News bites, July 2017

Sound Consumer July 2017

Food is bipartisan

A survey by Pew Research Center reports 55 percent of Americans believe organically grown produce is healthier than conventional produce, and 39 percent consider genetically engineered (GE) foods worse for a person’s health than other foods. Pew found the perceptions are linked to interest in food issues and are not tied to politics or partisanship. The divides over food do not fall along political lines, nor do they strongly tie to other common divisions, such as education, income, geography or children at home. (Pew Research Center)


Changing expiration dates on food?

The Food Marketing Institute and the Grocery Manufacturers Association have adopted standardized — but voluntary — regulations to help clarify what date labels mean on food packages. Until now, manufacturers have used any of 10 references, from “Expires on” to “Sell by.” Now, they’ll be encouraged to use only two: “Use by” and “Best if used by.” PCC is ahead of the curve, displaying “Use By” as well as “Sell By” and “Packed on” dates. (The Washington Post)


Nutrition facts rolled back

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is delaying implementation of menu labeling by food retailers with 20 locations or more. The rule would have required calories and full nutrition facts to be posted by May 5 on menus, menu boards, deli signs, or in a brochure, poster or electronic device; online information does not meet the requirement. The National Grocers Association and an association of convenience stores asked for a three-year delay and President Trump’s FDA commissioner has indicated he’s open to changing the rule, which passed as part of the Affordable Care Act. (The Washington Post)


New GE soy and silk

The Non-GMO Project has added two new items to the “Monitored” risk list: 1) GE soy produced with TALEN technology, which is untestable with current limits of detection, and 2) synthetic bio silk, known on the market as artificial “spider” silk. (The Non-GMO Project)


Glyphosate and the next generation

A team of scientists, led by a hospital director of neonatal care, reports levels of the pesticide glyphosate in pregnant women has implications for health and lifetime achievements of the next generation. High levels appear to correlate with shorter pregnancies, below-average birth weights, and increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure and diminished cognitive abilities. (thefern.org)


Fresh Food Pharmacy

A new program at a hospital in Shamokin, Pennsylvania, offers food-insecure, diabetic patients prescriptions for free foods aimed at keeping their disease under control. At the Fresh Food Pharmacy, patients receive weekly grocery bags filled with fresh produce, lean proteins and healthier sugars, along with recipes, menus and regular support from health managers, physicians and pharmacists. Though the program is in its early stages, patients already are experiencing improved health. (prnewswire.com)


Bee-killing pesticides violated law

A federal court has ruled that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) systematically violated the Endangered Species Act when it approved neonicotinoids, a class of bee-killing insecticides used on more than 150 million acres of corn, soybeans, cotton and other crops. The judge ruled that the EPA unlawfully issued 59 pesticide registrations between 2007 and 2012 for agricultural, landscaping and ornamental uses. Additional proceedings have been ordered to determine the correct remedy for EPA’s legal violations, which may lead to cancelling the 59 pesticide registrations. (Center for Food Safety)


Glyphosate causes liver disease

A study in Scientific Reports, an online journal from the publishers of Nature, shows the herbicide Roundup at real-world environmental doses causes non-alcoholic fatty liver disease over the long-term, even at levels 437,500 times below the levels permitted by U.S. regulations. It’s the first study to show Roundup at real-world environmental doses causes a fatty liver, the leading cause of chronic liver disease afflicting as much as 30 percent of the general population in the United States and other Western countries. (sustainablepulse.com)


U.S. promoting GE foods

The FDA will fund a $3 million campaign to promote GE food under a budget approved by the Senate to avert a government shutdown. The money will be used to tout the alleged “environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts” of GE crops and their derivative food products. (The Washington Post)


Twitter tried to be a co-op

Twitter shareholders failed to win a bid to convert the company to a cooperative business model. Two Twitter shareholders had advised the company’s investors to commission a study exploring reincorporating as a cooperative as part of a “worldwide movement to save Twitter from losing sight of its mission.” (The Financial Times)


Neonicotinoids eliminated?

Walmart and True Value say they’re eliminating bee-killing neonicotinoid insecticides. Walmart says its growers have eliminated neonics from 80 percent of its garden plants and “almost all” its off-the-shelf gardening products. True Value says it intends to phase out products containing neonics by spring of 2018 and is collaborating with growers to encourage them to remove neonics from their plants (no date given). Friends of the Earth and Pesticide Research Institute petitioned these retailers after finding 51 percent of their garden plants contain neonicotinoids at levels that harm or kill bees. (Commondreams.org)


Another “Natural” lawsuit

Beyond Pesticides is suing Mott’s, alleging its “natural” label claim on applesauce is false and misleading. The suit argues that residues of the neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid, which is very toxic to pollinators, should disqualify the products from being labeled “natural.” (prnewswire.com)

Related Reading

Letters to the editor, July 2017

Mediterranean Diet, Unusual cuts of meat, PCC sets bar for non-GMO and organic meat, and more

PCC challenges "healthy" label claims

Earlier this year, the Food and Drug Administration accepted comments on what the definition of “healthy” should be for food labels. Here’s how PCC weighed in.

Soil & Sea: reports from our producers

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