Business Bites: Banana tycoons fund terrorism

5 new flavors to taste: Chiquita was found liable for funding a disbanded terrorist organization; Oatly gets all up in Big Dairy’s business; a new food waste reduction plan has a false start; and more.

Scott Miller, Staff writer

June 17, 2024

5 Min Read

At a Glance

  • Chiquita will be required to pay eight families $38.3 million.
  • Oatly crashed an ice cream social with a “Dairy Deprogramming” truck.
  • Three government agencies are dragging their feet to implement a new food waste reduction strategy.

As the old saying goes: Every time a banana sells, a Columbian paramilitary group gets appeal. That’s right, I'm talking about Chiquita banana funding terrorism. And if that’s not the weirdest headline you’ve seen this week, where are you getting your news?

Plus, the Biden administration once again promises to reduce food waste, and popular alt-dairy brand Oatly thumbs its nose at the International Dairy Foods Association by interrupting its annual ice cream social on Capitol Hill. All that and more in this edition of Business Bites.

Chiquita found liable for funding terrorism

Global banana supplier Chiquita Brands International was found in a civil case in the Southern District of Florida to have “knowingly provided substantial assistance to the AUC to a degree sufficient to create a foreseeable risk of harm to others.”

AUC stands for Autodefensas Unidas de Colombia, a far-right group designated by the U.S. government as a terrorist organization. Although the group disbanded in 2006, Chiquita was ordered to pay the families of eight victims $38.3 million. The company claims it was extorted by the AUC as well, forced to pay for “security services” that were never provided, but the jury wasn’t buying it.

This case sets an interesting precedent about the actions of food manufacturers in countries where such groups might be active, the moral being to avoid doing business with shady groups that might be involved in activities like torture and murder. Still, justice might take a while; this case was originally filed in 2007.


Oatly takes on Big Dairy, crashes Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party

One of the world’s biggest oat milk companies recently caused quite a stir in Washington, D.C. At the 40th Annual Capitol Hill Ice Cream Party sponsored by the International Dairy Foods Association, Oatly parked a truck filled with plant-based soft-serve ice cream just across the street, calling the area a “Dairy Deprogramming Zone.”

Reportedly, the company did this to trigger a larger conversation about climate change and the dairy industry’s role in this global concern. Indeed, animal agriculture is a significant source of greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, and plant-based dairy products have a much smaller footprint, despite the dairy lobby’s insistence on challenging these products (though that “Wood Milk” ad was pretty funny).

“We showed up on Capitol Hill to expose the decades-long influence by Big Dairy on our government and, in turn, the American people,” Pearson Croney-Clark, Oatly public affairs manager, said in a statement. “The negative impacts of the dairy industry on our climate are significant and can’t be ignored … Moving away from meat and dairy is one of the easiest ways Americans can lower their climate footprints, but because the dairy lobby is not transparent about the impacts of their products, many people don’t understand the true role that the industry plays in our climate crisis.”

Biden administration proposes national strategy to reduce food waste … again

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) just announced the "National Strategy for Reducing Food Loss and Waste and Recycling Organics." As part of President Joe Biden’s initiative to address climate change and support a circular economy, this strategy sets goals for government partners, retailers and consumers to reduce food waste and GHG emissions. But wait, didn’t this happen already? They announced the draft of the strategy, then took six months off before reannouncing their intentions to definitely implement the strategy. Someday. Maybe.

The hopefully now-final strategy outlines four key objectives (still): 

  1. Preventing food loss.

  2. Preventing food waste.

  3. Increasing recycling rates for organic waste.  

  4. Supporting policies that encourage all of the above.

This plan promises a variety of economic, environmental and social benefits, such as increasing access for the food-insecure and reducing household costs, if these three agencies ever get around to executing it.

USDA looks to adjust labeling for uncured, cultivated meat

According to Food Navigator USA, USDA is working on updating its meat and poultry labeling requirements, with an anticipated publication date of late this year or early next. This comes as part of an effort to modernize the Nutrition Facts labels for these products, especially regarding uncured and cell-cultivated meats.

For uncured meat products, USDA is looking to clarify the language surrounding “no nitrate or nitrite added” claims that could mislead consumers. But cultured or cultivated meat, meaning meat grown from animal cell cultures, may require bigger changes.

Based on a September 2021 advance notice that received more than a thousand comments, cultivated meat may soon be required to be labeled to clearly differentiate it from conventional meat or poultry. While “cell-cultured” was the language most suggested by commenters, members of the conventional meat industry wanted to go with “lab-grown.” Wonder why.


Better Meat Co. reduces costs, threatens commodity beef

Get ready for steak you can grow like a ‘shroom. Sacramento-based alt-meat startup Better Meat Co. has significantly reduced its costs by switching to a continuous process for its “Rhiza” mycoprotein, which could reduce the product’s cost enough to compete with commodity beef. 

“You are harvesting every single second, which is the holy grail for fermentation because it opens up dramatically greater efficiencies,” CEO Paul Shapiro told AgFunder News. “The Better Meat Co. has proven its ability to run in batch, semi-continuous and continuous fermentation modes at our demo-scale plant. In the last year alone, our continuous R&D has enabled us to slash feedstock costs while producing a higher quantity of mycelium, enabling a total at-scale cost reduction of more than 30%.”

The Good Food Institute claims that consumers currently pay a premium for plant-based meats, but that the price disparity between these products and conventional meat will continue to shrink as new technologies and techniques improve production. Good news for the alt-meat category, and it definitely needs some.

About the Author(s)

Scott Miller

Staff writer, Food & Beverage Insider

Scott Miller brings two decades of experience as a writer, editor, and communications specialist to Food & Beverage Insider. He’s done a little of everything, from walking a beat as a freelance journalist to taking the Big Red Pen to massive technical volumes. He even ran a professional brewing industry website for several years, leveling up content delivery during an era when everyone had a blog.

Since starting at Food & Beverage Insider, he’s written pieces on the price of greenwashing (and how to avoid it), debunked studies that served little to no purpose (other than upsetting the public) and explained the benefits of caffeine alternatives, along with various other stories on trends and events.

Scott is particularly interested in how science, technology and industry are converging to answer tomorrow’s big questions about food insecurity, climate change and more.

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