Programming note: Friday by Noon will be on hiatus next week, returning Friday, August 5. And yes, by noon.

It was a hot week of asking questions, poking holes and drawing conclusions about the world of food, beverage and agriculture.

  • Trend-watchers recapped consumer purchase decisions.
  • Congress moved to revamp food safety oversight.
  • Heat waves stressed crops and farmworkers worldwide.

Now Trending

Everything, from a continued focus on health and well-being to a generational shift in preferences, is driving emerging consumer food trends. Halfway through the year always marks a good time to check in on the latest, along with predictions for 2023.

  • Purdue University’s June Consumer Food Insights survey saw the Sustainable Food Purchase Index reach its highest level yet. Digging deeper into how age impacts consumer food behaviors, the survey also discovered that younger generations are more likely to consider environmental and social issues when purchasing food compared with older generations (Jayson Lusk).
  • Following the “pandemic baking” trend, consumers are now feeling cooking fatigue, according to FMI’s U.S. Grocery Shopper Trends 2022: Future Outlook report. Only 19% of consumers said they loved cooking, which was down from 23% in 2021.
  • The Wall Street Journal revealed that up until the mid-1800s, a traditional American belief was that adding ice to beverages was unhealthy. The advent of refrigeration helped Americans quickly overcome “a prejudice that dated back to ancient times.”
  • The International Dairy Deli Bakery Association’s June marketplace report found that “96% of primary shoppers say they are paying somewhat or a lot more for groceries than they did last year.”
  • Food Ingredients First reported “a growing trend for fats that work well in plant-based and alternative protein based foods.” Fats and oils experts also predict strong growth in keto formulations as consumers continue to “become more savvy about their health and well-being.”
  • Food Business News shared 2023 trends as predicted by food trend intelligence group Spoonshot, which included plant-based seafood alternatives, plant-based products with simpler ingredients, and food and beverages with psychoactive substances. Groovy.
  • Eater noted that restaurants are shifting away from minimalist menus in favor of descriptive copy and more information, with some in the industry citing “a generational shift in the way we inform consumers.”

FDA: Irregulatory Administration

Back in April, Politico published an investigation into the FDA’s failure to act on critical food issues. (Check out the April 15 edition of Friday by Noon for a full explainer.) Since then, criticism of the agency has gained momentum, with many influential voices labeling the agency ineffective and even calling for new federal oversight of food safety and regulation.

  • After denouncing the FDA, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-Conn.) on July 12 proposed a new agency — the Food Safety Administration — under the Department of Health and Human Services.
  • The proposed agency would “protect the public health by ensuring the safety of food, preventing foodborne illness, maintaining safety reviews and reassessments of food additives, enforcing pesticide residue tolerances, improving the surveillance of foodborne pathogens, and for other purposes.”
  • Agri-Pulse explained the so-called Food Safety Administration Act, quoting Rep. DeLauro: “Right now, there are no food policy experts in charge of food safety at the FDA. That is unacceptable and contributes to a string of product contaminations and subsequent recalls that disrupt the supply chain.”
  • On July 14, Food Safety News reporter Coral Beach summarized the support of this proposal from several public action groups that were especially critical of FDA’s handling of the recent cronobacter outbreak in infant formula.
  • At a July 20 Senate Appropriations subcommittee, FDA Commissioner Robert Califf said that the agency’s food safety personnel were “working in a sub-optimal environment that needs to be reformed” and promised “a full review” of the agency’s food safety operations. (Food Processing)
  • Opposition to the move is scarce, but the comments section of Meatingplace’s summary provides a taste of anti “big government” and “this will never work.”

“The sad reality is that FDA seems unwilling or unable to use their authority to protect Americans from preventable illness and death.”

Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) (press release)

Hot Takes

With the dog days of summer upon us, heat waves are taking a toll on food production. The U.S. is not alone in feeling the heat, adding to existing worries about global food price pressures.

  • The Scoop explained that the combination of a late planting season and record-setting heat across the Great Plains could stymie corn pollination and reduce yield.
  • Grist writer Kate Yoder cataloged the global phenomenon of “heatflation.” With crops in Europe, China and Japan all suffering, prices for staple crops continue to climb.
  • After President Biden announced funding on July 20 to tackle climate change, the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition suggested that funds could “enable farmers, farmworkers, and rural residents to access funds that can help finance safe locations to which [they can] retreat during weather emergencies.”
  • Also on July 20, Sen. Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Rep. Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Natural Resource Defense Council and union representatives called for national workplace heat stress standards.

Worth Reading

Taste the Toxic Rainbow

On July 19, Fast Company detailed the “Skittles lawsuit,” which alleges the colorful candy contains a toxin “unfit for human consumption.” The class-action suit filed last week in Northern California involves titanium dioxide, which is used to enhance the candy’s color, and mentions that Mars, Inc. committed to eliminate artificial colors from its products in 2016. By contrast, pet retailers such as Petco have banned the substance from its stores.

Golden Architecture

Eater highlighted several curiosities that undermine one’s ability to judge a restaurant by its façade: “Some architectural designs of fast-food giants are unforgettable … It’s this highly visual appeal that makes it so noticeable when new restaurant owners take over fast-food joints and transform them into different restaurants while keeping the iconic structures intact.”

Sniffing for Food Safety

Feedstuffs summarized how more than 50 agriculture, trade and veterinary groups signed a letter supporting national funding for what’s commonly known as the “Beagle Brigade.” This is a team of dogs and handlers highly trained to “sniff out prohibited agricultural items that could carry foreign plant pests or animal diseases into our country.”

Crime Channels

Heather Haddon and Jaewon Kang from The Wall Street Journal reported on rising crime at restaurants and grocery stores, which is forcing operators to hire security, close stores and limit hours. The article referenced a July FMI report: “About 72% of 18 food retailers representing over 12,000 stores surveyed by FMI said they have plans in place to deal with violence prevention, while 88% said they are ready to deal with robberies.”