Influence Feed: Harassment in the spotlight

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calendar icon 2 January 2018
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1. Harassment and Misconduct:

The reverberations of the #MeToo movement — which has resulted in heightened awareness of inappropriate behavior by some influential men in entertainment, news and politics — have reached the food world. On Dec. 5, BuzzFeed published data on every sexual harassment claim to the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission between 1995 and 2016, and restaurant workers had filed the most complaints in that time. The article noted certain environments as higher risk: “In restaurants, where people are dependent on tips to make a living — and also rely on superiors for shift assignments,” and agriculture, “where there aren’t many bystanders.”
According to the The Boston Globe, five kitchen workers at a local McCormick & Schmick’s are suing the seafood chain, citing lewd comments and groping. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that “power restaurateur” Ken Friedman had been accused of sexual misconduct by 10 employees, who had feared blacklisting in the industry. The biggest story of misconduct from the period, however, was about celebrity chef Mario Batali, who stepped away from his restaurant empire, which includes Eataly, as well as his role on daytime TV show The Chew (Eater). Batali apologized and admitted, “much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted.”

2. FDA Antibiotics Sales Report:

On Dec. 7 the FDA released (PDF) its annual report of domestic sales of antibiotics used for food-producing animals. The report found that total sales decreased 10% between 2015 and 2016, while sales of medically important antimicrobials dropped by 14% in the same period. Dan Charles of NPR: The Salt argued, “The new report is the strongest evidence so far that the FDA’s efforts to restrain antibiotic use on farms, along with public pressure, are having an effect.” National Pork Board President Terry O’Neel responded confidently, “While some of our detractors may think it’s only legislation or new rules that move us to act, we know differently. … we’re committed to reducing the need for [antibiotics] while protecting the health and welfare of our animals.” Critics of modern agriculture saw the report’s findings as good news, but remained concerned. Jean Halloran, director of food policy initiatives at Consumers Union, called for action: “It’s time for beef and pork producers to adopt more responsible antibiotics practices so we can preserve the effectiveness of these critical drugs far into the future.” It is important to note that the Veterinary Feed Directive was officially implemented Jan. 1 of this year, but 2017 sales data will not be reported until 2018.

3. Food Stamp Revamp:

On Dec. 5, USDA announced measures for “increased cooperation with states in the operation of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) [aka food stamps].” While the initial announcement lacked clear policy measures, the USDA revealed on Dec. 8 that it would grant Arizona a two-year waiver to implement anti-fraud measures. Additionally, the Associated Press reported that Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker moved to adopt drug testing for SNAP recipients. Ricardo Salvador, director of the Food and Environment Program at Union of Concerned Scientists, challenged the agency’s motivations: “There are no studies, not even ones by the USDA, that have found any evidence of widespread participant abuse of SNAP benefits.”

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