Thinly sliced: Illinois town lifts 45-year ban on ice cream trucks, USDA employees allege asbestos in the office, 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.

Farm bill falls flat. In case you missed it, the House version of the farm bill was defeated on Friday morning when the Freedom Caucus and a few moderate Republicans voted against it, 198-213. Politico reports that Republicans are blaming Speaker Paul Ryan for its demise. Another vote has been scheduled for June 22. In the meantime, keep an eye out for a companion bill out of the Senate—that version is likely to look a lot more like the eventual final product.

Freedom of the plastics. On Tuesday morning, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) blocked the Associated Press, CNN, and environmental news outlet E&E from attending a conference on “PFAS”—a group of man-made chemicals that the National Resources Defense Council (NRDC) refers to as “Teflon” because of their non-stick and stain-resistant properties in food packaging—which are known to contaminate drinking water. The Associated Press reports that a government official grabbed one of its reporters by the shoulders and forcibly shoved her out of the building when she asked to speak to a public affairs representative. Predictably, the outrage was swift and intense—intense enough that the agency backed off and ultimately invited reporters to attend the conference later in the day. But while Tuesday’s scuffle drew a lot of headlines and a rare concession from EPA, now is not the time to applaud the agency for its transparency: Just two weeks ago, leaked emails showed Administrator Scott Pruitt has routinely blocked the press from meetings for as long as he’s been in office. “Breaking with all of his predecessors at the E.P.A. for the last 25 years,” the New York Times writes, “… he does not release a list of public speaking events and he discloses most official trips only after they are over.”

Leading the charge. A union representing employees of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has filed a complaint with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) over the presence of lead paint and asbestos in the agency’s Washington, D.C. building, reports Bloomberg. Both hazards result from renovation-related construction work. The complaint comes months after USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue announced an unpopular change in the administration’s telecommuting policy that restricted the number of days employees can work from home.

Time’s up. CBS News reports that the New York Police Department is conducting an ongoing criminal investigation into disgraced chef Mario Batali. The revelation came during a 60 Minutes segment in which Anderson Cooper interviewed several restaurant workers who say they were sexually harassed or assaulted by Batali at the Spotted Pig, the Manhattan restaurant co-owned by his friend Ken Friedman. Cooper also reported that Friedman, who faces assault and harassment allegations of his own, is in “the final stages” of severing his business relationship with The Spotted Pig’s co-owner, chef April Bloomfield.

We all SCREAM. In Elgin, Illinois, a 45-year ban on ice cream trucks has officially been lifted, writes The Chicago Tribune. There’s no record of exactly why they were forbidden in the early 1970s, but with nearly two generations of street silence now behind them, the adults of Elgin are celebrating the reprise of “Pop Goes the Weasel,” as it heralds the arrival of fudgsicles, dreamsicles, and soft-serve ice cream. Residents who have, for decades, had to rely on gas station freezers to get their sweet cream fix have another reason to celebrate the return of mobile ice cream vendors: text alerts from friends and family. Because the thrill of ice cream chasing is much less stressful if you can just drop a location pin or text your friend an order. Kids these days will never know….

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