Posts Tagged ‘food safety’

Food stories of the year

Baylen Linnekin asked several food policy wonks what they thought were last year’s and next year’s biggest food stories, and here is part of my reply:

The troubles at Chipotle (whose food I like and buy, despite its dumb anti-GMO stance) brought home two points: local and handmade and every other good thing bring real tradeoffs, and food hazards aren’t just the result of moral laxity fixable by replacing “them” with educated idealists like “us.”

I also predicted that food commentator Mark Bittman, often criticized in this space, would find few takers for his notion of carding kids who want to buy a Coke. Read the whole thing here, and unrelatedly, if you are interested in food issues, check out this Russ Roberts interview with outstanding food scholar Rachel Laudan (earlier).

Food roundup

A historian indicts “food Luddism”

Don’t miss what Rachel Laudan has to say about the deprecation of industrially produced food in favor of all that is thought to be artisanal, local, seasonal, traditional, and natural. It’s full of policy implications and makes a super-useful gloss on the work of writers like Michael Pollan and Mark Bittman. [Jacobin] She’s also interviewed at shorter length by Todd Kliman at Washingtonian.

“Is There A Duty To Test A Chicken McNugget?”

Lawsuits alleging the finding of extraneous objects in food are rather common; lawsuits demanding that mass-market food items be inspected for such, less so [Chicago Tribune via Kyle White, Abnormal Use]:

The suit contends that McDonald’s employees failed to inspect and test the Chicken McNugget in question for bone fragments prior to serving it to Anderson.

You’d think that would help solve the problem of how to keep employment up at the fast-food chain after the robot cashiers take over. But not so fast — turns out there are chicken x-ray machines.

Food roundup

  • If the law was symbolic, consumers were apparently unswayed by its symbolism: L.A. zoning ban on new freestanding fast-food restaurants had no effect on obesity [The Guardian, NPR, Baylen Linnekin, earlier]
  • More on draft new federal dietary guidelines: “Report lays groundwork for food ‘interventionists’ in schools, workplaces” [Sarah Westwood, Washington Examiner, earlier, public comment open through April 8]
  • Opposition to GMOs is not humanitarian [Telegraph] Washington Post editorial rejects labeling on GMO foods;
  • Baker fell afoul of French law by keeping his boulangerie open too often [Arbroath]
  • A sentiment open to doubt: “There is a great need for lawyers to utilize their policy and litigation tools in the fight for a better food system.” [Melanie Pugh, Food Safety News]
  • “Food policy” progressives “whistle same tune as large food producers on issue of food safety” [Baylen Linnekin, related on single-agency scheme, more Linnekin on competition-through-regulation among makers of wine corks]
  • Why restaurant operators need to know about patent trolls [James Bickers, Fast Casual]

“Uncle Sam is a horrible nutritionist”

They’re finally letting the egg back into the good graces of government nutritionism, long after it had become clear that the cholesterol scare was unfounded [Washington Post] Again and again, health guidelines promoted by Washington have pushed Americans from safer toward less safe food choices, and from long-familiar foods that came to seem too rich or indulgent (butter, animal fat) toward alternatives about which far less is known. [Michael Brendan Dougherty, The Week] More: “Worth remembering that, if they had the power in the 1980s, the public health lobby would have forced us to eat a diet they now say is bad.” — @cjsnowdon

However bad a nutritionist Uncle Sam may be, of course, he is unlikely ever to be as bad as the science-impaired, self-proclaimed Food Babe Vani Hari [The Atlantic (“There is just no acceptable level of any chemical to ingest, ever.”), Orac/Respectful Insolence, Advertising Age, earlier] If only the public health establishment worked as hard to counteract the notions spread by Hari as it does to inscribe whatever its current set of food enthusiasms may be into coercive government policy! More: Michelle Francl, Slate.

P.S. At Scott Greenfield’s suggestion:

Please Don’t Eat the Daffodils

Public Health England has sent a letter to major British supermarket chains asking them “to ensure that daffodils, both the bulbs from which they sprout and the cut variety too, are displayed well away from the produce of fruit and vegetable area.” A number of shoppers “for whom English was not their first language” have mistaken the stalks for Chinese chives, an ingredient used in stir-fry and dumpling dishes. Eating daffodils results in vomiting and other gastrointestinal distress although ordinarily no lasting effects. [Telegraph, BBC]

One wonders why an informational strategy — perhaps especially aimed at word of mouth in the Chinese community — would not be preferred. Gail Heriot comments (via Facebook):

When we act to minimize tiny risks we often create other risks that will go unnoticed. Flowers are kept near produce in grocery stores in part because they both need water from time to time to stay fresh. One guy with a mop can take care of spills pretty efficiently. If the two are separated, he may be a tad less quick about getting that job done. If some little old lady slips, no one ever makes the connection between her broken leg and this nonsensical daffodil policy. Trying to deal with tiny, oddball risks frequently results in increasing more ordinary risks to everyday shoppers. The thing to do is cool it.

P.S.: Chuckle at “handwashing optional” Senator if you like, but then try actually thinking through what value choice might have in food safety [Jacob Grier]

Food roundup

  • “It is one of the first times that two big craft brewers have been in a lawsuit against each other.” [San Francisco Chronicle]
  • Hee hee: poll finds more than 80 percent of public favors “mandatory labels on foods containing DNA,” cf. comparable polls on GMO labeling [Ilya Somin]
  • Chicago crackdown on paid private dinner parties comes after Michelin awards two stars to local restaurant that started that way [Illinois Policy]
  • “Is Foodborne Illness on the Rise?” [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “The Queens’ Tea in Salt Lake City sued by another queen over name” [Salt Lake Tribune]
  • Virginia legislator’s bill would end inspection of home kitchens used to produce food for direct sale [Watchdog, earlier on “cottage food” laws, related E.N. Brown]
  • “There’s a very simple reason you don’t find favors in king cakes anymore: We have too many lawyers in America” [WSJ, earlier]

Food roundup

  • Our posts on the closure of California’s Westover Winery following punitive fines for letting customers volunteer continue to draw interesting comments, including one from a reader identifying himself as William Smyth, owner of the winery;
  • FDA comes out with revised proposed FSMA rules, a preliminary look [AP] Agency only partially backs off restrictions on use of spent brewing grains as animal feed [Elizabeth Brown/Reason, WLF, earlier]
  • “Cottage food” law success: “Texans Created Over A Thousand Local Businesses After Texas Eased Restrictions On Selling Food” [Nick Sibilla, IJ/Forbes]
  • Artisanal salami maker eventually managed to persuade FDA that it should be permitted to ferment product at 72 degrees as the Italians do [WaPo] Craft sausage startup in Detroit “sort of operated under ‘do-things-until-you-get-caught” [Metro Times]
  • Does drinking diet soda make you fat? [Daniel Engber, Slate]
  • Kalona, Iowa maker of squeaky cheese curds cites mounting regulatory costs in decision to close (via Julie Gunlock) [Cedar Rapids Gazette]
  • Bee colonies getting sick: indictment of modern humanity’s interaction with nature? [Timothy Taylor, Conversable Economist]