Nutella Tax; Healthier Snacks in Chicago Schools; Organic Labels

In Food Policy This Week: 5 News Bites

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


  • The French government has passed a law quadrupling the tax on palm oil, which is a primary ingredient in Nutella. This chocolate-hazelnut spread is one of the country's most beloved food items, and there has been widespread pushback against the tax. Government officials pushed the legislation through as an attempt to tackle rising obesity rates in the country. Officials insist that the tax will be levied on producers and will not impact consumers.
  • Chicago Public School officials passed a regulation to ban the sale of unhealthy beverages and snacks at schools across the city. Products that are sold in vending machines and in cafeteria snack lines must meet calorie, fat, and sodium limits. Organizations are discouraged from fundraising through bake sales. And milks in cafeterias must be skim, low-fat, or enriched soy/rice milks. Mayor Rahm Emanuel hopes that this initiative will improve health and food options for students across Chicago.
  • Beginning next year, organic producers will undergo periodic testing by USDA agents to ensure that they are maintaining organic practices. Under current regulations, manufacturers and growers of organic products are tested and inspected before being certified, but there is no required inspection to ensure that the products continue to meet organic standards over time. This new rule requires that inspectors check in on 5% of organic-certified producers each year. Hopefully this will incentivize producers to maintain a high organic standard.
  • In other organics news, a man who sold $6.5 million of wrongly-labeled organic fertilizer was sentenced to a year in prison earlier this month. Peter Townsley knowingly sold non-compliant organic fertilizer from 2000 to 2006, and duped both customers and industry regulators into thinking his fertilizer met organic fertilizer standards. Townsley will also pay a $125,000 fine and have three years of probation, six months of which will likely be spent volunteering on organic farms, as mandated by the court.
  • Livestock farmers from several states put pressure on the Environmental Protection Agency to reduce the required amount of corn ethanol in gasoline. This reaction was a result of extensive crop loss after the extreme drought this summer. Livestock farmers demanded that the EPA assist in the reallocation of corn to feed animals, rather than gasoline, as feed prices continue to rise as a result of the drought. The EPA, however, maintains that channeling corn into ethanol production has little to no impact on the price of corn feed, and they will uphold their gasoline standards for the foreseeable future.

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.