6 hot topics to whet your appetite: New York Attorney General Letitia James leads coalition calling on FDA to inspect all baby food for life-threatening contaminants; Snack powerhouse Kellanova makes tough decision to close two of its factories in the U.S. and overseas; FDA investigates recent listeria outbreak linked to queso fresco and cotija cheese; and more.

6 Min Read
baby food

At a Glance

  • New York Attorney General Letitia James spearheads coalition demanding FDA to require testing of all baby food products.
  • Kellanova, formerly known as Kellogg Co., shuts doors to facilities in Rossville, Tennessee, and Manchester, U.K.
  • FDA updates listeria outbreak involving queso fresco and cotija cheese, and issues recommendations for imported seafood.

FDA is under fire from attorneys general nationwide. On Valentine’s Day, New York Attorney General Letitia James and a coalition of 20 attorneys general sent a letter to five FDA officials urging the agency to take action to protect babies and young children in the U.S. from lead and other toxic metals in baby food. Also in this week’s column, Kellanova announces closures of two facilities — one in the U.S. and another in the U.K. — which will result in hundreds of lost jobs. Learn more below.

US attorneys general demand FDA addresses contamination in baby food

On the heels of the recent fiasco involving a slew of contaminated apple sauce products, New York Attorney General Letitia James is demanding a solution. James and a coalition of 20 attorneys general in the U.S. want the agency to reassess James’ October 2021 petition and subsequent June 2022 petition and letter, which asked FDA to issue specific guidance to the baby food industry to require testing of all finished food products for contaminants including lead and toxic metals. The two petitions from James were denied, prompting her to assemble almost two dozen attorneys general nationwide to press FDA to take immediate action regarding the issue. The coalition emphasizes the critical need for FDA to address the lack of regulations surrounding baby food in the letter filed on Feb. 14, citing the most recent lead poisoning case involving recalled cinnamon apple sauce products produced by WanaBana, Schnucks and Weis; Products contained “extremely high” levels of lead and sickened more than 400 people from 44 states between the ages of 0 and 53.

“Parents and guardians should not have to worry that food products designed to be safe and healthy for children might contain harmful levels of lead or other toxic metals,” James said. “Nothing is more important than ensuring the health and safety of our youngest and most vulnerable.”

Kellanova shutters factories, eliminates 500 jobs

In October 2023, Kellogg Co. split into two new businesses: WK Kellogg Co., which handles cereals for North American markets, and Kellanova, a snack company responsible for popular offerings such as Pringles and Cheez-It. In early February, Kellanova announced the closure of two of its plants, resulting in 500 total lost jobs. The ill-fated factories are located in Rossville, Tennessee, and Manchester, U.K. The Rossville closure will take place by the end of 2024 and eliminate 140 jobs, while the Manchester closure will occur in 2026 and cut 360 jobs. Eggo Waffles are produced at the Rossville facility, which was ultimately closed after Kellanova saw a 5% year-over-year decrease in net sales in the frozen foods category in Q4 of 2023. The Manchester facility, which produces Kellogg’s Corn Flakes and Rice Krispies for international markets, was reportedly built in 1938 — a factor that influenced Kellanova’s decision. Production will be moved to two separate UK facilities.

FDA updates outbreak advisory, issues draft guidance for seafood

Foodborne illness outbreaks are numerous and ongoing. One which FDA issued updated guidance is the Listeria monocytogenes outbreak related to queso fresco and cotija cheese. The agency recommends avoiding recalled brands of cheeses, sour creams and yogurts manufactured by Riza Lopez Foods Inc., which may be present under other names, such as the store brands at Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods Market. These products are also available at grocery chains like Albertsons, Costco, Sprouts Farmers Market and more.

FDA also issued sampling recommendations for seafood subject to detention without physical examination (DWPE), which occurs due to the appearance of adulteration caused by pathogens, decomposition or other sources. The goal of this guidance was to clarify for international manufacturers the process of submitting evidence to FDA to have products removed from DWPE.

Major cultivated meat player pauses expansion

In September 2023, Upside Foods declared it would open a 187,000-square-foot cultivated meat plant in Glenview, Illinois — the largest ever, and a major step forward for the industry. A report by Wired recently revealed that those plans have come to a halt. Upside claimed to be investing more than $140 million and creating 75 new jobs related to the facility, which had a planned capacity of more than 30 million pounds of cultivated meat per year. The company will instead double its investment in its established facility in Emeryville, California. After closing a $400 million Series C funding round in April 2022, Upside came to a self-claimed valuation of more than $1 billion, making this news somewhat unexpected. Although perhaps it shouldn’t be. Investments are down and MIT recently labeled cultivated meat — using Upside Foods’ cultivated chicken product as an example — as one of the top tech failures of 2023.

"Organic Night Out" puts spotlight on organic trendsetters, groundbreakers

Natural Products Expo West, taking place March 12-16 in Anaheim, California, is the leading tradeshow in the natural, organic and healthy products industry. On March 13 from 6-10 p.m. PST, nonprofits The Organic Center and Organic Voices will host “An Organic Night Out: Honoring the Year’s Best in Organic” at the Anaheim Marriott, located adjacent to the Anaheim Convention Center. The event will recognize and celebrate the success of organic brands and companies in communicating the impact of organic to consumers. It will also showcase the latest organic research being conducted by The Organic Center and its partner scientists via an interactive science fair. The honorees at the first-ever “Organic Oscars” — from innovative entrepreneurs and established brands to cutting-edge research and visionary scientists — were all nominated and selected by their peers. More than 70 organic companies nominated more than 100 organics businesses and visionaries; The most impact organic research of the year will also be honored with an Excellence Award. Awards will be given in eight categories: Best New Organic Food/Beverage Product; Best New Organic Nonfood Product; Best Organic Messaging; Better for the Planet, People or Animals; Best Organic PR or Social Media Activation; Best Retailer Organic Activation; Most Impactful Organic Research Result or Finding; Emerging Organic Entrepreneur of the Year; and Organic Company of the Year. Jennifer Garner, award-winning actress and co-founder of organic children’s nutrition company Once Upon a Farm, will emcee the awards alongside Gary Hirshberg, co-founder of Stonyfield Farm.

SupplySide education series hosts sustainability webinar

Ask five people their definition of sustainability and you’re certain to get five different answers. Food & Beverage Insider’s first Education Series webinar of 2024, “Ditch the buzzwords and dive into real solutions at the sustainability roundtable,” is taking place on Feb. 29 at 1 p.m. EST. Moderated by Food & Beverage Insider Content Director Audarshia Townsend, this exclusive 2024 roundtable discussion brings together CPG, consultancy and marketing powerhouses to share proven strategies across the food and beverage value chain. Speakers include Olivia Chen, co-founder of Twrl Milk Tea; Lourdes Diaz-McAgy, CEO of Total Nutrition Technology; and Anian Schreiber, co-founder of Koa Impact. They will offer insights on sustainability, as well as their tips on optimizing production and sourcing. The webinar is underwritten by Cargill. Click here to register.

About the Author(s)

Heather Carter

Associate editor, Food & Beverage Insider

With over a decade of diverse professional experience under her belt, Heather has journeyed from the bustling world of local news reporting to the intricate realms of trade publishing. She has covered a wide array of topics, ranging from architecture and design to the food and beverage industry.

During her illustrious career, Heather also ventured into the realm of public relations, where she gleaned invaluable insights into the art of strategic communication and brand storytelling. Yet, her heart has always been anchored in the vibrant world of F&B, a passion deeply ingrained in her roots as the daughter of a seasoned chef. She has always held a profound appreciation for the role food plays in shaping cultures and connecting people.

With each story she tells, Heather seeks to illuminate the profound impact of food and beverage on people’s lives, celebrating its ability to evoke emotions, foster connections and weave the fabric of our shared human experience.

As Food & Beverage's associate editor, she co-publishes a weekly news column, Business Bites, which showcases the latest industry news, highlighting key business updates, food and beverage innovation, industry events and more. Some of her other articles touch on important topics, such as ultra-processed foods, plant-based foods primed to change the food landscape, international flavors and ingredients, as well as better-for-you CPGs. She also frequently covers top trends at various industry events and has moderated first-of-their-kind education sessions at Informa events.

She can be reached at [email protected].

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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