Category Archives Media Coverage

The Kansas City Star has detailed the story of Randy Constant, a Chillicothe, Missouri, man who fraudulently sold millions of dollars' worth of "organic" grains—as much as 7% of all the corn and 8% of all the soybeans sold nationally as organic in 2016. Federal investigators began looking into Constant when a competitor tipped off the government that it was impossible for him to have such high outputs legitimately. An FBI investigation revealed that he sold $140 million worth of "organic" grain from 2010-2017 that, if labeled correctly, would have likely been worth half of that total. The Star asserts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture had received a complaint in 2007 about Constant's soybeans, which tests showed were genetically modified in violation of organic regulations, but the agency failed to take any action. Attorneys for Constant argued that his fraud was a victimless crime, but the court disagreed, sentencing…

The French government has reportedly abandoned a campaign suggesting French people abstain from drinking alcohol during the month of January following pressure from wine producers. The plan was apparently inspired by a promotion launched by a U.K. advocacy group in 2013 that encourages alcohol abstinence during January and mindful alcohol consumption in the months that follow. The French health minister reportedly confirmed that discussion for a Dry January campaign would not be held until a ministerial health prevention committee meeting in February 2020.

According to the New York Times, Australia and New Zealand are disputing over the rights to produce manuka honey, a honey product that sells for about $100 per 500 grams. New Zealand producers seek to establish a protected designation of origin for manuka honey, but Australian producers argue that their production process creates the same resulting product. The New Zealand version of the product is created by bees that pollinate the manuka bush, while the bees in Australia create the honey with the nectar of the manuka bush as well as dozens of species in the same genus. One New Zealand producer reportedly said that calling the Australian product manuka honey is like "generalizing all the almonds and apricots and calling them plums"; the Australians argue that the related bushes are "nearly indistinguishable" because the species developed when Australia and New Zealand were part of the same land mass 65…

The New York Times has published a piece on the city's proposed ban on force-fed foie gras. The authors speak to several stakeholders—including chefs, city council members and veterinarians—and tour the upstate New York production facilities of two of the country's three foie gras farms. The authors note that foie gras, "a luxury item," is "an easy target" for "anti-snobs." "It's enjoyed by foodies and gourmets: people most of this country resents," the author of The Foie Gras Wars reportedly told the paper. The authors note that the employees of the production facilities—where "[n]o ducks appeared unable to walk," they report, contradicting rumors about the production process—were worried about losing their jobs. "That’s 400 people, sure, but really, that’s 400 families," the head chef at one facility reportedly said, referencing the number of employees who work at both upstate New York facilities.

NPR has published a writer's comparison of his experiences eating at restaurants in the United States and the United Kingdom while living with a peanut allergy. "Restaurants in the United Kingdom are generally far more vigilant, in this regard, than restaurants in the United States," the author observes. He recounts his experience being turned away from a U.K. restaurant after answering the server's question about food allergies by receiving a card explaining that the restaurant does "not operate in a surgical environment" and therefore could not guarantee that any of its menu items did not contain peanuts. "In America, the onus typically falls more on diners themselves," the author notes. "It's not routine, as it is in England, for servers to ask their customers proactively." The writer credits coverage of a U.K. teenager's death after eating a sandwich from Pret A Manger that was not labeled as containing sesame for…

The New Yorker has described a visit to the warehouse of Fulton Fish Market, a web start-up that aims to provide fresh fish across the United States using "an Amazon-esque warehousing-and-logistics system." In "The Last Robot-Proof Job in America?" the author states, "There is one thing, however, that the sophisticated logistics system cannot do: pick out a fish." Robert DiGregorio, the expert who selects fish for the company, The New Yorker explains, "possesses a blend of discernment and arcane fish knowledge that, so far, computers have yet to replicate." "What can a fishmonger see that a computer can't?" The New Yorker points to "a nice 'film'—as in slime," which purportedly protects the fish from bacteria and parasites, along with the smell—"when [skate] goes bad, it smells like ammonia," DiGregorio told the magazine. Further, he said that he builds relationships with the fishmongers to "get the best stuff—not the stuff they…

Bloomberg has published an article on companies looking to create dairy products from laboratory-grown whey that could compete with the livestock-derived whey that sold an estimated $10 billion in 2018. One featured start-up, Perfect Day, reportedly asserted that "its proteins require 98% less water and 65% less energy than that required to produce whey from cows" but the company must overcome "consumer squeamishness and regulatory reviews that may end up focusing more on the genetically modified organisms [GMO] used to make lab-grown whey." Perfect Day "wants to rebrand microbes used in food—yeast, fungi, bacteria—as flora, a more consumer-friendly term," Bloomberg reports, to attract vegans who may avoid something labeled "milk protein" and other consumers who may skip products described as "lab-grown" on the label. "We are trying to explore how we can get a term for this industry that's outside of plant-based," one of the founders reportedly told Bloomberg. "Something…

The Scotch Whisky Association (SWA) will allow distillers to use a variety of casks—including those previously used to age tequila and fruit spirits—to age Scotch whisky during its required three-year maturation, according to the Wall Street Journal. Regulations previously limited acceptable casks to those previously used to hold sherry, cognac, bourbon or port. Some distillers told the news outlet that the change would allow companies to create "new flavor experiences" for Scotch whisky drinkers, while others expressed apprehension. "Scotch needs to be judged by its color, taste and traditionality," a former chief executive of the SWA told WSJ. "Clearly if you then had a whisky that tasted of tequila—if it used an ex-tequila cask—it would not be a Scotch whisky."

Seeking to obtain information on the ingredients in LaCroix, Consumer Reports apparently discovered that National Beverage Corp. had failed to obtain a permit sell its products in Massachusetts, which requires the submittal of water-quality tests. Consumer Reports notes, "The situation reveals an unusual quirk of food safety regulations: Federal and state regulations typically treat artificially carbonated waters—including club soda, tonic water, seltzer, and sparkling water—differently than bottled water. (Sparkling mineral water, which is naturally carbonated and contains natural minerals, is regulated like bottled water.) And even in states that have added oversight of those fizzy waters, there's apparently occasional slip-ups in enforcement." The article, originally published June 18, 2019, was updated on June 26 to reflect that National Beverage Corp. announced it had obtained the permit required to sell LaCroix within Massachusetts.

The American Chemistry Council (ACC) has issued a response to a series by The Guardian purporting to examine the role of chemicals in Americans' lives. "Sadly, in those stories, they decided to peddle misinformation and promote well-worn accusations from anti-industry activists that can create unnecessary fear and confusion about the products we use in our daily lives," ACC argues. "It’s important to know that the mere presence of a substance does not imply that a chemical will lead to adverse effects. As the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) emphasizes, 'The measurement of an environmental chemical in a person’s blood or urine does not by itself mean that the chemical causes disease.'" The article also responds to a number of specific claims made in the "Toxic America" series, including that "We should try to limit our exposure to essentially all chemicals," which is attributed to Philippe Grandjean. ACC notes,…

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