This week, processed food companies evolve once again, this time setting their sights on Americans who embrace cooking, shun the microwave and are wooed by the term “natural.” Plus, the House debates the farm bill; Democrats target Nickelodeon for airing junk food ads; and Dunkin’ Donuts goes gluten-free. And if you weren’t a fan of New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s “soda ban,” chances are you’re not going to get behind his newest campaign — composting.
Wendy’s iconic square hamburger patties and McDonald’s perfectly circular egg whites are getting a “natural” makeover, as processed food companies try to please customers who want food that looks like its been touched by human hands (a.k.a. not processed).
And just as assembling IKEA furniture can give customers a sense of accomplishment, food companies figured out that multi-step packaged meals made for the oven, not the microwave, make consumers feel like they’re preparing a home-cooked meal even when they’re not. The companies specifically target weekday meals, when people are least likely to spend time in the kitchen, but have qualms about serving their families microwave dinners.
On Capitol Hill earlier this week, the farm bill debate moved to the House and, as always, produces affiliations amongst the unlikeliest of organizations (think Koch brothers and the Environmental Working Group) over issue-specific amendments like crop subsidies. Yesterday, the House rejected the bill; deep cuts in food stamps caused its downfall. Meanwhile, a group of Democrats sent a letter to child-programming leader Nickelodeon, urging the company to ban junk food ads from its network to help combat childhood obesity.
In other news this week:
- NYC's Mayor Bloomberg wants you to compost (and, again, to put down that soda).
- Chipotle labels all GMO ingredients on its website, and it turns out GMOs are more pervasive than you might have thought (think rice, tortillas, vegetables and most of the meat).
- This year’s World Food Prize caused controversy when it was awarded to three scientists behind genetically engineering, including one from Monsanto.
- Dunkin’ Donuts is officially launching a gluten-free line of pastries.
- Beef prices are likely to rise this summer thanks to a pattern of droughts over the last year.
- The USDA is now inspecting its inspectors, as a new report from the agency on pig inspections cited over 40,000 violations between 2008 and 2011.