May 8, 2015

CLF Week in Links: Tyson, CRAU, and More

Robert Lawrence, MD

Robert Lawrence, MD

Director Emeritus

Johns Hopkins Center for a Livable Future


Will this USDA certification be a game-changer for school lunches?

Dietary guidelines. Last week some of the CLF journeyed to Washington and briefed Representative Rosa DeLauro (D–CT) and her staff on the importance of respecting the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee’s recommendation to consider the impact of dietary choices on environment and sustainability in the 2015 Guidelines. Today is the last day that HHS and USDA are accepting comments from the public on this important matter. To learn more about the briefing and about how to submit a last-minute comment, read this blogpost by our own Claire Fitch.

Tyson on board. Tyson Foods made a big announcement recently, saying they will phase out “human antibiotics” from their broiler chickens over the next two years. This is certainly an important step toward safeguarding antibiotics for humans. But there are some potential hitches. One of the big ones is that Tyson will continue to use a class of antibiotics known as ionophores, which are used in animals to improve feed conversion and promote growth, but not used to treat disease in humans. Unfortunately, the misuse of animal-only antibiotics like ionophores can still contribute to antibiotic resistance in the drugs used with humans. Here’s more on that from Civil Eats, with our own Keeve Nachman weighing in.

CRAU. A collaboration of advocacy organizations has created a new USDA-certified standard that can help schools serve meat that has been raised with responsible antibiotic use. The Certified Responsible Antibiotic Use Standard, known as CRAU, would be used to verify responsible antibiotic use, similar to the way the USDA-Organic label verifies that food has been produced with adherence to certain standards. Here’s more on that development. As is the case with Tyson’s announcement to phase out “human antibiotics,” CRAU focuses on eliminating the antibiotics considered important to human medicine, while allowing for the continued misuse of other antibiotics. This is a good step, but we need to go further.

Panera’s no-nos. This week Panera Bread announced that it would remove a long list of ingredients like artificial smoke, artificial sweeteners, and flavor enhancers by the end of next year. This New York Times story lists other companies that have made similar announcements of late. Panera’s “No No List,” that is, the list of ingredients it will eliminate from its offerings, can be found here.

Bittman’s discontent. Two days ago Mark Bittman wrote a column titled “Let’s Make Food Issues Real,” in which he questions the small bits of progress brought about by a food movement whose existence he questions. The column responds in part to moves like the one made by Panera, Chipotle, and others—the progress is negligible, he says, when a company is replacing aspartame with sucralose, such as Pepsi is doing for its diet colas. Using the Sierra Club’s “Beyond Coal” campaign as a model, he writes that, “The still-forming food movement must narrow its focus to a few possible-to-win issues.” His high priority goals are elimination of antibiotics for routine disease prevention in food animal production and elimination of CAFOs, two goals strongly supported by the CLF.

Food safety. While Baltimore experienced a week of civil unrest, the Food Safety Summit, hosted here in Baltimore, carried on. Dan Flynn, editor at Food Safety News, reflected on the summit being held in this city of unrest. And Lydia Zuraw, also of FSN, reported on developments, or lack thereof, toward a single food safety agency in the U.S. Whether we have a single agency or not, for maximum protection of public health, we need an integrated food safety system—one where federal, state, territorial, tribal and local agencies work together in developing and implementing inspection and enforcement.

James Beard awards. Early this week the James Beard Foundation held an awards ceremony, and several of our friends were honored in several categories. I’d like to congratulate chef Spike Gjerde for winning Best Chef Mid-Atlantic for his Baltimore restaurant, Woodberry Kitchen. This win by a Baltimore chef—edging out Washington contenders—was seen as something of an upset, but one that pleases us here in Charm City. Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York, with which our friend Fred Kirschenmann is affiliated, was selected as an outstanding restaurant with Dan Barber as the honored chef, and Wholesome Wave, a Connecticut-based organization, won a humanitarian award.

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