Scary Food

Scary Food

Live and let dioxin: Big Ag is worried about scaring us off meat and milk

This month, the EPA is expected to finally release limits for safe exposure to dioxins in food. Industry groups -- like the United Egg Producers, National Meat Association, and National Milk Producers Federation -- are stepping up to say: shhh!

Mountain Dew can dissolve a mouse, says Pepsi

An Illinois man is suing Pepsi Co. because, he says, he found a mouse in his can of Mountain Dew. But Pepsi says the guy is pulling a Strange Brew, and here's how they know: If there really were a mouse in a Mountain Dew can, it would have dissolved into "a jelly-like substance" before the guy could find it. Seriously, this is their defense.

Factory Farms

Will the Butterball raid yield any real results?

If turkey were beer, Butterball would have the brand power of Budweiser, Miller, and Coors combined. From six plants, the company produces 1 billion pounds of turkey each year and exports the meat to over 50 countries. Given this dominance, the Butterball brand has been a priceless asset to the company — until Thursday morning. At about 9:00 a.m., officers from the local sheriff’s office raided a Butterball semen collection facility in Shannon, N.C. (Industrially bred Broad-Breasted White turkeys must be artificially inseminated to reproduce.) The raid has not yet produced confirmed arrests, but if the events of the past year …

Factory Farms

Scrooged: FDA gives up on antibiotic restrictions in livestock

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) pulled a Scrooge move just before Christmas. The agency published an entry in the Federal Register declaring that it will end its attempt at mandatory restrictions on the use of antibiotics in animal agriculture. The agency isn’t advertising the shift, though: This news would have remained a secret if not for Maryn McKenna’s Superbug blog over at Wired. McKenna, who specializes in writing about antibiotics and their link to pathogens, caught the Federal Register notice. This is a sorry end to a process that began in 1977 (!), but McKenna created an excellent timeline …


The bad food news of 2011

We continue digesting this year’s food politics coverage below — only this time we take account of the things that didn’t go so well. (Tired of bad news? See the year’s good food news instead.) 1.  Food prices have gone up, and more people need help feeding their families The fact that 46 million people — about a seventh of the U.S. population — now receive food stamps (i.e. help from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)) should be enough to tell us that something is wrong with America’s food system. But thanks to the way public food assistance is …

Scary Food

Confessions of a former Coke addict

Coked out.Photo: Lazurite Yes, I’ve battled a Coke “addiction” more than once. Just when I think I have it beat, it worms its way back into my life. No, this Coke isn’t that white, powdery stuff; it comes in a can, and my drug of choice is Cherry Coke Zero. Do you ever wonder why soft drinks and processed foods have such power over us? Are we just weak? Or are our bodies simply outmaneuvered by the tactics of slick food companies? An interesting 60 Minutes episode entitled “The Flavorists: Tweaking Tastes and Creating Cravings” sheds some light on the subject. …

Thanksgiving turkeys can’t have sex because their breasts are too big

Steven Dubner, of Freakonomics fame, recently told Marketplace that almost 100 percent of Thanksgiving turkeys are the product of artificial insemination. The problem, apparently, is Americans' appetite for gigantic breasts. "The modern turkey has quite large turkey breasts, and it actually physically gets in the way when the male and the female try to create offspring," says Julie Long of the USDA. That never seems to be a problem in porn! This may be industrial agriculture at its most absurd, but it's far from automated. Dubner: A team of workers has to pick up each male breeder, the tom, which …

FDA fights fish fraud

Not only is eating fish not the most sustainable of food choices, it's likely a rip-off. If you're eating a pricey fish like cod or salmon, there's more than a one in five chance that it's something much cheaper. The FDA, though, is developing a new regulatory program to fight fish fraud. The agency is building a library of fish DNA that it can use to test samples of raw, frozen, steamed, or deep-fried fish and determine the sample's species. This genetic identification process is known as DNA bar coding, and it's gotten so cheap that the FDA can do …

Oh man alive you will not believe what’s in the McRib

McDonald's McRib sandwich has kind of a cult following, like Phish if they were only around for like a month every year instead of seemingly forever. And like Phish, it is jam-packed with synthetic ingredients. (I kid, I kid. I'm sure all of Phish's enhancement is purely herbal.) For instance, one of the bun ingredients is azodicarbonamide, which Time describes as "a flour-bleaching agent that is most commonly used in the manufacture of foamed plastics like in gym mats and the soles of shoes." The compound is banned in Europe and Australia as a food additive. (England's Health and Safety …

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