Edible food packaging made from milk proteins

Read the full story from the American Chemical Society.

At the grocery store, most foods—meats, breads, cheeses, snacks—come wrapped in plastic packaging. Not only does this create a lot of non-recyclable, non-biodegradable waste, but thin plastic films are not great at preventing spoilage. And some plastics are suspected of leaching potentially harmful compounds into food. To address these issues, scientists are now developing a packaging film made of milk proteins—and it is even edible.

The researchers are presenting their work today at the 252nd National Meeting & Exposition of the American Chemical Society (ACS). ACS, the world’s largest scientific society, is holding the meeting here through Thursday. It features more than 9,000 presentations on a wide range of science topics.

Vote for your favorite data stories video

Science Magazine’s Data Stories competition is still accepting votes for their People’s Choice award. The competition asked people to submit short-form (90 second) videos that use data visualizations to tell stories. View all of the submissions here.

Congressional hearings on Flint Water Crisis broadcast on CSPAN

February 3, 2016 — Contaminated Drinking Water in Flint, Michigan

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and Michigan state officials testified at a hearing on lead contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Representative Dan Kildee (D-MI) was the first witness. A resident of Flint who first called the EPA to her home early in 2015 to test the water that had become discolored also appeared. Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) said his committee had issued subpoenas to three officials who refused to appear before his panel. including former Flint Emergency Manager Darnell Earley.

March 15, 2016 — Flint, Michigan Water Contamination

The House Oversight and Governmental Reform Committee held its second hearing on the contaminated drinking water in Flint, Michigan. Susan Hedman, former Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regional director, told committee members the lead contamination should have never happened, and that the EPA had nothing to do with the corrosive water. Committee Chair Jason Chaffetz (R-UT) argued that the EPA had the opportunity to make the appropriate response but did not. Flint’s former mayor and the city’s former emergency manager testified that they were not aware of lead in the water until January 2015. Ms. Hedman confirmed that corrosion control systems to reduce the lead were not put in place until December 9, 2015.

March 17, 2016 — Flint, Michigan Drinking Water Contamination

Gina McCarthy and Governor Rick Snyder (R-MI) testified at a hearing on the Safe Drinking Water Act and lead contamination of the water supply in Flint, Michigan. Governor Snyder apologized and said he was not aware that the water had dangerous levels of lead until October 2015. Ms. McCarthy defended the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), saying her agency did all it could do within the rule of law. During the hearing, several committee members called on both Governor Snyder and Ms. McCarthy to resign.


EXPIRED? Food Waste in America

Watch the video.

The Harvard Food Law and Policy Clinic (FLPC) and Racing Horse Productions produced EXPIRED as a collaborative effort between two programs at Harvard Law School: one that aims to test and teach media advocacy techniques in the context of real world practice and one that aims to provide hands-on opportunities for students to learn about and improve the laws and policies shaping the food system. Students worked with clinical faculty and a team of professional filmmakers to plan, produce, edit, and distribute the video. Our approach to teaching and learning focused on strengthening legal media advocacy skills – empowering students to tell compelling stories in tactically and legally sophisticated ways to effectively sway public opinion and affect policy change. Students involved in this project were enrolled in the FLPC and worked on this film as a media advocacy component of their greater project of conducting legal and policy research, educating consumers and policymakers, and pushing for policy change to reduce the waste of healthy, wholesome foods in the United States.

In the spring of 2015, our team traveled to Missoula, Montana to understand the impact of their highly restrictive date-labeling law for milk. This law has been in effect since 1980. It requires all milk to bear a “sell by” label that is dated twelve days from the date of pasteurization and mandates that such milk be removed from shelves once the date arrives. As a result, countless gallons of milk on grocery shelves gets needlessly discarded, out-of-state dairies have difficulty selling their products in grocery stores in Montana, and consumers suffer because milk in Montana costs around 40% more than the national average.

But while this is the most restrictive state law in the country for milk, it is far from the only state law imposing sell-by requirements on manufacturers, distributors, and retailers. FLPC research has shown that 41 states require date labels on at least certain food products, and 20 states then restrict or ban the sale or donation of foods after that date. Our team understands this patchwork of state laws and regulations as part of a national problem –- one that creates customer confusion, limits retailers’ ability to sell or donate wholesome food, and causes unnecessary food waste. It is also a problem that requires creative problem solving to address.

In response to this challenge, we are working on a call for a uniform, federal standard for date label language that is easily comprehended by consumers, and differentiates between food quality and food safety. We believe EXPIRED is central to this effort, and will be a powerful catalyst for change, offering a visual and visceral understanding of the problem, raising awareness about ways to combat it, and engaging key stakeholders in the issue.