• Congress passed a bill amending the USDA's reformed nutrition guidelines for school lunches that were released in January. The recent bill preserves frozen pizza's status as a vegetable serving, justified by the tomato paste. In October, Congress passed another bill that overruled the USDA's recommended limit on the number of potato servings offered each week in school lunches. Meals served at schools must meet certain nutritional requirements, as recommended by the USDA and legislated by Congress.
  • President Obama signed the 2012 Agriculture Appropriations Act, which details discretionary spending for federal agricultural programs in the coming year. The Act cuts about a billion dollars in conservation program spending, including the Farm and Ranch Land Protection Program, the Environmental Quality Incentives Program, and various renewal energy programs. The SNAP (food stamps) program, export and crop subsidies, the Food Safety and Inspection Service, and FDA retained stable levels of funding from the last fiscal year.
  • McDonald's ended its contract with its egg supplier after undercover videos revealed animal cruelty at various processing plants. Five locations of Sparboe Farms, a Minnesota-based egg supplier, were implicated in multiple charges of animal mistreatment and abuse. The primary charge levied against the company is that the eggs were being produced in an unsanitary manner, where they "may have become contaminated with filth." The risk of salmonella contamination in its egg supply pushed McDonald's to drop the supplier. Sparboe's CEO was "shocked" by the videos.
  • Mayor Bloomberg's office recently launched a new website to share initiatives in effect to improve New Yorkers' diets and support local producers.
  • Bill Marler, a well-known foodborne illness lawyer, posted an interesting chart on his blog tracking the last two years in dairy-related illness. He tracks 53 outbreaks from January 2010 to November 2011. The vast majority of outbreaks were from legal dairy sales, including sales of raw milk and raw milk cheeses. The dozens of cases were comprised of primarily salmonella, E. coli, Campylobacter, and Listeria.

About the Author: A student in Providence, Rhode Island, Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her work is also featured in Rhode Island Monthly Magazine.


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