Last week’s announcement that Chinese company Shuanghui struck a deal to take over U.S. pork and ham producer, Smithfield, is causing consumers and legislators alike to worry. The deal, which is pending regulatory approval from D.C., is raising food safety concerns primarily due to the Shuanghui's recent violations. From the Chinese perspective, access to coveted American pork and advanced farming technology makes the takeover a lucrative proposition.
Concerning the deal, Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-MI) was troubled by the implications for U.S. food safety, though Smithfield has said the takeover would mean more exported pork to China, not vice-versa. In a recent post, NYU professor Marion Nestle compiled takes on the buyout from varied media outlets including an infographic from the Wall Street Journal comparing Chinese and U.S. pork supply chains from slaughter operations to inspection. And beyond potential food safety issues, the residents of Smithfield, VA have a personal stake in the outcome of a Smithfield sale. The Washington Post interviewed residents about the possibility of a Chinese Smithfield ham for Easter and how the deal could affect factory jobs.
Meanwhile, the Senate continues to move the farm bill along, with the week of June 17th still set for a fiery floor debate. See Mark Bittman’s recent column explaining the controversies caused by food stamps alone.
In other news this week:
- The National Park Service announced its nationwide “Healthy and Sustainable Food Program,” so expect options like lentil soup and veggie burgers along with ice cream and fries on your next vacation.
- New York Times wine critic Eric Asimov says conscientious eaters need to be just as vigilant about what ingredients go into their wine as they are about their food.
- Philadelphia is embracing low-sodium lo mein as the city launches a campaign to reduce the amount of salt used in Chinese takeout restaurants.
- Connecticut could be the first state to require GMO labeling, as long as it gets some of its neighbors to jump on board too.
- New York chefs Mario Batali and Bill Telepan make an impassioned plea against fracking in the Daily News.
- And (seriously) don't miss this fascinating read from GQ about the Japanese sushi chef who became part of former North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il’s, entourage.