Digest: Food prices rising globally, more beef recalls, organic ingredients debated

The Digest had to skip Friday because of a lightning-quick trip to D.C. Thanks to FAA delays, today's editor arrived home at 3 a.m. Pacific time last night and woke up to 2,642 headlines in her RSS feed reader: the mental equivalent of gavage. We triaged, but we apologize for any irrelevancies in the following list.

NEWS

Hungry world: The U.N.'s Food and Agriculture Organization has released its June 2007 "Food and Food Outlook" forecast, showing that food expenditures worldwide will rise a record amount, mainly because of biofuels cutting into cheap feed costs. Developing countries will be affected most. To illustrate, the New York Times reports that soaring pork prices in China are as painful for Chinese as gas prices are for Americans. The Chinese government is "deliberating whether to sell a snuffling, smelly strategic reserve of hundreds of thousands of live pigs kept at special subsidized farms for precisely the shortage the country is now facing." Bonus link: Time has a slide show pulled from Peter Menzel's awesome book "Hungry Planet," depicting families with one week's worth of their food.

Another day, another recall: Now Tyson Fresh Meats Inc. has issued a recall of more than 40,000 pounds of ground beef dated June 2; at least it names where consumers could have bought it (Wal-Mart). (North Country Gazette) United Food Group has expanded its recall, previously opined on here, to 5.7 million pounds "out of an abundance of caution. Grocery stores affected >

Certified meaningless: An in-depth look into the USDA's reasoning for considering whether to water down standards for organic foods, by approving 38 nonorganic ingredients such as spices and colorings. We find Anheuser-Busch's whining about the shortage of organic hops annoying — make fewer bottles of fake organic microbrew, dudes, or invest in organic hop growing — and are seriously chafed by the quote about how intestines from CAFO-raised hogs are just as "natural" for organic sausages. That's pure, certified baloney. (Los Angeles Times)

Please, just add sugar: Splenda and Equal are back in court after a settlement fell apart. (New York Times)

SoCal union for grocery workers threatens to strike (NYT/Reuters)

EPA enforcement actions down by 25% (ES&T Online News)

China accuses U.S. of exporting unsafe food (Orlando Sentinel/AP)

FEATURES & COMMENTARY

allerG-M boom: Jeffrey M. Smith, the author of the recent "Genetic Roulette: The Documented Health Risks of Genetically Engineered Foods" and "Seeds of Deception," has a very detailed, two-part series on how transgenic soy and corn are likely the source of increasing allergic reactions in humans.

Processed elimination: The NewsHour puts an extended transcript of its conversation with former FDA associate commissioner William Hubbard online. He points out all the fun ingredients in processed food that you'd never guess were imported from China (freeze-dried strawberries in cereal, a chemical masquerading as apple juice from concentrate, gluten in bread), but says there's nothing consumers can do except pressure their representatives, for example by supporting the Coalition for a Stronger FDA, which wants to goose FDA funding with $450 million for more inspectors. Not on the table: boycotting fake food. (PBS)

Unsavory ways: Cookbook author Deborah Madison tackles the organic vs. local dilemma in her new column for Culinate. (Culinate)

Convivial reality: Tom Philpott in Grist ruminates on the Slow Food/Carlo Petrini vs. Ferry Plaza farmers brouhaha and how it "generated very little deep discussion, within the food community or elsewhere, of food and class." Tom may have snubbed us linkwise, but we think some of your comments here did more than scratch the surface of that debate. Truth is, access is a topic that bears amplifying.

A natural merger: The Federal Trade Commission's suit to block Whole Foods from buying Wild Oats is not reality-based. Sadly, Slate offers no additional information on what we're pretty sure is a Big Food-based protest campaign. Sam Fromartz thinks they're just clueless.

Grain groans: Demand for organic cattle feed are causing some companies to import high-protein crops like soybeans — "necessary feed for dairy cows" (harumph) as organic acreage scales up — from as far away as China, where standards are suspect. (South Bend Tribune/AP)

Counting "Spring" chickens: Are we better or worse off in terms of pesticides compared to 1962, the year "Silent Spring was published"? Your view likely depends on your age. (Washington Post)

Brief editorial applauds politicos on food-stamp diet (San Francisco Chronicle)

Alice Waters says who's signed on for Slow Food Nation in brief Q&A (The Daily Green)

Fair Trade jasmine rice from Thailand now available (San Francisco Chronicle)

53-acre organic farm preserved near Princeton, NJ (The Princeton Packet)

Oregonian strawberries on the endangered list (Oregon Live)

Kids' summer camps go agricultural (Culinate)

ON THE BLOGS, ETC.

Penny wisdom: "Can a single woman in San Francisco eat local foods on a budget of $68 a week? Yes and no," says Penny-Wise Challenge organizer Jen Maiser. But "sometimes" is also a good solution. (Life Begins at 30)

Newbie welcome: The mom who won the P-I's farmers market challenge blogs about her first week trying to shop exclusively at the farmers' market. (Seattle P-I blog)

Organic Cowschwitz: A blogger has video of the operations of Vander Eyk Dairy, the mega-organic dairy in California suspended from the organic program. (Rebuild from Depression, via Chews Wise)

3 Responsesto “Digest: Food prices rising globally, more beef recalls, organic ingredients debated”

  1. Jay Porter says:

    I suggest amending the description of A-B's Wild Hop Lager from "fake organic microbrew" to "fake organic fake microbrew."

    You guys are tops.

  2. shelly says:

    "Cowschwitz"? Are you kidding me? Going a bit far with the puns, methinks.

  3. Jeff Deasy says:

    Diverting corn and other grains from the food supply to the production of biofuels is already contributing to rising food prices. Since we all have to eat, rising food prices effect the poorest people the most. In Mexico, large public demonstrations have taken place to protest the rising cost of corn. It seems obvious that clearing rainforests in order to raise crops for biofuels is a bad idea, but that is already happening. Biofuels are a bad fix for the dangerous reliance on fossil fuels that exists today. Solar energy is clean and renewable. Why not fund America's great engineering schools, top scientists, and best research centers to make it plentiful? I believe America is up to the challenge.