FDA Releases Statement on PFAS in Food and Reveals Findings from Food Sample Tests

Read the full story in the National Law Review.

On June 11, Acting FDA Commissioner Ned Sharpless released a statement highlighting recent agency efforts to better understand the impact of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in food and providing findings from recent tests of food samples in the United States.  In presenting the initial results of the testing, which focused on foods from specific geographic areas with known environmental contamination, Sharpless affirmed that FDA “does not have any indication that these substances are a human health concern, in other words a food safety risk in human food, at the levels found in this limited sampling.”

3M knew about PFAS contamination in 2001

Read the full story in The Intercept.

Last week, we learned that the Food and Drug Administration had detected PFAS compounds in pineapple, sweet potato, meat, and chocolate cake. The presence of the industrial compounds in our food was made public by the Environmental Working Group after a staff member of the Environmental Defense Fund took photos of the research at a scientific conference in Europe.

While the FDA fields questions about why it didn’t present this information to the public itself (the agency released the data along with a statement on Tuesday), it has become clear that 3M, the company that originally developed PFOS and PFOA, had known for a very long time that these toxic and persistent chemicals were in our food.

According to a 2001 study sponsored by 3M, 12 samples of food from around the country — including ground beef, bread, apples, and green beans — tested positive for either PFOA or PFOS. One piece of bread had 14,700 parts per trillion of PFOA, though the report noted that the sample was considered “suspect.”

The Environmental Protection Agency has known about the study for years, but it is not clear if the FDA was aware of the research. The Environmental Working Group mentioned the 3M study in a 2002 reporton PFAS chemicals and alerted the Centers for Disease Control.

Landmark farm rule aims to protect Minnesota’s drinking water

Read the full story in the Minneapolis Star-Tribune.

Minnesota’s new Groundwater Protection Rule places limits on farmers’ use of nitrogen fertilizer in parts of the state with vulnerable soil or where municipal drinking water has excessive levels of nitrates, which can present a human health risk. It includes a ban on farmers applying nitrogen fertilizer in the fall or on frozen fields in two key areas.

A Look at How Governments are Tackling Food Waste (Part Two)

Read the full story at Waste360. Read part one here.

Part two of a three-part series covers infrastructure and funding for municipal food waste programs.


Intercepting Plastic Waste from Rivers Request for Proposals (RFP)

The Benioff Ocean Initiative is now accepting proposals from interdisciplinary teams to launch a pilot project that will capture plastic waste in rivers before it reaches the ocean and create an associated communications campaign to reduce plastic waste.

Rivers around the world carry huge amounts of plastic waste from land to the ocean, threatening ocean health and the health of coastal communities. Almost 40 submissions to the Benioff Ocean Initiative’s crowdsourcing campaign highlighted this concern, including “Skimming the problem of ocean pollution” and “Identifying ocean plastic sources.” The Benioff Ocean Initiative and The Coca-Cola Foundation have each committed $1.5 million, for a total of $3 million, to support one interdisciplinary team in the implementation of a river plastic waste intervention pilot project.

It is estimated that the vast majority of marine plastic waste comes from land, and that almost all of this land-sourced marine waste is transported to the ocean from rivers. In fact, up to 275 metric tons of plastic are estimated to enter the ocean from rivers every hour on average, which affect the health of seals, sea turtles, whales, manta rays, and many other ocean species. The sheer volume of plastic waste entering the ocean this way creates an opportunity for implementing high-impact, cost-effective intervention strategies in affected rivers.

Submit a proposal

The Benioff Ocean Initiative invites interdisciplinary teams to submit proposals for pilot projects designed to achieve the following goals:

  • develop and deploy a physical plastic waste capture system in a chosen river anywhere in the world, and
  • leverage the plastic capture effort in a communications and outreach strategy that promotes the reduction of river plastic waste inputs.

A single organization (the funding recipient) will lead a team of communication specialists, engineers, environmental scientists, and a governmental advisor in the funded pilot project.

For more information on the project and proposal process, see the downloadable Request For Proposals (RFP). The RFP abstract is available in English, Spanish, Vietnamese, and simplified Chinese. Proposals must be submitted in English by 12 July 2019 (6:00PM PDT) using the form linked below, and must also include a proposed budget using the downloadable budget template.

We hosted a webinar on 29 May 2019 to answer questions about the RFP. For those who were unable to join us, we have made available a recording of the webinar and a document summarizing key questions and answers.

Can New York City solve waste and health problems through a food sustainability initiative?

Read the full story in Food Dive.

New York City is one of three “flagship cities” participating in the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s three-year food initiative, which launches today in Stockholm. The Big Apple, London and Sao Paulo are joining with corporate partners, including Danone and Nestlé, to help create a circular economy addressing food industry challenges. The initiative follows the foundation’s report, “Cities and Circular Economy for Food,” released in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.

Challenges addressed by the initiative include climate change, health problems, pollution and biodiversity loss. Ways to address these problems include regenerative farming, more local sourcing, changing the design and marketing of food, and preventing waste by using byproducts, the foundation said in a release. According to the report, four-fifths of food will be consumed in cities by 2050. Globally, this approach could reduce greenhouse gases equal to 1 billion cars being taken off the road, the foundation estimated.

“We feel the need to work hands-on with multiple cities because we know no city is going to face the same situations,” Emma Chow, initiative project manager, told Food Dive. “With New York, similar actually to Sao Paulo, you need to go outside of the city to get to the agricultural areas, but we see great potential for them to leverage manpower to motivate a shift to other systems that are good for ecosystems. We think New York also has great potential for innovation.”

The Great Lakes are overflowing with record amounts of water

Read the full story in the Washington Post.

Lake Erie and Lake Superior broke records for average water levels in May, as did Lake St. Clair on Detroit’s eastern edge, according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. In May, Lake Erie also reached its highest level on record for any month.

Record- or near-record-high water levels are forecast to continue in the summer before making the usual downturn into fall.

The effects of these high waters have been wide-reaching. Recreational beaches have shrunk, and water has inundated docks and destroyed roads.

The Defense Department is worried about climate change – and is also a huge carbon emitter

Read the full story at The Conversation.

Scientists and security analysts have warned for more than a decade that global warming is a potential national security concern.

They project that the consequences of global warming – rising seas, powerful storms, famine and diminished access to fresh water – may make regions of the world politically unstable and prompt mass migration and refugee crises.

Some worry that wars may follow.

Yet with few exceptions, the U.S. military’s significant contribution to climate change has received little attention. Although the Defense Department has significantly reduced its fossil fuel consumption since the early 2000s, it remains the world’s single largest consumer of oil – and as a result, one of the world’s top greenhouse gas emitters.

Fumes from Petroleum Tanks in this City Never Seem to Go Away. What Are the Kids Here Breathing?

Read the full story at Inside Climate News.

As South Portland, Maine, embarks on an air monitoring program, day care providers, the mayor and our reporter begin the search for answers.

Strategies for Operationalizing Nature-Based Solutions in the Private Sector

Download the document.

Nature-based solutions (NBS) have the potential to address pressing engineering needs while restoring natural landscapes. NBS – sometimes called natural infrastructure and green infrastructure – incorporate the natural environment that mimic or work in concert with natural processes to provide clean water, clean air, flood, fire and drought risk reduction, and other benefits. Unlike many forms of grey infrastructure, NBS also offer an array of economic, social, and environmental co-benefits. While there are several studies showing the application of these solutions in the public sector, there are far fewer studies highlighting how companies can operationalize and scale NBS.

Building off the research of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development and other publications, this white paper shares knowledge from leading
companies on opportunities, drivers, and strategies for scaling NBS. This shared knowledge was aggregated from interviews done with the eight member companies of The Nature Conservancy’s Business Council between March and May 2018. The white paper ends by providing recommendations for how other companies can use these lessons to operationalize NBS within their own operations.