Whoever thought food was just food, obviously hadn’t followed this year’s headlines. It is so much more. Food is tradition, culture, family and politics.
And this year’s headlines prove that it can also be entertaining, celebrated, just plain gross and thought provoking.
From the food industry’s allergic reaction to labeling genetically engineered ingredients to cows eating gummy bears, here’s a look back on some of the top food stories from 2012.
1. In one of the swiftest moves the industry has ever seen, the country develops a national allergy to “pink slime” when ABC News launches an investigative story and an online blog catches the attention of eaters around the country.
2. Starbucks pulls insect parts, nixing “crushed-bug dye in frappes and pastries” when consumers, once again through an online petition, demand change
3. Drought slams farmers across the country, creating a “dry run from hell,” bringing a new urgency to the discussion about weird weather and rising global temperatures.
4. Due to food shortages and the rising costs of livestock feed, animals used in our food supply for meat are fed Halloween candy, with gummy worms being fed to cows instead of grains, creating “sweet times” for livestock.
5. Paula Dean announces she’s diabetic and has been for years, becoming a spokesperson for the condition’s medication, a “Pitch Hard to Swallow” says the WSJ, after selling consumers a diabetic-inducing menu. A few months later, she is on a life-altering dietary change that proves to be the best recipe for health she has delivered.
6. Twinkies owner, Hostess Brand, files for bankruptcy, bankrolling executives’ bonuses, “too sweet for managers” reports the Chicago Tribune, as employees suffer.
7. Genetically engineered foods go from the fringe to the national stage when approximately 6 million in California vote for new food labels and over a million comments are submitted to the FDA as consumers learn that tiny, patented organisms have recently been inserted into our corn and soy so that chemical companies can saturate our food crops with their chemicals without our informed consent.
8. A soda ban is introduced in New York in an effort to curb the nation’s runaway obesity epidemic. Met with skepticism, disdain and celebration, it reveals just how divided we are over tackling one of our country’s greatest health crises.
9. Chick Fil A, despite a company statement that said “We are a restaurant company focused on food, service and hospitality; our intent is not to engage in political or social debates” throws itself into the gay marriage debate.
10. Pizza gets political when Papa John’s CEO says he’ll raise pizza prices if “Obamacare” survives.
11. Natural gets litigious, as lawsuits are levied at Frito Lay and other food companies for trotting out this term for which the FDA has no legal definition as a marketing tool
12. A 15 year old calls out Gatorade for putting a flame retardant in their drinks here in the United States, having already pulled the controversial ingredient known as brominated vegetable oil from Gatorade products in other countries.
And now for 2013. As consumers’ calls for transparency grow and legal issues mount, what will the food companies do in response? In 2012, they spent $46 million dollars to keep people from knowing about the genetically engineered ingredients they’d slipped into our foods, the ones hardwired for chemicals. But looking forward, at what point is it the fiduciary duty of executives at the big food companies to avoid these expenses and begin to respond to consumer demand?
Because if consumer sentiment is any indication, this growing desire to know what is in our food and how it is being produced, a desire fueled in part by the record number of Americans being diagnosed with cancer, diabetes, allergies, obesity and other conditions, food manufacturers might want to differentiate themselves from the chemical companies, step out of the laboratory and build out a food supply with ingredients that they don’t have to worry will make headlines in 2013.