November 3, 2023
Chillin’ and Illin’
Programming note: Friday by Noon will return November 17.
In major news, seasonal changes in eating trends tempered divisive industry issues like worker custody and raw milk safety. For human interest, scroll down to the Worth Reading section for interesting tidbits on searching for restaurants and extreme carbo-loading. Note: those are separate tidbits.
- Pathogens continued their campaign against digestive comfort.
- The Biden administration revived an old battle over who’s in charge of workers.
- Fall weather sparked a change in food trends beyond PSL.
“Technology is a tool. If I have a hammer, I can fix my neighbor’s roof or I can break his window. It’s the purpose, not the tool, that we need to focus on.”Tamar Haspel, columnist, The Washington Post
Bugs in the System
Last week, we noticed a number of stories regarding unwelcome ingredients in food and beverages. From potentially poisonous levels of lead to potentially nauseating bacteria, there’s been significant focus on FDA issues, and even the FDA itself.
- The Associated Press reported that North Carolina health officials analyzed various lots of WanaBana kids’ fruit puree pouches and detected “extremely high” lead concentrations. The FDA warned the levels could result in “acute toxicity.”
- The Washington Post described an outbreak of Salmonella poisoning from tainted bags of diced onions that spanned 22 states, sickening 73 and leading to 15 hospitalizations. The outlet further explained aspects of Salmonella, from causes to symptoms to what people can do to prevent the infection.
- In three separate stories, Food Safety News reported on the hazards of raw milk: causing Salmonella recalls; linking it to 14 illnesses in Utah; and covering Campylobacter infections in Idaho. We get the distinct notion they are not fans of the beverage.
- An unusual consortium of public health groups, consumer advocates, regulators and food industry representatives have joined together as the FDA Food Coalition to advocate for modernizing the FDA in an effort to decrease diet-related diseases and prevent foodborne illness outbreaks. Consumer Reports writes that the coalition aims to push FDA on eight specific policy points.
Who’s the Boss?
On October 26, the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) published a final rule on how it defines joint employers. The new rule means that brands are more likely to be on the hook for worker-related policies at franchised or third-party locations — easing union negotiations and opening the door for lawsuits.
- The highest-profile fight over the rule began in 2012 when unions — which sought higher worker wages — complained that McDonald’s exercised control over workforce policies at franchise locations. The burger chain settled the claim without accepting joint employer status, but legal disputes continued until April 2022 (Bloomberg).
- The NLRB’s updated rule “considers the alleged joint employers’ authority to control essential terms and conditions of employment, whether or not such control is exercised, and without regard to whether any such exercise of control is direct or indirect.”
- The National Restaurant Association objected: “This new definition of Joint Employer will create chaos and legal questions across the restaurant industry. … This dramatically increases the liability risks of the franchisor-franchisee relationship, as well as service providers and third-party companies.”
- The National Retail Federation called the rule “unclear, unnecessary and harmful” and the National Grocers Association worried that labor shortages mean the rule puts grocers “at risk of heightened liability and labor costs that are particularly burdensome in an industry with historically slim profit margins.”
- Unions welcomed the rule, with AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler stating: “The right to collectively bargain is nonexistent if the company that has the power to change workers’ terms and conditions of employment isn’t negotiating with workers.”
Chilly ‘n’ Trendy
Fall is in the air, and in the food trends. With the pumpkin spice hype in the rear view mirror (maybe), the latest food trend discussions focus on things like Thanksgiving and chili recipes, while looking forward to celebrating the holiday season.
- A chill in the air and chili in your pot | The New York Times
- GPFS Education Festival 2023: Taking stock of talent, trends, and technology in fresh produce | Fresh Produce
- Thanksgiving turkey gets outshined by sides: survey | Progressive Grocer
- ezCater shares ‘State of the Sandwich’ report for National Sandwich Day | Supermarket Perimeter
- A brief guide to buying champagne | Eater
- FMI sees positive growth in private labels | Food Business News
- ’Tis the season for holiday drinks at Starbucks, Dunkin’ | Axios (too soon)
What’s Good This Week? Taco Bell Helps Food Cart Vendors.
Over its 60-year history, street vendors have inspired the Taco Bell menu. This week, the chain collaborated with Los Angeles-based Revolution Carts to provide 20 Latino entrepreneurs in Southern California with health permit-compliant food carts (Nation’s Restaurant News). Taco Bell also committed to helping the street vendors handle permitting issues, financing and equipment access.
Ten for Tamar
Tamar Haspel’s most recent column in The Washington Post served as a retrospective on her 10 years writing about the intersection of food and science. She offers a list of 10 things she’s been persuaded to be true. On biotechnology: “Technology is a tool. If I have a hammer, I can fix my neighbor’s roof or I can break his window. It’s the purpose, not the tool, that we need to focus on.” On carbs: “Low-carb diets outperform other diets by a few pounds in the short term, but all diets are equally ineffective in the long term.” Pro tip: Every column from Tamar is worth reading.
For the past decade, we have hailed protein as the most-discussed and most-lauded macronutrient. But Outside offered a different perspective on carbs, the macro of choice for world tour pro cyclists: “From the front to the back of the peloton, riders are now crushing 100-120 grams (roughly 1/4 lb) of carbohydrate per hour. That’s almost twice what they might have managed a decade ago. It’s the carbo-equivalent of a 12 oz can of Coca Cola every 20 minutes, or more than two cups of cooked white rice per hour.”
To the relief of billions of humans (not including professional cyclists), scientists in the Philippines have discovered the genes behind “ultra-low” glycemic index rice. Food Ingredients First reported: “The findings aim to give diabetic consumers the freedom to eat rice without the high insulin spikes that usually follow its consumption. … Three of the world’s four most populous nations have rice as their staple — India, China and Indonesia — constituting over 3 billion people, which makes the discovery’s impact significant.”
Gaming the Algorithm
The Verge described a trend in naming restaurants: googleability. “Thai Food Near Me is a small but powerful symbol of Google’s far-reaching impact on businesses over the past two decades and the lengths their owners will go to try to optimize their operations for the company’s platforms.”
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