In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

A roundup of news clippings we're reading that affect the way we eat.

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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A rendering of Brightfarms in Brooklyn.

  • Over in the Sunset Park neighborhood of Brooklyn, the nation's first and largest hydroponic greenhouse rooftop is making New York the new model for urban agriculture. BrightFarms designs, finances, builds, and manages rooftop greenhouses for food retailers. This hydroponic greenhouse will produce leafy greens, herbs, tomatoes, peppers, and cucumbers with no chemical pesticides and a drastically reduced carbon footprint. They expect the first yield to happen in the spring of 2013.
  • This week, the FDA took a position on the issue of antibiotics in livestock feed. The agency implemented a voluntary regulation that rolls back antibiotic use for growth purposes, and also requires veterinary oversight for non-therapeutic antibiotic use. This is a good step forward and indicates that antibiotics in animal feed is an important issue to the FDA. However, the regulations are entirely voluntary and therefore could see limited response from the meat industry. As Tom Philpott points out, preventative antibiotics are still acceptable under the new regulations - meaning that animals could continue to receive treatment for diseases they have not yet contracted. It will be interesting to follow how industry practice changes according to this new regulation.
  • An undercover investigation conducted by the Humane Society for the United States revealed animal cruelty and filth at Kreiger Farms, one of the country's largest egg producers. Kreiger houses over 7 million laying hens at its four locations in Pennsylvania. HSUS observed hens crammed into tiny cages and deprived of water for days at a time. They are advocating for the Egg Products Inspection Act Amendments of 2012, which would give hens substantially more living and nesting room.

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  • A new bill in California, called the Homemade Food Act, would allow for some cottage food products to be sold legally to the public. Current laws require small business owners to produce food in a licensed kitchen and with rigorous permits; the new Act would allow cooks to sell certain products with as little as a safety training course and an official inspection. These products are deemed "non-hazardous", and include baked goods and pickles with a pH of under 4.6. Advocates are excited for the opportunities this new bill presents for job creation and encouraging competition in the cottage foods industry. But some food safety experts worry that circumventing food safety regulations will result in less sanitary practices and more sicknesses.
  • While not exactly policy-related, here's an interesting piece on the matzo industry. The unleavened bread consumed during the Jewish holiday of Passover, which ended last week, is theoretically purchased by only 2% of the American population during a one-week holiday. And yet two large companies, Streit's and Manischewitz, run a year-round business producing the stuff. The specific modes of production dictated by kosher law necessitate a different company culture than a typical business might.

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

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