FDA Says ‘No’ to Drugged Up Livestock

Cows, chickens, and pigs in America are on lots of drugs — and even account for 80 percent of the country’s antibiotic consumption, Time reports.

But now, Food and Drug Administration officials have called on the ag industry to limit antibiotic use in livestock, as they think it might lead to the growth of deadly, drug-resistant bacteria: On January 4, the FDA banned farmers from using a class of these medicines in excess or for preventative reasons.

This particular group of antibiotics, cephalosporins, gets used frequently in humans to treat strep throat and bronchitis, Time notes.

The livestock industry commonly doses animals with antibiotics before they get sick, though they are not intended to prevent disease.

About 100,000 Americans die each year from infections related to drug-resistant bacteria, Time reports, and many fear that the situation will only worsen if animals routinely ingest antibiotics in their food and water.

This is not the first time the FDA has moved to enact such a rule.

In 2008, the administration tried establishing a similar regulation, but got too much flack from the ├╝ber-wealthy ag lobby.


Food Might Get Cheaper: Report

Foods from meat to millet might become more affordable this year, as farmers expect 2012 to bring plentiful crop yields, Bloomberg reports.

According to the news service, Standard & Poor’s has determined that eight top foodstuffs dropped significantly in price in 2011 — including cocoa, sugar, coffee, and soybeans — suggesting that the new year will bring the same decreases.

What this means: Food inflation — basically a fancy way of saying food price upswings — will probably slow, from a peak increase of 6 percent in 2011 to a more stable rate of 3 to 4 percent.

In the U.S., food costs will probably go up 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2012, Bloomberg reports — compared with 2011, when they ballooned between 3.25 and 3.75 percent.

Wheat prices have dipped, Bloomberg notes, bringing down the price of animal feed.

Because of this, economists also predict that livestock production will boom in 2012 and that the new glut of pork and beef on the market will make meat significantly cheaper.


Food Banks Cut Help to Needy Families

While some politicians think that poor people use food stamps for trips to Hawaii and that the program should be limited, aid for hungry Americans keeps dwindling.

Most recently: In Iowa’s capital, a group of food banks has cut the amount of groceries given to families — by 40 percent, The Des Moines Register reports.

“A family of four had received 55 items in a box each month; beginning Monday there will be 33 items in the box,” the paper notes. “Officials said contributions to the pantries have not kept pace with demand.”

They enacted the cutbacks because it costs more to feed families in 2011 — $22,500 — compared with $20,000 in 2010.

Also, demand has increased sharply: 30,000 people got served in 2010, but that number has shot up by 7 percent in 2011.

The news comes several weeks after Newt Gingrich lambasted the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in Council Bluffs, Iowa, during a press conference. He said the benefits can be cashed in for vacations and allow millionaires eat for free. Media analyses of SNAP qualifications, however, show that Gingrich’s statements are totally false.

For more dining news, head to Fork in the Road, or follow us @ForkintheRoadVV.


AP: Mom Kills Self, Shoots Kids, Over Food Stamps

A Texas woman who was denied food stamps fatally shot herself and severely wounded her two children in a state welfare office Tuesday, the Associated Press reports.

Laredo police bargained with the woman for seven hours before she committed suicide and the shootings.

The woman — who has still not been named by authorities — recently moved to the town from Zanesville, Ohio, according to the AP.

Her children, ages 10 and 12, were rushed to the hospital, where they remain in critical condition.

The woman first tried to receive benefits from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program in July, but didn’t get them because her application was incomplete, the AP notes.

A spokeswoman for Texas’s Department of Health and Human Services said that the agency was waiting for the woman to turn in additional information. It’s unclear whether she would have qualified for aid, the AP writes.

Check back with Fork in the Road for updates.


Harvard to USDA: Our Plate Is Better Than MyPlate

Last June, the USDA replaced its long-suffering food guide pyramid with the more plain-spoken MyPlate. Its merits quickly became a source of debate among nutritionists and public policy types, including those at the Harvard School of Public Health. And now scientists there have done what people at Harvard tend to do, which is to say they’ve come up with something better.

Earlier this week, the school introduced its Healthy Eating Plate, a “better version” of the USDA’s icon. The plate, says a Harvard professor of medicine in a press release, provides “consumers with an easy to use but specific guide to healthy eating based on the best science available.”

The most significant difference between MyPlate and the Harvard model is the explicitness of their recommendations. Where the USDA plate says nothing about healthy oils and only advises drinking water instead of sugary drinks, for example, the Healthy Eating Plate specifically states that sugary drinks should be avoided, and advises using healthy oils, limiting butter, and avoiding trans fats. And where MyPlate recommends making at least half your grains whole grains, Harvard stresses eating mainly whole grains and limiting things like white bread and white rice. It also makes distinctions between healthy and less healthy sources of protein, whereas the USDA plate says nothing about sources of protein. Harvard also recommends limiting dairy, while the USDA endorses consuming it with every meal.

Although Harvard diplomatically describes MyPlate as a “starting point,” it doesn’t mince words in describing its “shaky foundation”: the icon’s creation, says the Harvard release, was “influenced more by the food industry and agricultural interests than science. MyPlate continues this unhelpful trend.”

The Health Eating Plate, on the other hand, “is based on nutritional science and is not influenced even a smidgeon by commercial pressure.”

Whether or not the Harvard plate will influence even a smidgeon of the general public or only those who worry about the health of the general public remains to be seen, but here’s hoping it at least inspires some healthy debate.

[Via Food Politics]