2020 Organic Pioneer Award recipients announced by Rodale Institute

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Rodale Institute, the global leader in regenerative organic agriculture, will recognize three leaders of the organic movement during Organic Pioneer Month throughout September. Organic rice producer Lundberg Family Farms, groundbreaking biologist Dr. Tyrone Hayes and former Organic Trade Association Executive Director Katherine DiMatteo will be honored for their work in advancing the organic movement. 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, this year's celebration of the Organic Pioneer Award recipients and annual fundraiser will be held virtually throughout the month of September, designated as "Organic Pioneer Month." Each week, Rodale Institute will feature unique content from the award winners, including videos, letters from the honorees and more. 

Organic Pioneer Month will culminate in a live, virtual panel with the honorees on September 21 at 2 p.m. EST entitled "2020 Organic Pioneer Awards: The Past, Present, and Future of our Movement." Anyone who donates to Rodale Institute during the Organic Pioneer Month campaign will be registered for the event, moderated by Rodale Institute CEO Jeff Moyer. The conversation will discuss the past, present and future of the organic movement.

Traditionally hosted as a farm-to-table fundraising dinner at the Rodale Institute headquarters, the shift in the Organic Pioneer Awards format provides an opportunity to dive even deeper into the groundbreaking work of the Lundberg Family, Dr. Tyrone Hayes and Katherine DiMatteo. 

"This year's Organic Pioneer Award winners can be summed up in one word: legacy," said Jeff Moyer, Rodale Institute CEO. "Whether it is their significant impact on food labels, the National Organic Program standards, or paradigm-shifting pesticide research, the legacy of Lundberg Family Farms, Dr. Tyrone Hayes and Katherine DiMatteo within the organic movement is incredible. We are honored to present them with our highest honor this year." 

Learn more about the 2020 award winners:

Lundberg Family Farms has produced rice products on their family-owned farm since 1937, today becoming one of the leaders in the organic and eco-farmed rice market. Lundberg Family Farms leads with a longer view of family, food and organic farming. Albert, Frances and their four sons-Eldon, Wendell, Harlan and Homer-saw how the Dust Bowl stripped the land of its topsoil in the 1930s. When they moved to California, they decided to work in partnership with nature, becoming pioneers of organic farming. Since 1937 tlundberg-family.jpghe Lundbergs have been growing healthy, great-tasting rice while tending to soil, air, water and wildlife as carefully as their crops. In addition to farming organically, Lundberg Family Farms offsets its operations with 100% renewable energy, is ENERGY STAR certified and maintains TRUE Zero Waste certification. The Organic Pioneer award will be accepted by Grant Lundberg, current CEO of Lundberg Family Farms and third generation of the family. A passionate advocate of GMO food labeling, Lundberg was a founding director of the Non-GMO Project. 

"My family and I are honored to receive the Rodale Institute's Organic Pioneer Award," said Lundberg. "Our parents and grandparents were pioneers in every sense of the word. My cousins and I feel a profound responsibility to uphold their legacy of treating the land like a member of the family. We are grateful to the Rodale Institute for advancing the organic movement so we can keep growing together for generations to come." 

tyrone-hayes.jpegTyrone B. Hayes, Ph.D., is a Professor of Integrative Biology at the University of California, Berkeley. He received his bachelor's degree from Harvard University in 1989 and his doctorate from the Department of Integrative Biology at UC Berkeley in 1993. Hayes' career has focused on the role of endocrine-disrupting contaminants, particularly pesticides and their impact on global amphibian declines and public health. This research resulted in a widely known study connecting the herbicide atrazine to the feminization of male frogs. Hayes also studies environmental justice issues associated with targeted exposure of racial and ethnic minorities to chemicals and the role that exposure plays in health care disparities. 

"I am proud to be a scientist on the side of something positive," said Hayes. "Reducing the use of synthetic chemicals and fertilizers in food and agriculture will be key in maintaining healthy environments and food for future generations. I am honored to be recognized in this movement." 

katherine-dimatteo.jpgKatherine DiMatteo provides organizational management and policy and regulatory consulting services to the organic sector. The executive director of the Organic Trade Association from 1990 to 2006, DiMatteo was instrumental in shaping the outcome of the U.S. National Organic Program standards and the U.N. Codex Guidelines for organically produced foods. She currently serves on the Fairtrade America Board of Directors and the Advisory Board of Protect Our Breasts. DiMatteo was a founding member of the Climate Collaborative and now serves on its management board. Previously, she served as the president of IFOAM-Organics International Board of Directors and was a founding member of The Organic Center's Board of Directors. 

"It is such a privilege for me to receive the Rodale Institute Organic Pioneer Award," said DiMatteo. "I am most grateful to work with the community that has formed around organic agriculture, its principles and products. Through collaborations and creative tensions, together we have advanced organic locally and globally." 

Previous recipients of the Organic Pioneer Award include Dr. Jennifer Taylor (Lola's Organic Farm/FAMU), Yvon Chouinard (Patagonia), David Bronner (Dr. Bronner's), Alice Watters (Chez Panisse) and Governor Tom Wolf (Pennsylvania). 

Source: Rodale Institute


Dear exhausted entrepreneurs: It's time to push through

Elliot Begoun

This is going to be another of my tough love articles. So, if you don’t feel like having some cold water splashed on your face, stop now. 

The proverbial shit has hit the fan. The only certainty at this moment is uncertainty. The world has tipped on its axis. What that means for you, for me, is that life is kind of hard right now. Working long hours with little clarity or surety. Jumping from Zoom call to Zoom call finding Mondays blending into Thursdays, becoming Saturdays. 

Just when you feel as if there might be some solid footing the ground shifts again. It is scary, frustrating and emotionally draining. But, we have no choice other than to persevere, to move forward, to double down. 

There is a lot now that we cannot control. One thing that we can dictate is our effort. It is time to dig in. Time to push through the exhaustion. Your work ethic, your drive, your doggedness are what will put you in front of the line when this veil of uncertainty finally lifts. 

I get it, this doesn’t lend itself to work/life balance. But candidly, I think that concept is bullshit. It is dualistic thinking, dividing work from life. Work is part of life and the right pursuit should be a balance. 

That said, there are times when you need to add pressure to one end of the fulcrum, temporarily upsetting that balance and, in my opinion, that time is now. I’ve written a few times about finding the opportunity amid the chaos. That should be your singular mission. How do you make your business, your brand stronger? How do you transform into a nimble capital-efficient, resilient brand?

I don’t believe we will be returning to business as usual when we have a vaccine or after the election. There are things afoot that won’t be walked back. What does that mean for the future of your business? How do you need to change, respond, adjust? 

All of these questions and more should be answered. All require work, effort and time. I write this as I am doing the same. I too have noticed that I am on the far end of the fulcrum, completely out of balance. Yet, I know it is what my business needs. I recognize it is what I must do to serve. I’d be lying to say I am not tired and would be equally untruthful if I said I am not always able to muster my A-game. However, it is what is needed, and being passionate and resolute about what I do, I just do it, I just soldier on. 

I know you are tired. I know you may be fearful. I hear the doubt, worry and resignation in your voices. I recognize there is a strong impulse to stop, to curl up and ride out this madness. If you really believe in your business, brand and products, that impulse to stop or even slow down won’t serve you well. 

You are all agents of change. Entrepreneurs are best suited to navigate uncertainty. The same creativity, grit and drive that brought you here are what will guide you during this moment in time. Push through, leapfrog your competition, accept being unbalanced for a while. It is likely what is needed.

Natural retailers test ‘touchless browsing’ tech

Cornerstone shopper touchless technology buying product

Natural products retailers Native Sun and Raisin Rack have begun testing a new shelf-tag technology that allows consumers to view product information using their smartphones without touching the items.

Although the In-Store Touch-Less Aisle Browsing system is still in the early testing stages, it has already helped enhance the positioning of Native Sun as a retailer that is looking out for the health and wellbeing of its customers, said Aaron Gottlieb, owner of the Jacksonville Beach, Florida, independent retailer.

Anything a retailer does right now to make customers feel that they have the option to be safer, even if they don't use the tool, means they will believe in you more,” he said.

Touch-Less_floor_promo.jpgCustomer response to the system has been highly positive so far because of the added level of safety and sanitation the technology brings, Gottlieb said.

The Touch-Less Aisle Browsing system allows customers to simply point their phone’s camera at specially created shelf tags to reveal information about a product, including the data found on the nutrition facts panel and the ingredients list. Consumers don’t need to download any apps to use it, which was one of the requirements Gottlieb had for hosting the test in his stores.

Forcing customers to download an app and open it every time they want to scan a product would not be as effective as simply allowing them to point their camera phone at the shelf tag, he explained.

“You just open up your phone and you roll over the product, and it instantly loads up information on that product,” Gottlieb said. “It's the right type of use to have a good in-store experience.”

Gottlieb said he currently has tags installed on the shelves for about 800 of his top-selling CPG items. The original goal was to begin with about 1,000 items, but some products have experienced supply disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic and are currently unavailable.

In fact, the decrease in product availability makes Touch-Less Aisle Browsing particularly relevant, said David Williams, executive VP of business development, Cornerstone Consulting, the Tampa, Florida-based firm that supplies the system through its Cornerstone for Natural division. When a preferred item is unavailable, shoppers are more likely to pick up potential replacement products and check the label, he explained, potentially spreading germs from surface to surface.

“We’re turning our stores into a giant Petri dish,” Williams said.

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He cited data from C+R Research showing that 88% of shoppers reported being unable to find products they normally purchase. The research also found that 60% of shoppers said they were fearful of shopping in a grocery store, and 35% said grocery stores were not doing enough to protect them.

The problem of customers handling items on the shelves may be particularly acute for natural retailers, as consumers seek out healthy remedies and avoid going to hospitals and doctor’s offices, according to Cornerstone for Natural.

The Touch-Less Aisle Browsing system uses enhanced QR codes from Cornerstone called Eli Codes, which have been created for more than 100,000 natural, organic and specialty products using data from the IX-ONE database of product information. The Eli Codes are displayed on shelf talkers that inform customers how to scan the tags to obtain product information. Shoppers see color-coded buttons on their smartphone screens that provide access to nutritional and ingredient content, among other data.

Suppliers also have the opportunity to enhance or upgrade the product information that is associated with each code, to include content such as videos, documents and URL links. In addition, Williams said the tags can be a useful tool for store employees when providing assistance to shoppers.


Don Caster, owner of Raisin Rack, which operates two natural food stores in Ohio, said he is enthusiastic about testing the Touch-Less Aisle Browsing system because of the added information it provides for shoppers.

“I am a firm believer that the more information you can get to the customers, the better they can make good decisions,” he said. “I am looking at this for the long term, not just for what is happening now because of the virus.”

While QR codes have been used in supermarkets for several years, the Touch-Less Aisle Browsing system is much easier for the retailer to install and manage, Caster explained.

Raisin Rack is in the early stages of implementing the new system, he said, and doesn’t have any customer feedback yet. Plans call for the shelf tags to highlight Raisin Rack’s 1,000 top-selling items. He said he plans to promote awareness of the tags using social media and in-store materials.

Williams said non-slip floor decals and encouragement from employees can also help promote the use of the system.

Like Gottlieb of Native Sun, Caster said he views In-Store Touch-Less Aisle Browsing as a potential differentiator for his stores against competitors.

“As we try to survive in this crazy, crazy competitive environment out there, we are trying to create a positive experience,” he said.

“The independents can move on a dime,” Williams said. “This is their chance to differentiate themselves and show their customers they care more.”

All images courtesy Cornerstone.

Unboxed: 5 exceptional plant-based butters

Plant-based butter might well be one of the next frontiers in plant-based foods and beverages, an industry that was worth $5 billion in 2019 according to data from SPINS and the Plant Based Food Association (PBFA). Some of the success of this exploding category, which grew by 8.4% in the United States in 2019 for a value of $198 million, can certainly be attributed to the growing number of flexitarian eaters—now more than one-third of the population according to the PBF—who seek to incorporate more plant-based foods into their diets for reasons that might include the environment or animal ethics, among others. Another factor is the emergence of a more wellness-focused society keen to avoid some of the saturated fats and cholesterol found in dairy butter.

Whatever the motives, much of the credit for the surge in vegan butters—similar to what has happened with other plant-based alternatives to animal-based products such as beef, milk and cheese—can be credited to new innovations in ingredients and food technology. They have made it possible to market products that are not only strikingly similar in appearance, taste and texture to regular butter, but that also perform the same way in terms of spreading, melting and even baking.

Furthermore, the use of different types of plant-based ingredients as the base for today’s vegan butters also allows customers to opt for products that are often healthier and more wellness-focused than ever before—not to mention with much cleaner ingredient lists. Nut-based alternatives have definitely been popular, but they are far from the only options, particularly as brands become more aware of potential allergy issues with these products. Other ingredients that are tantalizing consumers in this sphere are coconut oil, aquafaba, oat milk, cocoa butter, different seeds and the more classic sunflower oil.

These five plant butters are evidence of just how far plant-based butters have come in terms of ingredients and pure innovation.

5@5: Trader Joe's renames ethnic-sounding food products | UFCW, Democratic senators call to reinstate grocery worker hazard pay

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Petition urges Trader Joe's to change ethnic food labels

Trader Joe's is in the process of renaming its racially-charged food labels and expects to have them off shelves soon. The move was spurred by a petition signed by roughly 3,000 people stating that products with "Trader Ming's" and "Trader José" perpetuate harmful racial stereotypes. Read more at AP News


UFCW, Democratic senators call on retailers to reinstate hazard pay for grocery workers

Because the nation's leading retailers are largely ending their hazard or hero pay programs for employees, the United Food and Commercial Workers Union partnered with Democratic senators Elizabeth Warren and Sherrod Brown to send a letter to the top 15 grocery chains in America to continue increased pay for frontline workers. In the U.S. 93 grocery workers have died of COVID-19 so far, and 12,405 have been infected or exposed to the virus. Read more at Supermarket News


Amazon soy and beef exports 'linked to deforestation'

A new study effectively links property-level illegal deforestation with exports of soy and beef from the Amazon region. Many consumers don't realize that the vast majority of animals used to produce meat and dairy are fed soy-based diets, and because the majority of soy is sourced from countries with high deforestation rates this means that meat and dairy products are directly linked to this kind of environmental destruction. Read more at BBC


Poorest Americans drink a lot more sugary drinks than the richest–which is why soda taxes could help reduce gaping health inequalities

There is a double-digit life expectancy gap between the richest and poorest Americans, and soda taxes are one effective way to start closing it. Studies show that soda consumption falls as income rises, and sugary beverages are linked to weight gain and a whole host of other long-term health problems. Read more at The Conversation


From bioprinting lab-grown meat in Russia to Beyond Meat in the US, KFC is embracing the future of food

Kentucky Fried Chicken is partnering with Russian company 3D Bioprinting Solutions to produce lab-grown chicken cells in addition to expanding its Beyond Fried Chicken pilots to Southern California. KFC's Russian project expects to have a trial version of lab-grown chicken nuggets available as soon as this fall. Read more at Tech Crunch

The future of foodservice: Here's what to expect

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Think salad bars and hot delis are gone for good? Not so fast, says Corinne Shindelar, the founder and former CEO and president of Independent Natural Food Retailers Association.

“It’s all over the board, just like everything else,” Shindelar says. “But that is one part of the grocery experience that is going to totally remake itself.”

corinne-shindelar.jpgMuch depends on where a retailer is located and the impact of COVID-19 in a particular state or region of the country. While a few stores never closed down, others will likely never reopen, Shindelar (left) explains.

“Foodservice and grocery are really different operational activities,” she says. “Not every grocer makes a good foodservice person and not every foodservice person makes a good grocer.”

Foodservice is typically a low-margin, high-labor, difficult-to-make-profitable part of a retail operation unless that retailer does a huge volume of it. Some grocers aren’t going to reopen their foodservice because it was a losing proposition to begin with, while others will reopen to decide if it’s viable or not, Shindelar says.

Volume control is key

Look for grocers to control the amount of prepared food they can offer at any given time to adhere to social distancing standards for a least a couple of years, Shindelar says. That may mean operating at 50% capacity.

It's tough, she says, because it was already hard work to make ends meet when operating at full capacity.

It remains to be seen what retailers who were building their business on bulk foodservice things like olive bars and charcuterie boards, which were all were really big pre-pandemic, will do now.

“Foodservice was a $700 billion industry in the U.S. for restaurants and service,” Shindelar says. “That disappeared in two to three weeks.”

Retailers are going to continue to be cautious, she says, unless there’s a level of flexibility or fluidity in the supply chain system to ensure that if another shutdown happens to foodservice again it can be moved into the grocery aisle.

Say good-bye to self-serve 

Shindelar predicts most retailers with significant foodservice departments won’t reopen self-serves.

“Most people have an adversity right now,” Shindelar says. “They are uncomfortable with foods that other people have touched.”

On the flip side, people want “life as normal.” Pre-pandemic, the fastest growing sector in the food business was foodservice because shoppers want convenience. In 2019, the foodservice industry was nearly equal in size to food retailing according to the USDA, with $969.4 billion of $1.77 trillion worth of food supplied to foodservice facilities.

Look for more retailers to shift toward full-service foodservice operations because the back of the house already had high sanitary measures for taking care of food preparation, Shindelar says.

Casey_Emmett.jpgThat will require retailers to restructure their stores, which many haven’t had time to do yet, says Casey Emmett (right), a sales strategy leader at JPG Resources.

In the future more customers will simply point to the food they want and someone else will bag it up, Emmett predicts.

More pop-ups, restaurant partnerships are on the horizon

Grocery stores will continue to look more like restaurants, and vice versa, with family-style takeaway prepared meals available alongside grocery staples.

Many retailers are rotating through their hot bar, deli counter and salad bar offerings more frequently, on a daily or weekly basis, in addition to incorporating pop-ups in the hopes of growing their reoccurring customer base, Shindelar says.

The most successful retailers are ones who are partnering with local restaurants who can prepare their grab-and-go offerings, Shindelar says.

That’s helped retailers like Native Sun Natural Foods Market in Jacksonville Beach, Florida, which serves foods prepared by local restaurants including Noura Cafe, known for its Middle Eastern and Mediterranean food, The House of Leaf and Bean, an organic restaurant and cafe, Prati Italia, a locally-owned Italian restaurant, Shakti Life Kitchen for raw foods, Community Loaves, known for its organic sourdough bread, among others.

Another is Jackson Whole Grocer and Cafe in Jackson, Wyoming, Shindelar says, which partnered with local and regional restaurants like Utah-based Freshie’s Lobster Co.

Also look for heat-and-serve programs to convert, repacking into grab-and-go with their own branded products on shelves, Shindelar says.

Keep foodservice simple and convenient

Don’t be afraid to go back to the basics and keep things simple, Emmett says.

“I think the 2019 customers probably would have been bored by the relative plainness of options that we are going to have,” Emmett says.

That’s not true for 2020 customers who have spent months cooking during the pandemic and now crave the convenience of having someone else, even the back-of-the-house at a grocery store, consistently do meal prep.

The rise of market consolidation

Emmett points to Starbucks which is closing 400 U.S. stores in the next 18 months to focus more on mobile order and pick-up only locations. Look for others to pivot towards walk-up windows and curbside service.

“I think you’re going to be seeing a lot of that,” Emmett says.

There will also be a growing network of ghost kitchens. Known as dark or virtual kitchens, many in the foodservice industry will add shared-space ghost kitchens to create to-go meals in the hopes of lowering overhead costs.

Digital, local integration through apps 

Look for more foodservice establishments to utilize apps like OpenTable to increase customer reservations for shopping times and takeout, Emmett says.

This will help operators plan ahead for their inventories, making it easier to restock shelves.

And to prevent supply chain problems down the road, more local partnerships are also a given.

Team huddles and personal hygiene discussions

Darrell_Bio_Photo.jpgDarrell Newell (left), director of retail food safety and quality assurance at Comprehensive Food Safety, says many store managers and directors are hosting daily huddles to discuss how COVID-19 has affected their store, guests and employees, and to communicate the ever-evolving game plan.

“Do a morning wraparound check to make sure you’re protecting your first line of protection,” Newell says.

Keep the talk to less than 30 minutes. Make sure the topic changes. “No one wants to hear about hand washing every Monday,” Newell says.

Talk about how COVID-19 spreads. Review basic safety food practices. Remind employees why they need to wear masks, the importance of social distancing and encourage good personal hygiene habits. Remind employees, bringing a cellphone or a cup of coffee into a food environment can spread diseases.

Operators should offer a clear understanding about the direction the retailer is going and everyone’s social responsibility for food safety, Newell says. “Help employees understand they are responsible for their day-to-day interactions because they are in front of the public,” Newell says.

Approximately 50% of the five to six departments Newell inspects, per retailer, are usually not properly equipped with the right items to properly wash their hands. That could mean soap or paper towels aren’t available or the sink is blocked, can’t be used or is physically broken.

Finding creative employee protections

Family-owned PSK Supermarkets, which operates 13 Foodtown, Freshtown and Pathmark stores in the New York metro area, hired an on-call doctor to help protect its staff, Newell says.

“Co-president Noah Katz took it upon himself and gave everyone in his company his personal cell number,” Newell says. “And said, “If you have any form of illness, I want you to call immediately, no questions asked. Stay home and we’ll have the doctor check in on you.”

PSK also created a YouTube video and a free Coronavirus Preparedness Action Plan.  

“Their incidents of illness and absentee rate was less than 4% over this stretch of COVID-19,” Newell says, because employees felt safe coming to work. 

“Every business is there to make money,” Newell says. “But their number one greatest resource is people. Without the people you have no service.”

Foodservice delivery services will continue to be built upon, expanded

Expect more retailers, especially independents, to create alternative foodservice delivery methods. 

Many, like Dan’s Supreme Supermarket, a regional chain in New York, are looking to make the move to build their own delivery infrastructure in the next six to eight months to offer better customer service, Newell says. 

“There’s going to be a lot more options,” he says. “Other than GrubHub, Instacart and Postmates.”

The Analyst’s Take: Immunity supplement sales expected to reach $5B in 2020

Claire Morton

It’s no surprise that the growth curve in cold, flu and immunity supplements has historically been more volatile than in other conditions. Since Nutrition Business Journal began tracking the category in 1999, growth has tended to spike in years with a severe cold and flu season and drop off in years with lower rates of illness. In keeping with this trend, growth peaked in 2017 to 9.9%, the highest growth rate in a decade, as the U.S. faced the worst flu season it had seen in years. Even less surprising is how all previous growth potential in the category has paled in comparison to the demand driven by the coronavirus pandemic.

NBJ estimates that sales of cold, flu and immunity supplements will reach $5.2 billion this year, with growth of 51.2% over 2019. That is, nearly 10% of all U.S. supplement sales in 2020 will be for immune support. In fact, in a survey of 1,000 U.S.-representative consumers conducted on May 12, only 25% of respondents reported that they don’t take supplements for immunity.

Vitamin C is still the star player in the category, contributing $798 million to immunity supplement sales this year. The highest percentage of surveyed consumers, 47%, reported taking vitamin C to support immunity right now.

Probiotics continue to emerge as a trending ingredient in immunity, with 30% of surveyed consumers reporting use of probiotics to support immunity right now. Pre- and probiotics in cold, flu and immunity have projected growth of 40% this year as the ingredient continues to drive growth outside gut health.

While the category can’t expect to maintain a growth rate over 50%, NBJ does project a lasting boost for immunity supplements. Even with the growth curve normalizing in the coming years, we expect a lasting increase of $1.5 billion over pre-COVID forecasts for cold, flu and immunity.

Learn more about immunity and 20 more health conditions in NBJ's 2020 Condition Specific Report, the industry's go-to guide for data and insights on the conditions driving the supplement market.

Nutrition advocates: Federal nutrition research needs new approach

Getty Images American Society for Nutrition: Federal nutrition research needs new approach

As diet-related health problems continue to increase among Americans, the American Society for Nutrition is calling for a new approach to federal nutrition research.

In a white paper released today, the American Society for Nutrition recommends several changes to improve coordination and funding of federal nutrition research, which currently is spread out across at least 12 federal agencies and departments:

  • Create the Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition, a Cabinet-level position, to oversee and coordinate research.
  • Establish a National Institute of Nutrition within the National Institutes of Health.
  • Increase funding for nutritional research.
  • Expand research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture to increase the public's knowledge of nutrition and to strengthen the value of nutrition assistance programs.

“The American Society for Nutrition has long advocated to strengthen nutrition research, and this new white paper comprehensively assesses federal nutrition research efforts, bringing to light challenges and opportunities for better health for Americans,” ASN Past President Richard D. Mattes said in a released statement.

The white paper, published today in the American Society for Nutrition's American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, was created by experts in medicine, law, policy and more. Dariush Mozaffarian, the dean of the Tufts Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy and a cardiologist, was a co-author and principal investigator. The Rockefeller Foundation provided financial support of the project.

Mozaffarian says he wants the white paper to be the beginning of a conversation on improving nutrition research with the goal of improving Americans' diets and overall health.

"I really look forward to a national conversation on how we can improve and strengthen federal nutrition research to create a strong country with a healthier, more equitable and more sustainable food system," he said Wednesday in a Bipartisan Policy Center online event.

 Federal nutrition research needs new approach

Nutrition research isn't keeping up

More Americans are sick than healthy, the study reports, with almost three-fourths overweight or obese and half suffering from prediabetes or diabetes. Diet-related illnesses such as obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and several cancers are increasingly more common. Yet, a recent study cited in the white paper found that nutrition was the "top cause of attributable deaths" with 19.1%, but nutrition research receives only 6.7% of NIH's prevention funding—$430,000 million.

"The investment has not kept up with the pace of the disease burdens we've seen," Mozaffarian said in the video presentation.

The NIH and the USDA provide the most funding for nutrition research, $1.9 billion and $170 million, respectively. Other agencies and departments that support nutrition research include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration, the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs. But coordination of that research is poor because no single authority oversees it.

Although the ASN wants to see more funding for nutrition research, the organization also wants the research to be better coordinated. That's where the Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition comes in.

This director, who would be appointed by the president and confirmed by the senate, would advise the White House, Congress, military and other government officials on matters of nutrition and diet. The director also would coordinate the research among the federal agencies, improving their effectiveness and synergy, the white paper submits.

The researchers modeled this new office on the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, which was formed after the 9/11 attacks in New York, New York, and Washington, D.C., exposed the cracks in having different intelligence agencies working independently without oversight.

"Similarly, COVID-19 has showed us how fragmented our food system is, and the Office of the National Director of Food and Nutrition could help that," Mozaffarian said.

The white paper's authors also recommend creating a National Institute of Nutrition and a National Center for Nutrition Research, both within the NIH. Congress would have to approve this new institute and appropriate new funding for it, Mozaffarian said. The NIN would lead research, training and outreach on nutrition and health topics, collaborate with other agencies and departments on joint research, and create partnerships with outside firms to generate innovative research and projects, according to the white paper.

"NIN should not take away from [existing] nutrition research," Mozaffarian said. "We would want all the incredible nutrition research going on across NIH to continue and be strengthened with the addition of an NIN."

To support the USDA's mission of providing public guidance, education and nutrition assistance programs, funding for that agency also should increase, the authors suggest.

The recommendations for cross-governmental cooperation, changes in the NIH and more investment in USDA research would all work together to improve the federal research landscape, Mozaffarian said.

"Crucially, we found that all of these are complementary, so this is not 'either/or,' these are 'and.'

"We both need a cross-governmental approach for better coordination. We need strengthening and better investments within NIH, and we need strengthening and better investments within USDA,"  Mozaffarian said.

 Federal nutrition research needs new approach

Return on investment

Diet-related illnesses impose many costs on the United States, including health care expenses and reduced productivity. So how will we benefit from implementing the ASN's recommendations?

During the Consumer Federation of America’s National Food Policy Conference in March 2018, then-FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb captured the value of nutrition research. "Improvements in diet and nutrition offer us one of our greatest opportunities to have a profound and generational impact on human health …The public health gains of such efforts would almost certainly dwarf any single medical innovation or intervention we could discover," he said.

More research would lead to more thorough Dietary Guidelines. In 2015, the advisory committee didn't have enough scientific evidence to make dietary recommendations to reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes; breast, lung and prostate cancers; depression in postpartum mothers; Alzheimer disease; or bone health, among other health concerns.

Each dollar spent on NIH funding would generate between $1.70 and $3.20 in economic returns, according to 2012 analysis. Federal research is used in commercial innovation, in patented projects and to generate additional research. In 2011, NIH findings supported 7 million jobs, the white paper notes.

Better research might lower our biggest health care expenses, as well. For example, a $1 billion-$2 billion investment in nutrition research—particularly on dietary changes, microbiome implications  and personalized medicine—could reduce the expected $8 billion annual increase in diabetes care, the white paper reports.

Of course, the biggest benefit would be having a healthier, more resilient population—the need for which has been brightly apparent since the beginning of March, as Mozaffarian pointed out in his online presentation.

 Federal nutrition research needs new approach

Consequences of poor diets

Since the 1970s, Americans have been eating more, with larger portion sizes, more frequent meals away from home and increased snacking. We eat more processed foods and more carbohydrates, and we drink more sugar-laden beverages.

Studies show that 45.6% of adults and 56.1% of children consume poor diets, and most others have diets of intermediate quality. Even without reading those studies, you see the consequences: More people carry excessive amounts of extra weight. In 2018, 42.4% of adults and 19.3% of children were obese.

What's hard to see, though, is the chronic illness and premature death that result:

  • Nearly half of adults—more than 100 million Americans—have prediabetes or diabetes.
  • Approximately 122 million adults suffer from cardiovascular disease.
  • About 605,000 people a year have a first heart attack, while 200,000 recurrent attacks occur each year.
  • Poor diet is the leading cause of poor health, accounting for more than 500,000 deaths per year.

In its discussion of diet-related burdens, the white paper did not discuss Americans' quality of life. For example, some diabetics experience the amputation of a lower limb, kidney failure or blindness. Losing the ability to work—after suffering a heart attack or stroke, for example—could upset someone's standard of living and force them to accept disability income.

Health care spending skyrockets

Health care costs disrupt all aspects of our economy. Total health care spending—including goods, services, public health, administration, insurance and investment—totaled $3.6 trillion or $11,173 per person in 2018. That equals 17.7% of the gross domestic product in 2018, up from 6.9% in 1970, according to a Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services report cited in the white paper.

Approximately 85% of health-care spending is related to treatment of diet-related chronic diseases. In 2016, direct health care and indirect economic costs of cardiovascular diseases total an estimated $316 billion a year; of diabetes, $327 billion a year; and of all obesity-related illnesses, $1.72 trillion a year, the white paper reports. (These costs represent only a portion of the total cited above.)

In the past 50 years, health care costs have consumed ever-increasing shares of budgets for governments and businesses.

Health care spending now accounts for 28% of the federal budget, up from 5% in 1970. Diabetes care alone costs about $160 billion a year—more than the government spends on each of several departments or agencies, such as the departments of Education, Homeland Security, Justice or the Environmental Protection Agency.

An increasing share of state budgets also is directed toward health care: 28.7% in 2016 compared with 11.3% in 1989.

Businesses also shoulder increasing health care expenses, to the detriment of competitiveness, wages and benefits. Businesses have seen health care costs increase to $1.18 trillion in 2017 from $79 billion in 1970, in constant dollars.

Lowering the cost of health care would allow private businesses to grow; governments to fund other priorities and needs; and give both small businesses and families some breathing room in the budgets. A healthier population that pays less for health care could be more innovative and create more jobs, the white paper authors point out.

HumanCo acquires majority interest in Coconut Bliss

Coconut Bliss Coconut Bliss

HumanCo, a mission-driven holding company focused on healthier living and sustainability, announced today the acquisition of a majority stake in organic, plant-based ice cream company Coconut Bliss. The companies will work together with the goal of growing the Oregon-based ice cream producer into a globally recognized brand.

As one of the first pioneers in the plant-based dessert category, Coconut Bliss strongly aligns with the HumanCo mission of helping people lead healthier lives. Founded by Jason H. Karp, former hedge fund manager and co-founder of Hu—one of the fastest-growing clean snacking companies known for its award-winning organic chocolate—HumanCo is committed to building brands dedicated to consumer trust, transparency and sustainability. After struggling with autoimmune issues for more than two decades, Karp is fanatical about finding and creating incorruptible, yet epic consumer products that meet HumanCo’s high bar for health, ingredient and quality requirements.

“HumanCo invests in and builds companies that make the best tasting and cleanest version of a consumer product, and that’s why we’re thrilled to join forces with Coconut Bliss,” said Jason H. Karp, founder and CEO of HumanCo. “We love ice cream, but most of the plant-based options don’t taste like delicious ice cream or are filled with weird, questionable ingredients. Coconut Bliss does things the right way; they make the most delicious, environmentally conscious, plant-based ice cream that meets both the HumanCo ingredient and taste standards. We are excited to welcome Coconut Bliss into the HumanCo family and looking forward to helping them in this next chapter of growth.”

Through the HumanCo partnership, Coconut Bliss will continue creating the plant-based desserts that have made the company a fan favorite with health-conscious consumers since the company’s inception in 2005, while also fueling product innovation, expanded distribution and increased marketing investment. Together, HumanCo and Coconut Bliss will continue to embrace ethical, sustainable and nonexploitative processes that protect people and the planet while producing clean, organic and delicious plant-based frozen desserts.  

“I am thrilled to join forces with HumanCo and amplify the importance of organic and intentionally sourced foods,” said Kim Gibson Clark, CEO of Coconut Bliss. “Coconut Bliss has always been dedicated to real ingredients, minimal processing, organic farming practices, fair trade and socially just labor practices with all of our products and suppliers. HumanCo strengthens these commitments by providing shared resources to help our company operate on a larger scale. I'm not only excited for Coconut Bliss employees and the brand at large, but also our customers who will reap the rewards of this partnership.”

Since the company’s creation, Coconut Bliss has been committed to sourcing the highest quality ingredients from independent farmers and fair-trade co-ops, embodying many of the values that exist at the core of HumanCo’s mission. The newly forged partnership supports the importance of health-focused, ultra-clean, sustainable foods that enable and empower people to eat and live well.

Source: Coconut Bliss

5@5: Tyson, JBS complaint alleges violation of Civil Rights Act | Recalibrating the food supply chain

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As coronavirus ravaged meatpackers, minorities bore the brunt. Now worker groups say Tyson and JBS violated the Civil Rights Act

A new civil rights complaint alleges that meat industry titans Tyson and JBS failed to prevent COVID-19 outbreaks among their largely Latinx and Black workforces, which the complaint says amounts to racial discrimination. Data has shown that Blacks and Latinos are more likely to suffer seriously from COVID-19 and also have a higher risk of contracting the virus. Read more at The Washington Post


Americans tear up old eating habits, forcing farmers to raze crops

Sudden and unexpected changes with regard to consumer purchasing behavior has upended the global food supply chain, with many saying these changes will become permanent. In America the avoidance of eating out and increase in at-home cooking has forced growers expecting consistent demand from restaurants to destroy crops and suppliers to repackage and sell their perishable goods in wholly new markets. Read more at Bloomberg


Governments’ dietary guidelines are harming the planet, study finds

Scientists have concluded that governments on a global scale are harming the environment and peoples' health because they shy away from putting limits on meat and dairy consumption. Because governments buy the bulk of food that is served in schools, universities and hospitals, any action on a federal level will have an enormous impact on public health. Read more at The Guardian


New study looks at selling seafood grown from cells

Results from a recent survey indicate that consumers are most comfortable eating lab-cultivated seafood when it is marketed as "cell-based." One startup in this space, BlueNalu, is set to be the first to make a small commercial release of a cell-cultivated product in the latter half of 2021. Read more at Forbes


KFC will sell plant-based fried chicken in these cities

KFC's faux chicken, which is made by Beyond Meat, will hit 50 locations in Los Angeles, Orange County and San Diego next week. Fast-food chains have seen an increased demand for plant-based menu items throughout the pandemic and continue rolling them out, despite the fact that most are pausing other major menu changes because of food supply chain instability. Read more at CNN