The Food and Drug Administration raised a bit of a stir last November when it released proposed new rules that would essentially ban trans fats from processed foods sold in the U.S., but the reality is that most food companies have at been working on cutting partially hydrogenated oils from their products for several years. It’s likely that virtually all of them have at least been thinking about it, says Daniel Brooker, a consultant with California-based Food Lab Inc.

Trans fats, aka partially hydrogenated oils, are liquid fats that are turned into solids and used to influence mouthfeel and extend shelf life in baked goods, frozen desserts and other foods. The American Heart Association and other experts say the substances are dangerous because they raise the level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol.

Brooker’s company works with food manufacturers on nutritional analysis and FDA food label compliance consulting, and most of his clients first began changing their products after labeling rules took effect and companies had to start listing trans fats along with calories and other nutritional information in 2006, he says. (read more…)

Farm-to-School, Farm-to-Fork, Farm-to-City and Farm-to-Chef all connect farmers and their fresh produce with individuals, businesses and organizations, but there are still the inevitable leftovers.

CropMobster is a social media answer to unsold leftovers, using crowd sourcing to provide a second round of opportunity for farmers to sell — or sometimes donate — fruits and vegetables before they go bad.

“This issue is starting to become prominent on the mindset of our culture,” said Nick Papadopoulos, general manager of Bloomfield Farms in California, who is spearheading the effort. “About 40% of all food goes uneaten. Over half of fruits and vegetables are wasted, yet one in six people suffer from food insecurity. And another issue, close to my heart: 50% of small farms are losing money.”

Papadopoulos, an organizational guru, comes to farming after years as a consultant, project manager and business leader. It wasn’t long before he realized that each Sunday, when he took a look at remaining produce stock, a good amount was not going to be sold. (read more…)

September is Hunger Action Month and for the past several years, people around the country including lawmakers have taken up the SNAP Challenge, named after the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program that’s better known as food stamps.

Typical food stamp recipients get an average of about $31.50 per person per week for food. While some argue that the word “supplemental” means the program is designed to flesh out meager food budgets and not replace them entirely, it’s clear that too often families are struggling to feed themselves on that bare bones budget. One in six Americans, including about 17 million children, don’t have enough to eat, according to the USDA and the non-profit Feeding America.

High profile people from Newark Mayor Corey Booker to Panera Bread CEO Ron Shaich to San Francisco chef Lincoln Carson have accepted the challenge to try living on $4.50 per day for a week, to gain insights into the struggles faced by so many Americans whose food budgets don’t stretch any further. (read more…)

It’s no secret that, while many of us believe we would be happier without taxes and regulations, we recognize the need for at least some of them to keep our communities running and our patrons from getting sick.

Still, some restaurateurs worry that too much of a necessary evil may be just plain, well, evil. Portland, Ore., restaurant owner Ken Gordon spelled out his concerns in a recent Oregonian guest column that began with a question — Why does the city seem bent on derailing its thriving food scene?

Gordon understands the intent behind new rules requiring paid sick days for servers, but points out that restaurants will bear the brunt of the cost at a time when the city is also preparing to raise eateries’ water bills 37% and double fees for sidewalk cafes, he writes.

“Incentives to companies like Nike — enabling them to stay in the area and thrive — are all well and good, the rationale being that a large employer contributes much to the local economy. (read more…)

When the federal government froze minimum wage for tipped workers at $2.13 per hour in 1996, the wage amounted to half the federal minimum wage for non-tipped workers. Tips were supposed to make up the difference and, if they didn’t, the law required companies to do so. Since then, that $2.13 per hour has fallen to 29% of the minimum wage.

A bill proposed this session would unfreeze the tipped minimum, a move called for by President Barack Obama. Supporters say the change is necessary to give restaurant workers a wage they can count on and may actually save restaurants money in the long run because it will reduce turnover and keep highly productive workers on staff. Detractors say the measure will push down job creation, put workers out of a job and drive up meal prices for consumers.

The provision is part of a larger bill to raise the overall minimum wage to $10.10 in two years and provide for annual increases thereafter. (read more…)