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Article: Food and Ag Policy Briefing 24 August

27 August 2020

Last week we reported on how the United States Cattlemen's Association (USCA) has joined low-carb advocates in calling on federal agencies to delay the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) until they include advice for Americans who suffer from diet-related chronic disease.

The guidelines, which are being drafted by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and USDA, will be based on a scientific report with the latest research on nutrition and healthy eating.

The report, however, is focused on prevention, and its conclusions were based on studies that focused on healthy consumers - an issue that low-carbohydrate diet advocates say is problematic because an estimated 60% of Americans suffer from diet-related conditions, such as excessive weight, obesity or type 2 diabetes.

Speaking to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC) and agency officials, advocates for diets that are rich in protein and low in carbohydrates, along with USCA, urged the agencies to hold off on finalizing the guidelines and rethink the scope of advice they offer.

The seafood industry and advocates have clashed in their views on what seafood advice should look like in the next DGA.

While stakeholders have called on federal officials to build upon the seafood recommendations included in the scientific report by the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee (DGAC), they have also voiced conflicting requests for USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) - the two agencies in charge of drafting the final 2020-2025 DGA based on the committee's report.

In Europe, a French left-wing member of the European Parliament (MEP) asked the European Commission last week when it was going to suspend the EU-Canada Comprehensive Economic and Trade Agreement (CETA) in view of the fact that the Cypriot national parliament voted to reject it at the end of last month.

Emmanuel Maurel from the European United Left/Nordic Green Left (GUE/NGL) political group, pointed out that CETA "has provisionally been in force for almost three years pending ratification by the Member States."

Just over half - 14 - have already ratified the deal, but ratification is still pending in the rest, including Cyprus after its parliament vetoed the move on 31 July. Cypriot lawmakers contend that CETA does not offer enough protection to its halloumi cheese since it is not a registered EU geographical indication.

The European Union has temporarily suspended the entry of Argentinean lemon and oranges Citrus limon (L.) N. Burm.f. and Citrus sinensis (L.) Osbeck, alleging that citrus black spot (CBS) - Phyllosticta citricarpa - was found in imported bulk during inspections carried on in May, June, July and the first week of August this year.

The ban, imposed on 16 August, will remain in place until 31 April 2021 for the specified citrus fruit "regardless [that] the raw material is destined to the juice processing industry or other issues," as stated in the Official Journal of the European Union.

COVID hits more meat plants

BP Food Group confirmed last week that eight employees at their meat factory in Tipperary, Ireland, had tested positive for COVID-19.

Following a single confirmed case the previous week (13 August), ABP Food Group said seven more workers at their meat processing site in Cahir had tested positive for the coronavirus.

ABP Cahir's assessment protocols following the first case meant that close contacts of the worker concerned were subsequently tested by Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE).

Meanwhile, in Demark, Danish Crown pushed ahead with plans to reopen one of its plants in Denmark after retesting hundreds of employees for COVID-19.

The Ringsted facility closed the previous week after around 150 employees tested positive for the virus. Danish Crown has since carried out further tests - with two more cases emerging on Monday of last week.

Greek Conservative member of the European Parliament (MEP), Emmanouil Fragkos, pressed the European Commission to help market gardeners and greenhouse growers suffering from the COVID-19 crisis.

"Market gardeners and greenhouse growers in the municipality of Ierapetra in Crete are complaining that, despite the enormous damage they have sustained because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they have not, to date, received any financial support," wrote Fragkos introducing a written question on "Direct financial support to greenhouse growers necessitated by COVID-19."

Animal welfare concerns

In France, the government launched an investigation into the abuse of ducks on a farm that produces fois gras, after images of showed the presence of dead birds, maggots and rats.

The Ministry for Agriculture said that on 19 August, government officials visited the farm identified in secret footage from animal rights activists and were able to confirm some of the abuses as well as breaches of welfare regulations. A veterinarian was due to arrive on 20 August to examine the condition of the birds and take the necessary protective measures.

Coming up next week will be an informal meeting of EU agriculture ministers from 30 August to 1 September with animal welfare high on the agenda and mandatory labelling a key point.

The meeting will be hosted in Berlin by German Agriculture Minister Julia Klöckner, as part of her country's current six months' reign in the EU Council presidency, where she will lead discussions on the European Commission's plan to tighten EU rules around livestock transport to third countries.

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