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A few things caught my eye looking over this piece from CNBC on food fraud and rising prices.
Number one:

The Department of Agriculture predicts food prices will rise between 2.5 and 3.5 percent this year. And while the consumer price index was up 0.1 percent in February, the food index rose more sharply, at 0.4 percent.
I don't know about you, but I've definitely noticed sticker shock at the check out aisle. Little wonder. According the the USDA ERS, while the CPI rose 1.1% in 2013 it rose 1.4% for food. That 1.4% broke out into .9% for groceries (the same rate as 2012) and 2.2% for restaurant spending. But it's since the beginning of the year that I've noticed the pinch and the numbers bear that out, especially for the kinds of foods I buy. Last year theose items went up faster than the rest of the CPI basket. Since the beginning of this year that trend has accelerated, especially since February and the forecast is for more of the same as we recover from the drought in California and the economic recovery returns inflation to normal historical levels.
Relative to 2012, prices rose considerably for poultry, eggs, fish, and fresh vegetables; however, prices fell for nonalcoholic beverages, sugar and sweets, fats and oils, and other meats. For the remaining food categories, prices were mostly unchanged. From February to December 2013, average supermarket prices fell by 0.2 percent.

Looking ahead to 2014, ERS forecasts that food price inflation will return to a range closer to the historical norm. The food-at-home CPI has already increased more in the first two months of 2014 than it did in all of 2013, but given its current trajectory, it is on track for normal annual inflation. Since 1990, grocery store prices have risen by an average of 2.8 percent per year. Inflationary pressures are expected to be moderate, given the outlook for commodity prices, animal inventories, and ongoing export trends. Retailer margins, having contracted since the drought, may expand in 2014 if input prices rise, which should contribute to inflation. The food, food-at-home, and food-away-from-home CPIs are expected to increase 2.5 to 3.5 percent over 2013 levels.

. . . Eggs continued their recent surge, increasing 0.7 percent from January to February. The CPI for eggs is now 5.7 percent above the February 2013 level. ERS has revised the forecast for egg prices upward to 3.0 to 4.0 percent in anticipation of increased exports as well as strong domestic demand (due in part to high meat prices) in 2014.

Painful reading for someone who leans heavily on eggs and vegetables.

 photo foodcpi_zps764cd617.png
Look at that spike in February. Ouch !!!

Number two:

I knew about fraud in the olive oil and honey markets, (check out this groovy, animated slideshow the New York Times put together on olive oil fraud) but this jumped out at me:

Up to 59 percent of tuna is mislabeled, according to a study by advocacy group, Oceana. Customs and Border Protection chemist Matt Birck said escolar is often mislabeled as tuna and could cause digestive issues.
59% !!! That's a lot of fake tuna. I had to wonder if a lot of non-tuna tuna was winding up in the pet food market, but it turns out that fish fraud in the fish counter and restaurant trade is widespread.

Meanwhile in the TMI departemnt, I love escolar and have never had a problem with it, but apparently lots of people do.

Number three:

But a Government Accountability Office review found problems in the overlap between the agencies charged with stopping food fraud. For example, while the FDA regulates eggs in the shell, the USDA regulates them once they are in products.
At first I thought that had to be backwards, wouldn't the USDA inspect eggs and the FDA egg products? But it turns out to be correct. But that all the more underscores the crossed wires of having US Customs, the FDA and the USDA involved in regulatory overlap in vouchsafing the food supply.
The FDA inspects shelled eggs, while the USDA is responsible for egg products, including liquid, frozen and dehydrated eggs. The FDA regulates the feed chickens eat, but the laying facility falls under USDA jurisdiction.

If it sounds confusing, that’s because it is.  This year’s investigation into the Salmonella outbreak in Iowa eggs was complicated by the fact that the USDA was responsible for the pile of manure next to the laying facility, but the FDA was accountable for the danger of the eggs themselves.

Let's construct a primitive infographic on the topic, shall we.

[Chicken feed - FDA] --> [Egg laying operation - USDA] --> [Eggs - FDA] --> [Egg products - USDA]


It seems like that's the kind of project that could make for a great bipartisan project in Congress, or a non-cabinet level tsar position in the executive branch. That seems like a better place to start than trying to place more burdens on a dysfunctional system.

Rising prices aid $15B food fraud problem
Jennifer Schlesinger, Sheila Dharmarajan | CNBC | 13 April 2014

Food Price Outlook, 2013-14
Economic Resarch Service | USDA

Consumer Price Index for All Urban Consumers: Food and Beverages
FRED | St. Louis FED

Olive Oil Fraud Rampant, Trade Agency Finds
Alan Farnum | ABC News | 25 September 2013

Extra Virgin Suicide
Nicholas Blechman | The New York Times

Honey Laundering
Tom Philpott | Mother Jones | 7 November 2011

The Ex-Lax Fish
Mother Jones | November 2009

Accountability lost in murky fish supply chain
pecial Investigation | Boston Globe | 2011

Who Inspects What? A Food Safety Scramble
Gretchen Goetz | Food Safety News | 16 December 2010

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Comment Preferences

  •  I'm Just Ending 4 Years of Debilitating Digestive (7+ / 0-)

    disturbances triggered by a combination of antibiotics and a partly misunderstood gluten intolerance. However it took forever to shake due to a number of transient situations that were difficult to track down; and escolar tuna was definitely in the mix a few times.

    Given the number of people naturally sensitive to it, let alone anyone with a variety of medical conditions, it should be a literal crime to be passing that bullshit off as food without accurate labeling and warnings.

    We are called to speak for the weak, for the voiceless, for victims of our nation and for those it calls enemy.... --ML King "Beyond Vietnam"

    by Gooserock on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 08:30:29 PM PDT

    •  Gooserock, how I sympathize. (4+ / 0-)

      IN some of 2007, all of 2008 and until Thanksgiving 2009, I suffered with extreme intestinal pain, that took over my entire lower left hand side. It felt like weasels were ripping my flesh and  insides. (Zappa fans know the album I refer to!)

      I had $ 21,000 worth of testing done in an eighteen month period. Pet scans, x rays, cat scans, and finally, after nothing could be found, they MRI'ed my wee brain as they thought a brain tumor might be sending false signals of pain. Luckily the mRI found nothing but normal brain tissue.

      In the end, I ran out of pasta and bread during a  huge writing project. My spouse also was on deadline. Neither of us could spare a moment to go and replace the bread and pasta. We didn't eat anything gluten for those four days. Luckily I had a doctor appointment early the fifth  morning. If the staff hadn't asked what my pain level was that day, I would probably still be afflicted. (Some times, I took 5 codeine tabs and still had 9 level pain) But this day my pain level was Zero. The doctor's staff  queried me and queried me. Finally a light bulb went on - I hadn't had wheat in four days!

      I have come to find, via reading emails sent to me by people well acquainted with Don Huber, people whoa re scientists working on the issue of what ever is going on with our crops and foods! I learned that our wheat is heavily contaminated with formaldehyde, as almost all American grown wheat is RoundUp sprayed. And the soil is destroyed by the glyphosate, and the POEA and the formaldehyde or other aldehyde used to soften the glyphosate so it is a sprayable product. Our soils are lacking in nutrients, and now the wheat our farmers grow are saturated with molds and fungal growths including vomitoxin!

      •  That's odd (2+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        FloridaSNMOM, marc brazeau

        all that testing and they never tested for Celiac's disease?
        As for fomaldehyde in wheat, a google search provided no help on finding where you got that information. Formaldehyde was used early in the 20th century to disinfect seed before planting, but I could find no modern day use on growing wheat.
        Herbicides like Round Up are sprayed on wheat very early in the growing season, and most will break down into harmless elements within 3 to 4 days, as it is designed to do. The wheat is harvested several months later, when residues are long gone.

        Your beliefs don't make you a better person. Your behavior does.

        by skohayes on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 04:20:52 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  People often think that RoundUp is nothing (0+ / 0-)

          But glyposate. But it also contains Polyoxyethalinamine (POEA) by 15% and water by around 45%. The POEA breaks down into formaldehyde. it is also possible that in addition to the POEA being in the mix, plain old formaldehyde was in the mix, as well.

          Without an aldehyde in its formula, the glyphosate in RoundUp would not be able to be sprayable but  instead would be in cake like form. A  Bob Simon, PhD, who was a forensic witness for many years for families suing Monsanto, claims that during one court case, he, the Monsanto people and the family were called into judge's chambers and it was revealed to one and all in that room that formaldehyde was part of the mix.  Apparently Monsanto never bothered to tell the EPA when it applied for its license to sell the product over the  counter. Here in California, Prop 65 has formaldehyde listed as a toxic best to be avoided, and it is possible that if the formaldehyde being added to RoundUp was public knowledge, rather than something Monsanto lied about, that RoundUp would not be allowed to be  sold over the counter to unlicensed "home" buyers.

          The USA is one of very few nations that do not demand a gas spectrometry exam of a product to determine what is in it. We let the companies that want the EPA to approve of their product to explain to  the EPA, on the honor system, that this is in it, and this too, and that, but nothing else. What else would you expect by a Corporate-controlled government?

          Of course, the fact remains that for years, anti-pesticide activists like myself were told by people who used RoundUp that it was only salt and water. So now that people realize it contains glyphosate, well, that is at least a big step up!

    •  It is a crime. It carries heavy penalties, (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      including prison, but like all laws, these depend on those charged with enforcing the law to do as they've sworn to do, and that is just old-fashioned, backward looking nonsense that can't possibly be done today.

      "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities." - Voltaire

      by Greyhound on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 11:09:01 PM PDT

      [ Parent ]

  •  Food Inflation (8+ / 0-)

    Is completely out of control right now.

    I can't think of much that I buy that hasn't both gone up in price at the same time they are shrinking the box.

    6 ounce can of tuna practically doubles in price at the same time they shrink it to 5 ounces a can.

    Loaf of bread that was 24 ounces down to 16-18 with a significant price increase.

    Companies are bleeding this country dry at the grocery store and we are told "there's no inflation".

    I and many others I know could give 2 shits about the core inflation rate when everything we actually use and need to live continues to march higher.

    •  Rising prices (5+ / 0-)

      aren't necessarily the same as inflation, but point well taken.

      In terms of my budget and what I spend money on, food prices are essentially the whole ball of wax, so I notice the shrinking packages and rising prices.

    •  And yet, we're repeatedly told (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      cjtjc, FloridaSNMOM

      That there is no inflation and destructive monetary policy gets set accordingly.  Of course the numbers always exclude food and energy costs, which is where a lot of consumers put most of their non obligatory (i.e. not things like rent and car payments) spending.

      "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

      by blackhand on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 06:30:09 AM PDT

      [ Parent ]

      •  Yes, because high food prices (1+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:

        caused by drought aren't inflation, they are just higher prices and they aren't caused by monetary policy.

        That doesn't mean that higher prices don't suck, it just means that higher prices and inflation aren't always the same thing.  Energy and food are more sensitive to price shocks, therefore are 'noisy' in determining the rate of inflation. With inflation economists are trying to measure a very specific phenomenon. Just because it isn't the phenomenon that you are most interested in or effected by doesn't make it a shell game. It just means that it gets reported on in an overly simplistic manner, just like everything else.

  •  My county here in California, is passing a (7+ / 0-)

    Corporation-smashing, revolutionary ordinance that will stipulate that it is a human right to grow any seed and corp that one wishes or needs to grow, for food, herbal or medicinal reasons, on property that is theirs. And that no regulations should come into effect.

    It will be  revolutionary, to stipulate via this local ordinance that all Americans have the right to grow food.

    This is very significant. No longer will federal agencies be able to come onto small organic farms and then demand the farmer(s) plow under a crop as a rabbit was seen running around the field (Why, the rabbit could have anthrax, the farmer will be told!) Meanwhile the Big Agri Interests are growing anything they want, sprayng as much as they want, lettin the pesticide runoff cotnaminate the aquifers, etc. And there is no oversight! (as Big Money makes officials go away. )

    No longer will housing associations be able to tell  us that our veggies are not welcome in the front yard. And that we face a fine for the six tomato plants.

  •  Also although I am grateful for your diligent (5+ / 0-)

    research, i don't think that the notion that food prices rose one percent or a bit under for all of 2013 is anywhere near  accurate.

    There were weeks when every single month. the products I used were going up in price. And not one percent in price - ten or fifteen percent or so! Sticker-wise, the price was the same, but then when you got home, you realized that what had been a 14  ounce package the month before was now some 11 and a half ounces. (That just happened to me yesterday with blueberries. Price wise the product was the same, but the package held fewer blackberries by weight.)

    CPI has very clever ways of accounting, and of "data re-distribution" as we all have learned that if steak goes up, they don't admit that there is any meat inflation at work. Rather they decide that steak eaters will buy hamburger instead, etc. Judging by CPI refusing to see what most of us see at the grocery stores, they must decide that if we "choose" to not eat lunch at all, then there is no need to even discuss food prices being inflationary. really no difference in our food budgets!

  •  Thanks for this great post. Sausage: (4+ / 0-)

    The stuffing is regulated by the USDA, the casing by the FDA.

    Bagel dogs: FDA
    Corn dogs: USDA

    Fish: FDA except catfish which are USDA.

    All the result of the overcooked and overseasoned stew that is the Farm Bill.

    As for escolar, vendors need to be more forthcoming about the hazards of gempylotoxin.  I've eaten it as walu in HI and white tuna in CA without ill effects but I know folks who have suffered pretty horrid symptoms.

    An investment in knowledge pays the best interest. -Benjamin Franklin

    by martinjedlicka on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 09:09:12 PM PDT

  •  The "average" nuclear (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marc brazeau, unfangus

    Family lawn, of 1/4acre in the suburbs, can grow a lot of the food you buy, and with adments, (greenhouse, cold frames, winter houses) can extend the seasons.

    Here, well north of the. 48, in mid alpine, we grow a years worth of root crops, herbs , greens. Tomatoes, pulses , etc, such that all we buy other than coffee, butter, rice, sugar and flour, is protein, in less space than a suburban back yard.

    We are rural, so a lot of our protein comes from the neighbours,(eggs, chicken, beef) and a lot comes from fishing and hunting.

    I could grow more beans I suppose. and put in a bee hive, but we have bumblebees and mason flies , and I would not want to introduce pressures or disease for the sake of some honey.

  •  One little thing (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marc brazeau

    the drought in California is supposed to get worse, not better.

  •  This statement really jumped out at me (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    unfangus, FloridaSNMOM
    however, prices fell for nonalcoholic beverages, sugar and sweets, fats and oils, and other meats.
    Notice any correlation between this and the subsidies that big corporate agriculture gets?  Refined, processed, and chemical laden and it is cheap.  No wonder Americans have such health problems related to their diets.

    "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

    by blackhand on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 06:34:26 AM PDT

    •  Except those subisidies are designed (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:

      to keep prices high.

      Those things are cheap because of continuous productivity gains.

      •  Not sure why I thought of this (0+ / 0-)

        But the other day I found myself wondering what would have happened if there were no "farm" subsidies and no intervention.  I was wondering what would be the effect on real foods such as meats and vegetables versus the processed junk?  Would more people gravitate towards better choices and would these receive productivity and production benefits as a result?  If food prices were dramatically higher, would this in turn cause wage pressures and how would the impact play out in other cost areas like healthcare.  Would diabetes and obesity be less of an issue and hence lower costs in other areas?

        The TLDR version being would we be better off without govt intervention in using money to try and set food policy?

        "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

        by blackhand on Tue Apr 15, 2014 at 12:06:56 PM PDT

        [ Parent ]

        •  Commodity crops would still dominate (0+ / 0-)

          but prices would fluctuate more and the system would be more prone to crisis.

          Commodity crops are cheap because they are less perishable and production and processing can be mechanized.

          The subsidies have far less impact on the choices farmers make about what to grow (except ethanol and the RFS, which RAISES corn and food prices). Consider the crops that were eligible for the direct payments program:

          Barley, corn, grain sorghum, oats, canola, crambe, flax, mustard, rapeseed, safflower, sesame and sunflower, peanuts, and rice
          Notice how little you hear about our food supply being flooded with cheap barley, oats,  flax, mustard, sesame and sunflower, or peanuts.

          Also notice that missing from that list is soybeans.

          Consider as well that organic producers were equally as eligible for direct payments if they were growing those crops, and yet those crops make up a tiny fraction of organic production. Apparently those incentives aren't such a big draw without consumer demand.

          Consumer demand is what drives farmers choices. If we want a better food supply we need to demand one. The policy levers are in things like the SNAP, the school lunch program and a soda tax.

  •  I am adding this diary to my reccomend list (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    marc brazeau

    Last night, my wife and I went to the grocery store and while there I kept thinking about this diary.  If causing me to think about a subject and it's impact while I am going about my daily business isn't a cause for a rec, I don't know what is.

    I pride myself on trying to be a grocery store's worst shopper: the ones who hit the periphery of the store and ignore the flashy displays.  Last night, we had the highest grocery bill that I have had in quite a while and that really drove the point of this diary home for me.  While the bill was high, it had very little meat in it, none of which was beef.  We did a little more down the isle shopping  than normal picking up things like canned tomatoes and we did splurge and get a box of crackers and a small jar of olives.  Still, most of it was concentrated in the produce and diary sections.  

    Of course we could get a box of crackers for $1.99, conveniently marked on sale, but some fresh Brussels Sprouts was $3.50, as was the lettuce.  Mushrooms, peppers, and other vegetables cost as much as the crackers.

    "It's not surveillance, it's data collection to keep you safe"

    by blackhand on Wed Apr 16, 2014 at 06:20:38 AM PDT

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