Food and Beverage News and Trends

Wheat field

Food and Beverage News and Trends

Food and Beverage News and Trends

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FDA finds no issues with GM wheat variety. Argentina-based crop developer Bioceres announced on June 27 that the FDA has determined that the company’s genetically modified HB4 wheat variety is safe to eat.  HB4 has been genetically modified to tolerate drought and herbicides. The wheat industry has long avoided genetically engineered seed out of concerns that US consumers would reject such grains. Bioceres stated that the FDA in its review did not find any issues that would require premarket review or approval by the agency.  Bioceres already has obtained approval from food-safety regulators in New Zealand, Brazil, Australia and Argentina for commercial sales of the grain. In order for HB4 to be commercially farmed in the US, approval is also needed from the USDA.  Bioceres said, “The conclusion of this voluntary consultation program is a key step towards commercial enablement in the United States.”   In water-limited situations, HB4 has been shown to increase crop yield by an average of 20 percent.  Rotating HB4 with soybean crops, the company noted, has been shown to sequester carbon in the soil.

Chicken trade group calls for action against plant-based “chicken.” On June 24, the National Chicken Council sent a letter to top officials of the FDA and the USDA asking that the federal government act against manufacturers of plant-based imitation chicken products that call their products “chicken” in some way. “I am writing to bring to your attention the practice of misleadingly marketing certain plant-based alternative proteins as chicken products,” wrote Ashley Peterson of the chicken trade group. “This practice harms consumers, damages the conventional poultry industry, and undermines confidence in our food regulatory system. . . .  In recent years, grocery shelves and freezers have been flooded with varieties of plant-based proteins that do not contain any amount of poultry yet bear the name ‘chicken’ on their labels, implying the product is derived from animals and contains real chicken meat.” The group asked the agencies, among other things, to ensure that plant-based “chicken” products are labeled in a manner that clearly indicates that they are plant-based.

Company asks USDA to permit “stroganoff” labeling. On June 17, Kevin’s Natural Foods, a California-based company, petitioned the USDA to permit the company to label its Beef Stroganoff-type product with a “stroganoff” name even though it does not meet the USDA’s existing Beef Stroganoff standard. The petition specifically requests that the department “allow such products to be labeled as ‘Beef Stroganoff’ qualified by adjectives such as ‘like, inspired, or flavored,’ if the product is not nutritionally inferior to standardized Beef Stroganoff products.” The company wrote in the petition, “Our executive chef and marketing team based this recipe to simulate a Stroganoff dish in a format that would allow it to meet the rigorous qualifications of the Paleo and Gluten Free organizations” and thus that consumers would benefit if the product label were changed.

Virginia extends its legal permission for cocktails to go. A new law went into effect July 1 in Virginia that extends the sunset of prior alcoholic-beverage legislation passed during the COVID-19 pandemic from July 1, 2022, to July 1, 2024. The legislation permits certain alcoholic-beverage licensees to sell mixed drinks to consumers for off-premises consumption – in other words, cocktails to go – for two more years. According to Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, who signed the bill into law, the temporary measure was designed to increase support within the state for “hospitality businesses struggling to rebound from the harsh economic impacts of COVID-19.” During the pandemic, more than 35 states passed measures allowing restaurants and bars to sell cocktail to go as one measure to keep revenue coming in.

New California law, if passed, would expand state’s approval for to-go cocktails. On June 23, a proposed bill in the California state legislature to allow the sale and delivery of to-go cocktails was overwhelmingly approved by a key legislative committee. The new law would expand on an earlier California law passed during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. That law allows the sale of to-go alcoholic drinks if they are part of a takeout restaurant food order. It was enacted as restaurants nationwide recovered from hundreds of billions of dollars in losses sustained because of pandemic lockdowns and social distancing requirements. The current bill expands the previous legislation in important ways, removing the requirement that the cocktails accompany a meal. It also extends the carryout cocktail provision to bars in addition to restaurants.

Daily Harvest recalls a product, faces a lawsuit after widespread reports of illnesses. Daily Harvest, a meal delivery service that has been publicized by several celebrities, has voluntarily recalled one of its products and is facing a lawsuit after people who consumed the product reported getting sick, being hospitalized for liver dysfunction, and in some cases even having their gallbladders removed. The FDA reported that the company, on June 23, voluntarily recalled its French Lentil + Leek Crumbles because of widespread consumer reports of gastrointestinal illness and potential liver function issues. The company said it had received about 470 reports of illness or adverse reactions. A lawsuit was filed against the company on June 26. The precise cause of the illnesses, however, remains unclear. On June 27, the company’s CEO said that Daily Harvest has spent ten days trying to figure out the cause, but that testing was negative for food-borne pathogens, allergens, and a wide range of toxins.