Can We Really Claim Margaret Thatcher Invented Soft Serve?

This week in food news, antibiotic use crops up where you'd least expect it, White House assistant chef may be furloughed, historians debate Margaret Thatcher's role in the creation of soft serve ice cream and McDonald's deals with its disgruntled employees.

The old adage about an apple a day is in need of some PR help thanks to NPR's reporting on antibiotic use in organic apple and pear production. The antibiotics were approved by the USDA as a temporary solution to combat a plant-destroying infection called "fire blight" until other remedies could be tested and implemented. As of now, no effective alternative has been discovered, leaving organic farmers fighting for the continued use of antibiotic spray — to the dismay of organic fruit devotees.

The debate over GMOs took a new twist this week when a registered dietician was asked to leave a panel set up by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics to debate GMO policy after she pointed out that two other members had ties to Monsanto. The dietician, Carole Bartolotto, was dismissed due to a blog post she made previously about GMOs' effects on health as well as a nascent consulting practice. Bartolotto claims the dismissal was unjust and the issue has created a publicity problem for the panel.

In Washington this week, President Obama wooed Republican Senators with fine dining for the second time in two months, assistant White House chef, Sam Kass, jokingly said he was being furloughed (but reporters suspect he wasn't kidding after all) and the Food and Drug Administration is requesting a budget of $4.7 billion to strengthen food safety. Meanwhile, politicians are gearing up to write a new farm bill and, unsurprisingly, the inclusion of food stamps is already a divisive issue.

You may know Margaret Thatcher as the controversial British Prime Minister who passed away this week, but what about as a rival to Mr. Softee? Several articles claiming Thatcher was the inventor of soft serve have been debunked by The New Yorker's Daniel Fromson — but thankfully not before The Atlantic could dub her the "Iron Lady of Soft Serve."

In fast food news, the McDonald's empire is facing trouble from within as frowning employees garner slews of customer complaints. The franchise is trying to focus on customer service to maintain its worldwide dominance.

The week wraps up with Mark Bittman's look at the latest topic in food politics writing — the machinations of Big Food — and which books are worth reading on the subject. Along with the titles he mentions, the author of Omnivore's Dilemma, Michael Pollan, is coming out with new books entitled VB6 (Vegan Before Six) and Cooked respectively, which should keep you busy at least for the next few months.