News bites, September 2018

Sound Consumer September 2018

Organic agenda

The independent, family-run organic food company, Nature’s Path, cancelled its membership in the Organic Trade Association (OTA), a business group that mostly represents organic manufacturers and processors. Nature’s Path founder and CEO, Arran Stephens, cited OTA’s role in brokering a weak national genetically egineered (GE) food labeling law and its support for certifying hydroponic produce as organic, against the recommendation of the National Organic Standards Board. (Cornucopia Institute)

Big Food lobby struggles

One of America’s most powerful food lobbying groups, the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), is struggling after a succession of high-profile, global companies terminated their memberships. Campbell’s, Nestle, Dean Foods, Mars, Tyson, Unilever, the Hershey Company, Cargill, Kraft Heinz and DowDuPont all have withdrawn from the GMA. Publicly their reasons are vague, but sources report GMA refused to budge on evolving trends, such as labeling GE foods, which many global companies now support to protect global trade. (Quartz/Qz.com)

New food lobby forms

Four global food companies, Mars, Nestle, Unilever and Danone, are joining forces in a new association to advocate for what they call “progressive food policies.” Calling themselves the Sustainable Food Policy Alliance, the group will focus on product transparency, nutrition, the environment, food safety, and a positive workplace for food and agriculture workers. The alliance offers an alternative to the Grocery Manufacturers Association, which has been steadily losing members. (Washington Post)

Glyphosate in food

U.S. government scientists detected a weedkiller linked to cancer in an array of nonorganic foods — but haven’t informed the public. Internal documents obtained through the Freedom of Information Act show Food and Drug Administration (FDA) tests found that granola, cereal, corn meal and wheat crackers contain “a fair amount” of glyphosate exceeding the legal limit by about 30 percent. A National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences spokesperson says current pesticide regulations do not take low-level cumulative risks into account. Critics say taxpayers paid government to do this work and should have access to the information. (The Guardian)

Eggs reduce strokes?

New research finds that egg consumption may decrease the risk of stroke by 26 percent. Simultaneous research shows there is no increased cardiovascular risk from eating eggs in people who are pre-diabetic or have diabetes. The Egg Nutrition Center points out these studies support previous research on the benefits of egg consumption for muscle health, weight management and cognition. (Food Navigator)

Irish GE ban

The Irish government is banning cultivation of GE crops, making it the 39th country to impose a ban. Irish Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Denis Naughten, said he believes “it is critically important that Ireland takes whatever steps are necessary to maintain our GE cultivation-free status, which is a key element of our international reputation as a green, sustainable food producer.” Naughton says the ban will not impact Irish biotech or pharmaceutical sectors. (Sustainable Pulse)

Strawless in Seattle

Starbucks has announced a commitment to phase out plastic straws in all cafes worldwide by 2020, replacing them with strawless sippy lids or straws made of alternative materials. Starbucks uses more than 1 billion single-use plastic straws each year and began its phaseout after Seattle’s ban against plastic straws took effect on July 1. PCC Community Markets eliminated all plastic straws and utensils in 2015 and pledged recently to remove all plastic containers from store delis by 2020. (The Seattle Times)

FDA food safety failure

Nineteen victims of food-borne illness are suing the FDA, saying its food recall system is not adequate. The FDA has used its authority to order recalls only three times since 2011, instead allowing companies to decide whether to recall a product voluntarily or not. The FDA does not identify retailers that sell contaminated food, considering that a trade secret. Plaintiffs suing the FDA include a man whose kidneys failed after eating I.M. Healthy SoyNut Butter. (Politico)

Plant breeding for health

Researchers are connecting the health of our microbiome (the flora in our gut associated with immunity) to the decline in agricultural biodiversity. The concentration of food genetics in fewer species for food reportedly is linked to increased inflammatory disease and mental health problems, including depression, schizophrenia, autism, anxiety and stress. Research aims to increase seed diversity through seed breeding that would promote more diversity and enhance consumer health. (Cornucopia Institute)

Fake stevia

A new Cargill product, EverSweet, uses GE yeast to convert sugar into mimicking the properties of stevia — without using any real stevia from a plant. Eversweet is a product of synthetic biology, a form of genetic engineering that creates DNA artificially to synthesize compounds instead of deriving them from natural sources. The FDA approved EverSweet with a “Generally Recognized As Safe” designation for use in dairy and sweeteners to alcoholic and low- and zero-calorie beverages — without labeling it as a GE synthetic. (Huffington Post)

Hawaii bans pesticide

Hawaii’s governor has signed a bill banning the insecticide chlorpyrifos, a neurotoxin linked to increased risk of learning disabilities, lower IQ, developmental delays, and behavior problems in children. The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own scientists had recommended a ban that was on track to take effect until former EPA chief, Scott Pruitt, rejected it. Chlorpyrifos is sprayed on nonorganic corn, soy, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, apples, oranges, strawberries and cranberries. Studies show that residues from current use expose children to as much as 14,000 percent of EPA’s recorded safety limit. (Natural Resources Defense Council)

Brain food

Eating avocados may benefit human eye and cognitive brain health. Research from Tufts University found that eating just one fresh avocado daily for six months improved working memory and problem-solving skills in 40 healthy adults aged 50 and older. Study participants also developed 25 percent more of an anti-inflammatory and antioxidant agent called lutein in their eyes. (FoodDive.com)

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