In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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

Debunking the Saturated Fat Myth, McDonald's Pays Up, and More in Food Policy This Week

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[Photograph: Wikipedia]

McDonald's Settlement in New York to Repay Workers $500,000

Restaurant workers' wages have been the topic of much debate in the last several months, especially thanks to the work of Low Pay is Not OK and other non-profit organizations. Now it seems like that high-profile debate is having an impact. A recent lawsuit against seven branches of McDonald's in New York settled for $500,000 in backpay to workers who were refused pay for overtime hours. More than 1,600 current and former employees will receive compensation. This case is just one of many lawsuits and protests brewing against McDonald's franchises in other parts of the country, as well as a factor in the national conversation about whether or not to raise the minimum wage.

Profile of Dairy Industry Reveals the Machinery Behind Your Milk

An in-depth report from Modern Farmer provides a look into the modern dairy industry. The piece covers the industrialization of dairying throughout the twentieth century, and contains pictures and quotes from milk producers of various sizes. The piece is, refreshingly, less an expose than an informative look at where and how your milk is being processed and packaged. The article presents both small and larger-scale producers with relative neutrality, and highlights that even down-home brands like Ronnybrook Farm in New York still source milk from several different farms and have sterile, factory-like environments for packaging their products. Even when there's not a dirty story to tell, learning the ins and outs of industrial food production is important for understanding where and who our food is coming from.

Saturated Fat May Not Be As Unhealthy As We Thought

We've long known that saturated fat is bad for us, and everything from the USDA dietary guidelines to our doctor's wagging finger tell us we should avoid it. But why? The wariness of saturated fat stems from research in the 1960s that linked saturated fat to an increased risk of heart disease. But in the past few decades of nutritional research, this link has become less and less conclusive. In fact, most research has shown almost no connection between saturated fat consumption and heart disease. This revelation is causing some experts to reconsider saturated fat-restrictive dietary guidelines. But that doesn't mean doubling your French fry intake —it's the saturated fats from oils, nuts, and dairy products that are a healthy source of necessary fatty acids.

Drought Sparks Water Rights Conversations Across Western U.S.

We've heard about how drought is affecting agriculture and access to water in California. But ongoing drought is also having impacts on other western states. From Colorado to Arizona to Texas, disputes over water rights are going to court. Lack of water is pitting farmers against corporations and city dwellers. Water rights have always been an issue in these regions, but as drought persists, lawns and factories are often prioritized over irrigation. Such situations often lead to bitter political battles, both in court and at the ballot box. Water attorneys are gearing up for a boom in business, while farmers hope the rains pick up again soon.

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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