Thinly sliced: Study finds high levels of chemicals at coffee roasteries, Amazon store gets stuck in zoning purgatory, and more

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.

Prime predatory pricing. On Wednesday, Amazon announced that it would begin rolling out special discounts specifically for Prime members this summer—most notably a 10-percent reduction on sale products. Whole Foods co-founder and chief executive John Mackey told Reuters that this strategy would help shed the grocery chain of its “Whole Paycheck” reputation. But there’s a lot more at play than just easing up on shoppers’ wallets. For one, the cost of Amazon Prime membership is expected to rise by 20 percent this summer. Seems fairly safe to see this maneuver as an attempt to encourage renewals. For another, as Whole Foods’ price points actually get competitive, it’ll better be able to elbow its way into a bigger share of the grocery market. And most ominously of all, this program will basically require shoppers to connect their grocery carts to their Amazon cart, forking more and more data over to a company whose growth depends on just that.

In the zone. A planned Amazon store in Cambridge, Massachusetts is currently stuck in zoning purgatory, local news site Cambridge Day reports. Last year, the city passed zoning restrictions that required “formula businesses”—that is, businesses with multiple locations that all function and look the same—to apply for special permits to operate. The city decided that the zoning restriction applies to Amazon’s physical stores. Until further notice, the e-commerce behemoth’s brick-and-mortar will be just another empty storefront.

Buzz kill. Ten coffee roasters across the country were found to have high levels of dangerous chemicals in the air at their facilities, including diacetyl, a compound known for rapidly destroying lungs. That’s according to the preliminary findings of a study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) over the last two years. The study was initiated after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel began investigating the deadly side effects of working in coffee—be it roasting, grinding, packing, or serving. One thing companies can do to prevent lung disease? Make sure the roastery is well ventilated.

Don’t be salty. Salt shakers are disappearing from restaurant tables, have you noticed? Bloomberg looked into the many wide-ranging reasons that restaurateurs are forgoing table salt—from reducing aesthetic clutter to preventing salt waste.

Pharmers welcome. Novo Nordisk, the world’s largest insulin maker, is building a massive pharmaceutical plant on the edge of the “diabetes belt,” a wide swath of the country where people are more likely to develop type 2 diabetes. “We’ve gone from the farm to the pharm,” Jody McLeod, the mayor of Clayton, North Carolina told Stat. “I used to work in the tobacco fields during the summers. Then those tobacco fields became subdivisions. Then the industry came in.”

Also tagged

The Counter Stories by our editors.