November 5, 2021
This was one dense week in food policy on national and international stages. We tried our best to unscramble and condense it for you, but buckle up, it’s a long one. And we expect a deluge of debate next week on OSHA’s vaccine requirement that will take effect in January.
- COP26 drew commentary from makers of food and food policy.
- Big names continued to weigh in on sustainable food production.
- Food-related disease in the U.S. earned poor assessments.
“I am yet to meet a credible business leader that does not recognize the threat of climate change and the urgent need to deliver the Paris Agreement. Net zero is now table stakes.”Unilever CEO Alan Jope (World Business Council for Sustainable Development)
The U.N. kicked off its annual climate change conference (COP26) in Glasgow on October 31. The conference, which runs through November 12, has sparked actions and announcements regarding food production from international leaders, brands and activists.
- Aljazeera posted an infographic explaining the goals discussed at the conference: net zero carbon emissions by 2050, protecting ecosystems and habitats, mobilizing $100 billion finance per year to underdeveloped nations and collaboration to enforce the Paris Agreement.
- On November 3, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack announced the international Agriculture Innovation Mission, which will boost research in “climate-smart” farming practices. The move doubles down on a September pledge — which now has 80 nations signed on — to reduce methane emissions from agriculture by 30% by 2030.
- Agriculturalist groups, including the American Feed Industry Association and CropLife America, praised the moves and touted their own contributions.
- Not all were impressed. Vox’s Jenny Splitter raised concerns about opaque data and Friends of the Earth objected, “If President Biden is serious about tackling methane, he needs to be serious about regulating industrial animal agriculture.”
- The Chicago Council on Global Affairs addressed the contribution of food waste to emissions.
- Food Navigator covered questions about previous years’ commitments to reduce deforestation.
- Amazon founder Jeff Bezos answered a challenge from the U.N. by dedicating $2 billion from the Bezos Earth Fund to bolster “landscape restoration and food systems transformation.”
Commit, Share, React
Significant organizations have been busy sharing sustainability commitments from packaging to soil health. Meanwhile, sustainable farming and food production continue to receive funding from prominent sources.
- Plastics Today described a partnership between Tim Horton’s and Tupperware as the chain is one of the first to test returnable, reusable packaging. Author Norbert Sparrow quipped, “I just don’t think that consumers will go to the trouble of returning the empties and, presumably, paying a premium for the privilege.” Maybe in Canada?
- Unilever’s Knorr brand launched a series of regenerative agriculture projects to improve soil health, biodiversity, climate resilience, water efficiency, and air and water quality.
- On November 3, FMI, the Food Industry Association, promoted a pair of studies that suggest responsible practices in food retailing are trending and lucrative: “Social responsibility initiatives offer an effective avenue for food retailers to uphold public trust and uplift the communities they serve.”
- On November 1, Mondelez joined the ranks of CPG companies committing to net-zero greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by 2050. Food Business News covered Groupo Bimbo’s similar announcement. The companies aligned with the Science Based Targets Initiative’s Business Ambition for 1.5°C and the related United Nations Race To Zero Campaign.
- Reactions to this trend of corporate commitments to net GHG emissions is not all positive. Last week, Friends of the Earth documented a letter signed by more than 350 organizations calling these commitments a “dangerous distraction.”
- Further agriculture philanthropy from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will support smallholder farms with $315 million as they adapt to climate change.
Early in the pandemic, studies identified obesity as a significant risk factor for severe illness and death. While other countries ramped up efforts to combat diet-related diseases, the U.S. took little action. This week, a panel of nutrition experts warned Congress that the U.S. is on a path to disaster and called for a national strategy to combat obesity, diabetes and heart disease in America.
- Politico’s Helena Bottemiller Evich outlined the U.S. government’s inaction despite diet-related diseases, such as obesity and diabetes, being linked to an increased risk of severe COVID and death. A Government Accountability Office report released a report that concluded there are scattered efforts, but no overarching plan.
- Successful Farming detailed Tufts nutrition school dean Dariush Mozaffarian’s warning that the U.S. is in a health crisis: “Three-quarters of U.S. adults are overweight or obese, half of U.S. deaths are due to diet-related diseases and $1 of every $5 in the country is spent on health care.”
- During the hearing, nutrition experts also called for a second White House Conference on Food, Nutrition, Hunger and Health, as covered by AgriLife Today. The first conference, commissioned by President Nixon in 1969, triggered significant progress in federal food and nutrition policy, including the modern food stamp program.
- Citing the prevalence of diet-related diseases, the FDA released recommendations to encourage food manufacturers to reduce the amount of salt in foods. Health experts worry the voluntary measures don’t go far enough to compel the food industry to change, reported The New York Times.
- If the pandemic isn’t enough to drive U.S. food and nutrition policy, a study published last month by the American Public Health Association found that diet-attributable cancer was higher among younger adults, men, non-Hispanic Blacks and individuals with lower education and income. The largest disparities were cancers related to the high consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages and low consumption of whole grains.
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
Coke + BodyArmour
The Coca Cola Company announced its full acquisition of sports drink brand BodyArmor in a $5.6 billion deal. The news came as little surprise, as Coke already had a significant stake in the company. North America Operating Unit President Alfredo Rivera said, “BodyArmor has been a great addition to the system lineup over the last three years, and the company has driven continuous innovation in hydration and health-and-wellness products.”
Criticizing Chris K
McDonald’s CEO Chris Kempczinski found himself in hot water this week when a public records request revealed a text message to Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot from earlier this year. Nation’s Restaurant News reported that Kempczinski walked back comments that blamed the parents of victims of shootings at McDonald’s restaurants.
Chefs around the world are swapping avocados for ingredients like peas, pistachios and artichokes to reduce environmental impacts of avocado production. The Guardian quoted Tim Lang, food policy professor at City University of London, “Parts of the food industry are beginning to wake up to the enormity of the issues we face as a result of intensive farming,” calling the popular fruit a “global commodity crop.”
Daylight Snacking Time
If you feel extra snacky on Sunday, know you’re not alone. The Specialty Foods Association shared the findings of a survey commissioned by “sleep-friendly” ice cream, Nightfood. The study found that eight out of 10 respondents reported their nighttime cravings for snacks increase when it gets dark earlier in the evening. It also discovered that 83% of Americans say they sometimes or always feel out of control about their nighttime snacking.
Mozzarella sticks are back. The New York Times proclaimed the cheesy fried snack has made a comeback, taking over social media and restaurant menus everywhere. Author Priya Krishna referenced DoorDash’s Game Day Eats report that ranked mozzarella sticks as the top game day food ordered during last year’s NFL season. Krishna believes “Americans’ desire for nostalgic comfort food during a pandemic, or simply the pleasant aesthetics” could be the cause. Maybe we, as humble Midwesterners, missed when fried cheese became less popular?
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