January 24, 2014

CLF Week in Links: Caramel Coloring, IPCC, Hogs and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future

soda-popCarcinogens and soda. Yesterday Consumer Reports published a story about the health risks of the caramel coloring found in some sodas, most notably Pepsi One. The CLF worked in collaboration on this study as the behind-the-scenes scientists. The chemical known as 4-MEI (4-methylimidazole) is a possible carcinogen and is present in some sodas in alarmingly high amounts. Read the story or our blogpost, penned by Tyler Smith, to find out about the debate about warning labels and more. Join the online conversation with hashtag #CaramelColor.

UN warning on climate change. “Nations have so dragged their feet in battling climate change that the situation has grown critical and the risk of severe economic disruption is rising,” reported the New York Times last week. The warning comes from the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) and frames the problem of escalating emissions in terms of financial peril. Let’s see if anything happens at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, where a day will be devoted to addressing the rising economic costs of climate change. Meanwhile, the highly profitable fossil fuel industry continues to receive taxpayer subsidies, not just in the U.S. but in many other high income countries.

Fair Food. Read Barry Estabrook’s take on the recent decision by Walmart to join the Fair Food Program. This is a well-deserved and long-time-coming victory for the Coalition of Immolakee Workers, a human rights group based in Immokalee, Florida, the state’s largest migrant workers’ community, which has been advocating for decent wages for the agricultural workers who pick the tomatoes used by many of the chain restaurants in the U.S.

Oxfam report. Last week Oxfam released their Good Enough to Eat index. This report assesses food security, food quality, affordability, and dietary health across 125 countries. The Netherlands is the No. 1 country in the world for having the most plentiful, nutritious, healthy and affordable diet, beating France and Switzerland into second place. Can you guess where the U.S. ranks? Here’s a fun visualization tool.

Bay Health. Pollution trading, also known as nutrient trading, is still a dirty deal for the Chesapeake Bay. Last week I and some of our CLF troops attended a briefing sponsored by the Congressional Progressive Caucus in Washington with Maryland Senator Joseph D. Tydings and representatives from Patuxent Riverkeepers and Food and Water Watch to keep this discussion going. Read the story here and join the online conversation with hashtag #paytopollute.

More bad news on bees. I’ve addressed the dangers of colony collapse disorder many times. Here’s another article that will brings the not-so-sweet news to light. Once again, the culprit seems to be a pesticide. But this time it’s not the infamous neonics, but a type known as pyrethroids. At the same time, here’s a New York Times story about how the deaths may be due to a tobacco plant virus transmitted to foraging bees through pollen—a rare example of a pathogen jumping from the plant kingdom to the animal kingdom.

Cloning. Here’s an interesting article from BBC News about massive pig cloning in China. According to the article, “The point of the work is to use pigs to test out new medicines.” Read the article to find out some of the concerns this process raises in terms of food systems.

Humanely raised hogs. Here’s a heartening New York Times story about the growing demand for hogs that are raised humanely. I was pleased to see that the “Niman Ranch model” was cited in the story. Bill Niman was a member of the Pew Commission on Industrial Food Animal Production and contributed his expertise about the humane and ecologically sound approach to animal husbandry.

Panera proteins. I was pleased to learn of Panera Bread’s commitment to animal proteins raised without antibiotics. This puts them in the good company of fast-food chain Chipotle, which has made a similar commitment. Read this Huffington Post story to find out more.

Antibiotics and IFAP. I’m pleased to report that the CLF’s Keeve Nachman, Tyler Smith, and Bob Martin had a letter published in the AAAS’s Science magazine recently. The letter calls for a “real change” in the way industrial livestock producers administer antibiotics to food animals. (Note: unfortunately, you’ll need a subscription to view this letter.)

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