Mini-Digest: ‘Raw’ strikes back, Whole Foods gets a star, and ever more food-safety problems

There's been a lot going on in the food and ag world these past few weeks (though when isn't there?). Here are some of the most tasty (and not-so-tasty) morsels:

Penny for your troubles: Following in the footsteps of Yum! Brands, McDonald's, and Burger King (but not Chipotle -- yet), Whole Foods signed an agreement on Tuesday with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to support the "penny-per-pound" tomato program in Florida, effectively raising workers' wages by as much as 25% (though they still only make an estimated $10,000-$14,000 annually). (CIW press release)

Don't read this if you're eating: The fallout continues from the Listeria contamination that's swept the Canadian province of Ontario over the past few weeks, felling at least 40 people and leading to 15 confirmed deaths as of Wednesday. Maple Leaf Foods, Inc., the meat-processing plant that was the source of the outbreak, announced earlier this week that the likely source of the pathogen was a collection point for bacteria located "deep inside the mechanical operations" of two meat slicing machines. Mmm. (Montreal Gazette)

One more thing irradiation won't fix: Supermarket giant Wegmans announced today that it is voluntarily recalling all varieties of its in-store made bagels and bialys sold since August 24 because they may contain pieces of metal spring. Double mmm! (Associated Press)

Raw foodies, take heart: 15 U.S. almond growers and wholesale nut handlers filed a lawsuit today against the USDA "almond pasteurization" program. Under the regs, which went into effect a year ago, raw almonds must be fumigated or processed with steam heat before they can be sold to consumers. Thousands have protested -- since, after all, 'raw' no longer means raw -- and small-scale growers have balked at the cost of implementation. Foreign-grown almonds aren't subject to the same regulations and have been rapidly displacing domestic raw nuts on U.S. shelves. We'll see if the lawsuit talks some sense into these nuts. (Cornucopia Institute press release)

One small step for global biotech... On Monday, the EU approved imports of Bayer CropScience's herbicide-tolerant LibertyLink soybeans, justifying it as a stop-gap measure to ease animal feed shortages in Europe. "Since Bayer's LibertyLink soybean is a new technology tolerant to Ignite herbicide instead of glyphosate [AKA Roundup], farmers will have an additional in-crop weed control option," said Johnny Dodson, VP of the American Soybean Association, in a Bayer news release. Oh, good -- because Roundup is becoming increasingly useless. (Delta Farm Press)

...and one great leap for California-kind: The California legislature approved a landmark biotech liability protection bill today that would shield farmers from being sued by biotech firms when their crops are inadvertently contaminated with patented transgenic seed. The bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 23-14 and received unanimous support in the Assembly. Now it's up to the Guvernator to do what's right and sign it. (Food Chemical News, subscription only, but check the papers tomorrow)

A day late and a dollar short: The government appears to finally be doing something right in the case of Agriprocessors, Inc., the company whose Postville, IA plant was raided earlier this year. Iowa's attorney general has charged the company with 9,311 violations of child labor laws, accusing the plant of routinely hiring workers under age 18 and forcing them to operate tools like power saws and meat grinders. We applaud the AG, but it would have been nice if enforcement agents had picked up on this earlier -- oh, and if the gov't could have avoided adding insult to injury during the immigration raids back in May. (Associated Press)

Head of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change urges people around the world to eat less meat in order to stave off global warming

Korean meat inspectors give up on U.S. food safety regime, decide to see for themselves before allowing imports

2 Responsesto “Mini-Digest: ‘Raw’ strikes back, Whole Foods gets a star, and ever more food-safety problems”

  1. Doug Cress says:

    I find the raw almond debate particularly interesting. Its food safety vs. raw foodists.

  2. Katie says:

    !!!!!!!

    I am SO happy about the no-suing-for-accidental-contamination bill.  Yay yay yay yay yay yay yay yay!