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Category Archives: Food and Nutrition

The Lies in Your Grocery Store

The New Yorker [read free]: “…Most people accept the gimmicks of food labelling. One lawyer can’t stomach them…Sheehan, forty-four, specializes in consumer-protection class-action suits. Specifically, he focusses on packaged foods, and on the authenticity of their ingredients and flavors. Sheehan has sued the makers of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts (dearth of real strawberries), Hint of Lime Tostitos (absence of lime), Snapple “all natural” fruit drinks (absence of natural juice), Keebler’s fudge-mint cookies (lack of real fudge and mint), Cheesecake Factory brown bread (insufficient whole-grain flour), Trident original-flavor gum (lack of real mint, despite package’s illustration of a blue mint leaf), and many more, generally seeking millions in damages from each. He also pursues class actions unrelated to food, involving subtle fraud in products such as toothpaste (Tom’s of Maine Fluoride-Free Antiplaque & Whitening, for containing no ingredient that fights plaque) and sunscreen (Coppertone Pure & Simple, for being neither). Sheehan emphasized this breadth of scope during our first phone conversation. “It took Matthew McConaughey years after that movie he did with Sarah Jessica Parker—‘Failure to Launch’?—to be taken seriously as an actor,” he told me. “No one likes to be typecast.” But Sheehan has been typecast, with his tacit approval. He’s a food-label zealot, and is especially relentless with vanilla cases. (Tabloids have called him “the vanilla vigilante.”) “Real” fruit and artificial smoke flavoring are in his crosshairs, too. Since 2018, Sheehan’s firm has filed more than five hundred consumer-protection class-action suits, making New York one of the top states for such cases. At annual food-law conferences, presenters displaying litigation trends provide two sets of statistics: one including Sheehan’s cases, one without. Some of his lawsuits, including one involving an “aged vanilla” claim made by A&W Root Beer, have resulted in multimillion-dollar settlements; some make headlines; many are dismissed. Defendants and judges “might roll their eyes at a case,” Sheehan said, “because, yes, it can be somewhat amusing. But I can proudly and honestly say I’ve never been sanctioned by a court for filing anything frivolous.”

You Should Worry About the Data Retailers Collect About You

The Atlantic [free to read]: “…Smartphones gave stores even more refined information about their customers, facilitating new kinds of in-store spying that most people probably don’t even know exists. Mousetrap-size radio transmitters called beacons ping off apps on your phone and can track your location down to the inch inside a store, giving retailers granular… Continue Reading

A new tool to help governments with climate data

“To provide a starting point, our organisation, the Center for Open Data Enterprise (CODE), has developed a new tool to help governments and their partners identify the kinds of data that may be most useful for climate action. The Climate Data for Adaptation and Resilience Typology (DART), which has just been published, describes more than… Continue Reading

The Lies in Your Grocery Store

The New Yorker [free link]: “…Spencer Sheehan Sheehan, forty-four, specializes in consumer-protection class-action suits. Specifically, he focusses on packaged foods, and on the authenticity of their ingredients and flavors. Sheehan has sued the makers of frosted strawberry Pop-Tarts (dearth of real strawberries), Hint of Lime Tostitos (absence of lime), Snapple “all natural” fruit drinks (absence… Continue Reading

America Is Using Up Its Groundwater Like There’s No Tomorrow

“Overuse is draining and damaging aquifers nationwide, a New York Times data investigation revealed…Global warming has focused concern on land and sky as soaring temperatures intensify hurricanes, droughts and wildfires. But another climate crisis is unfolding, underfoot and out of view. Many of the aquifers that supply 90 percent of the nation’s water systems, and… Continue Reading

NASA’s High-Resolution Air Quality Control Instrument Launches

“A NASA instrument to provide unprecedented resolution of monitoring major air pollutants – down to four square miles – lifted off on its way to geostationary orbit at 12:30 a.m. EDT Friday. The Tropospheric Emissions: Monitoring of Pollution (TEMPO) instrument will improve life on Earth by revolutionizing the way scientists observe air quality from space.… Continue Reading

EWG’s 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce

“Nearly 75 percent of non-organic fresh produce sold in the U.S. contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides, EWG’s 2023 Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™ finds. In this year’s guide, blueberries and green beans join our Dirty Dozen™ list of the 12 fruits and vegetables sampled that have the highest traces of pesticides. Any exposure… Continue Reading

Drought Center

“We’re the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. The National Drought Mitigation Center’s mission is to reduce the effects of drought on people, the environment and the economy by researching the science of drought monitoring and the practice of drought planning. We collaborate with and learn from decision-makers at all levels –… Continue Reading

Climate & Conflict

Climate & Conflict: The interplay between climate and conflict has received increasing attention from researchers and policymakers over the last two decades. There is significant overlap between countries most affected by climate change and those most at risk of violent conflict. Evidence for adverse effects of climate factors on conflict exists predominantly for internal conflict.… Continue Reading

The world’s infrastructure was built for a climate that no longer exists

Foreign Policy: On the Highway to Climate Hell – “Countries have spent decades building critical infrastructure that is now buckling under extreme heat, wildfires, and floods, laying bare just how unprepared the world’s energy and transportation systems are to withstand the volatility of climate change. These vulnerabilities have been on full display in recent weeks… Continue Reading

Fortune Global 500

“The corporations on our annual list of the world’s largest companies showed their muscle in 2022, delivering record-high aggregate revenues of $41 trillion. But the Fortune Global 500 has been anything but static, as technological change and scientific breakthroughs threaten established leaders and elevate new winners. Walmart remains No. 1 for the 10th consecutive year,… Continue Reading

Falling Fruit – Map the Urban Harvest

“Falling Fruit is a celebration of the overlooked culinary bounty of our city streets. By quantifying this resource on an interactive map, we hope to facilitate intimate connections between people, food, and the natural organisms growing in our neighborhoods. Not just a free lunch! Foraging in the 21st century is an opportunity for urban exploration,… Continue Reading