Measuring The Midterms

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Influencers chimed in on the Nov. 4 midterm election results, as battles for congressional seats and state and local ballot measures resolved. Ballots determined not only who would fill the seats of congress, but also several measures related to food and agriculture at the state and local levels.

In addition, newly-filed lawsuits drew attention to ractopamine and mayonnaise, while activist groups highlighted the idea of a National Food Policy, Gov. Chris Christie’s upcoming decision regarding sow housing, and the new GMO potato. See how various voices vied for political and legal control of the food and agriculture debate in this edition of Influence Feed.

Preparing for the Polls

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Some big ballot issues hang in the balance today, Election Day. The decisions voters make could affect how people drink and how they eat. See which cities and which issues have influencers talking.

You’ll also want to check out reaction to a University of Missouri study that asserts a combination of three common items can increase absorption of bisphenol A (BPA).

Find insight on these items and others in this edition of Influence Feed.

Food Chain Transparency

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Two of the nation’s largest companies are making moves to bolster their reputations in the food business, and that’s generating plenty of reaction among influencers. One fast food giant is taking the veil off of its production processes, and one retail giant is supporting sustainability efforts while promoting steps toward selling healthier affordable food.

See who’s making the moves and what leading commentators are saying about them in this installment of Influence Feed.

Antibiotics Draw Attention

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Influencers heavily discussed a government report indicating the use of antibiotics in food animals increased by 16 percent in recent years. Additionally, Tyson Foods, Inc. announced that its hatcheries are free of antibiotics and California Gov. Jerry Brown vetoed a bill that would regulate antibiotics in livestock. Meanwhile, a Harvard University study questioning the validity of claims that antibiotics use in food-producing animals poses human health risks received little attention.

Look for the latest commentary shaping the industry in this installment of Influence Feed.

Legislation and Legal Action

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In recent days, influencers have weighed in regarding presidential oversight, reported health risks and production practices for antibiotic use. That’s stirred passionate thoughts about regulation and best corporate practices.

Passions also flared on other topics, such as “Meatless Mondays” in school lunches and regulation of waterways. Even pumpkin spice couldn’t escape scrutiny. You’ll find reactions to these issues and others in this edition of Influence Feed.

Causes, criticism and caution

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Even around the Labor Day weekend, there was no holiday from debate over the substantive issues facing our food industry.

Take a New Yorker piece on environmentalist Dr. Vandana Shiva, whose global campaign against genetically modified crops prompted reaction, reflection and rebuttal. Or consider legislative efforts to address the drought in California through water regulation. Although the legislation gained support in government, the focus on regulating groundwater use will result in family farmers and ranchers “dealing with the consequences of the legislation for years to come,” as one California farm leader pointed out.

Causes and solutions are seldom black and white. You’ll find some deep reflection on the details in this edition of the Influence Feed.

CSR Changes for Big Brands

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Prominent food manufacturers under scrutiny from consumers and activists are responding — by changing their corporate social responsibility policies. And that has influencers taking notice.

There was positive reaction to the decision by Kellogg Company to address climate change through policy revisions that will reduce the company’s impact on the environment. Nestlé also earned praise for its decision to change its farm practices for animal care.

Other recent influential conversations in the food industry include a debate over sodium intake and whether farming can provide a sustaining livelihood for future generations.

You’ll find a synopsis of the issues that have the food industry talking in this week’s edition of Influence Feed.

Rights and Regulation

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Government regulation gave influencers plenty to discuss in recent weeks. Consider the issues raised by U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro. The Connecticut Democrat not only questioned changes in poultry food safety inspection, but also took aim at sugary beverages by introducing a tax on sweeteners used in them, vowing to combat the “dual epidemic of obesity and diabetes.”

Other widely-discussed topics included the government’s stance against Salmonella; a U.S. appeals court decision that supports country of origin labeling on meat; and the impact of the Russian ban on food imports. There was also the narrow vote supporting the right to farm in Missouri, which one university professor interpreted as “the agricultural establishment trying to build a firewall against growing consumer concerns.”

The ensuing debates focused on whether the government is doing too much or not enough in its oversight of the nation’s food industry. Read more about these issues and others in this digest of influential voices in food and agriculture.

Uncovering Data, Fueling Insights

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Influencers explored boundaries regarding what’s necessary, reasonable and appropriate when it comes to managing food. Recent discussions include the ongoing hot topic of school lunch, long-term global food production priorities, food safety issues in China, and domestic animal agriculture practices.

As often is the case, it’s not just the information that’s debated but also the motivation behind it. At the top of the list is a review of research regarding the benefits of organics, questioned not only because of who funded the study but also because of the premise: Are organics prized by some consumers based on nutrition, or is it because of production values? The Guardian wrote of one scientific analysis, “The findings will bring to the boil a long-simmering row over whether those differences mean organic food is better for people, with one expert calling the work sexed up.”

You’ll find plenty of debates simmering in this edition of Influence Feed.

Midyear Reflections; Standards and Solutions

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This edition of Influence Feed highlights the most highly discussed topics from the first half of the year in addition to providing recent insight from our influencers. After analyzing tens of thousands of communications, some clear leading topics emerged among influencers in 2014: sustainability, food regulation, genetically modified organisms and organic food. Government-led initiatives, agriculturalist feedback and activist responses all had a large impact in discussions of those topics. Additionally, foodborne illness received heavy news coverage following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports and several large recalls that prompted government intervention.

In recent weeks, food safety concerns and fears have dominated influencer conversation. As the latest episode in a year of dealing with Salmonella Heidelberg, Foster Farms issued a recall of some of its chicken. Noted seafood author Paul Greenberg released American Catch — a book documenting the questionable sources of our seafood supply. Meanwhile, a study from Cornell University identified fears — often unfounded — that drive purchasing decisions of food consumers, while a cover story in Bloomberg Businessweek delved into the workings of Monsanto, a company often viewed with suspicion and distrust. Read more about influencer reactions to these concerns.

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