“Incompetence is a better explanation than conspiracy in most human activity.”
– Peter Bergen
Trust Me, It’s Organic
The US Department of Agriculture’s inspector general’s office recently wrapped up an audit reviewing the organization’s controls and oversight of imported organic products. The report’s findings not only threaten the credence of the “Certified Organic” label, it has sparked outrage among food policy analysts.
The USDA’s National Organic Program (NOP) has been plagued by fake organic certificates for years. Additionally, the NOP still doesn’t have any means to ensure foreign organic programs are on par with the NOP’s requirements. Making matters even worse, the report found that the Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS), which oversees the NOP, was “unable to provide reasonable assurance that NOP required documents were reviewed at U.S. ports of entry to verify that imported agricultural products labeled as organic were from certified organic foreign farms and businesses that produce and sell organic products.” Who needs a fake organic certificate when nobody’s checking anyway?
But wait. There’s more!
Even if the imported goods are from “legitimate” (if that word even means anything here) organic sources, the goods are often fumigated at US ports of entry to prevent prohibited pests from entering the United States.” As if that weren’t bad enough, the AMS has no way of knowing whether or not the goods are still sold as “organic” after being rendered inorganic by port authorities. Basically, purchasing managers and consumers alike are probably getting shafted if the “USDA Organic” label is on anything other than locally sourced goods.
Trans Fats Go The Way of The Trans Am
Back in 2015, the FDA put America’s food supply on notice: the artery-clogging artificial trans fats and their primary source, partially hydrogenated oils (PHO’s), have no place in the American diet. Fortunately, the FDA gave everyone a three-year grace period to get up to speed with the new mandate. But that 2018 deadline is quickly approaching and there’s plenty of menu updates and procuring to do now that new cooking and frying oils are hitting the market.
Making the later a tad easier for you, Bloomberg held a taste test on three new PHO-free oils to see which product does the best at keeping those french fries tasting delicious. Dow AgroScience’s non-GMO omega-9 canola oil seems to be the clear winner in the french fry test, and it was the only non-GMO oil in the bunch.
Household Income, Discretionary Expenditures See Big Improvement
Foodservice sales have been kind of rough these last couple of years, but according to the Census Bureau’s recent report, things just might be turning around. The highlights? Real median household income increased 3.2 percent between 2015 and 2016, and the official poverty rate decreased by 0.8 percentage points for the same period. That may seem trivial, but as Plastic News reported (paywall), it’s “the second consecutive year . . . that the growth rate is strong and the trend is encouraging.”
True, unemployment rates hit an all-time low a while ago and the stock market is seeing record gains, but that’s not saying much. While it may lag far behind the S&P 500, household income is, and always has been the backbone of the US economy. Last year was also the first year that household incomes finally climbed back to the same levels we saw in 2000. Considering consumer expenditures for “food away from home” were up 4.9% in 2016, and 7.9% in 2015, I think it’s safe to say things are finally starting to look up.
One Bad Degradable Spoils The Bunch
Southern Europe has a problem: degradable plastics have tainted the recycling stream, rendering recycled materials useless. It’s every recycler’s worst nightmare, and as Plastics Today reported, tests conducted by Plastics Recycling Europe (PRE) conclude it’s a nightmare we should all share.
According to PRE, even small amounts of degradable plastics can have a “significant, negative impact on recycled plastics” when mixed in the recycling stream. Bringing the circular economy to fruition is no easy task, but if there’s one thing we can all learn from PRE, it’s that separate recycling streams for bio-waste, degradable plastics, and conventional plastics need to be developed. As if having a different colored bin for paper, plastic and trash weren’t already confusing enough for consumers. Pffsh.
Uber is Bent as a Nine-bob Note
Here’s a fun fact for you. There’s no such thing as a 9 schilling (bob) note. So if you ever come across one, the forgery is probably being presented to you by an unscrupulous person bent on taking advantage of you. At least, that’s my understanding of the British idiom London’s transportation regulator has effectively applied to Uber.
The regulator, Transport for London, recently gave Uber the boot (or is it “the willy” in the UK?) by denying the renewal of Uber’s hire license. Regulator’s cited two glaring reasons for the decision. First, Uber’s top secret “Greyball” software, which was designed to keep Uber drivers from picking up regulators and city officials. Second, was Uber’s failure to report crimes witnessed (or committed?) by its drivers. Those two reasons were all regulators needed to effectively argue Uber doesn’t meet the “fit and proper” benchmark for corporate responsibility and public safety.
Uber’s new CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, put it lightly when he said: “the truth is that there is a high cost to a bad reputation.” Facing allegations of sexual harassment, labor-rights abuses, skirting regulation, bribery of government officials, and a lawsuit accusing Uber of stealing self-driving car technology, it seems Uber’s plummeting reputation may indeed outweigh the company’s planned appeal to the British courts. Regardless, municipalities and companies across the globe seem to be blackballing the black brand and its spin-offs like UberEats with increasing frequency.