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Lasgana

While the horsemeat (yes, horse) scandal rages on in Europe, America may be facing its own meat safety dilemma at home as automatic spending cuts known as “sequestration” looms. Also this week, a French court rules against Monsanto, the FDA extends the comment period on “Frankenfish” and New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg squares off with his latest public health enemy — salt.

Mayor Bloomberg’s war against salt actually started in 2010, though, like most people, you may have forgotten about it when news of New York City’s “soda ban” broke. Salt was back in the news this week when 21 companies — including Kraft and Goya — made the first step in reducing the amount of sodium in products like salad dressings, ketchup, bacon and canned beans. And while Bloomberg continues to take on salt, health advocates at the Center for Science in the Public Interest (the same group that got Taco Bell to take down their anti-vegetable Super Bowl ad) are petitioning the FDA to impose stricter limits on the amount of added sugars allowed in food products. Check out CSPI’s infographic to see how much added sugar the average American consumes a day, and just how much exercise you’d need to burn off those calories.

Both abroad and at home meat safety concerns are making headlines. In Europe horsemeat found in cheap beef products sold in the UK may now be in the French food chain, according to CNN. The only positive outcome of this mystery meat crisis? NPR reports that local British butchers are seeing a rise in business.

Meanwhile if sequestration goes into effect on March 1st, the USDA would be forced to furlough 6,000 Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) employees. Fewer inspectors mean fewer meat and poultry plants will receive the mandated FSIS inspections, resulting in less meat and poultry available to consumers. Industry groups like the American Meat Import Council sent a letter to Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack maintaining that it’s the government’s obligation to continue the inspections, regardless of sequestration. Vilsack has said the agency would have no choice but to go ahead with the furlough.

Lest you think meat and poultry products are the only concern, don’t forget about AquAdvantage salmon (dubbed “Frankenfish” by critics), which is pending approval from the FDA. The comment period was suppose to end February 25 but has been extended until April 26, to the chagrin of Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO), whose member, AquaBounty Technologies, developed the fast-growing salmon.

We’ll end the week with a food politics victory. French farmer Paul François won his case against Monsanto, claiming the biotech company was responsible for his neurological problems, which stemmed from accidentally inhaling Monsanto’s Lasso weedkiller. Lasso was banned in France in 2007, but François is the first French farmer to claim a legal victory over a pesticide company by clearly linking his health problems to the company’s chemicals.