Junk food TV ads make children hungry and tempted, charity finds

The Guardian – Tuesday 5th July

We all know that young children are impressionable, making them especially susceptible to advertising. A new study by Cancer Research UK (CRUK) makes it clear just how compelling TV adverts for sweets, crisps and other processed foods are for children. “You might be eating a piece of fruit, you might see the advert and you might just throw it in the bin and ask your mum for money and leg it to the shop,” commented one boy in Year 6 who was interviewed for the research.

CRUK is calling for the ban on advertising junk food to be extended through to the 9pm watershed and they provide very good reasons why – it’s exerting tremendous influence over what children eat. This is something that the British Heart Foundation and Sustain have also called for in recent years. While advertising junk food is banned during children’s shows, children still get a good dose of it when they watch TV with their family in the evening, which they do pretty regularly. The study evidenced that kids pay attention to such advertising and it’s shaping their eating habits.

Before the advertising of cigarettes was banned in most places across the globe, a lot of it was directed at children and young people. Though pushing cigarettes to children may seem outrageous to us today due to the dangerous health impacts, isn’t it really much the same with junk food? The impact of obesity on children and young people is arguably as devastating as smoking, shortening life spans and increasing their risk of cancer, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. It’s time we take seriously what’s at risk here.

The group that was supposed to make palm oil sustainable just disappeared

Grist – Thursday 30th June

While the palm oil industry has been making some big steps towards sustainability in the last few years, it’s also taking a few back. The Indonesian Palm Oil Pledge (IPOP), a private agreement between palm oil producers and the Indonesian government, was signed in 2014 and aimed to make Indonesian palm oil production sustainable, eliminating deforestation from supply chains and fighting human rights abuses in the industry. It has now been dissolved by the government, because according to a statement from the companies involved, “IPOP signatories have decided that recent groundbreaking policy developments in Indonesia have fulfilled the purpose of IPOP to help accelerate and promote this transformation toward sustainability and therefore its presence can be dissolved,” however this has left some environmental groups unhappy.

About 3 years ago, a number of major companies began to take seriously the need to stop deforestation in the industry – Wilmar, Unilever, Cargill and others have had an important role in this. While there has been meaningful headway, the widespread forest fires across Indonesia in 2015 were a big blow to this effort. Government plans to keep this from happening again, by curbing further expansion of the industry into sensitive areas. Recriminations on who started the fires abound, but many think it was largely small holders trying to clear more land to grow on and increase income. The rights of small-holders is an issue buried in the complex of concerns over sustainable palm oil. Read Nathanael Johnson’s extensive speculation on the struggle to make Indonesia’s palm oil industry sustainable which shines a light on a range of problems feeding into this latest development. But in the end, the dissolution of the IPOP ultimately releases major players in the industry from critical responsibilities.

E. Coli outbreak: salad could be to blame

BBC News – Tuesday 5th July

An outbreak of E. Coli O157, a less common strain of the bacteria, has been spreading across the country affecting more than 100 people. While the origin of the outbreak has yet to be identified, it seems to spreading through mixed salad leaves, especially rocket. Public Health England is reminding people of the importance of thoroughly washing salad before eating it, ensuring all soil is removed. E. coli is carried in the gut and faeces of animals such as cattle and outbreaks of E. coli in salad are not unusual. But with so much salad being sold as ‘ready to eat’, people may not realise that unless stated on the package, this is not the case with all salad. Another problem is that salad is usually consumed raw.

Food hygiene issues can be difficult to control in industrial food production – with salmonella found in some three-quarters of supermarket chickens, it wouldn’t be surprising to find dangerous food borne bacteria in other products. The pressures of industrial production whether in farm or factory, makes maintaining good hygiene harder, and that means food safety is all too often compromised. It’s yet another one of the prices of cheap food.

US research reveals employers’ complicity in illegal migrant farm work

Farming Online – Thursday 30th June

A 10 year study on migrant labour in California, conducted by the University of Colorado maps the extensive use of illegal ‘ghost’ workers on farms. These workers are employed using documentation provided by legal workers who effectively lend their paperwork to employers. The practice leaves undocumented workers in an exceedingly vulnerable position, holding responsibility for their illegal employment if caught and open to a range of labour abuses, including unpaid overtime work and child labour exploitations, where under-age workers labour under adult papers and “Unscrupulous employers…use the practice to violate wage legislation.” But the ghost working also affects legally documented workers when it used to circumvent payment of overtime, by having workers do overtime on borrowed or fabricated papers. Ghost work benefits both the employer and the documented worker lending the papers – they accrue additional social security and unemployment benefits for hours they have not worked, as well as kick backs from employers.

Labour abuses in agriculture are still rife throughout the developed world and the US has a long history and significant ongoing problem with the exploitation of farm labourers. Many of the fundamental rights of workers that were legislated for in the 1930s under the Fair Labour Standards Act, such as minimum wage and overtime pay, are still denied to agricultural labourers and this has fed a long roster of problems for poor, vulnerable and undocumented workers with little legal recourse. Ongoing labour abuses include sexual harassment, violence and intimidation, indentured servitude and slavery, child labour exploitation and infringements on pay. That this is happening in the 21st century in the wealthiest nation in the world is a sad state of affairs.

Photograph: CIFOR

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