According to Foodlinks America, the federal government’s Consumer Price Index (CPI) for all food is projected to increase between 0.5 percent and 1.5 percent, the lowest annual food inflation rate since 1992. The cost of food-at-home, or grocery store prices, is expected to rise a similar amount, while food-away-from-home is forecast to creep up between one and two percent.

The CPI for all food increased only 1.8 percent between 2008 and 2009, producing the lowest annual increase since 1967. Low dairy and fresh produce prices kept the increase at bay, and only a modest—3.5 percent—jump in food-away-from-home prices caused shopper concern.

However, inflation and higher prices are beginning to shake up the American economy this fall, with prices for many staples, including milk, coffee, beef, sugar, and cocoa, on the rise in recent months. Food manufacturers, such as Kellogg, retailers like Kroger and restaurants like McDonald’s, have begun to raise prices to offset the increasing cost of raw ingredients.

Food price increases have now begun to outpace overall inflation. The CPI increase for all consumer items in September 2010 was at 0.8 percent annually, the lowest 12-month increase in 50 years. The CPI for food during that time rose 1.4 percent however, and is predicted to climb over two percent in 2011.   

Prices are increasing in a world economy fed by growing demand. Expanding consumer demand for beef in China, India and other rapidly-growing nations has sent grain prices soaring, which in turn affects the cost of producing chicken, other meats, bread, and pasta. A drought in Russia and other weather-related problems are also tightening up food supplies and raising prices.   
For more from Foodlinks America, see their newsletter at tefapalliance.org/blog/archives/717#more-717.

Consumers Union (CU), the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports magazine, today commended the Senate for approving the FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S. 510) that will give the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the authority to order food recalls and requires more frequent inspections of food manufacturers. A vote on the bill took place this morning and passed with a vote of 73 to 25.

“Senate passage of this critically needed legislation represents a major milestone for food safety reform and for greater consumer protection from food-borne illness,” said Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at CU. “We urge the House to act promptly to pass food safety through the Congress and on to the President.”

“We thank the Senate for its leadership in shepherding a bipartisan bill which will give the FDA recall powers and better enforcement authority, both needed in the wake of countless outbreaks of E.coli and Salmonella in everyday food products,” said Ami Gadhia, policy counsel for CU. “A bill signed by the President in time for the holidays would be a terrific gift for the nation.”
To see the press release from Consumers Union, see www.consumersunion.org/pub/core_food_safety/017162.html.

The U.S. House of Representatives passed landmark child nutrition legislation in early December, providing the biggest increase in funding for the school lunch program in decades, according to the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). The bill makes it easier for qualified children to receive free school meals, extends after-school meals to more at-risk children, and provides additional technical assistance to local school food service providers. And, when signed into law by President Obama, the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act sets the stage for the elimination of soda and other junk foods from schools nationwide.

“Simultaneously tackling childhood obesity and hunger, this bipartisan bill gets a lot of junk food out of schools and a lot of healthier food into schools,” said Margo G. Wootan, director of nutrition policy at the Center for Science in the Public Interest.

The bill requires the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to update its nutrition standards for foods that can be sold through vending machines, a la carte lines, and elsewhere on school grounds. Current standards are 30 years out of date and apply only to the cafeteria during mealtimes. In addition to providing higher reimbursement rates for school lunches, the bill ensures that money meant for healthy school meals is not diverted to subsidizing junk food sold through a la carte lines in the cafeteria.
For the full story from CSPI, see www.cspinet.org/new/201012021.html.

The Cornucopia Institute, a Wisconsin-based farm policy research group, announced in November that it is filing a formal legal complaint in an attempt to immediately halt the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) from allowing factory farms producing organic milk from bringing conventional dairy cattle onto their farms. Cornucopia claims the practice, which places family-scale farmers at a competitive disadvantage, is explicitly prohibited in the federal regulations governing the organic industry.
According to The Cornucopia Institute, conventional replacement dairy calves, typically bought at auctions, likely receive antibiotics, toxic insecticides and parasiticides as well as conventional feed during their first year of life before being “converted” to organics—all practices strictly prohibited in organic production.

Former USDA National Organic Standards Board (NOSB) Chairman Jim Riddle, currently with the University of Minnesota, states, “To allow the continuous introduction of conventional heifers onto organic farms is contrary to a holistic, systems-based approach; plus, it allows animals that may have been given antibiotics or hormones, fed genetically engineered feed, or consumed slaughter by-products [to be brought onto organic farms].” All the practices referenced by Riddle are banned in the organic standards.
Just as they delayed the enforcement requiring pasture, and precluding the feedlot confinement of organic dairy cows, the USDA has claimed they need new rulemaking in order to close loopholes allowing conventional cattle to be brought onto organic operations.
Although it appears that the new administration at the USDA recognizes the impropriety of the current practice, their proposed solution has also been to develop new tighter regulations. Many industry observers are concerned that the rulemaking process could take another two years, or longer, until tighter regulations go into effect.

To read the full press release from The Cornucopia Institute, see www.cornucopia.org/2010/11/conventional-cattle-on-factory-dairies-producing-organic-milk/.

Food & Water Watch Executive Director Wenonah Hauter and Board Chair Maude Barlow released the following statement in late November: “Bottled water company Fiji Water has pulled out of Fiji after the government imposed a tax of 15 Fiji cents per liter on the water, up from just one-third of a cent per liter. While Fiji Water’s announcement may be posturing at this point in protest of the tax, the closure should be permanent. Fiji Water exports bottled water to the U.S., which enjoys clean and safe water from the tap, while half of Fijians lack access to safe water. There is something wrong with this picture.

“Like oil in the 20th Century, water has become increasingly managed by corporate cartels that move it around the globe, where it flows out of communities and towards money. The commodification of water will continue to contribute to human rights abuses around the world, whether it helps bolster undemocratic governments or drives water from a community where it is needed.
“Water must be managed as a common resource, not as a market commodity. Unfortunately, celebrities, sports figures and American consumers pay a premium for the Fiji Water brand, buying it at approximately 3,300 times the cost of U.S. tap water. According to the [Environmental Protection Agency], a gallon of tap water costs consumers anywhere from .002 to .003 cents. A liter of Fiji Water costs approximately $2.19.

“Ironically, Fiji Water, Coca-Cola and PepsiCo have been named finalists for the Secretary of State’s 2010 Award for Corporate Excellence. It would be extremely unwise for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton to honor these corporations, which have been known to extract water from developing countries that are facing water scarcity or that otherwise cannot meet residents’ needs for clean water and sanitation.”

See www.foodandwaterwatch.org/press/press-releases/closure-of-fiji-water-facility-should-be-permanent/ for more information.

Look ahead to spring and sign up now for the landscape pesticide registry to be notified of neighborhood pesticide applications next year.

“As you get ready for the winter season, this is good time to join the Landscape Pesticide Advance Notice registry,” said Debra Viedma, registry coordinator with the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP). “Once you are on the registry, you’ll receive advance notice from professional businesses of planned pesticide applications that will be made to lawns and landscapes near your home.” She added, “The landscape pesticide registry allows you to be informed about professional pesticide applications before the small, red and white warning signs appear in lawns in your neighborhood,” Viedma said. “The registry only applies to lawn and landscape pesticide applications. It does not cover agricultural applications,” Viedma explained.
To ensure that you will be notified, state officials urge citizens to sign up now in order to meet the February 1, 2011 deadline. For the full press release and information on how to obtain an application, see www.datcp.state.wi.us/press_release/result.jsp?prid=2576.

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