This is the web version of a list we publish twice-weekly in our newsletter. It comprises the most noteworthy food stories of the moment, selected by our editors. Get it first here.
Salt without pepper? Unicode, the nonprofit that develops global emojis, announced six new food emojis scheduled to arrive later this year (seven, if you count the lobster, which is categorized as an animal). Among the additions: leafy greens, bagels, cupcakes, mangoes, salt shakers, and moon cakes. What do all of these things have in common? The support of the people. Senator Angus King (??) of Maine tweeted his appreciation for Unicode, adding that the new lobster emoji is recognition of “the impact of this critical crustacean, in Maine and across the country.”
Gluttons for punishment. If you can handle the heat, you can now enjoy eternally-outraged chef Gordon Ramsay’s derogatory feedback in your home kitchen. Amazon’s Alexa is launching the new interactive “skill,” which users activate by asking: “Alexa, ask Gordon Ramsay what he thinks about my food.” In return, the intelligent personal assistant spitballs America’s beloved source of crass British humor right onto your dinner plate. Bon appetit, indeed!
Hazardous taste. Two years ago, the Chilean government passed a groundbreaking law meant to curb obesity and promote healthy eating. The New York Times looks at some of the biggest changes, as well as new ones set to take place next year—including a moratorium on cartoon characters used to shill junk food. That means saying goodbye to familiar, “hyperkinetic” sales reps like Tony the Tiger and the Trix rabbit. (Corporations like PepsiCo have pushed back in lawsuits still pending in court, meanwhile, arguing that the law is an overreach that infringes on their intellectual property.)
Prime real estate. In the world of supermarkets, Whole Foods shelves are hot property—and the price to stay on those shelves is going up. While we’ve seen shock-and-awe sales on select items since Amazon’s takeover last year, the Wall Street Journal reports a new strategy that will likely make up for them: significant price hikes on suppliers. Stocking fees are going up, and trade promotions—discounts that suppliers offer in return for prominent placement—are getting steeper. (Hear our editor Kate Cox discuss the unseemly world of pay-to-play grocery on WNYC.)
Some of the Journal’s sources in the packaged food industry are pleased, as it means that Whole Foods will act more like a traditional grocery store. Others feel it’s the latest, disheartening step away from the Whole Foods of yore—which was famously friendly to regional mom-and-pop food businesses. (“We knew full-well that there would be discontent,” Don Clark, global vice president of nonperishables told the Journal, sounding nothing like a supervillain.) All this suggests that Amazon knew what it was getting into with its marquee acquisition. Whole Foods has long been one of the country’s most popular grocery stores, and now it’s starting to act like it.
A tale of two mistreatments. Last week, members of the Burgerville Workers Union went on strike, accusing the private Washington and Oregon-based restaurant chain of refusing to negotiate, union-busting, and failing to provide livable compensation, Eater reports. Meanwhile, this week, Vox published an investigation into over 60 sexual harassment complaints women had submitted since 2010 against IHOP and Applebee’s. Although locations of both chains are independently franchised, what they have in common is the same parent company, DineEquity, and the highest number of federal sexual harassment lawsuits each. DineEquity, maybe. Work equity? Not so much.
Farm fight. In Iowa, there are more than 10,000 industrial-scale farms. But while there’s still room for others—at least according to state zoning laws—opponents are fighting the authorization and siting of new concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs), one proposal at a time. Now, 55 environmental and ag groups have asked the state’s General Assembly for a complete state-wide moratorium on the expansion of any existing industrial-scale farms, and on the establishment of any new ones.
Dairy farmers are in the red. Milk prices are falling past the cost of production, and one co-op is scrambling to help its farmers cope, Valley News reports. Attached to a letter notifying members of an impending price drop, dairy co-op Agri-Mark included contact numbers for suicide hotlines and mental health support services. As we’ve previously reported, agriculture workers have some of the highest suicide rates in the country. In Washington state, legislators are trying to establish a free resource in rural communities to combat the issue. But the larger matter is this: There’s not enough mental health coverage in rural areas, which can be devastating when coupled with the fiscal pressures that farmers endure.