FROM Alan Bjerga
What happens when the State Department isn’t equipped for high level diplomacy? The president is on his way back from two weeks in Asia. No deals were inked. One reason for that: A lack of advance work by State Department diplomats. The department has been short staffed, and according to many experts, that’s lead to a crisis for U.S. leadership in the world. We look at that and how the USDA is faring under the trump administration.
How the American Egg Board tried to crush eggless vegan mayo Incriminating emails. A campaign to discredit a rival. Jokes about putting a hit out on a CEO. We’re not talking about a dirty politician or the ruthless head of a Fortune 500 company, but the American Egg Board and its attempt to crush Just Mayo, an eggless vegan mayonnaise brand. A new report from the USDA, which oversees the Egg Board, found the Board overstepped federal rules with its campaign to destroy Just Mayo.
A new bill requires GMO labeling How closely do you look at the labels of the foods that you eat? Soon, you’ll have even more information to consider in the supermarket aisle. President Obama signed a new law a couple of days ago requiring food makers to label items that contain genetically modified ingredients. There’s no scientific evidence that GMOs pose a health risk, however, so what’s the logic behind the new law?
Chobani Founder Gives A Tenth of Company's Shares to Employees Chobani founder Hamdi Ulukaya started his modest yogurt company in 2005. It’s now worth billions and employs around 2000 workers. On Tuesday, some of those employees personally got a lot richer when Ulukaya announced a plan to give one-tenth of the company’s shares to his employees. For workers who have been with Chobani since the beginning, that could translate to a million-dollar windfall.
Mast Brothers Chocolate and a Recipe for Scandal Until last week, the Mast Brothers Chocolate Makers seemed to be living a hipster fairytale. Rick and Michael Mast are bearded brothers from Iowa. They started making their own chocolate in a Brooklyn apartment about ten years ago. Now their chocolate bars go for $10 a pop at their own shops. They’re also sold at restaurants, high-end groceries and fancy clothing stores. But then a food blogger published a series of posts accusing the Masts of lying about their ingredients and their so-called ‘bean-to-bar’ process. The backlash since then says as much about the power of food marketing as it does about their particular brand.
Kind Bars and the Meaning of 'Healthy' Food What do you consider healthy food? How about nuts? They have protein, vitamins, and mineral, but according to the federal government, nuts have too much fat to be officially considered healthy. That’s why the F.D.A. sent a warning earlier this year to the makers of Kind nutrition bars, demanding that they take the word “healthy” off their labels. Now Kind is petitioning the government to change its definition of healthy. What’s an average eater to make of all this?
Sugar v. High Fructose Corn Syrup High fructose corn syrup has become a kind of demon food in recent years. But is it really any worse than plain old sugar? That’s the question at the heart of a trial that began here in L.A. this week. Sugar processors and corn refiners have filed competing lawsuits, each accusing the other of making false claims.
Over-the-Counter Antibiotics Another bill Governor Brown is expected to sign would be the first in the nation to eliminate over-the-counter sales of antibiotics for livestock. Instead, farmers would need to get a prescription from a veterinarian. This is part of a much larger effort to reduce antibiotic resistance in humans, which has been linked to 23,000 deaths a year.
The Almond Tries For a Comeback California's almond harvest is underway, and so is an effort to rehabilitate the nut’s image as a water-thirsty crop. You might have even heard underwriting messages about almonds on KCRW. Over the last few months, the $5 billion almond industry hasn’t just taken out ads, it’s created a web site just to deal with its image, held sustainability events and given money for sustainability research. So is it okay to eat almonds again without feeling guilty? Or is it all corporate spin?
GMO Bill Passes the House The House passed a bill that blocks state and local governments from requiring labels on foods that contain GMOs—genetically modified organisms. Here in California, three years ago, Monsanto spent $46 million to beat back a ballot proposition requiring GMO labeling. How safe or unsafe are GMOs? And who should we listen to when it comes to deciding if they’re OK to eat?
Where McDonald’s and Whole Foods Meet McDonald's has a new CEO, with a plan to turn the brand around. The fast food chain has unveiled a revamped menu featuring kale bowls and a new, hipster-fied Hamburgler character. Meanwhile, Whole Foods is going the opposite way. The high-end grocer plans to open a whole new chain of stores with lower prices. Could it be the end of “Whole Paycheck?”
California Raisins at the Supreme Court The singing, dancing California Raisins were on a different stage today: they were before the U.S. Supreme Court. The justices heard arguments over a Depression-era law that allows the government to seize part of a raisin farmer’s crop in order to keep prices high. This isn’t the first time raisins have gone to Washington. In the mid-1990s, some farmers challenged the government marketing program that made stars out of the dried fruit in the first place. We catch up on all the latest legal news for dried grapes.
Should Climate Change Affect the Food Pyramid? The U.S. Agriculture Department has started working on its latest dietary guidelines. You might know it as the food pyramid, though it was redesigned as a plate five years ago. It gets updated every five years. Government officials are considering a recommendation to put less emphasis on meat, and more on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Some experts say it’s healthier for your body and the environment, but the meat industry and some members of Congress are pushing back. We catch up on the debate.
California Upends Egg Farming As of January 1, all eggs sold in California must come from chickens that have enough room to spread their wings and move around. California is the country’s biggest egg consumer, and the new regulations are ruffling the feathers of farmers around the country who now have to renovate their coops. We look at what the law means for the industry and for consumers, who could see prices rise.
LAUSD to Ban Chickens Raised with Antibiotics Six of the largest school districts in the country, including Los Angeles, want to ban antibiotic-treated chicken from cafeterias. They’re concerned about the rise of so-called superbugs: bacteria resistant to common antibiotics. The districts have a combined $550 million in food buying power, which they’ll need for a political fight with the poultry industry.
The Mayonnaise War A new lawsuit is set to rock the condiment world. It’s all about mayonnaise. But wait -- is mayonnaise the same thing as mayo? And if it doesn’t contain eggs, can you still call it mayo? And does it still taste delicious on fries? Unilever, maker of Hellmann’s Mayonnaise, would say “no” to all but the last question on that list. They’re suing the makers of Just Mayo, a spread that replaces eggs with peas. We find out what’s at stake.
How do Trump supporters feel about the Paris Accord? Globally and around the U.S., there are strong opinions whether or not the Paris Climate Accord is a good idea. The American exit is either a horrifying abdication of American leadership or a forceful and long overdue statement about U.S. sovereignty.
George Saunders: Lincoln in the Bardo (Part I) Lincoln in the Bardo dramatizes a grieving President Lincoln as he visits the grave of his beloved son Willie, who died at age eleven. In the novel, the buried dead believe they're not dead -- "they're sick and refer to their coffins as "sick boxes."