Thinly sliced: Trump staffers aren’t a protected class, children work in North Carolina tobacco fields, 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.

No shirt, no shoes. Last week, the political discourse shifted completely from border jails for immigrant children to a question of “civility.” When White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders visited the Red Hen, a restaurant in rural Virginia, the restaurant’s owner asked Sanders to leave, at the behest of her staff. That set off a torrent of op-eds and punditry, with newspaper columnists begging the public to let Trump’s staff eat in peace, and the president himself lashing out at the 26-seat restaurant for being “dirty on the inside.” More than a few Yelpers, columnists, and tweeters tried to say Sanders was discriminated against for being a conservative, but in America, restaurants and food businesses have the right to refuse to service to anyone, as long as it’s not because of the customer’s race, skin color, national origin, or religion. (As we recently found out, sexual orientation is another story.) In other words? Contentious Press Secretary isn’t a protected class.

Spin zone. As restaurant wages rise across the country—with Initiative 77 in Washington, D.C. having guaranteed a minimum wage for servers last week, and a similar effort underway in New York—The New York Times heads to San Francisco, where rising rents are birthing a new type of restaurant: “Call it fast-fine, it suggests, or fine-casual.” That’s right: Waitstaff-free fine dining. Unlike other fast-casual restaurants that cater to the desk lunches of the working crowd, Souvla serves $11 cocktails and $22 pan-roasted salmon. But the notion that fine dining can still be experienced sans server denigrates the hard work, menu knowhow, and refined upselling of waitstaff, while suggesting that table service isn’t a crucial part of the luxury of fancy restaurants. So let’s call this emerging restaurant trend what it is: up-market Chipotle.

In hot (dog) water. A performance artist sold hot dogs floating in bottled water for $38 a pop at a festival in Vancouver this weekend, Yahoo News reports. Marketed as ”Keto Compatible,” the product claimed to increase brain function, make people look younger, and increase “vitality,” whatever that means. Would it qualify as a “functional food?” Maybe just a message. Artist Douglas Bevans said he hopes “people will actually go away and reconsider some of these other $80 bottles of water that will come out that are ‘raw’ or ‘smart waters.’”

Summer of the scam. Speaking of hot-dog water, there are a few fun lawsuits floating around the courts, too. Someone’s suing the makers of Gem-Water, a $120-a-bottle beverage containing a little pod of what the company calls its “unique gemstone blend,” the vibrations of which Gem-Water says can help boost self-confidence and soften skin. Evidently the water did not deliver on its promises, Law360 reports (paywall). Should’ve saved $80 and opted for the hot dog. Elsewhere, RXBAR is in hot water over its minimalist labels (you’ve seen ’em: “3 egg whites, 6 almonds, 4 cashews.”) A complaint filed in New York alleges that egg white protein powder and egg whites are not one and the same, Food Navigator USA reports. The complaint also asserts that “infused fruit pieces” do not equal blueberries. Fair enough!

Noxious truth. In North Carolina, where tobacco is both a cash crop and an identity symbol, children—some as young as 10—are doing labor-intensive work in tobacco fields, The Atlantic reveals. The work can expose them to dangerous pesticides and potentially allergy-inducing tobacco leaves, and is particularly dangerous for children, who are pressured to keep up with faster and stronger adult workers. Alarmingly, their plight remains largely ignored by corporations and farmowners.

The Counter Stories by our editors.