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food safety

Both houses of the legislature in Connecticut have approved legislation aimed at requiring the labeling of (near-ubiquitous) foodstuffs with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients. The Senate’s version includes an “all jump off together” clause preventing it from going into effect until at least four states have joined in on the idea, which must cumulatively have a population of at least 20 million, and must include at least one state adjacent to Connecticut. [Greenwich Time, Ron Bailey, related ("food companies should just go ahead and slap labels on everything they sell reporting: 'This product may contain ingredients derived from safe modern biotechnology.'")] Earlier here (NY Times is surprisingly sensible on subject), here, here, here, etc.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on May 29, 2013

  • NYT op-ed: let’s pay folks to cook at home, they’ll never figure it out otherwise [Amy Alkon on Kristin Wartman attempt to revive old Wages for Housework campaign with foodie spin] “You don’t have a moral obligation to cook” [Maggie Koerth-Baker]
  • “The Making of the Obesity Epidemic: How Food Activism Led Public Health Astray” [Helen Lee, Breakthrough Institute via Julian Morris] Research suggesting benign effects of slight overweight slammed by public health profs who fear it might complicate desired policy narrative [Nature; more from Trevor Butterworth on Walter Willett vs. Katherine Flegal] Lessons of Denmark’s fat tax [Christopher Snowdon, IEA]
  • Will ‘elf-and-safety spell an end to Gloucestershire’s annual Cooper’s Hill cheese-rolling event? [Telegraph]
  • Bloomberg’s NYC health dept. can’t find restaurateur to operate a cafe in its headquarters, too many rules [NY Post]
  • Curbs on Italian imports relaxed: “The war on salami finally ends” [David Frum]
  • Most senseless cheese ban ever? In the case of Mimolette, it mite be [Hans Bader, earlier]
  • Diversity in apple varieties has plunged in the past century, right? Maybe not [Alex Tabarrok]

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“Dairy farmer Vernon Hershberger was acquitted on three of four criminal charges early Saturday morning in a trial that drew national attention from supporters of the raw, unpasteurized milk movement.” Hershberger sold his products through what he characterized as a consumer buying club, but prosecutors charged that the set-up was too much like a retail store, with price stickers and a cash register; Wisconsin law bans the sale of raw milk products through a retail store. “‘This is as close to Prohibition as anything I have ever seen, but this time it’s milk and an Amish farmer, rather than liquor and gangsters,’ [defense attorney Glenn] Reynolds said.” [Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel; Ryan Ekvall, Reason]

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Traditional refillable open-spouted vessels and dipping bowls will need to give way to “pre-packaged, factory bottles with a tamper-proof dispensing nozzle and labeling in line with EU industrial standards.” [Bruno Waterfield, Daily Telegraph] In perhaps not unrelated news, a new poll finds Euroskepticism strong in the U.K. [Telegraph]:

When voters are asked the exact question Conservatives want to put to the public in the 2017 referendum, “Do you think that the UK should remain a member of the EU?”, 46 per cent opt to come out, a higher figure than in other recent polls, while just 30 per cent want to stay in.

Update: May 23 (proposal dropped).

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“The U.S. FDA announced a plan to investigate and potentially regulate caffeine.” [James Hamblin, The Atlantic; Baylen Linnekin, Reason]

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OMG NYT OKs GMOs

by Walter Olson on March 25, 2013

“[T]here is no reliable evidence that genetically modified foods now on the market pose any risk to consumers,” says an editorial in, of all places, the New York Times. ["Why Label Genetically Engineered Food?"]

And while on the subject of publications outperforming expectations, Slate features a sober look at “cancer clusters,” with George Johnson reviewing a new book on the Toms River, N.J. episode.

Food roundup

by Walter Olson on March 19, 2013

  • If you thought “finger in chili” was bad, meet the Utah couple arrested on charges of planting razor blade shards in doughnuts and swallowing some [KSL, Daily Mail]
  • My talk a few weeks ago as part of Cato Institute panel on nanny state [YouTube, Bruce Majors]
  • New Reason-RUPE public opinion survey finds public broadly opposed to food and drink bans [Sullum]
  • Feds’ bad advice on polyunsaturated fat: more damaging than any mass tort in sight? [David Oliver] More: Hans Bader.
  • Coroner blames woman’s death on Coca-Cola addiction [TV NZ] Monster Beverage: natural causes, not caffeine toxicity, killed Maryland teen [Reuters, NYT, earlier] More: Jacob Sullum.
  • Oh, CSPI, thou contradictest thyself [Baylen Linnekin; more from him on parents' and kids' food choices quoting me, NYC soda ban]
  • “Bloomberg limits seder portions” [Purim spoof, New York Jewish Week]
  • Kelly Brownell, guru of obesity-reduction-through-coercion formerly based at Yale, named dean of public policy school at Duke;
  • “A Knife, a Walmart Birthday Cake and a Frenzy of Overreaction” [Free-Range Kids] Mardi Gras perennial: can you buy king cake with baby figurine already in it? [same, earlier]
  • Now they tell us: NYT book review not conspicuously enthusiastic about Michael Moss anti-food-biz book hyped to the rafters in NYT magazine three weeks earlier [Ira Stoll, SmarterTimes, our take]

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How ketchup baron H.J. Heinz became the “main force behind the passage of the Pure Food Law of 1906″ [Tim Carney, Washington Examiner]

Food and farm roundup

by Walter Olson on February 6, 2013

  • In Washington, DC today? Come to Cato New Media lunch where I’ll be on a panel on the nanny state;
  • Future of food freedom looking brighter these days at state level [Baylen Linnekin] Polls looking good for it, too [same] “The FDA’s Pathetic Food Safety Proposal” [same]
  • “Class claim against Crock-Pot seems a crock” [Sean Wajert]
  • USDA issues proposed rules on vending machine fare and other school “competitive foods” [Lunch Tray, SmarterTimes, Julie Gunlock/IWF (good news: rules don't address bake sales and birthday cupcakes. Bad news: why is this Washington's business at all?)]
  • Lawyer suing Subway over “Footlong” also handled controversial red-light camera action [NJLRA]
  • So, lung, it’s been good to know you: fans of authentic Scottish haggis still vexed by US ban [BBC]
  • “New Year, New Hot Coffee Case” [Abnormal Use]

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Media coverage of a new Jonathan Klick-Joshua Wright study has focused mostly on the evidence that reusable grocery bags are high-bacteria environments and likely vectors for foodborne illness, but Robert Anderson notices another striking conclusion: “The authors estimate that the additional deaths from the plastic bag ban value each saved animal at $87,500.” That estimate includes only actual deaths from foodborne illness, and not the cost of nonfatal illnesses. [Witnesseth]

Jacob Sullum: “New York Times Accidentally Admits That Energy Drinks Are Safer Than Coffee.”

Megan McArdle, in her annual holiday guide to kitchen gadget buying:

If you don’t want quite this much capacity — if you’re cooking for one or two, and hate leftovers — then I recommend getting an older (pre-1990) crockpot off of eBay. In recent years, food safety regulations and fear of liability has caused manufacturers to raise the heat on their slow cookers, which means the food cooks faster. I entertain enough that I reluctantly gave up lower heat for larger capacity (old crockpots tend to come in 2-3 quart sizes, rather than the 5-6 quarts that are standard now.) But only an older crockpot will give you really low and slow cooking.

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on November 16, 2012

  • Misguided USDA regs are shuttering much-admired (and safe) artisanal Denver salumeria [Baylen Linnekin]
  • “If you’re a woman and you’ve had an average of more than one drink a day, the [CDC] considers you a ‘heavy drinker.’” [Nicole Ciandella, CEI]
  • Admitting failure of idea, Denmark prepares to repeal pioneering “fat tax” [BBC] Katherine Pratt, “A Critique of Anti-Obesity Soda Taxes and Food Taxes Today in New Zealand” [TaxProf]
  • Less cooking from scratch, more empty calories because of new school lunch regs? [Lunch Tray]
  • Once we accept premise that our weight is government’s business, NYC soda ban will be just the start [Jacob Sullum] Does it go beyond legal authority of Gotham board of health? [same] Now it’s the D.C. council catching the ban-big-soft-drinks bug [WTOP]
  • Federal prosecutors’ ADA campaign vs. restaurants: not just NYC, Twin Cities too [Bagenstos, earlier]
  • Why is research and journalism on the public health aspects of nutrition so bad? [Linnekin] Speaking of which… [same] No one’s appointed Mark Bittman national food commissar, and aren’t we glad for that [Tyler Cowen] More on that [David Oliver, beginning a new series of posts on anti-food litigation]

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The Buckyball resistance

by Walter Olson on October 17, 2012


A small company goes right on defying the Consumer Product Safety Commission: I’ve got more at Cato at Liberty (& see Nick Farr, Abnormal Use).

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“The California Homemade Food Act clears the way for home cooks to make and sell a wide range of products, such as jams and jellies, without the need to invest in commercial kitchen space or comply with zoning and other regulations.” [Christian Science Monitor]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on September 11, 2012

  • Prop 37: Oakland Tribune thumbs down [editorial] “Natural” language a flashpoint [Glenn Lammi, WLF] Earlier here, here;
  • “Danish government may scrap its ‘fat tax’ after only one year because it simply doesn’t work” [Mark J. Perry, AEIdeas]
  • “Mouse in Mountain Dew saga comes to an end” [Madison County Record, earlier]
  • Food safety and local producers: “FDA Rules Won’t Work, Will Harm Small Farmers” [Ryan Young, CEI] “How Farmers’ Markets Dodged a Regulatory Bullet in Pennsylvania” [Baylen Linnekin, Reason]
  • “On the roads, on the cheese board… many Europeans now have more freedom than Americans.” [Mark Steyn]
  • Mayor Bloomberg extends his healthy-beverage solicitude to the youngest consumers [Steve Chapman]
  • In France, raw milk in vending machines [Mark Perry] FDA ban on interstate shipment of raw milk dates back to lawsuit by Public Citizen’s Sidney Wolfe [Linnekin]

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Food roundup

by Walter Olson on July 3, 2012

  • Why eating local isn’t necessarily good for the environment [Pierre Desrochers and Hiroko Shimizu, The Locavore's Dilemma via David Boaz/Cato, BoingBoing]
  • “Can Behavioral Economics Combat Obesity?” [Michael Marlow and Sherzod Abdukadirov, Cato Regulation mag, PDF] Get cranberry juice out of the schools. Must we? [Scott Shackford]
  • Portland might deem you a subsidy-worthy “food desert” even if you’re six blocks from a Safeway [City Journal]
  • “Policemen eying giant iced-coffee I bought near 96th and Broadway. I’m imagining a future of ‘stop and sip.’ ‘Is that sweetened, sir?’” [Conor Friedersdorf]
  • Crise de foie: California’s ban on livers of overfed fowl results in evasion, coinage of word “duckeasy” [Nancy Friedman]
  • In defense of policy entrepreneur Rick Berman [David Henderson]
  • The federal definition of macaroni [Ryan Young, CEI]
  • How food safety regulation can kill [Baylen Linneken, Reason] We’ve got a nice little town here, don’t try to grow food in it [same] And the prolific Linnekin is guest-blogging at Radley Balko’s along with Ken and Patrick from Popehat, Maggie McNeill, and Chattanooga libertarian editorialist Drew Johnson.

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Learn to eat lionfish, advised officials with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in a recent publicity campaign: not only is it tasty, but you’ll be combating an exotic-species invasion that is endangering reefs. Oops! “Of 194 fish tested, 42 percent showed detectable levels of ciguatoxin and 26 percent were above the FDA’s illness threshold of 0.1 parts per billion.” [MSNBC] Ciguatoxin, common in reef predators, is a naturally occurring toxin that can cause neurological disorientation and a variety of other nasty effects.

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