Another hot day in Kansas City today, and I'm riding my bike tonight. Just doing my part for the environment, I guess.

This blog post will look at a variety of links you may or may not have seen, but you probably should be aware of.

First of all, here are a few threads at the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group. If you are wondering about QR codes - essential marketing building block or over-hyped fad - then check out comments on the first discussion.

Who in this group has a smartphone app for reading QR codes - or any other app relating to food...

If there is one thing you could stop people in the produce industry from doing, what would it be?

Should fresh produce lobbyists part company with "french fry lobby" or support their potato brethern?

The Republicans on the House Agriculture Committee continue to pound the Obama Administration. From the "The Ag Minute" from the office of Frank Lucas, guest columnist Rep. Martha Roby:

"Obama’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has led a non-stop regulatory assault on rural America attempting to regulate everything from crop protection tools to methane from cows.

"Currently, the EPA has more than 300 regulations under consideration impacting everything from farm dust to carbon dioxide emissions from farms, schools, and hospitals.
"The cost of overregulation is real jobs to grow our economy.

"By 2014, heightened EPA regulations will cost the nation between 476,000 to 1,400,000 jobs and $47 billion to $141 billion in GDP, according to the American Council for Capital Formation.

"If the Obama administration is serious about getting our economy back on track and creating jobs, it should stop the job-destroying overreach of the EPA.

 

Enjoyed a visit early in the day with USDA PACA Division Chief Karla Whalen. Look for that interview to be developed for a chat next week.

In other happenings today, I noticed that the Center for Science in the Public is particularly active. CSPI's Margo Wootan called me today and talked about the pending vote in the Senate on the agricultural appropriations bill. In short, she thinks the fresh produce industry has too readily accommodated the interests of the "french fry" lobby relative to the debate about updated nutrition standards for school meals. What do you think about that contention? More on that subject laters...

This was in CSPI's drop to Senators this week:

USDA's proposed school lunch guidelines would help get kids to try and eat other vegetables.  Fries would still be allowed – but instead of practically every day, just twice a week.  Eating a wide variety of vegetables can help reduce calorie intake and address obesity.

The proposed school meal guidelines also would increase whole grains and low-fat dairy and reduce sodium, unhealthy trans and saturated fats, and calories.  The costs of the proposed school lunch guidelines are fully covered by several provisions of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act (HHFKA).  Unfortunately, the French fry industry is trying to block these sensible guidelines through the Agriculture Appropriations bill.

The Senate got it right last year when it unanimously passed the HHFKA.  It’s time to stand by that vote.  Let USDA finish the job of improving school meals to support parents, children's health and nutrition, and all vegetable farmers—not just the ones with influential lobbyists.

CSPI was also feisty about sodas in the American diet today. Guess they like taking on "powerful lobbyists." From a CSPI news release:

 Sugary drinks are the single largest source of calories in the American diet and account for half of all added sugars consumed.  And unlike any other food or beverage, only sugary drinks have been shown to have a causal role in promoting obesity:  Each additional sugary drink consumed per day, according to one study, increases the likelihood that a child will become obese by about 60 percent.  A reason that sugary drinks are conducive to obesity is that the calories in beverages aren’t as satiating as solid foods.   

The American Heart Association recommends that people limit their intake of sugary drinks to about 450 calories per week, or about three 12-ounce cans.  Average consumption is now more than twice that.

 “Life’s Sweeter’s goal is to broaden the battle against sugary drinks from health experts to civic organizations, youth groups, civil rights groups, and others,” said CSPI executive director Michael F. Jacobson, Ph.D.  “The enormous health and economic benefits that would result from drinking less ‘liquid candy’ will be supported by a broad cross-section of America.  Not since the anti-tobacco campaigns has there been a product so worthy of a national health campaign.”

The campaign’s web site, fewersugarydrinks.org, invites individuals and families to take the Life’s Sweeter challenge to drink fewer or no sugary drinks.  In addition, the campaign is encouraging employers, hospitals, and government agencies to adopt policies that would reduce soda consumption.  Besides carbonated soda, the campaign targets fruit-flavored beverages with little or no juice, sweetened iced teas, lemonades, energy drinks, and so-called sports drinks such as Gatorade.

The beverage industry produces the equivalent of more than nine cans of sugary drinks per person per week, though some of that is wasted.  Meanwhile, people who participate in food consumption surveys, such as that used in a study released today by the Centers for Disease Control, acknowledge consuming just over six cans per week.  Because people typically understate consumption, especially of unhealthy foods, actual consumption is somewhere between six and nine.  Those averages include the 50 percent of people that do not drink any sugary drinks on a given day.

In other news, the NRA came out with a discouraging report on foodservice performance. From NRA:

As a result of softer same-store sales and traffic levels and a dampened outlook among restaurant operators, the National Restaurant Association’s (www.restaurant.org) Restaurant Performance Index (RPI) fell below 100 in July.  The RPI – a monthly composite index that tracks the health of and outlook for the U.S. restaurant industry – stood at 99.7 in July, down from 100.6 in June and the lowest level in 11 months. 

 “Although same-store sales and customer traffic levels remained positive in July, restaurant operators’ outlook for the economy took a pessimistic turn,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of the Research and Knowledge Group for the Association.  “This survey month was burdened with the debt ceiling crisis and the downgrade in the nation’s credit rating, which added an additional layer of uncertainty in an already fragile economic recovery.”

 “However, if the economy can avoid additional negative shocks in the months ahead, the overall fundamentals continue to point toward growth in the second half of the year,” Riehle added.

 

That's all for now. Got to head out to the mean streets.