Energy Drinks Linked To More Deaths, And Other Food And Drink News

In the aftermath of the election, journalists are questioning USDA and FDA food safety protocols, advocates and farmers are still wondering where the farm bill is and energy drinks are making headlines again. Plus, the first farm to school grantees are announced, the GMO labeling fight isn't over yet and Danes kick their pesky fat tax to the curb.

The week kicked off with an article by Mark Bittman in which he illustrates the ways the food movement was trounced on November 6th. Between the defeat of Prop 37 and several small city soda taxes, it wasn't a good night for food advocates. But before you feel condemned to a life of unmarked GMOs, co-founder of Food Revolution Network, Ocean Robbins, affirms that the end of Prop 37 has led to a multitude of new pro-labeling campaigns in 30 states under the umbrella of the Coalition of States for Mandatory GMO labeling.

Nonetheless, the disappointment for food advocates in this election has led to a rehashing of the administration's former and current food policies. Most notably, Lina Khan wrote a lengthy feature in Washington Monthly entitled "Obama's Game of Chicken," which argued that the administration seemed to take substantive steps to combat injustice within poultry farming only to back down under pressure from industrial farming lobbyists and obstructionist members of Congress.

This was followed by Helena Bottemiller's report in Food Safety News (FSN) that the USDA is shutting down the Microbiological Data Program (MDP), which according to FSN, would cut 80% of produce pathogen testing. In other words, this would mean a serious drop in federal testing for strains of Salmonella and E. coli, including the strain that was found in Europe's deadly sprouts last year, starting in 2013. The FDA will continue to sample produce, although not at the same level as the MDP, according to FSN. The United Fresh Produce Association applauds the move, maintaining that the FDA, not the USDA, is the proper agency to execute pathogen testing.

More concerns over food safety regulations cropped up this week after news broke that 5-Hour Energy drink was cited in 13 deaths this year, only weeks after Monster Energy became embroiled in similar allegations. The claims are leaving many wondering why the FDA does not have more stringent caffeine regulations – currently energy drink makers are not required to disclose the amount of caffeine in their beverages.

But it wasn't all bad for the FDA and other government agencies this week. The USDA announced its first class of grantees for the farm to school program that gives grants to over 3,000 schools to promote programs like nutrition education and school gardens. And even Food Safety News conceded that a bill to protect whistleblowers in the agriculture industry is up for consideration.

Abroad, Danes celebrated the repeal of the infamous fat tax (health advocates were less enthused) and Canada looks poised to become the world's new corn belt, thanks to climate change. And since Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, we'll end this week in food politics with a link to the White House's Thanksgiving kale salad, courtesy of Obama Foodorama.