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Tom Laskawy's Posts

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Will FDA take quotation marks off “Smart Choices”? [UPDATED]

Should I stay or should I go? SUPER DUPER UNBELIEVEABLE UPDATE: The AP reports that the "Smart Choices" label is taking a break: The Smart Choices nutrition labeling program, created voluntarily by nine large U.S. manufacturers, is halting after federal regulators said such systems could mislead consumers, officials with the labeling group said Friday. ... Officials with Smart Choices in Washington, D.C., said Friday that the group will "postpone" active operations and not encourage wider use of the logo while the FDA investigates labeling issues. However, products that currently use the label are able, but not obligated, to keep using …

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Big meat tries to spin new antibiotics report [UPDATED]

An update appears at the bottom of the post: The American Academy of Microbiologists (“the world’s oldest and largest life science organization”), just issued a major report on antibiotic resistance which, among many recommendations, calls for decreasing or eliminating the use of antibiotics in animal production. The report adds more support for the Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act (PAMTA), Rep. Louise Slaughter’s (D-N.Y.) bill before Congress that would end sub-therapeutic doses on antibiotics for livestock. However, if the industry website Meatingplace is any indication, Big Meat really wants you to ignore that particular detail. What stood out in …

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CAFOs: ‘Above the Law’ like Steven Seagal?

You looking at me, punk? Okay, okay. I've got a good one for you. Ready? Q: Why are CAFOs just like B-movie action "star" Steven Seagal? A: Because despite being Under Siege, Marked for Death and On Deadly Ground, they remain Hard to Kill and, even worse, Above the Law. The ultimate example of this has got to be the Excel Diary CAFO in Minnesota. El Dragón from Fair Food Fight has the details: Fair Food Fight reported on Excel Dairy back in 2008, when the dairy became the first CAFO in Minnesota to be declared a public health hazard -- …

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Is anyone in charge of food safety?

The fact that there remains no one in charge of food safety at the USDA has become a sick sort of joke among food policy types. It's true that there is a second in command, Jerold Mande -- but he's a cancer doctor with no food safety background and, at best, a caretaker. He has no authority to make policy or initiate reform. Bill Marler's Food News website has the latest on the search: Though the administration continues to look for a candidate, a high-level USDA official downplayed the importance of having a Senate-confirmed under secretary, indicating that USDA leadership has confidence in the progress FSIS [Food Safety and Inspection …

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The American Farm Bureau goes all in

Check out the pitch on agribiz lobbying group American Farm Bureau's (AFB) new anti-climate bill website: Activists claim there will be droughts, floods, loss of species, and more, if the Senate does not pass the Climate Change bill. But their bill wouldn't even help the climate ... The fact is politics is driving the need for passage -- not facts! The cap-and-trade bill does nothing for Climate Change -- it's simply a tax on U.S. energy that gives other countries a free pass. That's wrong. This is the kind of policy we ask you to stand against today. It's at …

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Jill Richardson’s apt critique of the redesigned Senate Ag Committee website

The entire top half of the page is now dominated by a picture of the many healthy foods that our government's ag policy does not promote: red and yellow bell peppers, purple cabbage, tomatoes, broccoli, sweet corn, onions, and leafy greens. -- La Vida Locavore's Jill Richardson noting the irony in the new Senate Ag Committee website

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Is Michelle Obama about to take on Big Food?

With all the talk of Michael Pollan and Jamie Oliver lately, it's easy to ignore the person who right now is, given her current address, the most influential voice on food policy in the country. Naturally, I'm talking about First Lady Michelle Obama. While she's been exercising what diplomats would call her "soft power" for a while, i.e. planting a garden, making speeches on healthy eating, and so on, indications are that she's quietly developing a set of policy recommendations to reform the food system. Obama Foodorama has been tirelessly reporting on these maneuvers, which have remained under the radar …

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Can Jamie Oliver cooking lessons cure obesity?

Jamie OliverPhoto: Downing Street via Flickr What struck me most about the profile of celebrity chef and food activist Jamie Oliver in the NYT Magazine's Food Issue was not his valiant attempts to re-educate Americans on the importance of scratch cooking. It's that the poor man could have used some serious therapy as a child. Oliver is severely dislexic, was woken up by his father at 6:30 a.m. every morning by a dousing from the garden hose ("People die in bed," his father would say), was working in his father's pub at the age of 6 and cooking there by …

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Big Ag’s odd obsession with You-Know-Who

I really really really didn't want to write another post on Michael Pollan. Don't get me wrong -- I'm a big fan. It's just that reducing the whole of the food movement to Pollan's work naturally ignores so much else that's going on. But don't blame me for this post. Blame Big Ag. These guys just can't leave him alone -- it's verging on an unhealthy obsession. They seem to think that if they can just share a stage with him wherever he pops up, they'll show him (and the audience) how wrong he really is. It's happening all over …

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The chemical treadmill breaks down and the superweeds did it

Tom Philpott has been tracking the rise of so-called "superweeds" -- i.e. herbicide-resistant weeds -- for a while now. He's talked about the chemical treadmill -- "the situation wherein weeds and other pests develop resistance to poisons, demanding ever higher doses of old poisons and constant development of novel ones." Due in part to its reliance on genetically modified crops that are designed to be doused with Monsanto's Roundup herbicide, the South has to date faced the worst of this problem. And the struggle against these new superweeds, in particular against a new resistant form of pig weed, got the …

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