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Period: April 1, 2019 to May 1, 2019
Comment & Opinion or Companies, Organizations or Consumers or Controversies & Disputes or Deals, M&A, JVs, Licensing or Earnings Release or Finance, Economics, Tax or Innovation & New Ideas or Legal, Legislation, Regulation, Policy or Market News or Marketing & Advertising or Other or People & Personalities or Press Release or Products & Brands or Research, Studies, Advice or Supply Chain or Trends

Genetically Engineered Salmon: Appearing Soon At Your Local Grocery Store

The FDA has lifted a ban on genetically engineered salmon, clearing the way for its appearance in grocery stores. The company AquaBounty may now import its AquaAdvantage Salmon eggs to a land-based facility in Indiana, where the salmon can be grown for food. The fish have been genetically engineered to grow faster than farm-raised Atlantic salmon. But Native American tribes, food groups, and environmentalists are concerned that there is no requirement that the gene-manipulated fish be labeled as “genetically engineered.” Instead, they can be labeled “bioengineered,” a less-loaded term that can appear on packages as a symbol that says “BE” or a QR code that can be scanned with a smartphone to find out if it's genetically engineered. "So it's quite a bit more burdensome,” according to a Center for Food Safety attorney. The FDA first approved genetically engineered salmon as safe to eat in 2015.

"Concerns raised over genetically engineered salmon", The Daily Astorian, (Oregon), March 13, 2019

“Natural” Claim Continues To Lure Shoppers, Despite Lack Of Definition

A Label Insight-sponsored survey of 1,000 adult consumers finds that using the word “natural” on food packaging will motivate as many as 53 percent of Americans to make a purchase. Natural is generally accepted to mean the absence of artificial flavors, sweeteners, preservatives, and color additives in products that are minimally processed. Fifty-one percent of shoppers were swayed by "no preservatives," particularly older generations. Sixty-three percent of Baby Boomers say a product with that claim would motivate them to buy compared to 46 percent of Generation X and 41 percent of Millennials. Other ingredients Americans are concerned about include: high fructose corn syrup (57 percent of older adults) and sugar (all ages). And shoppers increasingly want to know the conditions under which the fish, poultry and livestock they're eating were raised: "antibiotic free" (34 percent); "free range" (26 percent); "grass fed" (25 percent); and "pasture-raised" (17 percent) are the key terms. ...  More

"New Survey from Label Insight Reveals Which Loosely-Regulated Marketing Claims Motivate Shoppers to Buy", PR Newswire, March 13, 2019

Big Upper Midwest Food Distributor SpartanNash “Cleans Up” Its House Brands

Fortune 400 food distributor SpartanNash, which operates a chain of retail grocery stores in the upper Midwest and serves U.S military commissaries, is responding to customer preferences by accelerating a program to simplify private brand product ingredients and provide more transparency. “Our store guests are looking for healthier food options, clean labels and ‘free from’ formats when shopping at their local grocery store or putting food on the table," a spokesman said. In response, SpartanNash has reformulated or redesigned packaging for more than 425 products in its Our Family and Open Acres private labels since last year, removing synthetic colors, MSG, and other ingredients. Another 175 products will be added to the initiative during 2019. According to the company, the program focuses on providing customers with simpler products, shorter ingredient lists, and clean, easy-to-read labels. 

"SpartanNash comes ‘clean’ with private brands", Supermarket News, March 13, 2019

Legislation Would Require “Maine Raised” Meat And Poultry To Be Exactly That

Consumers in Maine hoping to support the state’s poultry and cattle farmers are being misled by meat labeled “Maine Raised,” a phrase that suggests that food animals were raised and slaughtered locally. It is legal in the state for businesses to import animals from other states, slaughter them, and sell the meat as “Maine Raised,” usually at prices lower than actual Maine-raised meats. But a bill introduced by a legislator who happens to own an organic vegetable farm would require livestock such as beef, pork, or lamb be born and raised solely in the state. Poultry must be raised in the state from no later than seven days after hatching before it could be labeled and advertised as Maine raised. The legislation was well supported during recent hearings, and could soon make its way out of committee for a vote in the state House and Senate.

"Why 'Maine Raised' meat may not mean what you think it does", Bangor Daily News (Maine), March 18, 2019

Even Organic Foods Can Be Tainted With Packaging Chemical Perchlorate

Only 40 synthetic compounds are approved for use in organic food products, but a new report finds that choosing organic at the grocery store doesn’t always prevent exposure to harmful chemicals. One important “additive” approved by the FDA 14 years ago for use in packaging is the chemical perchlorate. According to the nonprofit Environmental Working Group (EWG), perchlorate has been contaminating a growing amount of food – infant formula, rice-based baby cereals, and dairy products – since 2005, and has had an enormous impact on the health of fetuses and young children: it is associated with significant declines in IQ, among other effects. The EWG and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) have asked the FDA to ban the chemical in food and have talked to food companies about testing food products for perchlorate. Some states are also considering whether to take action.

"The Dangerous Food Additive That’s Not on the Label", Civil Eats, March 19, 2019

States Continue To Define Terms Like “Meat” And “Rice” To Benefit Industry

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem has signed legislation protecting the cattle and poultry industries by requiring "fake meat" products to be correctly labeled. Under the new law, misbranding occurs when companies intentionally label products in a false, deceptive or misleading manner that misrepresents it as meat or a meat by-product. Data from the USDA show South Dakota had over 4 million total head of cattle, including calves, as of January 1, 2019. The South Dakota Stock Growers Association said it believes meat substitutes should not be allowed to benefit from the “generations of hard work” that have created today’s market for actual meat food products. The law goes into effect July 1. Meanwhile, Gov. Asa Hutchinson of Arkansas signed into law a bill banning companies from marketing "cauliflower rice" if the product contains no rice. Arkansas is the nation's top rice-producing state.

"Noem signs law that targets companies marketing 'fake meat'", Associated Press State & Local, March 23, 2019

Food Label Claims Continue To Cause Confusion

At a recent agriculture meeting in Nebraska, a state farm bureau executive explained the real meaning of labels like “hormone free,” organic, and “locally grown.” The “hormone free” label, for example, indicates that no synthetic hormones were given to the animal. But both raw cabbage and humans have thousands of nanograms of estrogen in them naturally. And the label is meaningless on things like chicken because USDA does not allow added hormones in raising poultry or hogs. Furthermore, many foods claim to be organic, but only those actually regulated by USDA are "USDA Organic." Another area of confusion and even rancor is genetic modification. It is important for producers to be candid and passionate when discussing GMOs, because there are some genuinely valuable advances in the science. A new genetic modification for apples, for example, reduces food waste by preventing browning that can cause people to throw out perfectly good apples. Without the browning, the apples have a longer ...  More

"'Mostly a marketing tactic:' Nebraska Farm Bureau Foundation director provides guide to deciphering food labels", The Grand Island Independent (Nebraska), April 01, 2019

FDA Updating “Standards Of Identity” In Foods To Adjust For Healthful Ingredients

The FDA says it is modernizing the standards of identity for many food products so that they can be formulated to be healthier and still use the term that most consumers recognize. An example is cheddar cheese. Under current rules, a company that wants to reduce the sodium and add a sodium replacement, like potassium chloride, it can’t call it cheddar cheese. The FDA says it’s a major priority, but a big endeavour because there are 278 standards of identity and all have to be changed by the long process of rulemaking. The agency says it is exploring ways these can be done more broadly and across different standards in broad categories. It will reopen a comment period on a 2000 proposed rule modernizing the standards of identity.

"FDAs Nutrition Innovation Strategy pushes forward with updates to labeling, standards of identity", FDA Updating “Standards Of Identity” In Foods To Adjust For Healthful Ingredients, April 05, 2019

In Restaurants, The “Gluten-Free” Claim Is Problematic

Even tiny amounts of gluten in foods are troublesome for people with celiac disease, and restaurants may be the most difficult places to avoid the protein, according to a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology. More than half of gluten-free pizza and pasta dishes in restaurants, for example, tested positive for the presence of gluten; a third of supposedly gluten-free foods had detectable gluten. Researcher Benjamin Lebwohl used data uploaded by users of the portable device Nima Gluten Sensor, used by restaurants to test foods. The manufacturer supplied 5,624 food tests by 804 users over 18 months. The research showed 32 percent of tests revealed detectable gluten in dishes that were supposed to be gluten-free. Gluten-free pasta samples were positive in 51 percent of tests; gluten-free pizza contained gluten for 53 percent. 

"Gluten-free labeled food have presence of gluten, says new study", Big News Network, April 06, 2019

Meat Companies May Be Misleading Consumers By Claiming Products Are “Natural”

Although American consumers want “all-natural” meats – with no antibiotics, hormones, or preservatives – the USDA says that in meats and poultry “natural” only means no artificial ingredients and minimal processing. Major meat companies, meanwhile, are catering to consumer desires by claiming or implying in advertising that their products are natural. Those claims are legal, as long as they follow USDA guidelines, even if they mislead shoppers. That was basically the ruling of the D.C. Superior Court when on April 8 it dismissed a lawsuit by the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) alleging Hormel was misleading consumers. But in statements disclosed in the court filing, a Hormel executive said the same pigs it uses to make its famous Spam brand meat product are also used in Natural Choice pork products. Those pigs are often given antibiotics and are rarely allowed outdoors. An ALDF attorney said Hormel was engaged in “a massive attempt to manipulate and dupe the consumer to purchase ...  More

"Hormel lawsuit reveals that 'natural' meat might not be", Law.com, April 11, 2019

A La Mode Ice Cream Gets Rid Of All Artificial Flavors, Colors

Egg-free ice cream brand A La Mode of New York announced it is transitioning to all-natural ingredients while introducing a packaging update to the current upbeat and playful cartons, most notably including color changing spoons. The nut-, sesame- and egg-free line is being revamped with all-natural coloring and ingredients now available in pints and soon to be offered in cups and bars. The company also noted that its cartons will be fully recyclable in an effort to further A La Mode's mission to be fully sustainable.

"A La Mode Transitions Product to All Natural and Introduces 100 percent Recyclable, Unique Packaging Upgrade Nationwide", PR Newswire, April 26, 2019

Fast Food Restaurants Are Selling Roundup Herbicide With Their Entrees

Nonprofit foodservice industry watchdog GMO Free USA published a report detailing the results of food tests for glyphosate residue across fifteen popular fast food and casual restaurants in the U.S. A Panera Bread sample had the highest level of glyphosate of all 44 restaurant foods tested. The irony is that the company’s primary marketing claim is: "100 percent of our food is 100 percent clean." Other restaurants tested include Chili's Grill & Bar, Domino's Pizza, Dunkin' Donuts, IHOP, Le Pain Quotidien, McDonald's, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse, Papa John's, Pizza Hut, Pret a Manger, Subway, Taco Bell, and Whole Foods Market. Glyphosate has been linked to cancer, disturbances in the microbiome and the depletion of our bodies' ability to detoxify." A growing body of peer-reviewed science links glyphosate to numerous health harms at levels found in some restaurant foods tested. 

"Report Uncovers Prevalence of Glyphosate in Restaurant Foods", CSRwire , April 28, 2019

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