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EWG News and Analysis

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EWG News Roundup (5/5): Salty School Lunches, Rocket Fuel in Food, and N.C. Factory Farms

Friday, May 5, 2017

This week, Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue took the first steps to roll back the school lunch health standards championed by former First Lady Michelle Obama. On Monday, Perdue announced the Trump administration would slow programs set in place to lower the sodium content and raise the amount of whole grains in the food served to more than 31 million children nationwide.

Also this week, the Food and Drug Administration refused to remove the harmful chemical perchlorate from food packaging. Perchlorate, which is also the explosive ingredient in rocket fuel, is an endocrine disruptor that can harm childhood development.

“Taking a toxic rocket fuel chemical that can harm kids’ brains out of food packaging seems like the right call for an agency charged with keeping food safe,” said Tina Sigurdson, EWG assistant general counsel, of the agency’s inaction. “But the FDA decided the risk to millions of babies, toddlers and pregnant women from eating perchlorate-laced foods is acceptable.

EWG has also been keeping its eye on legislation in North Carolina that would favor factory farm industry interests over property owners’ rights and public health. HB 467, an appalling bill, would cap the amount of damages North Carolinian property owners could seek if their property values or health are negatively affected by concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs, and the manure pollution they release into nearby communities.

This week, in a last ditch effort to influence Gov. Roy Cooper to veto the bill that had passed both legislative chambers, EWG released the names of of the 270,000 North Carolinians whose property rights are at risk from this bill.

This morning, Cooper vetoed the hog industry bailout bill, putting people’s health ahead of Big Pork.

“This is a big win on behalf of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians, including many who have seen their property and health harmed by the animal waste literally sprayed on them from factory farms,” said Craig Cox, EWG senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources.

For more coverage on those events and other stories, here’s some news you can use as you begin your weekend.

Sonny Perdue and School Lunch Nutrition Guidelines

New York Times: Trump Takes Aim at School Lunch Guidelines and a Girls’ Education Program

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should,” said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group. “The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.”

USA Today: Trump takes aim at Michelle Obama's efforts on child nutrition, girls' education

Critics swiftly responded to the change. Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, a D.C.-based advocacy group, said in a statement: “Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should. The president's fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn't let Colonel Sanders and McDonald's run the school cafeteria.”

NPR: More Salt In School Lunch, Less Nutrition Info On Menus: Trump Rolls Back Food Rules

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn't mean they should,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, said in a statement. “The president's fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn't let Colonel Sanders and McDonald's run the school cafeteria.”

Los Angeles Times: New Agriculture secretary says he’ll roll back Michelle Obama’s healthy school lunches initiative

“Michelle Obama started a conversation with every mom and dad in America on what they were feeding their kids in a way that didn’t cast judgment,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president from the Environmental Working Group, which specializes in research and advocacy. “Nothing will change that legacy, but unfortunately today’s actions will delay and undermine Obama’s food policy legacy,” he said.

Axios: Trump admin. cuts school healthy lunch guidelines

"Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn't mean they should," argued Ken Cook, president of Environmental Working Group.

Education News: Trump Ag Sec trashes Michelle O school food rules: ‘Result of years of feedback from students’

“Michelle Obama started a conversation with every mom and dad in America on what they were feeding their kids in a way that didn’t cast judgment,” said Scott Faber, of the Environmental Working Group, told the Los Angeles Times.

Education World: Relaxed School Lunch Guidelines Could Push Nutrition Off The Plate

Understandably, this brings up the issue of nutritious meals that will ensure students are getting at least one healthy meal a day, versus meals that could have some nutritional pitfalls, but are more likely to be eaten by students. “Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group told The New York Times.

HealthLine: What the New School Lunch Regulations Will Mean for Our Children

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should,” Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, told the Times. “The president’s fondness for Big Macs and KFC is well known, but we shouldn’t let Colonel Sanders and McDonald’s run the school cafeteria.”

The Mercury (Manhattan, Kan.): EDITORIAL | School nutrition takes a hit

“Just because children would rather eat heavily salted, processed foods at school doesn’t mean they should.” So said Ken Cook, president of the Environmental Working Group, in response to an assault on the Obama administration’s advances in childhood nutrition.

Factory Farms in North Carolina

WRAL: Cooper vetoes hog farm nuisance lawsuit limits

"If this bill had become law, the long-standing legal rights of hundreds of thousands of North Carolinians would have been radically restricted, and Smithfield Foods and other companies would have been given free rein to pollute communities at will," said EWG Senior VP for agriculture and natural resources, Craig Cox.

Drinking Water Protection Rollbacks

Common Dreams: "The Height of Idiocy": Americans Tell Trump's EPA What They Think About Easing Drinking Water Safeguards

“If President Trump and EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt continue their plans to roll back the fundamental safeguards that protect our drinking water, they'd better brace for a 'March for Water' that surrounds the White House and fills the streets of cities and towns across the nation,” said EWG President Ken Cook. “Red state or blue state, nobody wants to drink water laced with potent carcinogens or neurotoxins, but if the administration sticks to this agenda, that's what's in store for millions of Americans.”

FDA and Rocket Fuel in Food

Public Now: FDA Declines to Ban Chemical in Food Packaging

The Food and Drug Administration has denied a petition by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Environmental Working Group to ban perchlorate in dry food packaging.

WholeFoods Magazine: FDA Denies Petition to Ban Perchlorate from Food Packaging

According to the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) denied a petition filed by the NRDC, together with the Breast Cancer Fund, Center for Environmental Health, Center for Food Safety, Center for Science in the Public Interest and the Environmental Working Group. The petition filed in December of 2014 sought regulation to ban Perchlorate in dry food packaging. In 2005, FDA made the decision to allow the use of as much as 12,000 parts per million (ppm) of perchlorate as an anti-static agent to plastic packaging for dry food with no free fat or oil.

Pesticides in California Tap Water

Los Angeles Times: California proposes stringent cap on toxic chemical in drinking water

Citing federal data, the Environmental Working Group, a Washington, D.C.-based advocacy organization, says the chemical also has been detected in water supplies of a dozen other states, including New York, Pennsylvania and New Jersey, as well as Puerto Rico.

California Healthline: Public Water Systems Polluted With 1,2,3-TCP

1,2,3-trichloropropane, or TCP — a chemical that the Environmental Working Group calls an ” extremely potent carcinogen” — has over time seeped into a number of public water systems, where it can “persist for centuries,” according to the nonprofit. A proposal from the California State Water Resources Control Board would set a maximum level of TCP in tap water at five parts per trillion — the lowest level that existing filtration systems can reliably detect, Stephanie O’Neill reported last week.

Engineering360: California Proposes Limit on Chemical Found in Drinking Water

Although TCP is no longer in widespread use, it leached into many wells and reservoirs. According to data from the Environmental Working Group, once it gets into the groundwater, TCP “persists for centuries.”

Biofuels

Cleveland Plain Dealer: Remove the ethanol albatross from around the necks of U.S. consumers: Robert W. Chase (Opinion)

Thanks to a powerful farm lobby, corn farmers are among the biggest recipients of government support.  Between 1995 and 2014, corn farmers received $94.3 billion in price subsidies, price supports and tariffs, according to the Environmental Working Group. And that amount does not include the value of ethanol subsidies and mandates.  

Chemicals

Daily Mail: 'I was horrified': Beautician who 'lost her sense of SMELL' from working with acrylic nails goes on to launch her own salon that's 'vegan, organic and chemical free'

If you're concerned about what is in a product you can visit ewg.org, which provides a comprehensive list of brands and how good they are for you.

EcoWatch: Chemical Industry Bigwig Headed to the U.S. EPA

The Trump administration just appointed a chemical industry bigwig to a high-level chemical safety position at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as deputy assistant administrator of the Office of Chemical Safety and Pollution Prevention.

Cleaners

Gannett: USA Today: Ask Martha: Give dust the brushoff

Cell phones, laptops and TVs may put out toxic emissions like lead, phthalates and flame retardants, which end up in dust. But some makers — Acer, Apple, LG, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nokia, Philips, Samsung, Sharp, Sony-Ericsson and Toshiba — have phased out those chemicals, says Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, in Washington.

Green Living Guy: 5 Tips to Ensure an Eco Friendly Bedroom

Non-green cleaning products contain several concerning chemicals, including carcinogens and heavy metals. There is growing evidence that fumes from the regular use of these cleaners may be connected to increase cases of asthma and upper respiratory infections, according to the Environmental Working Group. 

The Epoch Times: Indoor Air Pollution: The Hidden Health Hazard

Even the products we use to freshen up our environment, such as dryer sheets, synthetic fragrances, and cleaning products, may cause more harm than good. According to the Environmental Working Group, the popular air freshener Febreze contains chemicals that have been found to affect the respiratory and nervous systems.

Cosmetics

Prevention: The Most Toxic Stuff In Your Drugstore Makeup—And 8 Organic Brands To Try Instead

According to the Environmental Working group, as many as 1 in 5 cosmetic products sold in the US contains an ingredient that releases formaldehyde as it breaks down—you know, embalming fluid, aka a known human carcinogen.

Crop Insurance

Civil Eats: Want Healthier Soil? Link it to Crop Insurance

Critics of the current program, including the Environmental Working Group, contend that crop insurance policies actually encourage—and subsidize—poor farming practices and could lead to another Dust Bowl in regions hardest hit by drought and heat.

Flame Retardants

Dr. Axe: Chemicals in Cats: Where Are These Dangerous Compounds Coming From?

In 2017, Stockholm University researchers focused on one chemical culprit in particular: brominated flame retardants. Environmental Working Group named this class of compounds one of the top chemicals threatening your health. The study, published in Environmental Science & Technology, confirms what scientists previously suspected: Fire retardant chemicals are winding up in cats through household dust and causing health problems.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in ProduceTM

CNBC: 18 things worth paying extra for

If you're trying to decide when to splurge on organic items and when to hold back, the Environmental Working Group's annual "Dirty Dozen" list is generally a good guideline. Reprinted by Yahoo! Finance.

Sunscreens

Travel Pulse: 13 Things You’re Doing Wrong at The Beach

The Environmental Working Group provides detailed information on sunscreens.

Lola Magazine: Safe Fun In The Sun

That means that once absorbed, the chemical can mimic your hormones in the body and disrupt a natural balance. Because of this possibility, organizations such as the Environmental Working Group recommend that consumers avoid sunscreens containing oxybenzone. Other possible endocrine disruptors to look out for in skin care products are parabens and phthalates.

Water

Grist: The water empire: How a Korean family became the source of drinking water for many Angelenos

David Andrews, a senior scientist at EWG, notes that reports on L.A.’s water show contaminant levels below legal limits. He says that filtered water purchased in large containers is similar to water filtered at home, just more expensive. 

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