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The U.S. Department of Agriculture has requested comments on "the labeling of meat and poultry products comprised of or containing cultured cells derived from animals subject to the Federal Meat Inspection Act or the Poultry Products Inspection Act." Comments will be accepted until November 2, 2021. The announcement details the U.S. Cattlemen's Association's 2018 petition urging the agency to "limit the definition of 'beef' to products derived from cattle born, raised, and harvested in the traditional manner, and thereby prohibit foods comprised of or containing cultured animal cells from being labeled as 'beef.'” In response to the petition, the agency received more than 6,000 comments "from trade associations, consumer advocacy groups, businesses operating in the meat, poultry, and cultured food product markets, and consumers," the announcement states. "Most comments opposed the petition overall; however, nearly all generally agreed that cultured meat and beef should be labeled in a manner that…

A Russian cybercriminal group known as a "ransomware as a service" organization attacked JBS SA, the world's largest meat processor, according to the FBI. The attack led several of the company's meat processing plants to halt production for several days. While JBS is "the largest food manufacturer yet to be hit by ransomware," according to the Associated Press, "at least 40 food companies have been targeted by ransomware gangs over the last year." A cybersecurity expert reportedly told the news outlet that food companies are at "about the same level of security as manufacturing and shipping. Which is to say, not very.”

Food website Epicurious has announced that it will stop posting new recipes containing beef to avoid "giving airtime to one of the world’s worst climate offenders." As the Washington Post noted, "Reaction was swift and illustrated the meaning of the metaphor about tossing red meat to a crowd. Some praised the decision, noting that tastes have changed and that readers are looking for more plant-based, less meaty dishes. Others slammed Epicurious for 'canceling' beef." The North American Meat Institute commented, suggesting that the reduction in beef recipes will correspond with a reduction in web traffic, according to the New York Times. Others reportedly questioned the effectiveness of the move in achieving its stated goal, with the founder of Food Tank telling the Post that the move is "short-sighted" because options exist for sustainable beef production. "While beef consumption in the U.S. is significantly down from where it was 30 years ago, it…

A Minnesota federal court has ruled that the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) violated the Administrative Procedures Act (APA) when it adopted the New Swine Inspection System (NSIS), which eliminated line speed limits for pork processing. United Food & Com. Workers Union, Local 663 v. USDA, No. 19-2660 (D. Minn., entered March 31, 2021). The court found that the final rule establishing the NSIS "contains no discussion, analysis, or evaluation of the worker safety comments" that it received during the notice-and-comment period. "The only response FSIS gave to the worker safety comments it solicited was to state that it lacked authority to regulate worker safety. In context, the agency appeared to suggest that it wanted to consider the comments but was not legally permitted to do so," the court held. "By offering its lack of legal authority and expertise on worker safety as its only…

U.S. Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) and Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) and Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) have reintroduced the Safe Line Speeds During COVID-19 Act "to protect worker, consumer, and animal safety by suspending all current and future [U.S. Department of Agriculture] waivers and regulations that allow companies to increase production line speeds at meatpacking plants during the COVID-19 pandemic," according to a press release. The act would suspend all speed waivers for the duration of the COVID-19 public health emergency declaration as well as suspending implementation of the New Swine Slaughter Inspection System. “The ongoing COVID-19 outbreaks at meat plants over the last year have raised serious questions about the safety conditions inside these plants," DeLauro is quoted as saying. "Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, these workers experienced injuries at a higher rate than comparable occupations. And now, faster line speeds make it impossible for workers to practice social distancing and…

The U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA's) inspector general will reportedly review how the agency handled inspections during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to The Washington Post. The probe will review how the Food Safety and Inspection Service spent $33 million in extra funding provided by Congress in March 2020, including what precautions were taken to protect the health of inspectors. The probe comes amid elevated scrutiny on how meatpacking plants have handled the pandemic, including lawsuits targeting meat companies. A Nebraska court dismissed a lawsuit brought by former employees of a Noah's Ark Processors plant alleging the company failed to implement proper precautions to stop the spread of the virus, holding that the employees lacked standing because they no longer work at the plant. Alma v. Noah's Ark Processors LLC, No. 20-3141 (D. Neb., entered March 1, 2021).

A California federal court has denied a motion to dismiss an advocacy group lawsuit brought against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) challenging the implementation of the Food Safety and Inspection Service's New Swine Inspection System (NSIS). Ctr. for Food Safety v. Perdue, No. 20-0256 (N.D. Cal., entered February 4, 2021). The plaintiffs, several advocacy groups including the Center for Food Safety and Food & Water Watch, argued that the rule change violated the Administrative Procedure Act. The court found that the plaintiffs could reasonably argue a "credible threat," a standard in threatened environmental harm cases that "also applies to food safety cases such as this one." "Here, Plaintiffs allege that the new NSIS procedures outlined in the Final Rule erode several important features of the traditional inspection process increasing the likelihood that adulterated pork products will enter the food supply and thus putting their members at risk of illness…

A coalition of advocacy groups has filed a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asserting that Smithfield Foods misleadingly markets its pork products as "produced in an environmentally responsible and sustainable way" despite the company's production methods allegedly falling "far below the level of environmental sustainability that a reasonable consumer would expect based on the company’s representations." The complaint further argues that "Smithfield touts its use of anaerobic digesters to produce methane from its pollution-laden waste as a sustainable innovation and solution to Smithfield’s climate damaging production practices—a falsehood that capitalizes on an issue of growing importance to consumers." The petitioners include Food & Water Watch, Socially Responsible Agriculture Project and organizations from Iowa, Missouri and Pennsylvania.

President Biden has withdrawn an executive order that would have allowed 25% faster processing speeds on poultry lines in meatpacking plants. The policy change would have allowed plants to process 175 slaughtered birds per minute, up from 140, in accordance with a proposal by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service. Criticism of the proposal came from advocacy groups that argued the faster speeds with endanger workers, especially after a study purportedly showed that plants with waivers allowing the faster speeds had higher COVID-19 transmission rates.

A D.C. Superior Court has denied Smithfield Foods' motion to dismiss a lawsuit alleging it misleads consumers by marketing its products as "safer pork." Organic Consumers Assn. v. Smithfield Foods Inc., No. 2020 CA 2566 B (D.C. Super. Ct., entered December 14, 2020). The lawsuit, filed by the Organic Consumers Association (OCA), alleged that Smithfield "employs production practices that result in less-safe conditions, effects, and Products, including the routine preventative use of medically important antibiotics, crowded conditions, the use of potentially carcinogenic drugs, and rapid slaughter methods." The court disagreed with Smithfield's argument that the marketing statements were puffery or "too general to be actionable," finding that the statements Smithfield made about its safety were specific. Further, OCA's "allegations about consumer understanding are plausible," the court held, because the complaint cited sources "stating that food safety is an issue of significant concern to consumers" and studies showing "that a 'reasonable consumer'…

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