August 14, 2020
Friday by Noon:
Watching What We Eat
Discussions of food production have been less focused over the past seven days, but a few themes emerged in August:
- A rash of recalls spurred attention to food safety.
- Breakfast boosted or battered businesses.
- Prognosticators issued the latest harvest predictions.
“Breakfast is the Rodney Dangerfield of meals — the least respected, most skipped, and most rushed meal of the day.”Tom Vierhile, Institute of Food Technologists
What Not to Eat
Recent produce and meat recalls prompted government agencies to take action and alerted both consumers and food companies to potential risks.
- CDC warned on August 13, “Do not eat, serve, or sell recalled onions from Thomson International, Inc., or food made with these onions.” The company issued a recall on August 1, but a related outbreak of Salmonella Newport has sickened 640 people across 43 states.
- Food Safety News reported that Wegman’s supplier Freshouse II recalled lemons, limes, oranges and potatoes after a routine plant inspection found Listeria monocytogenes contamination on some equipment. No illnesses have been reported.
- Misbranding and undeclared allergens caused FSIS to issue an alert on 200,000 pounds of meat and poultry products from Mr. Wok Foods, Inc.
- The WHO called for advice from internationally recognized experts to update its global food safety strategy over the next two years (Food Safety News).
- The National Farmers Union, National Young Farmers Coalition and Cornell University collaborated on practical and profitable on-farm food safety strategies.
Breaking Down Breakfast Norms
Alternately held as the most important or the most skippable meal of the day, breakfast earned a spot in influential conversations this month.
- General Mills shared survey results: “With the pandemic shaking up usual morning routines, 73% of U.S. families with school-aged children now report they have been able to spend more time together as a family before starting their work or school day.”
- In its August member magazine, the Institute of Food Technologists examined research and highlighted new products competing for a spot in morning meals.
- Business Insider reported that a reduction in commuters has tanked breakfast sales at Starbucks, Dunkin’ and McDonald’s.
- Meanwhile, Wendy’s doubled down on its expansion into breakfast (Nation’s Restaurant News). After all, where else can you get a Breakfast Baconator?
- Fooling nobody, Kraft Heinz declared macaroni and cheese to be a breakfast food (ABC). We remember Kickstart, Mountain Dew’s breakfast soda.
As several commodity crops approach the end of their growing seasons, farmers are trying to get a sense of what their bottom lines will look like.
- On August 12, USDA published crop estimates projecting a record corn harvest and near-record soybean harvest this year. Bumper crops often translate to low feed prices for livestock.
- Reuters covered how the pandemic and projections factor into farmers’ finances, noting that rising exports could offset the supply glut.
- On August 10, a vicious derecho storm damaged 10 million acres (roughly one-third) of Iowa’s farmland (Des Moines Register). Mainstream media coverage has been light, but the damage is horrendous.
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
Fast Company highlighted efforts by a coalition of restaurant owners, including David Chang, Danny Meyer and Tom Colicchio, to push New York legislatures to adopt a “Safe and Just Reopening” plan. The plan is designed to provide immediate financial relief and address “long-standing racial inequities.” Specifically, the plan suggested ending pooled tips, eliminating the tipped minimum wage and providing tax relief for the restaurant business.
Old MacDonald Posted His V-I-D-E-Os
The New York Times dove into the latest farm product on the market: YouTube videos. Writer Ellen Barry noted that, for a handful of farmers, an online presence can be more lucrative than farming itself: “It is a paradox that the less financially viable small farming becomes, the more that Americans want to experience it firsthand.”
The Whole (Grain) Truth
Academics from Tufts University and NYU published research on August 10 that found consumers are confused by “whole grain” labels. Study co-author Jennifer Pomeranz explained, “When it comes to deceptive labels, ‘whole grain’ claims are among the worst. Even people with advanced degrees cannot figure out how much whole grain is in these products.”
Tastes Bad, But Looks GREAT
Eater described cloud bread, the latest viral food trend to hit TikTok, as “prettier than it is tasty, the fluffy meringue-like bread is often dyed with food coloring and flavored with vanilla or strawberry to fit into the app’s popular #cottagecore aesthetic.” The egg-based bread does not appear to be new, with reports it first appeared in the 1970s with the advent of the Atkins diet.
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