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Food Policy Health Plant-Based

NYC’s ‘Green New Deal’ Drastically Cuts Meat Bought For Public Programs

New York City is making historic moves in efforts to make their city both healthier and a better contributor to fighting climate change.

As part of their OneNYC 2050 initiative announced today, the city plans to make drastic cuts in the meat it purchases. That food, which is used for public schools, hospitals, prisons, and other such meal programs, is being replaced to improve health in these areas.

According to the New York City report, all beef purchases for these programs will be cut by 50%, while processed meat purchases will be eliminated altogether. Their explanation for choosing these meats over poultry and pork are as follows:

“Beef has a relatively high environmental footprint compared to poultry, pork, and plant-based foods. Beef cattle, managing manure, and manufacturing fertilizer produces nitrous oxide and methane, two climate-warming pollutants 298 and 25 times more powerful than carbon dioxide, respectively. Processed meat consumption is linked with increased risk of cancer and is often high in saturated fat and sodium which is linked with heart disease. This policy would offer health benefits to the most vulnerable New Yorkers.”

These new policies are some of the most drastic in food policy history. While it does not ban beef or processed meats in the city (private companies can still sell it), it takes a huge step forward in the fight against climate change. By extending it to public programs like schools, hospitals, and prisons, it also ensures that a lot more people in the city get access to more nutritious meals.

Right now, there’s a lot of talking news about meat substitutes like Impossible Foods and Beyond Meat that can be used to replicate beef and other animal products for environmental and sustainability purposes. While New York doesn’t explicitly say they’ll change to those, what they’re doing is the policy equivalent of what these plant-based purveyors are trying to accomplish.

New York City will put these practices into effect through updates to their Environmentally Preferable Purchasing (EPP) program, as well as through executive action. Other new policies include phasing out single-use plastic foodware and cutting the city’s greenhouse gas emissions by 30 percent over the next 10 years.

Categories
Food Policy Grocery

Why Expiration Dates On Food Labels Don’t Matter As Much As You Think

Photo: Shutterstock // Eldar Nurkovic

Turns out, you’ve been throwing away perfectly good food.

I used to take expiration dates very seriously. I froze my ground beef before the “Use By” date and if my milk’s “Best If Used By” date was yesterday, I’d toss it. The boxed stuffing mix that expired last month? In the garbage. But after researching the different types of “expiration” labels, I learned that food actually lasts longer than I thought. (But these foods last forever.)

According to the United States Department of Agriculture, food expiration dates refer to food quality, not food safety. Federal regulations do not require that expiration dates be put on meat, poultry, eggs, dairy, cans and boxed foods (baby formula is the only product that requires an expiration date). They are added as a helpful guide to consumers and retailers. Here are the three most common labels:

  • Best if Used By – This date suggests when a product will be at peak quality. It will still be safe to consume after that date, but the flavor and texture quality will start to go down.
  • Use By – This date is usually found on more perishable items, like meat. It’s still okay to consume the product for a short period after the date, but don’t wait too long.
  • Sell By – This date tells retailers when the product should be off the shelves. Sales are one way grocery stores try to get older inventory into consumers’ carts, and it’s usually pretty effective.

“Use by” dates are a great guide for people like you and me, but it comes at a price. A USDA report states that Americans waste about 30% of food every year. Part of that is because we follow expiration dates too closely and end up throwing out perfectly good food. It’s such a shame. Luckily, we can change.

Use your best judgment to determine whether or not food should be tossed. Instead of looking at the date, look at the actual food. Does the color look right? Is the odor funky? Has the texture changed? Knowing what food is supposed to look, smell, and feel like is a life skill we all should know. It will stop you from eating food that’s gone bad and it will prevent you from tossing food too early.

Even More Expiration Date Articles:

  1. The Secret Meaning Behind the Numbers on Your Egg Carton
  2. The Secret Meaning Behind the Color of Your Bread Bag’s Twist Tie
  3. Here’s How Long Your Fresh Produce Will Really Last
  4. Foods You Never Knew Had an Expiration Date
  5. Here’s How Long Your Milk REALLY Lasts

Related Links:


Article by Emily Racette Parulski for Taste of Home. View the original article here.

Categories
Culture Food Policy News

Restaurants In Austin Can No Longer Throw Away Excess Food By Law

The city of Austin, Texas is pushing forward the food waste narrative by forcing its entire restaurant industry to get creative with its excess food.

Photo: Peter Pham // Foodbeast

KXAN reports that restaurants in the city are now barred from tossing their excess food in the trash at the end of each night. It’s part of the city’s new Universal Recycling Ordinance, which is part of a Zero Waste initiative that Austin hopes to complete by 2040.

A lot of waste coming from the city’s businesses fell into the “organic materials” category, which included food, based on a previous study. Thus, Austin was looking for ways to cut down the waste.

It also means that restaurants will have to get creative with what they do with their food. They can donate the food, compost it, or give it to local farms, giving them a variety of options to deal with the leftovers.

Many potential solutions have been developed on a global scale for what’s going on in Austin right now. Food hackers have developed apps that allow restaurants to declare excess food, meaning that food banks or individuals looking for something to eat can then head to that spot to pick it up.

An app like that would definitely be useful for Austin’s food community, and help create a solution that combats food waste and feeds the hungry at the same time. Considering that the US throws out enough food to feed nearly the entire country, we’re going to need more of those to combat that massive issue in the years to come. Austin could be a great testing grounds for that technology as a result.

Categories
Food Policy Grocery Packaged Food

The FDA Was Just Petitioned To Ban Non-GMO Labeling

The question of genetically engineered foods, non-GMO branding, and their labeling was thought to have been put to bed a couple of years ago. Congress passed a law requiring the labeling of “GMO foods,” which will likely need to display a BE or “bioengineered” label by 2020. Should be all said and done, right?

While that was the case initially, a new citizen’s petition to the FDA has opened up that can of worms once again. This time, folks are asking for non-GMO labels to be banned on food.

fdaPhoto: Foodbeast // Peter Pham

For those wondering, non-GMO labels like the one above are done by “third party verifiers” and NOT by the FDA. The government has no qualms with these right now, but that may change based on the new petition filed by the Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF).

According to Food Dive, ITIF’s petition claims that these non-GMO labels are “false and misleading” because they make a product appear healthier than those that contain bioengineered/GMO ingredients. Scientifically, this has been proven time and time again to not be the case, so ITIF feels that the non-GMO markings construe misbranding, making them illegal under FDA jurisdiction.

ITIF may have scientific sounding in their argument, but experts do not expect the FDA to accept their petition. The food industry has backed companies like the non-GMO project that create these label markings and claims, which weakens their case. Furthermore, one could argue that the phrase “non-GMO” is permissible under the free speech clause of the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. Unless the FDA deems that to be “commercial speech” that has less protections, the phrase would be legal.

By law, the FDA has 180 days to respond to the petitioners and decide whether or not to make such a bold claim when it comes to non-GMO labeling. If they accept the petition, it would likely come with a regulation or new law from Congress that would ban the phrase “non-GMO” and similar verbages, a huge blow to advocates of those who want consumers to know if their foods contain genetically engineered ingredients or not.

Categories
Food Policy Grocery Products Toasty

Your Edible’s CBD Content May Be Mislabeled, This Is How To Ensure It’s Accurate

Photo: SurFerGiRL30 on Flickr, CC 4.0

The recent wave of marijuana legalization in different parts of the US has spawned a growth of cannabinoid-infused products. Whether it be from hemp or marijuana itself, these CBD products have begun to integrate themselves into food as they gain consumer acceptance.

What’s concerning today, though, is that often times, the actual CBD content within these edibles may be inaccurate.

Recent research puts the mislabeled cannabinoid edibles purchased online at a staggering 70%, making it a major issue for the industry. It’s one of the flaws of a rapidly growing sector whose legal boundaries aren’t yet fully established, according to Robert Di Marco, CEO of Boulder Botanical & Bioscience Labs.

“The problem that you have is that there are no labeling requirements,” diMarco says. “The industry is wide open.”

According to Di Marco, the FDA is trying to create guidelines for the CBD industry when it comes to labeling, but right now, products are highly susceptible to fraud. That’s not the only issue, though, as the chemical structure of cannabinoids means that it’s hard to get an accurate reading on potency. Thus, a product you purchase at a dispensary may have a totally different CBD content from what the label says.

“There’s no standardized methodology for testing,” Di Marco states, “so labs get false readings. You might have one that shows a potency of 10 percent, and another that claims it’s 6 percent. It causes a lot of issues, not only with improper labeling, but with someone thinking they’re taking one dosage and it’s actually another.”

An extreme example that Di Marco gave was with a national brand that recently came to his company for testing. The extract they wanted to use for their edibles claimed to have a significant CBD content on the label, but his lab found the actual content to be zero. Since you’re paying a premium for that extra cannabinoid dosage, for an extract to contain none is shocking for both the producer and consumer.

Since this discrepancy often occurs at the production level, it may prove difficult in figuring out just how much CBD is in the edible you want to buy. There are a couple of ways you can confirm CBD content, however, although neither are a surefire guarantee yet.

“Consumers can request from the manufacturer a certificate of accuracy (CoA) to ensure that the potency is accurate and that there is a correct dosage,” Di Marco says. “A lot of companies actually have websites you can go to and you can see the CoA right there. All you have to do is type in the lot number, which should be on the label.”

“If the package doesn’t have that,” he added, “stop right there. That’s the number one sign that this is a small business and an unscrupulous operation.”

For those looking to verify the cannabinoids in their edibles, so far, these are the methods to rely on. The lists aren’t always complete, however, and not everybody has all of the certificates you want for that level of confirmation.

One place consumers can rest assured, though, is with larger, national brands that produce CBD products. Di Marco states that these companies all conduct rigorous in-house testing and self-regulate themselves, meaning that potency readings will be about as accurate as you can get when it comes to labeling. Smaller companies that are just getting started, however, may run into several of these issues as they lack that capability in testing.

Eventually, as the FDA gets a grip on CBD regulations and develops procedures, this will change, Di Marco says. Then, it could be possible for databases to exist that can call up the content on demand, through something like a QR code on the label. Until then, though, we are still living in a partial cloud of dubious information when it comes to CBD-infused edibles.

Categories
Animals Food Policy Food Trends Products Science

Missouri Becomes The First State To Ban Vegans From Calling Meat Alternatives ‘Meat’

It’s only been a few months since France’s controversial ban on how meat alternatives could be marketed was enacted. Their new law prevents companies from describing something as “meat” that’s predominantly made from plants.

Other factions have taken the opportunity to jump on board with what France is doing, including Missouri, who just became the first U.S. state to impose a similar, more overarching ban.

vegan meat banPhoto: Peter Pham // Foodbeast

Missouri’s new law, which was passed in mid-May and takes effect today, forbids “misrepresenting a product as meat that is not derived from harvested livestock or poultry.” That includes cultured or lab-grown meats on top of those that are predominantly plants. Those who violate the law can be fined up to $1,000 or imprisoned for up to 1 year, according to USA Today.

The language within the new law means that any vegan form of meat can’t be called as such anymore. Titles like vegan meatballs, plant-based bacon, or even lab-grown beef are no longer legal in Missouri, meaning that if those companies want to sell their products there, they have to be renamed if they violate the law.

Behind the law is the Missouri Cattleman’s Association, who backed the bill with reasonings that include protecting local ranchers and preventing customer confusion when shopping.

Interestingly, beef has actually been on an upswing in recent years despite the prevalence of plant-based products. The USDA predicts a record 222.2 pounds of beef and poultry will be consumed by each person in 2018, a number that hasn’t been this high since 2004. It’s also improbable that there’s a ton of consumer confusion when it comes to labeling, as companies clearly state whether their “meat” products are made from plants or not.

Plant-based producers aren’t going quietly in this battle, though, as Tofurky and The Good Food Institute (a plant-based advocacy group) have already launched a lawsuit against the state, saying that the law is an attack on their freedom of speech and commercial speech. They also claim that Missouri’s new legislation is unconstitutional for that reason.