food | Food & Water Watch - Part 40
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Blog Posts: Food

November 9th, 2010

Cheese Biz

You can put cheese on most anything, but extra cheese won't help farmers sell more of it at a fair price.

We live in a food world of rather unusual contradictions. Some of them would almost seem amusing if it weren’t for the impact they can have on food policy and public health.

Sunday’s New York Times article on the lengths USDA goes to in its promotion of cheese consumption reveals the stunning failure of a federal agency to establish a true north when it comes to their mission that includes both giving nutrition advice and promoting American agriculture.

On one hand, in its role as the official mom of nutrition policy, the USDA warns us about the saturated fat in our cheese and reminds us that Americans eat far too much of it — three times the amount we ate in 1970. Then, on the other hand, the agency spends more money to fund marketing campaigns that encourage us to pour another layer of cheese onto our triple cheese burritos, cheese sandwiches and pizzas. Read the full article…

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October 26th, 2010

Chinese Consumers Send a Warning

The Office of the United States Trade Representative announced that it would not appeal a World Trade Organization decision that held the U.S. could not prohibit the importation of Chinese poultry products. Ironically, on the same day this data was released, a survey divulged one of the biggest concerns among Chinese consumers: food safety. Read the full article…

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Deconstructing Food Safety Legislation

Check out this blog post from Food & Water Watch Western Region Director Elanor Starmer. The blog was posted on Grist and it’s about the controversy surrounding the Food Safety Modernization Act. Find out why our colleague dares to ask, “Can Congress make a food-safety omelet without breaking the wrong eggs?Read the full article…

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October 18th, 2010

Is Walmart Really Going Local?

If you’re wondering if Walmart’s latest announcement is a sign of changing times — if a giant megastore is capable of truly making a renewed commitment to sustainable practices within an industrial food production model — you are not alone. When the largest retailer of food in the United States says they want to adjust its business model to adapt to consumer priorities like sustainability, it’s worth keeping an eye on.

It’s certainly possible that this is just a case of corporate greenwashing — that is, Walmart is merely hijacking a message that clearly appeals to consumers. But isn’t getting more local, sustainable produce sold in any grocery store a good thing? It depends how it’s done, and what you call local and sustainable.

When it comes to claims about sustainability, the devil is always in the details: how will Walmart define their standards for sustainability? How will they measure the environmental stewardship of their local suppliers? And perhaps the most critical questions — will the company offer fair prices to local farmers? Or will they lock them into financially destructive contracts that involve expensive upgrades or expansions of their farms to meet large-scale demand?

Walmart’s Executive Vice President for Corporate Affairs Leslie A. Dach said, “When we do this on Walmart’s scale, we can deliver a global food supply that improves health and livelihoods around the world.” But Walmart’s scale is a big part of the problem in our food system. It’s going to take more than marketing campaigns to fix that.

-Rich Bindell

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October 12th, 2010

Large-Scale is the Problem

Maybe we haven’t learned anything from the Great Egg Recall of 2010; at least not enough–not yet. The egg farm mentioned in William Neuman’s New York Times article, and many farms like it, try to adjust their large-scale models of production to address unhygienic conditions and other problems that arise from being so big.

The factory farm model confines thousands of animals into a closed environment that is condusive to the spread of diseases like E. coli and salmonella.

Read the full article…

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October 4th, 2010

Mislabeled in Ohio

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit overruled part of an Ohio labeling ban. The ban would have prevented producers from labeling their milk as "artificial hormone-free."

Last week, Ohio’s Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals re-instituted the right of dairy processors to label their products as “rbGH-free,” “rbST-free,” or “artificial hormone free,” if their cows aren’t treated with those substances. The ruling overturned a statewide ban —the most restrictive milk regulation in the U.S. — that prevented dairy processors from identifying their products as artificial hormone-free. Read the full article…

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September 21st, 2010

Is the USDA Trading Food Safety for a Diplomacy Fix?

Food & Water Watch has been trying for months to get Brazilian meat products removed from American shelves due to systemic problems with their food safety system. On September 13, they found yet another reason to try again: USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service announced another recall of Brazilian meat products. A meatpacking plant that had been cited for excessive animal drug residues —three recalls to be exact — shipped 258,000 pounds of beef to the U.S. This plant was supposed to be blacklisted by our import inspectors, but its beef reached our food system anyway.

Brazil’s meat products should be removed from American shelves due to systemic problems with their food safety system. Beef from meatpacking plants that should be blacklisted by our import inspectors could be finding its way to our food system anyway.

Read the full article…

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September 7th, 2010

NCBA: Always on the Wrong Side of Consumer Issues

In various beef trade publications, the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) has recently decided to launch an attack on the mission of Food & Water Watch. We find this to be a curious development and we decided to figure out why. Read the full article…

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August 31st, 2010

Consumer Rights Not Included

Occasionally, someone makes a PR gaffe so blatantly off-target that it would be downright funny—if it weren’t such an important consumer right-to- know issue.

AquaBounty Technologies—a name that conjures up images of fresh, wholesome seafood swimming straight to your plate—is the company behind AquaAdvantage genetically engineered (GE) salmon, coming soon to an FDA approval process near you. We call them FrankenFish or Arnold Schwarzensalmon. Included in their very own website is a statement that breaks one of the most important rules of sensible business practice: make the customer feel important. Read the full article…

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August 27th, 2010

Ranchers Drive Cattle While Meatpackers Drive Up Prices

500 independent ranchers, farmers, meatpacking workers, consumers, urban farmers and food justice activists gather at a public forum in Colorado on the eve of the DOJ and USDA joint hearing on fair competition in the meat industry.

The American Meat Institute (AMI) thinks that everything is just fine in the meat industry. They represent the biggest meat packers and processors—the ones who have consolidated the meatpacking industry into a market dominated by four firms that exercise tremendous leverage over independent cattle producers. The few companies in control of the market insist that there is nothing wrong.

But, U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder were in Fort Collins, Colorado last week, listening to the testimonies of independent ranchers who have been struggling to get fair prices for their cattle from the meat packer monopolies. If nothing is wrong in the meat industry, why would these top U.S. officials travel to the Mountain State to listen to the concerns of ranchers and small farmers at a joint hearing about restoring competition? And why would the groups like the Western Organization of Resource Councils (WORC) and Ranchers-Cattlemen Action Legal Fund (R-CALF), who represent independent cattle producers, rally thousands of people to attend the hearings? Read the full article…

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