In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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

Kosher Restaurants; Farm Bill Update; Food Waste

  • In Israel, kosher restaurants are certified by Orthodox Jews, as required by the government. (This regulation is in contrast to kosher certification in the U.S., which is performed by private groups of rabbis.) Some restaurants in Israel are protesting the status quo because they claim that kosher certifiers have become corrupt and are accepting bribes for services. The argument exposes deeper divides between secular and religious Israelis, whose interests and demands are often at odds in political issues.
  • Marion Nestle provides an update on the progress of the 2012 Farm Bill. The Farm Bill expired on September 30th and was set to be renewed. However, the House and Senate never agreed on a version of the bill. Several programs of the Bill have lapsed and are causing difficulties for farmers. Nestle offers three options for moving forward with the bill - pass a new bill before January 1, rewrite the bill after the "fiscal cliff", or vote to extend the 2008 bill through 2013. Congress' decision will affect the lives of millions of farmers as well as participants in SNAP and other nutrition programs.
  • A new report from the Food and Environment Reporting Network discusses the impact that fracking has on our food supply. Fracking, a process of natural gas extraction, has already been found to contaminate soil and water supplies with toxic chemicals. Elizabeth Royte's report revels that significant amounts of these toxic chemicals have also been found in meat and milk supplied from fracking areas. Animals may not appear sick even if they produce contaminated product, making it hard to trace damaging toxins.
  • Environmentalists and foodies alike are bringing more attention to food waste generated by restaurants. Restaurants generally waste about 10% of the food they buy, and rarely do they have compost systems to make good use of that waste. Food waste accounts for 15% of landfill trash in the U.S. Its environmental impact extends beyond the landfill, as food rots and generates methane gas that is harmful to the atmosphere. But changing behaviors in the restaurant industry is difficult, given employees' already challenging workloads and owners' limited time.
  • The FDA exercised its authority to close down production at an organic peanut butter plant in New Mexico. A recent salmonella outbreak was tracked to Sunland Inc.'s processing plant, which produces organic peanut butter for Trader Joe's, as well as other peanut and nut products. Inspectors found traces of salmonella in almost 30 locations throughout the plant. In this inspection and in prior inspections in the past four years, there were reports of numerous health and safety violations. The company must give a hearing before the FDA before reopening.

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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