As students count down the days ‘til summer, conversation around school meals picked up on a few fronts. Other prominent conversations overlapped with this trend as well.

  • Nutrition, labeling and safety provided a triple battleground for milk and its alternatives.
  • The World Health Organization warned against non-sugar sweeteners.
  • Foodservice gained momentum after the crushing impact of the pandemic.

Udderly Contentious

Milk is in the news. White, flavored, raw, unpasteurized, plant-based, ultra-filtered, whatever: it’s been debated lately. Who knew milk could stir so much controversy?

  • Vegan activist group Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine filed suit against Los Angeles Unified School District and the USDA on behalf of LAUSD senior Marielle Williamson for allegedly violating her First Amendment right to distribute information at school about plant-based dairy alternatives (The Patch LA). The Animal Legal Defense Fund called the school’s actions “dietary racism.”
  • In another divisive issue, The Week described the debate over flavored milk in schools. The USDA is considering banning flavored milk to curb elementary and middle-school sugar consumption.
  • USA Today interviewed a University of Washington dietitian to weigh the pros and cons of almond “milk” to reveal … not much. The article admits that any milk alternative needs to “fortify” with nutrients to compete with the real thing.
  • Food Ingredients First summarized backlash the EU parliament faced with its vote against plant-based milk alternatives in schools. “ProVeg [an activist group] says the vote is a missed opportunity to improve human, environmental and animal welfare standards in the EU.”
  • On May 16, Food Safety News reluctantly shared the news that Iowa farmers can now sell raw, unpasteurized milk directly to consumers. Two days later, the same publication reported several E. coli infections in France caused by fermented raw milk. We’ve witnessed this folly multiple times. Raw milk is never a good idea.
  • Finally, a national brand of cow milk continued to gain momentum. Food Processing described Fairlife’s planned state-of-the art facility near Rochester, New York. This will allow the Coca-Cola brand to “significantly increase capacity and deliver Fairlife to even more households across the country,” said Fairlife CEO Tim Doelman.

“Getting people to eat better means they nearly always have to pick foods that are less tasty, less convenient, or more expensive. That’s very hard to do.”

Tamar Haspel, reporter, The Washington Post (Twitter)

Sour on Sweeteners

On May 15, the World Health Organization (WHO) recommended against using non-sugar sweeteners for weight control. The latest move builds on a 2015 recommendation for children and adults to reduce consumption of added sugars.

  • WHO clarified that individuals with diabetes should not change their eating patterns, but — for everyone else — “Replacing free sugars with NSS [non-sugar sweeteners] does not help with weight control in the long term.”
  • Calorie Control Council medical advisor Keri Peterson, MD, objected: “The WHO recommendations are based on evidence that was assessed overall as low certainty. … and require substantial future discussion.”
  • University of Ottawa professor and nutrition personality Yoni Freedhoff, MD, tweeted: “Fear mongering around NNS not helpful, especially when considering sugar-sweetened beverages and where diet beverages [are] a far lesser evil.”
  • Jillian Kubala, RD, of Health reviewed the risks and benefits of monk fruit, a naturally occurring sweetener that was not addressed by the WHO’s guidance. Kubala noted that “human studies investigating the health effects of monk fruit are limited.”

Restaurant Rebound

Foodservice appears to be making a comeback both in restaurants and on-site destinations. Of particular interest is Food Management’s write-ups of college dining region by region: UMass Amherst’s daily specials include item-by-item carbon emissions ratings. And years ago, we were impressed by unlimited soft-serve.

“There’s no ordering a pizza for those guys.”

Emily Baron Cadloff writing about cultivating rice on Mars (Modern Farmer)

Hey, What’s Good?

Bagel Brands, parent company of Einstein’s, Brueggers, Manhattan and Noah’s, released its Environmental, Social & Governance 2022 Progress Report. Tucked inside the breezy 12-page document was the fascinating chart below.

As part of assessing its various ESG programs, Bagel Brands surveyed internal and external shareholders to identify the areas where it should focus its work. This chart lays out the reasoning and need for food and beverage brands to identify their “good” and make it known as eloquently as any we’ve seen. And as the Intel Distillery proved earlier, companies that adopt an ESG policy see an average annual boost of 1.5% to their bottom line.

Worth Reading

Red Planet Rice

Modern Farmer covered a University of Arkansas research breakthrough: growing rice on Mars. To prepare for a potential voyage there — it’s on NASA’s docket as soon as the late 2030s — astronauts will need to grow their own food. Researchers were able to get two varieties of wild rice and one gene-edited variety to grow in soil that simulates conditions on the red planet. Article author Emily Baron Cadloff remarked, “There’s no ordering a pizza for those guys.”

No Collusion

The Wall Street Journal editorial board offered a sanctimonious “lesson in market economics” to the Biden administration. The Journal’s staff pointed out that major meatpackers — which had been targeted last year for alleged collusion — suffered substantial fiscal losses recently. The editorial board quipped, “Are they now conspiring to lose money?”

They Can’t All Be Wieners

Why? After 87 years of highway dominance, the marketers at Oscar Mayer have decided to rebrand the iconic Wienermobile as the “Frankmobile” (TODAY). The brand contends that “Frankmobile” pays homage to its 100% beef franks, which apparently now boast a new, tastier formulation. We just know we grew up longing for a job as a Hotdogger, proudly driving that 27-foot-long beauty from sea to shining sea. As both hot dog and classic car fans, we hope this is just some short-lived promotion.

Taco Tuesday Trademark Turmoil

Taco John’s CEO Jim Creel called Taco Bell a bully (among other jabs) in a statement following the quick-service behemoth’s petition to strip Taco John’s of its Taco Tuesday trademark in 49 states. Taco Bell cited the need to “liberate” the moniker so it may be celebrated by all. Taco John’s doubled down with a $2 two-taco Tuesday deal, suggesting fans of Taco Bell “liberate themselves by coming by to see how flavorful and bold tacos can be.”