July 17, 2020
Friday by Noon:
What’s trending, you ask?
Join our webinar on Monday, July 27 where we run down the Top Ten Topics in food production of the second quarter. We’ll feature commentary by industry experts: Karen Meinders (Corteva Agriscience), Jessica Wohl (Ad Age), Emily Metz (American Egg Board), Kathiravan Krishnamurthy (IIT), Dallas Hockman (National Pork Producers Council), Brett Lutz (ADM), Lisa Keefe (Meatingplace), and co-host Alan Reed from Chicagoland Food & Beverage Network. Register today!
But this week, we’ll focus on Burger King seeking approval by talking about “cow farts,” the FDA declaring a “New Era of Food Safety” and the latest thinking on healthy diets.
“I would invite the industry, including our competitors, to consider experimenting with what we’ve done. You’ll be surprised by the results and maybe if we all push together, we can create a much bigger impact than one would imagine.”Fernando Machado, Global Chief Marketing Officer, Restaurant Brands International
Cow Burp Kitsch
On July 14, Burger King announced its “Cows Menu” campaign to reduce cattle methane emissions. The brand’s parent company, Restaurant Brands International, commissioned research into cattle diets and preliminary results found that adding lemongrass to a cow’s feed “significantly reduced methane yield … by 33%” without affecting weight gain.
- The chain tweeted a twangy promotional video that features child yodeling sensation Mason Ramsey.
- The campaign comes one week after Burger King partnered with Cargill and World Wildlife Fund for a grasslands restoration program.
- Grist writer Emily Pontecorvo largely commended the chain’s efforts to reduce emissions, but noted that it may have stretched the science in favor of marketing.
- UC Davis professor and livestock emissions expert Frank Mitloehner cautioned that the claims may be “all hat, no cattle” because “the research hasn’t gone through the rigorous and important step of peer review.”
- National Cattlemen’s Beef Association CEO Colin Woodall chided the chain for using “kitschy imagery that misrepresents basic bovine biology — cattle emissions come from burps, not farts.”
After more than a year of work and collaboration, the FDA released its “New Era of Smarter Food Safety” blueprint outlining how the agency will use modern processes and technology to keep up with fast-paced changes in the food industry.
- In the July 13 announcement, FDA commissioner Stephen Hahn stated, “Our ultimate goal is to bend the curve of foodborne illness in this country by reducing the number of illnesses.” He also acknowledged that the current pandemic, which delayed the report’s spring release, is accelerating the need for action.
- Food Safety News reporter Coral Beach described the report as scant on details, pointing to the lack of an “end game” and clarity on how it will be achieved.
- FMI President and CEO Leslie Sarasin thanked the FDA for “designing a plan that creates a more digital, traceable and safer food system.”
- Supermarket News shared a thumbs up from food industry organizations, including the American Frozen Food Institute, that noted the plan builds on the 2011 Food Safety Modernization Act and addresses restaurants and other retail food outlets.
- On July 9, the CDC updated its notice on a multi-state Cyclospora outbreak linked to Fresh Express bagged salads: 509 have fallen ill, but none have died.
- In a Meatingplace opinion piece, legal consultant Shawn Stevens discussed the business impacts of proposed testing for strains of E. coli.
- Paused FDA inspections will resume next week with pre-announced domestic inspections for FDA-regulated businesses (Food Safety News).
Guiding the Guidelines
On July 15, the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee posted its final scientific recommendations for the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The report is published every five years and captures the latest thinking in nutritional science to promote human health. Two major changes are reduced alcohol consumption for men and sugar consumption for all Americans. Committee members from the USDA and Health and Human Services will take comments (which will be plentiful) until August 13.
- The Counter summarized the report in “Five Key Takeaways.”
- New York Times columnist Anahad O’Connor quoted Thomas Gremillion, from the Consumer Federation of America: “They’re really taking a stand and saying drinking less is always better. That’s the right message and I think they deserve credit for making that change.”
- Food Business News shared the report’s reasoning on sugar reduction: “Added sugars, particularly from SSB (sugar-sweetened beverages), may contribute to unhealthy weight gain and obesity-related health outcomes.”
- Fat Chance author Robert Lustig, MD, tweeted, “YAY! #SSB’s on the outs — under 2 years of age — for the first time. Now make it for everyone!”
- Modern Farmer’s Dan Nosowitz explained exactly who’s mad about the report, and why.
- NYU Food Politics Blogger Marion Nestle commented, “I was concerned that the committee members might be heavily biased in favor of food industry interests. If they were, such biases do not show up in the final report.”
- The New York Post’s coverage focused on the recommendations for pregnant women and babies younger than 2 years. Author Jane Ridley added, “that old adage ‘Food before 1 is just for fun,’ no longer applies.”
“Fungal-fermented foods are some of my favorite foods — I just don’t trust it happening spontaneously.”John Gibbons, Assistant Professor, University of Massachusetts, Amherst (Grub Street)
Some important points of view worth checking out this weekend.
On July 14, Reuters reported that Sweden-based oat milk brand Oatly dominated many headlines after it raised $200 million in equity investment from high-profile backers. The A-listers, led by Blackstone Group Inc, include celebrities like Oprah Winfrey, Natalie Portman and former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz. Oatly said it would use the money to expand in Europe.
Citigroup analyst Wendy Nicholson caused a stir in finance discussions on July 10 when she urged investors to “look beyond the headlines” and sell shares of Beyond Meat (Barron’s). Bloomberg quoted a note from Nicholson, who suggested that plant-based meats could be a fad. The rating sent Beyond Meat’s shares down as much as 7.4%, after an 87% increase this year.
Flip on the Fry Guy
Business Insider reported on July 14 that White Castle will begin testing out Flippy, a “robotic chef,” at its french fry station in one Chicago location this fall. Manufacturer Miso Robotics upgraded Flippy back in January — and it seems to be paying off. White Castle Vice President Jamie Richardson stated, “We’re looking at Flippy as a tool that helps us increase speed of service and frees team members up to focus more on other areas we want to concentrate on.”
After Goya CEO Robert Unanue praised President Trump’s leadership at the White House on July 9, the leading manufacturer of Mexican foods and seasonings faced harsh criticism and boycotts of the brand. Food Dive’s Lillianna Byington outlined the details with abundant links to relevant background reading. Several sources, including The Counter and Washington Post, were quick to share Goya alternatives, while Vox took a deep dive on heightened politicization of brands amid the pandemic.
Mold Is My Jam
After images of moldy jam surfaced on social media, food news outlets, such as Eater, investigated Los Angeles-based restaurant Sqirl, known for its signature jams. Grub Street interviewed University of Massachusetts Amherst assistant professor John Gibbons, who specializes in food safety and fermented foods. Gibbons explained, “The problem with that lifestyle is that molds don’t exist in a vacuum. … Even scraping the top layer off, the toxins can penetrate throughout the jam.” Ew.
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