• School Nutrition Association responds to critical article, sets forth its views on healthy lunches. The School Nutrition Association, which represents school cafeterias across the nation, responded on October 7 to a New York Times Magazine article critical of its views on the Obama Administration’s efforts to make school lunches more healthful. “SNA members have consistently supported strong federal nutrition standards for school meals,” the group wrote. “Those on the frontlines in school cafeterias nationwide are merely asking for common-sense flexibility.” Under the Obama Administration’s changes, it said, one million fewer students are choosing to eat school lunch each day, opting instead for convenience food from other sources.
  • School nutrition professionals say nutrition standards carry a steep price. In a press release issued on September 30, the School Nutrition Association said the costs associated with meeting the new school nutrition standards championed by the Obama Administration will triple in FY2015. Calling on Congress to relax the “overly prescriptive” rules, the group estimated the cost of compliance nationwide at $1.2 billion. The USDA responded that resources, including financial grants, are available to school districts as they serve healthier meals.
  • CSPI calls for USDA action against four strains of salmonella. On October 1, the Center for Science in the Public Interest filed a petition asking the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) to declare four strains of antibiotic-resistant salmonella as adulterants in meat and poultry. In light of public health concerns cited, the group also asked that the agency to outline a series of sampling and testing protocols to monitor the presence of these pathogens in raw meat and poultry products and, when the pathogens are found, to recall the meat or poultry from the food supply without waiting for human illnesses to occur.
  • Tyson Foods stops using antibiotics in its poultry hatcheries. As of October 1, Tyson Foods will no longer use antibiotics at any of its 35 hatcheries. The poultry giant says it has taken “a significant first step toward [the] goal of reducing the use of antibiotics that are also used in human medicine.” Tyson will continue to use antibiotics on its chicken farms where the birds are raised, but only when prescribed by a veterinarian. The vast majority of the antibiotics it uses, Tyson says, are never prescribed for humans.
  • CSPI litigation director calls for a legal definition of “natural.” At a conference on September 30, the Center for Science in the Public Interest’s director of litigation Steve Gardner, said the industry and government should create a legal definition of the term “natural.” He called the notion that it is too difficult to define the term “defeatist and disingenuous.” Gardner said a clear definition would cut down on consumer deception and reduce lawsuits.
  • FDA contends that a leavening agent in bread and pastry is not “natural.” The Food and Drug Administration told a Massachusetts-based baker on September 18 that a leavening agent, sodium acid pyrophosphate (SAPP), doesn’t belong in products for which “all-natural” claims are made, even if they are USDA-certified organic. This is the first time in more than a year that the FDA has taken action regarding an “all-natural” claim, demonstrating the agency is continuing to monitor “natural” claims even in the absence of a formal legal definition of the term. SAPP has been an issue in a number of private lawsuits that contend it is a synthetic compound and not “natural.”
  • Judge finds no “taking” of property in FDA tomato warning. In 2008, the FDA issued a warning that tomatoes from Texas and New Mexico might be contaminated with salmonella, but did not prohibit their sale. In the wake of plummeting tomato sales, a group of growers sued the US government for compensation for a regulatory taking. On September 18, a judge in the US Court of Federal Claims dismissed the complaint. While the FDA issued a warning, the judge ruled, no property was “taken” since the government did not prohibit tomato sales. According to the decision, “[a]dvisory pronouncements, even those with significant financial impact on the marketplace, are not enough to effect a taking of property under the Fifth Amendment.”