Scary Food

Industrial Agriculture

Big Ag doesn’t want you to care about pesticides

Power to the people pesticide industry!The produce lobby is livid that consumers might be concerned about pesticides. They are taking their fury out on the USDA for its annual report on pesticide use (via The Washington Post): In a recent letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, 18 produce trade associations complained that the data have “been subject to misinterpretation by activists, which publicize their distorted findings through national media outlets in a way that is misleading for consumers and can be highly detrimental to the growers of these commodities.” This report happens also to be the basis for the Environmental …

Scary Food

Jack in the Box surprise: How E. coli became a household word

Double your trouble.Photo: theimpulsivebuyFor most of us working in food policy, it’s hard to remember a time when food outbreaks of bugs like E. coli didn’t happen pretty much weekly. But reading the new book Poisoned by Jeff Benedict made me realize that bacteria-contaminated hamburgers are a relatively recent phenomenon. It’s a striking reminder of how our food system has gone very, very wrong. Given that the first headline-grabbing E. coli outbreak — the Jack in the Box debacle of 1993 — happened so long ago, it seems odd that no one has devoted a book to the topic before. …

Low-fat ice cream, celery more or less the same food

Yes, that Mexican-flavored shredded cheese mix, found right next to the Kraft singles, makes awesome quesadillas. But little strands of cheese curds are not meant to remain so sedately separate from each other, even as they are tossed into plastic bags and shipped across the country. So how do big food companies keep shredded cheese from clumping into a gooey mess? They add wood. Technically, the ingredient is powdered cellulose. Cellulose is the stuff that makes up the walls of plant cells, and it apparently has additional properties, like keeping cheese from clumping, thickening jam, and making low-fat ice cream …

Scary Food

Coke, BPA, and the limits of ‘green capitalism’

Don’t drink the Coca-Cola Kool-AidPhoto: Oleg Sklyanchuk“Coca-Cola goes green,” announced a 2010 Forbes article. Indeed, the beverages giant maintains partnerships with Big Green groups like Conservation International and World Wildlife Fund. It recently even completed its takeover of Honest Tea, an organic bottled-tea company. It would clearly like to be seen as a paragon of “green capitalism” — the idea that doing good and doing well go hand in hand. Let’s put aside questions over what can possibly be “green” about a business model geared to sucking in huge amounts of drinking water, blasting it with what are probably toxic …

Scary Food

Are you enjoying your daily chemical cocktail?

A 1970s-era Monsanto ad.Photo: Christian MontoneChemicals and additives found in the food supply and other consumer products are making headlines regularly as more and more groups raise concern over the safety of these substances. In a statement released this week, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) asked for reform to the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976. The group is particularly concerned about the effects these substances have on children and babies. Last month, the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) held hearings on the safety of food dyes but failed to make a definitive ruling. The most recent study …

Industrial Agriculture

USDA moves to let Monsanto perform its own environmental impact studies on GMOs

“Everything looks A-OK. What a surprise!”Last August, Federal Judge Jeffrey White issued a stinging rebuke to the USDA for its process on approving new genetically modified seeds. He ruled that the agency’s practice of “deregulating” novel seed varieties without first performing an environmental impact study violated the National Environmental Policy Act. The target of Judge White’s ire was the USDA’s 2005 approval of Monsanto’s Roundup Ready sugar beets, engineered to withstand doses of the company’s own herbicide. White’s ruling effectively revoked the approval of Monsanto’s novel beet seeds pending an environmental impact study, and cast doubt upon the USDA’s notoriously …

Nearly half of supermarket meat is tainted, says disgusting new study

Now would be a good time to go vegetarian, or demitarian, or just find a reputable butcher. A new study from the Translational Genomics Research Institute has found that 47 percent of tested samples of supermarket meat and poultry were infected with Staphylococcus aureus bacteria, which causes a range of health problems including skin infections and food poisoning. Half of the bacteria found in the study were resistant to at least three antibiotics. So if you buy meat at the grocery store, you've got a one in four chance of bringing home a drug-resistant superbug. As long as you're cooking …


Choose the right sweetener with this handy, snarky flowchart

From aspartame to ZSweet, the number of sweeteners available today is staggering. This flowchart gives you the Sweet’N Lowdown on which kind to use:

Factory Farms

Minnesota next up to pass law banning undercover farm videos

If Big Ag has its way, even possessing this undercover image of a factory chicken farm would be illegal.Photo: Humane Society of the United StatesNPR had a report today on the anti-whistleblower laws in Florida and Iowa that would make it illegal to take photos or undercover videos of livestock facilities. (It’s always nice to be NPR’s assignment editor!) But it doesn’t end in those two states — this “campaign” by Big Ag to shield its production techniques from scrutiny is going national. Writer Will Potter — author of the book Green Is the New Red about “how animal rights …

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