Policy Summaries and Analyses

The Food Policy Research Center delivers comprehensive, integrated Policy Analyses and Issue Briefs of some of today’s complex food issues. The goal is to inform policymakers, industry representatives, and consumers of the science behind the issues. Each Policy Analysis and Issue Brief involves an interdisciplinary research team comprised of at least one author and several scientific reviewers incorporating economic, environmental, social, health, governmental, and legislative considerations.

Issue Briefs are presented using balanced and un-biased science in a straightforward one to two-page format using plain language. Topic areas identified by various commodity groups and legislative staffers helped determine the critical issues for Analyses.

We welcome your comments and recommendations for future Analyses. Share your thoughts by contacting Carol Peterson at fprc@umn.edu or 612-625-8709.

Agriculture

Agriculture

The Likelihood of Disease Spread from Humans to Livestock Through Animal Feed Manufacturing

Summary
  • To date, no documented cases of disease spread to livestock from infected humans involved in animal feed manufacturing have been found in published literature, including peer reviewed journals.
  • While two studies1,2  document animal feed as a source of reported zoonotic pathogens (disease agents that can be passed between animals and humans), neither of these studies identify infected humans involved with feed manufacturing as the likely cause.
  • The hypothetical risk that livestock can become sick, from pathogens spread by infected humans involved in manufacture of livestock feed, can be reduced by facility design and sanitation practices (i.e., providing accessible toilets and good personal hygiene such as hand washing).

Are Food Stamps Income or Food Supplementation?: A Meta-Analysis

Summary
  • Understanding how participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), treat the benefits received is crucial to evaluating proposals concerning the future direction of the program.
  • Studies that have attempted to answer the question of whether recipients view “food stamp” benefits as income or as food supplementation, have used very different methods and come to very different conclusions.
  • This analysis provides a comprehensive literature review and, using meta-analytic methods, provides a systematic evaluation of prior studies to investigate sources of study diversity.

Public Opinion about an Emerging Food Policy Issue: Where Evidence, Policy, and Politics Intersect

Summary
  • Raw milk, until recently, has been a low-salience issue in both the national and regional media. In the last few years, however, the overall volume of media coverage of raw milk has expanded, but media attention in this period is characterized by distinctive spikes rather than a gradual increase in the issue’s prominence.
  • Supporters and opponents of raw milk compete to frame the issue, offering a relatively small set of arguments for and against the sale of raw milk that employ a combination of scientific evidence and political and personal values.
  • Framing access to raw milk as an issue of consumer choice is more persuasive than the opposing frame of health risks.
  • Differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans are smaller on the question of raw milk regulation than other food policy issues, but providing political party cues in addition to framing arguments widens the gap between them. Differences between partisan groups on raw milk policy are smallest when the issue is presented as one that involves consumer choice.

Comparing Public Attitudes Towards Genetically-Modified and Nanotechnology-Based Foods and Labeling

Summary

Using the data collected, authors employ various statistical models to capture the differences in consumer preferences and have identified four segment groups in which consumers can be summarized:

  1. “Price Oriented/Technology Adopters,”
  2. “Technology Averse,”
  3. “Benefit Oriented/Technology Accepters,”
  4. “New Technology Rejecters.”

A Controlled Experiment to Reduce Menu Item Portion Sizes

Summary

Providing Flexible Food Portions in a Restaurant Setting: Impact on Business Operations, Food Consumption and Food Waste

  • Increased portion sizes of meals outside the home are associated with increased energy intake, obesity, and lower diet quality.
  • Large portion sizes have a major influence on waste in food service operations.
  • Consumption and food waste decrease with smaller portion sizes.
  • Customer satisfaction improves with the addition of reduced.

 

Antimicrobial Residues in Farmed Shrimp

Summary
  • Americans consume more shrimp than any other seafood, much of which is produced on farms in other countries.
  • Antimicrobial drugs are detected occasionally in farmed shrimp, especially in shrimp originating from outside the United States (U.S.).
  • While importing shrimp intended for food containing any antimicrobial is illegal, incentives remain for antimicrobial use by shrimp farmers.
  • Many antimicrobials that have been found in farmed shrimp have the potential to cause illness in humans.
  • Increasing use of 3rd party audits, increasing funding for residue testing, and enhancing veterinary infrastructure in exporting countries may help improve current U.S. regulation of farmed shrimp.

Potential Impacts of a Zero Tolerance Policy for Salmonella on Raw Meat and Poultry

Summary
  • Although prevalence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry has declined, human illness due to Salmonella has not decreased over the past 15 years.
  • High-profile outbreaks and the proportion of Salmonella cases that are attributed to raw meat and poultry products have created a demand for new strategies to control Salmonella in these products.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) previously used zero tolerance policies to control E. coli O157 in ground beef. Some have suggested that this serves as precedent for similar action for Salmonella in meat and poultry products.
  • Enacting zero tolerance policies for Salmonella will not necessarily produce the desired public health outcomes and may lead to unsustainable increases in the number of meat and poultry products that would be held and recalled, with the potential for increased costs for producers, distributors, and consumers.

Potential Impacts of Classifying Specific Strains of Salmonella with Multi-Drug Resistance as Adulterants in Ground Beef and Poultry Products

Summary
  • The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers strains of Salmonella resistant to multiple antibiotics (multi-drug resistant or MDR Salmonella) to be serious public health concerns, leading to proposals to declare them to be adulterants in ground beef and poultry.
  • With current technology, it is impossible to produce Salmonella-free raw meat and poultry.
  • Available methods to detect and confirm MDR Salmonella are not suitable to support regulatory intervention on the scale that would be required by the proposed policy.
  • Declaring MDR Salmonella an adulterant in ground beef and poultry would likely have greater costs and fewer public health benefits in comparison to when E. coli O157:H7 was declared an adulterant.
  • Additional analyses are needed to identify more effective public health interventions to address MDR Salmonella.

Statewide Food Policy Councils: Considerations for Minnesota Policymakers

Summary
  • Statewide food policy councils (Councils) are cross-sector bodies that can potentially help states comprehensively address food system objectives related to agriculture, health, economic development, and the environment.
  • Councils have engaged in several activities relevant to Minnesota such as developing food charters, spearheading policies that support farm-to-school efforts, and supporting local and regional councils.
  • Challenges for Councils include working with diverse stakeholders, reliance on a voluntary workforce, and lack of financial or political support.
  • Councils overcome challenges with the support of inclusive leadership, members who can establish common ground, and resources like legislative buy-in and funding.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Family Nutrition

Summary
  • SNAP has been shown to significantly reduce rates of food insecurity.1
  • SNAP participants are disproportionately obese and have poorer diet quality in comparison to income eligible non-participants.
  • Strategies have been proposed for reshaping SNAP so that it better meets its objective to help people and families buy the food they need for good health.
  • However, research is lacking to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of these proposed program changes.

School Meal Regulations and Child Nutrition: Environmental Approaches to Improve Intake

Summary
  • The School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) requirements have recently been updated to improve the healthfulness of school meals.1
  • For these changes to improve children’s health status, efforts must be made to increase the acceptance and consumption of the available healthful foods.
  • Behavioral economic approaches change the choice architecture to make the healthful choice the default option;2often healthful choices are more convenient or visually appealing than less healthful choices. Thus, these approaches can nudge students toward healthful choices and increase intake of healthful foods.
  • Effective behavioral economic strategies should be incorporated into federally funded nutrition programs.

Issues relating to the regulation of the milk food chain: Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) versus Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules

Summary
  • The complex process of collecting raw milk from a dairy cow and transforming it into a safe, palatable, consumer-ready milk product has been considered at high risk for accidental or intentional contamination.
  • The production of Grade A, consumer-ready milk products has been regulated by the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) in the United States (US) since 1927 to prevent accidental contamination of the product.
  • While other industries have been exempted from some of the new legislation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the dairy industry has been included in a rule established to prevent intentional contamination of food.
  • Controversy exists over whether the dairy industry should be required to comply with this regulation in FSMA since the PMO has been protecting the US milk supply to date.

Pigs and MRSA: What Are the Human Health Risks and to Whom?

Summary
  • MRSA (methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus) has been a major cause of human infections for over 50 years, particularly in hospitals. MRSA is among the foremost bacteria of concern regarding antimicrobial resistance.
  • From the mid 1990s, MRSA epidemiology changed globally as new MRSA variants caused infections in otherwise healthy people having no exposure to hospitals.
  • Since 2004, the discovery of novel MRSA variants in livestock has raised concerns about potential public health impacts of animal reservoirs of MRSA.
  • A specific MRSA lineage (ST398) is the focus of concern in livestock. ST398 was unknown before being found in patients in the Netherlands who had exposure to pig farms. ST398 MRSA is now known to occur in many countries and species (cattle, poultry, and horses).
  • Exposure to MRSA from livestock is a concern for people working with live animals (farmers, veterinarians). Risk to the general public via other routes appears minimal.
  • MRSA of livestock origin are less likely to persist and spread in people than MRSA of human origin. No community outbreak of ST398 MRSA infection has been reported anywhere, nor has a single case of clinical infection been reported in the United States of America (USA).
  • The impact of ST398 MRSA on human illness has been very low. Policy strategies to reduce ST398 should be assessed with respect to feasibility and cost prior to implementation.

View a pdf summary

Considering the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically-Engineered (GE) Foods in the U.S.

Summary
  • Over 25 U.S. states, including Minnesota, are considering legislation to label GE foods.
  • The major arguments for mandatory labeling include the consumer's right to know, genetic engineering is still controversial, some do not trust the government regulatory process, many countries already require labeling, and a majority support it in polls.
  • The major arguments against mandatory labeling include viewing it as a false warning that GE foods are risky, consumers already have GE-free options such as organic products, the difference between a right and need to know, consumer choice could be reduced, and the cost of food could increase.
  • State labeling laws are likely to face legal challenges. Federal action is unlikely. However, one grocery chain has already taken action to require GE product labeling and other food companies may also.

Hunting Ammunition and Implications for Public Health

Summary
  • Multiple types of hunting ammunition are available with varying ballistics and public health implications.
  • Game meat harvested with lead ammunition may be contaminated with lead fragments.
  • Ingestion of lead fragments in game meat may present health risks, especially to women and children. There is no level of lead exposure in children known to be without adverse effects.
  • Public health risks can be mitigated by use of alternative hunting ammunitions.

Safety Assessment of Genetically Engineered Foods: US Policy & Current Science

Summary
  • Safety of GE foods is evaluated through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary consultation process.
  • The FDA can take action if food, including GE food, presents a demonstrable safety risk post-market.
  • GE safety studies focus on toxicity, adverse nutritional changes, allergenicity and horizontal gene transfer.
  • Scientific studies testing whole GE food show some mixed results so statements about all GE foods being safe or unsafe are unwarranted.
  • Whole-food feeding studies for GE safety assessment are tricky, as plant varieties are diverse in chemical composition and the effect of the introduced genes or changes caused by them are hard to tease out.
  • Strong agreement exists for better testing protocols, especially for allergenicity and whole-food feeding trials.

General Overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act

Summary
  • Despite the US having one of the safest food supplies in the world, foodborne illness continues to sicken nearly 48 million people per year and accounts for over 3000 deaths in the US.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed by congress in 2011, represents the first major reform to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety authority in over 70 years.
  • FSMA requires enhanced regulation of produce from farm to sale and other FDA regulated foods from processing to sale and introduces food defense requirements.
  • FSMA alters the role of FDA in food Safety through 5 key changes:
  1. A shift of focus from reaction to prevention including preventing intentional contamination.
  2. More authority to inspect and assure compliance with inspection frequencies based on risk.
  3. Mandatory recall authority.
  4. Authorities to strengthen import safety to assure that US food safety standards are met.
  5. Stronger partnerships with other government agencies and private entities. 

Food Loss and Waste in the US: The Science Behind the Supply Chain

Summary
  • Roughly 40% of the United States (US) food supply (1500 calories/person/day) is never eaten, which is among the highest rates of food lossi globally. Addressing this loss could help reduce food insecurity and the environmental impacts of agriculture.
  • Tremendous resources are used to produce uneaten food in the US: 30% of fertilizer, 31% of cropland, 25% of total freshwater consumption, and 2% of total energy consumption.
  • Food waste generated when people discard food in homes and foodservice accounts for 60% of food loss, is mostly avoidable, and is under-emphasized as an opportunity to improve the food system.
  • Targeting efforts on reducing waste of meat has great potential to benefit both the environment and the household budget.
  • Clarifying the meaning of date labels on foods could also reduce consumer food waste.

Food Irradiation and Public Health

Summary
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recognize the potential of food irradiation to prevent many infectious diseases that are transmitted by meat, poultry, fresh produce and other foods.
  • Irradiation has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to kill harmful and spoilage bacteria and pests on fruits, vegetables, spices, raw poultry and red meats, and wheat flour.
  • Use of irradiation would improve food security by reducing foodborne illness and reducing food waste by spoilage. Approved levels of irradiation do not sterilize food and are not a substitute for proper food handling.
  • Food irradiation currently is underutilized, most likely due to limited processing capacity, demand uncertainty, consumer perceptions and the feelings of some organizations that more research is needed.

Dairy Subtitle to the 2013 Farm Bill: Critical Issues and Options

Summary
  • 2013 House and Senate Farm Bills provide major reforms to federal dairy policy, re-orienting dairy safety net programs from supporting milk revenue to protecting dairy income over feed cost (IOFC) margins. Proposed 2013 House and Senate Farm Bills are likely to be very effective in providing catastrophic dairy margin insurance. If effective, the Senate stabilization program would reduce the duration of low-margin periods.1 However, if the stability of net farm incomes is substantially increased, then milk supply response may result in reduced average IOFC margins.4
  • Contrary to current Title I commodity programs, these dairy reforms impose no eligibility constraints with respect to farm size or adjusted growth income. As such, the new dairy policy in the 2013 Farm Bill is expected to increase the share of total program benefits accruing to large farm operations.2,5 Under the Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC), farms with less than 100 cows (76% of farms; 18% of milk production) account for 42% of net payments and farms over 1000 cows (2% of farms; 42% of milk production) account for 6% of net payments. Under the new policy regime farms with fewer than 100 cows will get 17-21% of net program benefits, and farms over 1000 cows will get 36-43% of benefits.2
  • Expected costs of 2013 Farm Bill dairy policy proposals are found to be up to three times as high as the expected costs of continuing the 2008 Farm Bill dairy programs. The proposed Senate stabilization program may reduce costs of 2013 Farm bill programs between 5% and 30% relative to standalone margin insurance, with results highly sensitive to modeling assumptions regarding the program participation rate and elasticity of demand for dairy foods.2
  • The ability to make annual coverage decisions immediately before the coverage period starts encourages dairy producers to use the new programs strategically. When forecasted margins are above average, the profit-maximizing decision for producers is to forfeit supplemental margin insurance. When forecasted margins are much below average, producers are likely to over insure, and buy very high margin coverage levels.3 By instituting a six-months gap between a sign-up date and the beginning of the coverage period, participants’ ability to forecast margins over the coverage period would be substantially reduced, and enrollment decisions would be based on the need for risk protection, rather than the opportunity for rent extraction. This change would preserve low and affordable premium levels, while reducing the expected program outlays by at least 20%.

Raw Milk and Implications for Public Health

Summary
  • Consumer demand exists for the sale of unpasteurized (i.e., raw) milk, driven by a number of consumer interests including: taste preference, belief about health benefits, desire to consume local food, concern that pasteurization masks ‘dirty’ milk, interest in ‘right to choose’, and arguments that producers can encourage beneficial microbes and thereby control the presence of harmful bacteria in raw milk.
  • Current Minnesota law allows “occasional” sale of raw milk only by dairy producers on the farm where the milk was produced.
  • Public health investigations have identified links between raw milk consumption and foodborne illness outbreaks caused by a range of pathogens in Minnesota and other states.
  • Children are at greatest risk of serious illness and death from raw milk consumption.
  • Pasteurization of milk began in the 1920s in the United States, and became a widespread practice by the 1950s. Use of pasteurization led to a reduction in food borne diseases commonly linked to unpasteurized milk.
  • Scientific evidence suggests that relaxing Minnesota regulation of raw milk sales will result in increased illness and more multi-person outbreaks.
  • While sanitation inspections and regular product testing may decrease the health risks of raw milk, multiple policy options exist regarding regulation of raw milk sales.

Changing Agricultural Climate: Implications for Innovation Policies

Summary
  • Average temperatures are rising, both globally and in the Midwest United States.
  • Rainfall is increasing on average in the Midwest while also becoming more unpredictable on any given farm.
  • Episodes of extreme air moisture content are increasing, affecting both animal and plant agriculture.
  • Agriculture is especially sensitive to the ever-changing natural environments in which it operates.
  • Agricultural producers can respond to variations in climate given the right know-how and technologies.
  • Choices made now will have long-run implications for the productivity and competitiveness of U.S. agriculture.

Backyard Poultry: Implications for Public Health and Safety

Summary
  • Keeping backyard poultry is predominately regulated at the local level through county and city ordinances and zoning.
  • Keeping backyard poultry as pets may contribute to overall human well-being through their companionship.
  • Backyard poultry also can expose people to disease; live birds can appear healthy and show no sign of illness while carrying germs and bacteria that can make humans sick.
  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of getting disease from backyard poultry.
  • Prevention practices can help minimize or eliminate infectious disease transmission, including thorough hand washing with soap and water after handling poultry, poultry feed, equipment or eggs; proper food preparation of poultry and eggs; and supervising children when handling live poultry.

Balancing The Health Impacts of Antibiotic Use in Animal Feed

Summary
  • Antibiotics are important for both animal and human health and welfare.
  • Administration of antibiotics through feed or water is often the most humane and labor-efficient method of treating groups of animals such as chickens, pigs, or fish.
  • Administration of antibiotics to food-producing animals – like all antibiotic use, regardless of setting or route of administration – contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.
  • While the human health and economic implications of resistance vary widely depending on antibiotics and pathogens of concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and World Health Organization (WHO) conclude that feeding certain antibiotics for production purposes (i.e., growth promotion or increased feed efficiency) is a public health problem.

Current science supports three complementary food animal-related strategies for maintaining the benefits of antibiotic use for animal health and welfare while reducing the antibiotic resistance risks: elimination of long term, low dose use of most antibiotics for production purposes; good animal husbandry practices; and more judicious use of antibiotics in prevention and control of disease in food animals. 

Do Alternative Livestock Production Systems Yield Safer Food?

Summary
  • Food products from alternative livestock production systems are increasing in popularity among consumers.
  • Limited research exists examining differences in food safety between conventional and alternative animal production systems.
  • There appears to be no difference in rates of Campylobacter, Salmonella, and E. coli in animals raised in conventional or alternative systems.
  • Animals raised in outdoor environments have an increased exposure to parasites and environmental contaminants.  

Antibiotics and Antimicrobials

Antibiotics and Antimicrobials

Antimicrobial Residues in Farmed Shrimp

Summary
  • Americans consume more shrimp than any other seafood, much of which is produced on farms in other countries.
  • Antimicrobial drugs are detected occasionally in farmed shrimp, especially in shrimp originating from outside the United States (U.S.).
  • While importing shrimp intended for food containing any antimicrobial is illegal, incentives remain for antimicrobial use by shrimp farmers.
  • Many antimicrobials that have been found in farmed shrimp have the potential to cause illness in humans.
  • Increasing use of 3rd party audits, increasing funding for residue testing, and enhancing veterinary infrastructure in exporting countries may help improve current U.S. regulation of farmed shrimp.

Balancing The Health Impacts of Antibiotic Use in Animal Feed

Summary
  • Antibiotics are important for both animal and human health and welfare.
  • Administration of antibiotics through feed or water is often the most humane and labor-efficient method of treating groups of animals such as chickens, pigs, or fish.
  • Administration of antibiotics to food-producing animals – like all antibiotic use, regardless of setting or route of administration – contributes to the development of antibiotic resistance.
  • While the human health and economic implications of resistance vary widely depending on antibiotics and pathogens of concern, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and World Health Organization (WHO) conclude that feeding certain antibiotics for production purposes (i.e., growth promotion or increased feed efficiency) is a public health problem.

Current science supports three complementary food animal-related strategies for maintaining the benefits of antibiotic use for animal health and welfare while reducing the antibiotic resistance risks: elimination of long term, low dose use of most antibiotics for production purposes; good animal husbandry practices; and more judicious use of antibiotics in prevention and control of disease in food animals. 

Food and nutrition

Food and nutrition

School Meal Regulations and Child Nutrition: Environmental Approaches to Improve Intake

Summary
  • The School Breakfast Program (SBP) and National School Lunch Program (NSLP) requirements have recently been updated to improve the healthfulness of school meals.1
  • For these changes to improve children’s health status, efforts must be made to increase the acceptance and consumption of the available healthful foods.
  • Behavioral economic approaches change the choice architecture to make the healthful choice the default option;2often healthful choices are more convenient or visually appealing than less healthful choices. Thus, these approaches can nudge students toward healthful choices and increase intake of healthful foods.
  • Effective behavioral economic strategies should be incorporated into federally funded nutrition programs.

Food Loss and Waste in the US: The Science Behind the Supply Chain

Summary
  • Roughly 40% of the United States (US) food supply (1500 calories/person/day) is never eaten, which is among the highest rates of food lossi globally. Addressing this loss could help reduce food insecurity and the environmental impacts of agriculture.
  • Tremendous resources are used to produce uneaten food in the US: 30% of fertilizer, 31% of cropland, 25% of total freshwater consumption, and 2% of total energy consumption.
  • Food waste generated when people discard food in homes and foodservice accounts for 60% of food loss, is mostly avoidable, and is under-emphasized as an opportunity to improve the food system.
  • Targeting efforts on reducing waste of meat has great potential to benefit both the environment and the household budget.
  • Clarifying the meaning of date labels on foods could also reduce consumer food waste.

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA)

Issues relating to the regulation of the milk food chain: Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) versus Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) rules

Summary
  • The complex process of collecting raw milk from a dairy cow and transforming it into a safe, palatable, consumer-ready milk product has been considered at high risk for accidental or intentional contamination.
  • The production of Grade A, consumer-ready milk products has been regulated by the Pasteurized Milk Ordinance (PMO) in the United States (US) since 1927 to prevent accidental contamination of the product.
  • While other industries have been exempted from some of the new legislation under the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), the dairy industry has been included in a rule established to prevent intentional contamination of food.
  • Controversy exists over whether the dairy industry should be required to comply with this regulation in FSMA since the PMO has been protecting the US milk supply to date.

General Overview of the Food Safety Modernization Act

Summary
  • Despite the US having one of the safest food supplies in the world, foodborne illness continues to sicken nearly 48 million people per year and accounts for over 3000 deaths in the US.
  • The Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA), passed by congress in 2011, represents the first major reform to the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) food safety authority in over 70 years.
  • FSMA requires enhanced regulation of produce from farm to sale and other FDA regulated foods from processing to sale and introduces food defense requirements.
  • FSMA alters the role of FDA in food Safety through 5 key changes:
  1. A shift of focus from reaction to prevention including preventing intentional contamination.
  2. More authority to inspect and assure compliance with inspection frequencies based on risk.
  3. Mandatory recall authority.
  4. Authorities to strengthen import safety to assure that US food safety standards are met.
  5. Stronger partnerships with other government agencies and private entities. 

Genetically Engineered Foods

Genetically Engineered Foods

Comparing Public Attitudes Towards Genetically-Modified and Nanotechnology-Based Foods and Labeling

Summary

Using the data collected, authors employ various statistical models to capture the differences in consumer preferences and have identified four segment groups in which consumers can be summarized:

  1. “Price Oriented/Technology Adopters,”
  2. “Technology Averse,”
  3. “Benefit Oriented/Technology Accepters,”
  4. “New Technology Rejecters.”

Considering the Mandatory Labeling of Genetically-Engineered (GE) Foods in the U.S.

Summary
  • Over 25 U.S. states, including Minnesota, are considering legislation to label GE foods.
  • The major arguments for mandatory labeling include the consumer's right to know, genetic engineering is still controversial, some do not trust the government regulatory process, many countries already require labeling, and a majority support it in polls.
  • The major arguments against mandatory labeling include viewing it as a false warning that GE foods are risky, consumers already have GE-free options such as organic products, the difference between a right and need to know, consumer choice could be reduced, and the cost of food could increase.
  • State labeling laws are likely to face legal challenges. Federal action is unlikely. However, one grocery chain has already taken action to require GE product labeling and other food companies may also.

Safety Assessment of Genetically Engineered Foods: US Policy & Current Science

Summary
  • Safety of GE foods is evaluated through the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s voluntary consultation process.
  • The FDA can take action if food, including GE food, presents a demonstrable safety risk post-market.
  • GE safety studies focus on toxicity, adverse nutritional changes, allergenicity and horizontal gene transfer.
  • Scientific studies testing whole GE food show some mixed results so statements about all GE foods being safe or unsafe are unwarranted.
  • Whole-food feeding studies for GE safety assessment are tricky, as plant varieties are diverse in chemical composition and the effect of the introduced genes or changes caused by them are hard to tease out.
  • Strong agreement exists for better testing protocols, especially for allergenicity and whole-food feeding trials.

Policy

Policy

Public Opinion about an Emerging Food Policy Issue: Where Evidence, Policy, and Politics Intersect

Summary
  • Raw milk, until recently, has been a low-salience issue in both the national and regional media. In the last few years, however, the overall volume of media coverage of raw milk has expanded, but media attention in this period is characterized by distinctive spikes rather than a gradual increase in the issue’s prominence.
  • Supporters and opponents of raw milk compete to frame the issue, offering a relatively small set of arguments for and against the sale of raw milk that employ a combination of scientific evidence and political and personal values.
  • Framing access to raw milk as an issue of consumer choice is more persuasive than the opposing frame of health risks.
  • Differences of opinion between Democrats and Republicans are smaller on the question of raw milk regulation than other food policy issues, but providing political party cues in addition to framing arguments widens the gap between them. Differences between partisan groups on raw milk policy are smallest when the issue is presented as one that involves consumer choice.

Statewide Food Policy Councils: Considerations for Minnesota Policymakers

Summary
  • Statewide food policy councils (Councils) are cross-sector bodies that can potentially help states comprehensively address food system objectives related to agriculture, health, economic development, and the environment.
  • Councils have engaged in several activities relevant to Minnesota such as developing food charters, spearheading policies that support farm-to-school efforts, and supporting local and regional councils.
  • Challenges for Councils include working with diverse stakeholders, reliance on a voluntary workforce, and lack of financial or political support.
  • Councils overcome challenges with the support of inclusive leadership, members who can establish common ground, and resources like legislative buy-in and funding.

Dairy Subtitle to the 2013 Farm Bill: Critical Issues and Options

Summary
  • 2013 House and Senate Farm Bills provide major reforms to federal dairy policy, re-orienting dairy safety net programs from supporting milk revenue to protecting dairy income over feed cost (IOFC) margins. Proposed 2013 House and Senate Farm Bills are likely to be very effective in providing catastrophic dairy margin insurance. If effective, the Senate stabilization program would reduce the duration of low-margin periods.1 However, if the stability of net farm incomes is substantially increased, then milk supply response may result in reduced average IOFC margins.4
  • Contrary to current Title I commodity programs, these dairy reforms impose no eligibility constraints with respect to farm size or adjusted growth income. As such, the new dairy policy in the 2013 Farm Bill is expected to increase the share of total program benefits accruing to large farm operations.2,5 Under the Milk Income Loss Contract program (MILC), farms with less than 100 cows (76% of farms; 18% of milk production) account for 42% of net payments and farms over 1000 cows (2% of farms; 42% of milk production) account for 6% of net payments. Under the new policy regime farms with fewer than 100 cows will get 17-21% of net program benefits, and farms over 1000 cows will get 36-43% of benefits.2
  • Expected costs of 2013 Farm Bill dairy policy proposals are found to be up to three times as high as the expected costs of continuing the 2008 Farm Bill dairy programs. The proposed Senate stabilization program may reduce costs of 2013 Farm bill programs between 5% and 30% relative to standalone margin insurance, with results highly sensitive to modeling assumptions regarding the program participation rate and elasticity of demand for dairy foods.2
  • The ability to make annual coverage decisions immediately before the coverage period starts encourages dairy producers to use the new programs strategically. When forecasted margins are above average, the profit-maximizing decision for producers is to forfeit supplemental margin insurance. When forecasted margins are much below average, producers are likely to over insure, and buy very high margin coverage levels.3 By instituting a six-months gap between a sign-up date and the beginning of the coverage period, participants’ ability to forecast margins over the coverage period would be substantially reduced, and enrollment decisions would be based on the need for risk protection, rather than the opportunity for rent extraction. This change would preserve low and affordable premium levels, while reducing the expected program outlays by at least 20%.

Public Health

Public Health

Hunting Ammunition and Implications for Public Health

Summary
  • Multiple types of hunting ammunition are available with varying ballistics and public health implications.
  • Game meat harvested with lead ammunition may be contaminated with lead fragments.
  • Ingestion of lead fragments in game meat may present health risks, especially to women and children. There is no level of lead exposure in children known to be without adverse effects.
  • Public health risks can be mitigated by use of alternative hunting ammunitions.

Food Irradiation and Public Health

Summary
  • The US Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization recognize the potential of food irradiation to prevent many infectious diseases that are transmitted by meat, poultry, fresh produce and other foods.
  • Irradiation has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration to kill harmful and spoilage bacteria and pests on fruits, vegetables, spices, raw poultry and red meats, and wheat flour.
  • Use of irradiation would improve food security by reducing foodborne illness and reducing food waste by spoilage. Approved levels of irradiation do not sterilize food and are not a substitute for proper food handling.
  • Food irradiation currently is underutilized, most likely due to limited processing capacity, demand uncertainty, consumer perceptions and the feelings of some organizations that more research is needed.

Raw Milk and Implications for Public Health

Summary
  • Consumer demand exists for the sale of unpasteurized (i.e., raw) milk, driven by a number of consumer interests including: taste preference, belief about health benefits, desire to consume local food, concern that pasteurization masks ‘dirty’ milk, interest in ‘right to choose’, and arguments that producers can encourage beneficial microbes and thereby control the presence of harmful bacteria in raw milk.
  • Current Minnesota law allows “occasional” sale of raw milk only by dairy producers on the farm where the milk was produced.
  • Public health investigations have identified links between raw milk consumption and foodborne illness outbreaks caused by a range of pathogens in Minnesota and other states.
  • Children are at greatest risk of serious illness and death from raw milk consumption.
  • Pasteurization of milk began in the 1920s in the United States, and became a widespread practice by the 1950s. Use of pasteurization led to a reduction in food borne diseases commonly linked to unpasteurized milk.
  • Scientific evidence suggests that relaxing Minnesota regulation of raw milk sales will result in increased illness and more multi-person outbreaks.
  • While sanitation inspections and regular product testing may decrease the health risks of raw milk, multiple policy options exist regarding regulation of raw milk sales.

Backyard Poultry: Implications for Public Health and Safety

Summary
  • Keeping backyard poultry is predominately regulated at the local level through county and city ordinances and zoning.
  • Keeping backyard poultry as pets may contribute to overall human well-being through their companionship.
  • Backyard poultry also can expose people to disease; live birds can appear healthy and show no sign of illness while carrying germs and bacteria that can make humans sick.
  • Children, the elderly, pregnant women and individuals with compromised immune systems are at the greatest risk of getting disease from backyard poultry.
  • Prevention practices can help minimize or eliminate infectious disease transmission, including thorough hand washing with soap and water after handling poultry, poultry feed, equipment or eggs; proper food preparation of poultry and eggs; and supervising children when handling live poultry.

Salmonella

Salmonella

Potential Impacts of a Zero Tolerance Policy for Salmonella on Raw Meat and Poultry

Summary
  • Although prevalence of Salmonella in raw meat and poultry has declined, human illness due to Salmonella has not decreased over the past 15 years.
  • High-profile outbreaks and the proportion of Salmonella cases that are attributed to raw meat and poultry products have created a demand for new strategies to control Salmonella in these products.
  • The United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) previously used zero tolerance policies to control E. coli O157 in ground beef. Some have suggested that this serves as precedent for similar action for Salmonella in meat and poultry products.
  • Enacting zero tolerance policies for Salmonella will not necessarily produce the desired public health outcomes and may lead to unsustainable increases in the number of meat and poultry products that would be held and recalled, with the potential for increased costs for producers, distributors, and consumers.

Potential Impacts of Classifying Specific Strains of Salmonella with Multi-Drug Resistance as Adulterants in Ground Beef and Poultry Products

Summary
  • The United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) considers strains of Salmonella resistant to multiple antibiotics (multi-drug resistant or MDR Salmonella) to be serious public health concerns, leading to proposals to declare them to be adulterants in ground beef and poultry.
  • With current technology, it is impossible to produce Salmonella-free raw meat and poultry.
  • Available methods to detect and confirm MDR Salmonella are not suitable to support regulatory intervention on the scale that would be required by the proposed policy.
  • Declaring MDR Salmonella an adulterant in ground beef and poultry would likely have greater costs and fewer public health benefits in comparison to when E. coli O157:H7 was declared an adulterant.
  • Additional analyses are needed to identify more effective public health interventions to address MDR Salmonella.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

Are Food Stamps Income or Food Supplementation?: A Meta-Analysis

Summary
  • Understanding how participants in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (or SNAP), treat the benefits received is crucial to evaluating proposals concerning the future direction of the program.
  • Studies that have attempted to answer the question of whether recipients view “food stamp” benefits as income or as food supplementation, have used very different methods and come to very different conclusions.
  • This analysis provides a comprehensive literature review and, using meta-analytic methods, provides a systematic evaluation of prior studies to investigate sources of study diversity.

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Family Nutrition

Summary
  • SNAP has been shown to significantly reduce rates of food insecurity.1
  • SNAP participants are disproportionately obese and have poorer diet quality in comparison to income eligible non-participants.
  • Strategies have been proposed for reshaping SNAP so that it better meets its objective to help people and families buy the food they need for good health.
  • However, research is lacking to demonstrate the potential effectiveness of these proposed program changes.