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.
Desensitivity training. Food allergy sufferers across the country are seeking relief in an unexpected manner: by microdosing on allergens. The practice, known as oral immunotherapy, involves eating tiny amounts of reaction-triggering substances, such as peanut protein or egg whites, in hopes that the body will gradually adapt to them. For now, just two percent of allergists offer the contentious treatment. However, as journalist Esther Landhuis writes for Undark, the practice may soon become far more popular as FDA mulls over a new “peanut capsule” allergy treatment.
Net loss. Canned tuna giant Bumble Bee might file for bankruptcy, insiders told Bloomberg. The company stares down a $25 million fine for its involvement in a price-fixing conspiracy, to which it pleaded guilty in May 2017. (Meanwhile, former Bumble Bee CEO Christopher Lischewski is awaiting trial for his involvement in the debacle.) Another option under contemplation is to find a buyer for the baggage-ridden company. But here’s another catch—part of Bumble Bee’s agreement with the Department of Justice back in 2017 was that the company would need to pay an increased fine of $81.5 million should it be sold. So….good luck with all that.
Muk-bling. How would we explain our weird world to a time traveler from 20 years ago? Take this puff piece in The Washington Post, about posh hotels creating $295 room service menus, visually curated for YouTube influencers to display on their channels. “Well see, there’s this massive phenomenon called mukbang, started in South Korea, where people eat food online and millions of people watch them for some reason. In 2019, this is a prestigious career.”
Back off. In the wake of last week’s raids on Mississippi chicken plants, the Whole Foods employees behind a nascent union drive have asked their corporate overlords to stop working with ICE. The group, called Whole Worker, released a letter that asked Amazon to stop hosting Palantir, which sells data to law enforcement, and to cease selling its own facial-recognition software, called Rekognition. Eater reports the letter was released to “show solidarity with our undocumented sisters, brothers, and siblings,” who comprise 10 percent of all grocery workers.
If the glove fits. Like hairnets, vinyl gloves give food service workers a veneer of protection, keeping a thin layer of armor between our messy human bodies and a customer’s meal. But what happens when those gloves contain risky chemicals that could be seeping into your food? The Coalition for Safer Food Processing and Packaging recently discovered the presence of such chemicals in vinyl gloves used at certain McDonald’s, Wendy’s, and Burger King locations, Business Insider reports. The chemicals, called phthalates, have been linked to endometriosis and decreases in male testosterone. Phthalates a part of the plasticizer family, which is exactly what it sounds like—they help make plastic durable and flexible. Ami Zota, an environmental scientist at George Washington University recommends that restaurants “really try to address the need for any kind of plasticizer in our food environment.”