News bites

chickens

Organic poultry standards

The final Organic Livestock and Poultry Standards (OLPS) regulation, announced (in the fall) by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), creates clear standards for outdoor access for organic poultry including minimum indoor and outdoor space requirements, and further clarifies living conditions, health care, transportation and slaughter practices for all organic avian and mammalian livestock species. Most importantly, the rule clarifies that screened-in, enclosed porches do NOT qualify as sufficient outdoor space for organic chickens. Current organic poultry producers have up to five years to implement the new regulations. (OTA.com)

Endangered Oregon snail

In an ongoing legal battle with the Biden administration over a Nevada lithium mine near the Oregon border, environmentalists are poised to return to court with a new approach accusing U.S. wildlife officials of dragging their feet on a year-old petition seeking endangered species status for a tiny snail that lives nearby. The Western Watersheds Project said in its formal notice of intent to sue that the government’s failure to list the Kings River pyrg as a threatened or endangered species could push it to the brink of extinction. It says the only place the snail is known to exist is in 13 shallow springs near where Lithium Americas is building its Thacker Pass Mine near the Oregon line. (OregonLive.com)

Food insecurity rises

More than 44.2 million Americans lived in households that struggled with hunger in 2022, according to a USDA report released (in October)—an increase of 10.3 million over the previous year. The new figures, from the agency’s Economic Research Service, show an end to a nearly decade-long decrease in the number of families reporting food insecurity, at a time when food prices remain elevated because of inflation. The report paints a difficult picture for many households considered food-insecure—meaning they did not have consistent, dependable access to enough food for active, healthy living. (WashingtonPost.com)

Nutrition label designer

Carbs, protein, sodium and fat: if you’re adept at scanning those nutrition facts on food and drinks packages, it’s thanks in large part to Burkey Belser. But his work extended far beyond grocery aisles. The graphic designer died at age 76 in Bethesda, Md., on Monday, reportedly from bladder cancer. He famously did the (label design) for free: when Congress approved the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act in 1990 with a mandate for a new nutrition label, it didn’t appropriate money to pay for creating one. (NPR.org)

California additives ban

For most people, consuming some amount of food additives is almost unavoidable, which is why the state of California is making it easier to navigate around certain harmful chemicals with a new ban. (In the fall) California Governor Gavin Newsom signed the California Food Safety Act, which will be implemented in 2027. It will prohibit the manufacturing, distribution or sale of potentially harmful food additives, including red dye No. 3, potassium bromate, brominated vegetable oil or propylparaben. (FastCompany.com)

BC forest protection

The British Columbia government took a significant step toward protecting old-growth forests and creating new protected areas with the announcement of a $300-million fund for Indigenous conservation. The provincial government will provide $150 million for the conservation financing fund while the BC Parks Foundation, the official charitable partner of BC Parks, will furnish the rest. The fund, managed by the foundation, will finance ecosystem protections, including Indigenous stewardship and guardian programs, capacity building and unspecified low-carbon economic opportunities. (TheNarwhal.ca)

2024 food trends

ADM (Archer Daniels Midland) has identified what trends in flavors and colors will affect product innovation for 2024. The four trends include “luxe self-expression,” “dare to dupe,” “health without stealth,” and “breaking boundaries” of taste and color. “Luxe self-expression” enables consumers to express themselves through the food and beverages they consume. A few flavor inspirations that emerged this year included caramelized fruit, cinnamon sugar and sweet paired with umami, according to the study. (FoodBusinessNews.net)

FDA priorities

Jim Jones, the new deputy commissioner for human foods at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a statement outlining the FDA’s three top priorities for the food side of the agency as it works to reorganize the entire program. The statement lists three key areas of focus: reducing foodborne illnesses, decreasing diet-related chronic diseases, and a greater focus on the safety of food chemicals. On the surface, this might not seem earth shattering—and it’s not—but to me, this signals that FDA is trying to be clear about how it will focus its time and limited resources as the agency is under intense scrutiny to better protect the public on a variety of fronts. (FoodFix.co)

Olive oil prices

Like the oil that comes from the ground, olive oil is a globally traded commodity, with events in one part of the world reverberating far away. Drought in Spain, the world’s largest olive oil producer, has devastated recent harvests, and bad weather has hit olive crops in other major growers including Italy, Greece and Portugal. The result is prices climbing to dizzying heights, well over $9,000 per metric ton, which filters through to pricier bottles of the oil that have become a fixture in many American households, used for cooking and drizzling on foods associated with a healthy Mediterranean diet. (NYTimes.com)

Sustainable packaging

Consumers increasingly demand an alternative to plastics and deadlines for local and state sustainability mandates are approaching, but finding something that isn’t prohibitively expensive that also keeps fruits and vegetables fresh and appealing has been a struggle, speakers at (the) Global Produce & Floral Show produced by the International Fresh Produce Association in Anaheim, California, noted. “We all want to do better,” said Jen Doxey, director of sales at Fox Packaging and Fox Solutions. “The long-term goal is we want a bio-based alternative, but right now today, that’s really not the reality…Most of our consumer products are plastics-based.” (WinsightGroceryBusiness.com)

Sustainability interest grows

Consumer interest in sustainability is becoming an increasingly important factor when choosing a brand, according to new research from data and analytics solution provider NIQ (formerly NielsenIQ). The company’s “Green Divide” report, which examined consumer preferences, attitudes and behaviors around sustainability, found that 70% of consumers say sustainability is now more important to them when selecting products than it was two years ago. The growing perception that environmental issues are impacting consumer health is partially responsible for the increased focus on sustainability, said Sherry Frey, vice president of total wellness at NIQ. (FoodBusinessNews.net)

Salt cycle disruptions

Humanity is messing with the Earth’s “salt cycle,” with potentially dangerous consequences for drinking water supplies, crop production, and ecosystems. That’s according to a new study published in the journal Nature Reviews Earth & Environment. It’s the first time that scientists have documented the extent to which humans have changed the salt content of the land, water and air across the globe. (Grist.org)

Electric vehicle sales

Washington has been among a few states leading the EV transition, with 18% of its new car sales in the first half of 2023 being either fully electric cars or plug-in hybrids, which can be powered by both electricity and gasoline, according to a report by an energy research division of Bloomberg. Only California has sold a higher proportion—ballooning from around 8% of new car sales being EVs in 2019 to 25% in the first half of (the) year, said Corey Cantor, an EV analyst who authored the report. Nationwide, 9% of new car sales in the first half of 2023 were EVs. (SeattleTimes.com)

Sockeye salmon in the Red River

AI salmon counts

Spawning salmon (in rivers across British Columbia) are usually counted by teams of volunteers, or monitored with in-river video. Now, AI technology developed in partnership with conservation groups, Simon Fraser University, and First Nations on B.C.’s North and Central coasts is being used to sort through that footage to differentiate between species. The results of a pilot study, recently published in Frontiers in Marine Science, show that the computer vision deep learning model—which is being called “Salmon Vision”—was about 90% accurate when it came to detecting coho and 80% accurate for sockeye after reviewing more than 500,000 video frames. (CBC.ca)

Early bird dining

Consumers across the country are going out to dinner more often—and much earlier—than they were before the pandemic. “Our data indicates that fine-dining customers are eating earlier than they did prior to the pandemic,” R.J. Hottovy, head of analytical research at Placer.ai told The Food Institute. “We’ve reviewed visitation trends by hour for some of the larger fine-dining restaurant chains in the U.S., and generally speaking, we have seen an increase in the percentage of visitors frequenting a restaurant from 4-7 p.m. and a decrease in the percentage of visitors who are coming in after 7 p.m.,” said Hottovy. (FoodInstitute.com)

Europe’s wine harvest

Europe’s wine harvest fell this year as top producers like Italy and Spain grappled with challenging weather conditions. A dry winter, hailstorms, floods and a rainy spring season damaged vineyards in key wine regions, according to the Copa-Cogeca unions that represent European farmers. Italy lost its place as Europe’s top producer for the first time in seven years after a 12% drop in output. (Bloomberg.com)

Also in this issue

How Ridwell reinvented recycling for a new era

Seattle’s waste warriors are saving materials from the landfill and helping create a greener future. Learn how Ridwell reinvented recycling.

A father and son reconnect for “A Very Chinese Cookbook”

Simple, sensational sesame noodles are among the 100 recipes that brought a family closer in the new book, "A Very Chinese Cookbook."

Hunger Action Day

Join local organizations Feb. 1 to talk with legislators about priorities.