News bites, October 2003

This article was originally published in October 2003

French fries in the news

There’s good news for Pacific Northwest potato farmers, finally. They’ve hit a few bumps over the past year: prices have been down and demand weak. A weaker U.S. dollar means American exports are less expensive for foreign buyers and foreign products become more expensive to import. Northwest potato growers hope the trend will slow the movement of frozen French fries from Canada into the U.S. Exports of U.S. frozen fries have dropped for the past few years. Now, experts forecast record exports to China and other Asian countries where fast food is becoming more popular.

L.A. schools ban irradiated meat

The Los Angeles school board has voted 5-0 to ban irradiated meat from its schools for five years. L.A. is the second largest school district in the country, and 72 percent of the students participate in the federal school lunch program. Beginning in January 2004, the U.S. Department of Agriculture will offer schools the option of purchasing irradiated meat for school lunch program. Because there’s no federal law requiring labels on irradiated food served in schools, restaurants, hospitals and similar venues, irradiated meat served in school cafeterias need not be labeled.(Public Citizen)

Changes in chocolate

The European Union has announced that chocolate makers could replace up to five percent of cocoa butter with other vegetable fats in their products and still label them “chocolate.” Some European confectioners making pure chocolate are dismayed because “pure chocolate” is expensive to make. Pure chocoloate requires cocoa butter to be extracted from cocoa beans. (The New York Times and Food Marketing Institute)

Dietary experts under fire

The Center for Science in the Public Interest is urging the administration to replace half its choices of experts to revise the American Dietary Guidelines. CSPI argues the seven members are too closely linked to the food industry. Representatives of the industry argue the panel members are well-qualified and unbiased. (CNNmoney/Reuters)

Men and produce

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute are promoting a program aimed at men, encouraging them to eat nine servings of fruits and vegetables each day. A health survey conducted by the NCI shows only three percent of men are aware of the daily-recommended servings of produce. (San Francisco Chronicle/The New York Times/Food Marketing Institute)

Lunch box safety

According to a national survey from the American Dietetic Association and ConAgra Foods, a majority of parents fail to practice proper food safety habits when packing their child’s lunch in the morning.

Only 31 percent of parents always use icepacks in lunches to help safeguard perishable foods such as meat sandwiches, dairy-based dips, dressings, cheese snacks, yogurt or milk.

The survey shows that lunches sit for three to four hours before lunchtime. As a general rule, foods should not be unrefrigÐerated for more than two hours or in hot weather, one hour. Experts urge parents to pack in a frozen icepack or even a frozen, individual juice box to keep things cool. (Agribusiness Examiner)

Labeling GE is mainstream

An ABC Newspoll is reporting that 92 percent of American adults surveyed say the federal government should require labels on genetically engineered (GE) foods. Last year, a similar ABC Newspoll reported that 93 percent of American adults wanted mandatory labels on GE products.

ABC News also reports that a third of Americans already try to avoid buying foods that have been genetically modified. Nearly half of all adults, 47 percent, would avoid foods produced with hormones if labeled. (

Antibiotics in meat

The Food Marketing Institute is reporting that about three-quarters of Americans are concerned about the presence of antibiotics in meat production when they shop for food. However, less than one-half are aware that the beef and poultry bought at supermarkets commonly are raised on feed containing antibiotics. (Organic Trade Association)

Also in this issue

Letters to the editor, October 2003

Taking positions on food issues, Union staff and the elections, Plastic bags, and more

Your co-op, October 2003

Semi-annual meeting, Special election, Talk to the board, and more