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Who's Who in Organics, Soda Warnings, and More in Food Policy This Week

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Photograph: Phil Howard

Chart Shows Who Owns Who in the Organic Industry

Professor Phil Howard of Michigan State University is known for his complex infographics displaying corporate ownership in the food industry. He recently updated his map of the top 100 food processors in the organic industry to reflect new acquisitions and deals. The map may be eye-opening for those unaware that many crunchy-seeming organic brands—like Kashi, Honest Tea, and Cascadian Farm—are in fact owned by enormous corporations—Kellogg's, Coca-Cola, and General Mills, respectively. Recent changes to the map include WhiteWave's acquisition of Earthbound Farm for $600 million and Coca-Cola's purchase of a 10% stake in Green Mountain Coffee for $1.25 billion.

First-Ever Proposal in California to Add Warning Labels to Soda

California has been one of the epicenters of the debate surrounding soda taxes and regulation over the past few years. Now, State Sen. Bill Monning (D-Carmel), in partnership with the California Medical Association, has proposed a bill that would require sugar-sweetened beverages in California to display a warning label. Similar to the warning on packs of cigarettes, the label would inform consumers that overconsumption of sugary beverages has been linked to long-term health outcomes such as obesity, diabetes, and tooth decay. Predictably, the bill is opposed by CalBev, the state arm of the American Beverage Association, which represents Coca-Cola, Pepsi-Cola Co., and the Dr. Pepper-Snapple Group.

GMO Industry Representatives Seek Voluntary Labeling

Remember when various consumer groups sought mandatory labeling of products that contain genetically-modified organisms? Those initiatives failed, but many consumers still want more information about the ingredients in packaged food. So food industry representatives, along with farmers, seed companies, and others invested in GMO products are asking the FDA for voluntary labeling standards. Sound selfless? There's two sides to every story. The Coalition for Safe and Affordable Food is hoping that these voluntary standards will prevent any states from passing mandatory labeling requirements in the future. Depending on your stance on GMO's, this move may be long overdue or simply backroom politics as usual.

Presence of Fresh Produce Doesn't Eliminate Food Deserts

Several reports over the last few months have questioned the impact of increased access to fruits and vegetables on food deserts, or areas with poor food access. While programs promising to replenish produce stands in low-income communities are often lauded and funded, critics contend these programs have a much lower impact than public praise would suggest. The mere presence of fruits and vegetables doesn't change the economic situation of local residents, who may not have the money to purchase those products, and consumption of produce doesn't necessarily have a demonstrable impact on weight loss. So why do these programs persist? Well, for one thing, access to healthy food is a cause that many across the political spectrum can get behind. Hopefully ongoing critique will present the opportunity for a more nuanced approach to healthy food access.

About the Author: Leah Douglas loves learning about, talking about, reading about, and consuming food. Her other work can be found at her website, and you can follow her on Twitter @leahjdouglas.

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