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Common Preservative May Harm Your Gut

Newsweek reported:

A common food preservative may be damaging our gut health, scientists have warned. Nisin is a popular antimicrobial preservative used in everything from beer to cheeses and dipping sauce. It is made naturally by bacteria to eliminate competition from other microbes by killing them.

Compounds like this are often called “lantibiotics” because they are made of special bacteria-derived molecules called lantipeptides. However, while these are very effective at eliminating food-borne diseases, they may also be damaging the “good” microbes in our gut.

“Nisin is, in essence, an antibiotic that has been added to our food for a long time, but how it might impact our gut microbes is not well studied,” Zhenrun “Jerry” Zhang, a postdoctoral scholar in the lab of Eric Pamer at the University of Chicago, said in a statement. “Even though it might be very effective in preventing food contamination, it might also have a greater impact on our human gut microbes.”

In their study, published in the journal ACS Chemical Biology, Zhang and his colleagues isolated these gut-derived lantibiotics and tested how they might interact with disease-causing microbes as well as the good bacteria in our gut. What they found was that the good gut microbes were just as vulnerable to lantibiotics as the “bad” microbes that cause disease.

General Mills Urged to Reduce Plastic Chemicals in Food Products

CBS News reported:

Consumer Reports is urging General Mills to reduce plastic chemicals in its pre-packaged foods. In a letter sent Wednesday to General Mills, the advocacy group said it found “concerning” levels of phthalates in several General Mills products, including Annie’s Organic Cheesy Ravioli. Other General Mills products that tested positive for high levels of chemicals include Yoplait Original Low Fat Yogurt, Cheerios Original and Green Giant Cream Style Sweet Corn, according to Consumer Reports.

“When you buy organic, the last thing you’d expect is that you would be eating plastic chemicals,” Consumer Reports Food Policy Director Brian Ronholm said in a statement.

Phthalates, also known as plasticizers, are chemicals that can be used to make plastics more durable and flexible, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some studies have linked the chemicals to adverse health outcomes such as heart disease, diabetes and obesity.

The organization in January published a report listing the plastic chemical contents of more than 80 popular snacks and other pre-prepared foods. The study found that 99% of supermarket and fast foods contain phthalates, while 79% contain traces of another potentially harmful substance called bisphenol A.

Ditch That Plastic Container, Study Says. Plastics Linked to Thousands of Preterm Births.

USA TODAY reported:

Chemicals commonly used for plastic in food containers, lotion and other products are linked to tens of thousands of preterm births in the U.S. each year, according to a new study.

The researchers behind the Lancet Planetary Health study published Tuesday looked at daily exposure to phthalates, synthetic chemicals used in everyday items, by examining national data on 5,000 mothers. The study showed an increased risk of preterm birth, which has risen in the U.S.

Millions of tons of phthalates are produced annually in the U.S., which is one of the world’s top manufacturers of the chemicals. They are found in common household items, from toys to Tupperware, and are used to make plastics more durable, bendable and shiny. They’re even common in food production.

Phthalates can enter the skin or be digested or inhaled. They disrupt hormones that act as chemical messengers, said Landrigan, of Boston College. In pregnant mothers, this can influence hormone regulation as the child comes to term. In fetuses, hormones give signals as a baby develops.

U.S. Court Bans Three Weedkillers and Finds EPA Broke Law in Approval Process

The Guardian reported:

Dealing a blow to three of the world’s biggest agrochemical companies, a U.S. court this week banned three weedkillers widely used in American agriculture, finding that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) broke the law in allowing them to be on the market.

The ruling is specific to three dicamba-based weedkillers manufactured by Bayer, BASF and Syngenta, which have been blamed for millions of acres of crop damage and harm to endangered species and natural areas across the Midwest and South.

This is the second time a federal court has banned these weedkillers since they were introduced for the 2017 growing season. In 2020, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued its own ban, but months later the Trump administration reapproved the weedkilling products, just one week before the presidential election at a press conference in the swing state of Georgia.

But a federal judge in Arizona ruled on Monday that the EPA made a crucial error in reapproving dicamba, finding the agency did not post it for public notice and comment as required by law. U.S. district judge David Bury wrote in a 47-page ruling that it was a “very serious” violation and that if the EPA had done a full analysis, it probably would not have made the same decision.

Bury wrote that the EPA did not allow many people who are deeply affected by the weedkiller — including specialty farmers, conservation groups and more — to comment. The lawsuit was filed by farmer and conservation groups.

FDA Names Likely Source of Lead in Contaminated Cinnamon Applesauce Pouches

NBC News reported:

The recalled WanaBana cinnamon applesauce pouches potentially linked to lead poisonings in hundreds of people across the United States were likely contaminated by a single cinnamon processor in Ecuador, the Food and Drug Administration said Tuesday.

Ecuadorian officials have identified Carlos Aguilera, a cinnamon processor, as “the likely source of contamination” of the applesauce pouches, the FDA said.

The investigation and legal proceedings by officials in Ecuador to determine ultimate responsibility for the contamination are still ongoing, the FDA said, but Aguilera’s business is not operating at this time.

As of Feb 2., the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had received 413 reports of elevated blood lead levels linked to the pouches in 43 states.

Pregnant Women Should Avoid Ultraprocessed, Fast Foods, Experts Urge

ScienceDaily reported:

If you’re pregnant, you may want to think twice before making a hamburger run or reaching for a prepackaged pastry, according to research published last month in the journal Environmental International.

Oddly enough it’s not the food that the report targets — not the fries, burgers or even the shakes and cakes — but what touches the food before you eat it. Research shows that phthalates, a class of chemicals associated with plastics, can shed from the wrapping, packaging and even from plastic gloves worn by food handlers into food.

Once consumed during pregnancy, the chemicals can get into the bloodstream, through the placenta and then into the fetal bloodstream. The chemical can cause oxidative stress and an inflammatory cascade within the fetus, researchers noted.

Previous literature has indicated that exposure to phthalates during pregnancy can increase the risk of low birth weight, preterm birth and child mental health disorders such as autism and ADHD. This is the first study in pregnant women to show that diets higher in ultra-processed foods are linked to greater phthalate exposures, the authors wrote.

Why Your Groceries Are Still so Damn Expensive

Forbes reported:

Grocery prices are 30% higher than just 4 years ago. In the wake of World War Two, the grocery industry was born to ensure a cheap, convenient and abundant food supply. Decades later, the same industry leveraged pandemic-related supply chain crises to raise prices and reap enormous profits, all while selling less food. Sustained higher prices are not only a burden on consumer budgets but are also an ongoing policy failure by the Biden Administration.

The U.S. grocery industry is a $1.03 trillion behemoth. According to data shared exclusively with Forbes by NIQ, across all grocery categories in all channels of trade, prices are up nearly 30% since 2019, while unit volumes are flat. What does this mean? Average shoppers are spending more money and coming home with less food. And Ozempic has nothing to do with it.

Despite the illusion of variety, most grocery categories are dominated by a handful of consumer packaged goods (CPG) companies that own troves of familiar brand names.

While workers get disproportionately blamed for high prices, Wall Street profit rates are the highest since World War Two and stock buybacks are at record highs. Walmart’s Walton family has a combined net worth of over $238 billion, increasing by $8.8 billion from 2020 to 2022. The Mars family added $21 billion to their fortune from 2020-2021.

Food and agriculture billionaires added $400 billion to their wealth from 2020-2021, with Covid-19-related food inflation creating over 60 new food billionaires. Sellers’ inflation is Robin Hood in reverse: massive wealth concentration bankrolled by consumer spending on necessities.

Bill That Could Limit Lawsuits Against Pesticide Manufacturers Heads to Senate Floor

Idaho Press reported:

A bill determining the future of pesticide-related lawsuits is headed to the Idaho Senate floor. The Senate Commerce and Human Resources Committee heard testimony on Sen. Bill 1245 on Tuesday afternoon. Sen. Mark Harris, R-Soda Springs, said the bill would add language to existing Idaho laws “to protect agricultural pesticide products our farmers and ranchers depend on.”

As written, the bill says that any pesticide approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and bearing the required warning label regarding potential threats to human health and safety would be considered to have given sufficient warning of the risks.

The legislation is anticipated to provide immunity to pesticide manufacturers from most lawsuits about health conditions that arise from the use of pesticides.

The bill comes to the Idaho Senate in the wake of several years of lawsuits in which plaintiffs across the country argued that exposure to the glyphosate-based herbicide, Roundup, caused them to develop cancer and other health conditions. Bayer, the manufacturer of Roundup, has been ordered to pay hundreds of millions of dollars in damages in multiple cases to different plaintiffs.

Palm Oil Supplier to Nestle, Kellogg’s Linked to Peru Deforestation in Report

Reuters reported:

A supplier to brands including Nestle, Kellogg’s and Colgate has been farming palm oil on deforested land in one of the best-preserved areas of Peru’s Amazon rainforest, an environmental group said in an investigative report released on Wednesday.

Peru-based supplier Ocho Sur and related companies deforested more than 130 square kilometers (50 square miles) in Peru’s Ucayali region, with most of the destruction occurring since 2012, the nonprofit Environmental Investigation Agency (EIA) said in the report. That is an area more than twice the size of Manhattan.

Ocho Sur is a privately held company backed by North American investors, according to its website. In a statement last year, the company denied having cleared any additional land.

Investigations by nonprofit organizations into food companies have scrutinized the often-murky connection between deforestation, a major contributor to climate change, and the food on consumer’s plates. Since 2020, nonprofit groups such as Greenpeace and Mighty Earth have linked supermarkets, grains traders and meatpackers to Amazon deforestation as these organizations seek to pressure businesses to source sustainably.

Spanish Farmers Say Paella Rice Under Threat After EU Pesticide Ban

Reuters reported:

A Spanish rice variety traditionally used to make paella is under threat from a fungus after the European Union banned a pesticide farmers said they relied upon, in another example of how the bloc’s environmental rules are angering growers.

Three rice producers in the Valencia region said their harvest of arroz bomba, or bomb rice, a variety grown almost exclusively in Spain, was half the 10-year average in 2023 as a result of the Pyricularia fungus which causes rice blast disease.

Meanwhile, major exporters such as Brazil, India and Cambodia are widely using the pesticide to protect their own crops.

Farmers across Europe have staged angry protests against the EU over restrictions they say hand an advantage to outside competitors. Spanish farmers have been protesting across the country this week.