Thinly sliced: Philadelphia’s soda tax lives on, plant production could endanger wild animals, 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.

Lunch break(down). Participation numbers for the federal Summer Food Service Program, through which free meals are distributed to combat the “summer nutrition gap” often experienced by students who live in lower-income, lower-access neighborhoods, have been calculated “inconsistently” from state to state and year to year, the U.S. Government Accountability Office has discovered. Inaccurate numbers can adversely impact implementation and planning for a program that affects up to 30 million students who are eligible for free or reduced-price school lunches nationwide.

Whistles, blown. Two former USDA slaughterhouse inspectors claim routine exposure to peracetic acid—or PAA—made them sick, The Intercept reports. After years of working in slaughterhouses, inspector Jessica Robertson experienced itchy eyes, shortness of breath, coughing fits, and bloody noses. Another inspector was beset by headaches, nausea, and respiratory problems. By speaking out, the two hope to raise awareness of the potential risks from continuous PAA exposure. The vast majority of workers in USDA slaughterhouses are recent immigrants, and these populations are less likely to advocate for exposure limits than the inspectors who work by their side.

Bubbling up. Philadelphia’s controversial soda tax will live to see another day, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled on Wednesday that the city had not violated state law by imposing taxes on beverage distributors. As editor Kate Cox reported in April, the country’s highest soda tax has had its desired effect: Soda consumption plummeted in the metropolitan area

(Wild) animal welfare. This meat month, we’ve heard from eaters who eschew animal products because of ethical aversions to killing animals for food. Now comes news that even vegans are complicit in animal deaths. Anthropocene covers a study that finds conventional plant production could potentially take as many lives as industrial animal consumption does—make that wild animal lives. But take this with a grain of salt: the authors of the original study themselves claim that generalizing from this information can be “dubious.” They do suggest, however, that it’s a good opportunity to think about how wildlife-friendly farming methods could become the next status quo.

Look for the golden settlement. A federal administrative judge has rejected a proposed settlement from McDonald’s in a case that stands to threaten its franchise model, according to a New York Times report. The Obama administration opened the case in 2015 with claims that McDonald’s was liable for multiple labor-law violations committed by its franchisees. The proposed settlement included payments to workers who alleged that McDonald’s franchises violated their labor rights, but nothing that required McDonald’s or its franchisees to take responsibility for these violations. The decision is now left to new General Counsel of the National Labor Relations Board, Peter B. Robb, appointed by President Trump.

The Counter Stories by our editors.