Teicholz disinvited from food policy panel
With help from Victoria Guida, Eric Wolff and Helena Bottemiller Evich
TEICHOLZ DISINVITED FROM FOOD POLICY PANEL: In a sign that the nutrition space is as defensive as ever, Nina Teicholz, an author who has publicly criticized the science behind the government’s low-fat dietary advice, was recently bumped from a nutrition science panel after being confirmed by the National Food Policy Conference. The panel instead will include Maureen Storey, president and CEO of the Alliance for Potato Research and Education. The event is set to take place in Washington next month.
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Teicholz said she was disinvited after other panelists said they wouldn’t participate with her. Thomas Gremillion, director of food policy at the Consumer Federation of America, which is organizing the conference, confirmed he’d hoped to have Teicholz on the panel “but it didn’t work out,” noting that panels often change. Gremillion added that he thinks Teicholz’s book “The Big Fat Surprise: Why Butter, Meat and Cheese Belong in a Healthy Diet” makes a “compelling” argument and the organization hopes to include her on a panel next year.
Margo Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest, will speak on the panel, along with Barbara Millen, the former chairwoman of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, and Angie Tagtow, executive director of the USDA’s Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion. Wootan said that “concerns were raised about Teicholz’s credibility, given the significant inaccuracies in her work.” Wootan pointed to a list of 180 scientists who urged the British Medical Journal to retract a feature article by Teicholz last year.
Teicholz said she was disappointed in the changeup. “To my mind, this is an effort to exclude uncomfortable realities, where you simply don’t allow alternative viewpoints to be part of the conversation,” she said. “Silencing the conversation won’t work forever.” The conference schedule can be found here. More of the backstory on Teicholz and growing questions about federal nutrition advice can be found here.
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STABENOW, GRASSLEY: LET USDA, FDA REVIEW SYNGENTA MERGER: Four senators on the Agriculture Committee are concerned about the effect of ChemChina’s proposed acquisition of seed company Syngenta AG on food security and safety, so on Thursday they requested that the Treasury Department-led Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S. investigate the issue. In a letter sent to Treasury Secretary Jack Lew, Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) and Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) also want the USDA and FDA to be represented on the committee.
“Constituents have approached us with concerns over this transaction, citing the 2013 CFIUS review of the Shuanghui-Smithfield acquisition,” the senators wrote, highlighting the $4.7 billion takeover of the U.S. pork giant by a Chinese company. “The most common reflection on that experience is that growing foreign investment in U.S. agriculture — and the prognosis of more to come — should be met with a careful review process that captures the issues most relevant to safeguarding the American food system going forward.” Read the letter here.
FDA TO RELEASE FOOD SAFETY TESTS ON CUCUMBERS: The FDA will soon post interim results from its food safety surveillance of fresh cucumbers and peppers, an agency spokesperson told MA. The FDA has conducted special testing on the two vegetables since November due to their history of food safety problems, and the agency is currently reviewing the preliminary results from the effort. Testing began months after a deadly outbreak of salmonella linked to cucumbers from Mexico was reported, which the FDA said this week is officially over after causing more than 900 illnesses and six deaths in 40 states.
During the outbreak, the FDA and its state partners tested cucumbers from retail locations and at ports of entry to try and figure out why people were still getting sick months after one company’s contaminated cucumbers were recalled. The results suggested high levels of contamination by the outbreak strain of salmonella, increasing the likelihood of cross-contamination on food-contact surfaces. The FDA also reviewed records to determine if cross-contamination could explain continued illnesses, but the results were inconclusive. See the FDA’s most recent update here.
ACA ANNIVERSARY WEEK MARKS LONG ROAD ON MENU LABELING: All of this Affordable Care Act anniversary talk is just a reminder that calorie labeling on restaurant menus, a little-known provision in the law, is still not finalized, says Margo Wootan, CSPI’s director of nutrition policy.
“Still, six years later, we don’t have a final implementation date,” Wootan said in an email to MA. The latest barrier is a provision in the fiscal 2016 omnibus spending law that delays the FDA from carrying out the regulations until one year after the agency issues final guidance on labeling, which it has yet to do.
“The delay is largely the result of aggressive lobbying (including campaign contributions) by the pizza industry (spearheaded by Dominos), supermarkets and convenience stores,” Wooten said, adding that she’s hearing the guidance is stuck at HHS.
LAWMAKERS: USE TTIP TO ADDRESS EU ANTI-DUMPING DUTIES ON ETHANOL: The Obama administration should use ongoing trade negotiations with the European Union to push back against the country’s anti-dumping duties on U.S. ethanol, suggests a bipartisan group of nine farm-state House members led by Agriculture Committee ranking member Collin Peterson (D-Minn.) and Rep. Rod Blum (R-Iowa).
“The U.S. ethanol industry has been unfairly targeted by the EU for increased duties, which have subsequently eliminated U.S. share in the European market,” the lawmakers, who largely appear to be following arguments made by the Renewable Fuels Association, said in a March 21 letter to U.S. Trade Representative Michael Froman. “These duties of $83.20 per metric ton were imposed following an antidumping action, which continues to be challenged by the industry at the international level, and only serve as a punitive measure on a U.S. energy source.”
The lawmakers ask Froman to “leverage access to all domestic energy sources” to reduce or eliminate the duties, adding that farmers are struggling to cope with the volatile price of corn and additional market demands for U.S.-produced ethanol could help mitigate that.
Disagreements regarding the methodology in an anti-dumping case are usually litigated at the World Trade Organization rather than discussed in the context of free-trade agreements. RFA, in a press release praising the letter, says the USTR has so far refused to bring a case at the global trade body. The group is also challenging the duties in the General Court of Luxembourg. That litigation is still ongoing, RFA says.
SENATORS PUSH FOR STRONGER RFS RULE: In cased you missed it, a bipartisan group of senators wants the EPA to increase the annual blending targets for 2017 when it proposes next year’s rule. Sens. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) and others sent a letter to the EPA on Wednesday arguing its decision in the recent multi-year RFS rule to use distribution infrastructure as a factor in setting the requirements was something that was “explicitly rejected by Congress as a reason to grant a waiver” when it created the program. “The EPA should reverse course and release a rule this year that follows congressional intent,” they write. Read the letter here.
FRANCE CONFIRMS CASE OF MAD COW DISEASE: The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service is monitoring the situation in France after a case of mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy, was detected on Thursday. “We have control measures already in place for any country that is considered a controlled risk region for BSE,” agency spokeswoman Donna Karlsons told MA.
The French agriculture department confirmed the new case on a farm in the country’s northeast, but said consumers should not be alarmed, POLITICO Europe reported. Cows in the area will be prohibited from entering the marketplace and agriculture authorities will investigate the incident.
SNACK GROUP CHANGES NAME TO REFLECT ‘EVOLVING’ INDUSTRY: The Snack Food Association is taking on a new identity as SNAC International because of the broadening array of snack categories in the marketplace, the group announced Thursday. “Snacking is an increasingly important part of day-to-day life and food manufacturers are offering new choices for consumers looking for quick, diverse options that fit their busy lifestyles,” the group, which represents companies like Frito-Lay and Pepperidge Farms, owned by PepsiCo and Campbell Soup Co., respectively, said in a statement. Fun fact: The organization began as the Potato Chip Institute in 1937.
CORRECTION: Alan Pieper has been promoted to chief operating officer at Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, contrary to the title we gave him in a headline yesterday. Apologizes for the error!
— The front-runner for the GOP presidential nomination eats like a teenage boy, inhaling Filet-O-Fish and Big Macs, The Washington Post reports.
— The University of Colorado nutrition expert, who accepted money from Coca-Cola Co. and ran the now defunct Global Energy Balance Network financed by the soda giant, is stepping down from an executive director position at the university, The Denver Post reports.
— The food industry should brace itself for more FDA regulations that align the agency’s standards for nutrient content and health claims with an updated Nutrition Facts label, writes Bruce Silverglade, an attorney at OFW Law, in a blog post.
— The world has more cocoa factories than it needs as consumer demand for chocolate and other finished goods lags behind construction, The Wall Street Journal reports.
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