] boom," while Vox suggests that "CBD is bound to become even more visible," although "[i]ts legal status remains unclear." Fortune notes that cultivating hemp will be legal but heavily regulated, and the shutdown of the federal government has delayed cultivation approvals during the period when farmers are planning crop rotations and sourcing seeds for 2019, according to PBS NewsHour. Meanwhile, California legislation banning the use of CBD in…

Vox Media's podcast The Impact has examined New York City's and Chicago's approaches to combating obesity, including Chicago's imposition of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). A reporter first speaks to employees of an initiative in New York that encourages corner-store owners to stock more healthy foods, and she finds that the results have been middling. The podcast then turns to Chicago's tax on SSBs, which was enforced for two months before it was repealed. "The Cook County soda tax became so toxic that nobody wants to talk about it anymore," the reporter reveals. "This was by far the hardest episode of our season to report because people kept turning down my interview requests. I asked six different county commissioners to talk to me for this story. Five of them said no." "Right now, there isn't great evidence that healthy corner store initiatives have a big impact on obesity. There's…

The Associated Press has detailed the efforts of Recombinetics, a company that develops genetically engineered (GE) animals, to seek regulatory and public approval of its work. The company CEO reportedly told the news outlet that it aims to assuage fears about GE animals by focusing on how they can help ease animal pain, such as breeding cows without horns so that farmers can stop removing the horns to keep the cows from harming each other. This approach has apparently led to some support among animal-welfare groups; the Humane Society of the United States supports GE pigs bred to no longer require castration, AP reports, although the organization does not give "blanket approval" for the technology. "If you edit for your chicken to be the size of an elephant, that's not good," the organization's vice president of farm animal protection reportedly said.

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