French Protest Beer Tax; American Fast Food Workers Stage Walkout

A proposed French tax outrages the Brewers of Europe, American fast food workers look to unionize, and a new study upsets the Corn Refiners Association. It's been a fraught week in food politics for most, with the exception of the FDA.

Abroad, the French government has proposed a whopping 160 percent increase in beer tax in an effort to reduce the budget deficit. The tax would not affect winemakers or the spirits industry, leaving brewers frantic. Beyond the per-bottle price increase, some take issue with the perception of the tax as a "morality tax." For their part, the Brewers of Europe issued a press release calling the tax a "kick in the teeth."

Closer to home, fast food workers in New York City staged a walkout this week to protest their low wages and to gain the right to unionize. According to a New York Times report, McDonald's workers — many of whom earn New York's minimum wage of $7.25/hour — are requesting $15/hour. The fast food employees are finding support amongst religious leaders, politicians and other unions, but the right to unionize will not be won easily.

Fast food made the news again this week when "pink slime" reared its head once more. The AP reports that a federal judge has recused himself from Beef Products Inc's (BPI) defamation lawsuit against ABC since his daughter-in-law is a producer on "Good Morning America."

While BPI continues to defend pink slime's image, the Corn Refiners Association is tackling its own public relations calamity with the release of a study by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition linking High Fructose Corn Syrup (HCFS) to Diabetes 2. As Dr. Marion Nestle points out, the study found that Diabetes 2 is more prevalent in countries where the population consumes greater amounts of HCFS. The study does not say that HCFS directly causes Diabetes 2 (although it implies that it is one of several factors leading to the disease). Unsurprisingly, the Corn Refiners Association was quick to issue a press release attacking the study as "flawed."

While the brewers, fast food workers, BPI, and the Corn Refiners fight their various battles, the FDA came out on top this week, earning praise from some of its toughest critics after it suspended production at the peanut butter company linked to a recent salmonella outbreak. Using new authority granted to the organization through the Food Safety Modernization Act, the FDA was able to shut down production at Sunland Inc. until the company proves it has revamped its food safety measures. The FDA's move wasn't completely immune from criticism, but in general advocates were pleased to see the organization make use of its authority to prevent further contamination.

We'll wrap up this week in food politics with a glimpse into the White House thanks to ObamaFoodorama. With Christmas coming up, White House pastry chef Bill Yosses and his team revealed their spectacular 2012 gingerbread replica of the White House complete with a miniature Bo and the White House garden.