Chipotle Finally Walks the 'Food with Integrity' Walk, Signs Farmworker Agreement

chipotle_burrito_attPhoto via flickr user iantmcfarlandBig news came yesterday with the announcement that Mexican fast food chain Chipotle has, at last, signed an agreement with the Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW) to improve wages and working conditions for Florida's tomato farmworkers. The agreement comes right before the winter growing season, when most of the nation's tomatoes come from Florida.

It's about time, Chipotle! Earlier this year, FIC explained how the chain's trademarked slogan of "Food with Integrity" continued to ignore the routine exploitation of food workers – potential whistleblowers whose voices should be heard. Now that Chipotle has joined CIW's Fair Food Program (making it the 11th company to do so), its public image has some real accountability to back it up.

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Labeling Push for Tenderized Steaks … What About Meat Glue?

Steak_grilledMechanically tenderized steaks have been implicated in multiple E. coli outbreaks in the last decade, but a labeling requirement distinguishing them from intact steaks has yet to occur despite a rule being "in the works" at USDA since 2009.

The Government Accountability Project (GAP) and several of our coalition partners that care about food system transparency recently sent a letter to the USDA, calling on the agency to move forward on a proposed rule to label mechanically tenderized meat – a non-intact product that has been punctured with needles or blades to make the meat more tender. Alarmingly, the process allows for topical bacteria to penetrate the surface. Without sufficient labeling, consumers won't know to cook the meat at a higher temperature to kill all the potential pathogens.

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Walmart to Sell Monsanto's Unlabeled GE Sweet Corn

sweet_cornOnce again, consumers will be left in the dark when it comes to what food they're purchasing at the grocery store – in this case, thanks to Monsanto and Walmart. The largest retailer in the world, Walmart confirmed to the Chicago Tribune that it wouldn't restrict sales of Monsanto's new genetically engineered sweet corn.

Like other foods containing genetically engineered (GE) ingredients, the sweet corn does not require labeling to keep shoppers fully informed about what they're eating (a different story in the European Union, China, Russia, Australia and Japan, where it's required). Some food safety advocates say directly consuming GE foods necessitates more long-term, transparent health studies.

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New Cargill Salmonella Outbreak with a Side of Food Recall Overload

cdc_cargill_mapPersons infected w/ Salmonella outbreak strain linked to ground beef (Source: CDC)According to NPR, consumers are experiencing food 'recall overload.' That makes sense, given the long list of recalls so far this year, including 50 FDA-regulated products and 45 USDA-regulated products.

Despite "recall fatigue," consumers should pay attention to the most recent recall by Cargill Meat Solutions: almost 30,000 pounds of ground beef products that may be contaminated with Salmonella.

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Heinz Joins Trend to Phase Out Cramped Pig Crates

pig_cratesAnother food company has joined the sweeping trend to phase out pig gestation crates in its supply chain. Heinz – known for its ketchup but also the maker of Bagel Bites, Weight Watchers frozen meals and food distributed under the T.G.I. Friday's and Classico brands – told the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that it's "working with its pork suppliers to understand and document their plans to reduce or end the use of crates."

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Survey Shows Good & Bad Food Companies in Antibiotic Use Policy

louise_slaughterRep. Louise SlaughterFIC blogged back in February about the letter Rep. Louise Slaughter sent to 60 top food companies to determine their policies on antibiotic use in meat and poultry production (since the government continues to delay regulation). The survey results are finally in, with ratings by Slaughter on each company's policy and their transparency regarding such information.

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Forced Labor in Walmart Supply Chain: Guestworkers Blow the Whistle!

walmart_att UPDATE 6/30/12: Walmart announced it has suspended C.J's Seafood after Walmart's own investigation uncovered violations of some of its supplier standards.

Inadequate whistleblower protections already leave many American food industry workers vulnerable to retaliation for speaking out against exploitative practices, so you can imagine how guestworkers (hired from abroad) are treated.

Last year, student guestworkers risked their jobs exposing harsh working conditions at a Hershey packing plant in Pennsylvania. Now, guestworkers are trying to hold Walmart accountable for atrocious labor conditions along its food supply chain.

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