Washington Insider--Thursday

Defining Clean Eating

Here's a quick monitor of Washington farm and trade policy issues from DTN's well-placed observer.

China Hikes Anti-Subsidy, Antidumping Duties on US DDGs in Final Ruling

Antidumping duties of 42.2% to 53.7% will be imposed imports of U.S. distillers' dried grains (DDGs) with anti-subsidy duties of 11.2% to 12%, according to a final ruling from China's Commerce Ministry.

The duties are higher than preliminary levels of 33.8% for the antidumping duties and 10% to 10.7% for the anti-subsidy duties. The Ministry said the domestic DDGs industry had "suffered substantial harm" from the imports of the U.S. product.

While China has been the world's top buyer of DDGs, their imports from the U.S. had begun to fall in recent months as the preliminary duties were put in place.

The new duty levels take effect January 12 and will be in place for five years.

Anti-Subsidy Duties Levied on Chinese Fertilizer Imports

Provisional anti-subsidy duties against ammonium sulfate imports from China have been levied via a January 10 Commerce Department ruling.

Duties equivalent to 206.72% for producers/exporters of ammonium sulfate in China were announced; ammonium sulfate is principally used as a fertilizer.

Commerce will require cash deposits equal to the duty rate. The decision is a victory for PCI Nitrogen, LLC, which asked for the duties. But PCI Nitrogen must still prevail before the US International Trade Commission (ITC) before duties are locked in.

If the USITC finds that imports of ammonium sulfate from China materially injure, or threaten material injury to, the U.S. industry, Commerce will issue a duty order. But, if the ITC finds no injury, the investigation will be terminated and cash deposits will be refunded.

Imports of ammonium sulfate from China were valued at an estimated $62 million in 2015, Commerce said.

The ITC is scheduled to make its final injury determination on February 23, and an ITC hearing on the case is scheduled for January 12.

PCI Nitrogen is also pursuing an antidumping case on imports of Chinese ammonium sulfate.

Washington Insider: Defining Clean Eating

There has been growing concern for some time about the substance of foodies' campaigns for and against foods and diets. For example, some experts really wonder about anti-GMO efforts as well as campaigns against sugar, fat, meat and other foods.

This week, the highly respected urban daily the Washington Post is carrying an amazing article that says that "clean eating" is a widely used phrase that is in fact useful. Not only is it thrown around a lot by the health-and-wellness crowd, but seems useful "because there's no formal definition, and it doesn't convey the impression that there is a "one-size-fits-all food plan." Somehow, that is seen as making an undefined phrase useful and interesting. In fact, it is more than a little shocking, since it attempts to say that a word carries a valuable impression that can mean many things to different individuals.

The argument used in the article appears to be exceedingly thin, even somewhat wild. It says that there are big differences among consumers' preferences, skills, needs, etc. This is taken to mean that consumers have different motivations and that an impression of "clean food" can depend on your values and goals. This is seen as building understanding about choices and preferences that help individuals "make choices you can stick with and feel better about how you eat."

The author says that when thinking about "eating clean," what comes to mind is knowing exactly "what I'm putting into my body and making mindful decisions" in line with each consumers' values. Then, the article talks about impressions come to mind when eating. It argues that we must "ask questions" because we can't guarantee that we're eating "whole" foods.

For example, it says that "it is not meeting the farmer that's important, but being sure what is being eaten are "actual potatoes." Then, the consumer is urged to de-emphasize nutrition information -- calories, grams etc., on food labels, for example. Not all food products are the same, the author says, "take a moment and compare products based on ingredients, rather than solely calories, to decide whether they're what you want." Whatever that means.

Then, you need to think how foods or ingredients make each consumer feel, or expect to feel. Take each bite into consideration. "If you get a headache, gastrointestinal distress, inflammation, pain, or sluggishness after eating, then think about what you ate that may have played a role." Well, yes.

Consumers also are urged to research "lifestyle choices until you feel confident in your decision." And this means that perhaps you should eat "local" products so that you can "eat in a way that motivates you." The Post also notes that "clean eating" involves eliminating a lot of foods and having control of ingredients—and that you may need to bring your own food for travel days, even if that means you need to learn how to cook.

The article ends with the note that if you decide to start eating cleaner, "remember that there is no one perfect way to do this." Still, a first step is needed and taking that one step is the best strategy for long-term success.

Well, if you thought the Post's food advice in this article is strange, you are not alone. At a moment when the Food and Drug administration is earnestly asking the industry for advice on how to define some food characteristics such as "natural" or "healthy" the Post seems to say that labels that affect how consumers feel may be better if it can't be defined.

The chosen label, "clean" is interesting because all it appears to mean is "not dirty" and that implies that all foods not on the author's clean list are dirty—which we know is not true.

In addition, the argument that an undefined word can valuable because of its "dog whistle" meaning is at its root both anti-intellectual and dangerous. For example, some experts believe that this is the kind of logic used by advocates of raw milk and opponents of vaccinations—both dangerous practices.

Certainly, the U.S. food industry depends heavily on science and factual labels to provide a safe and wholesome food supply. That effort is expensive and difficult, but is widely supported. Efforts to undermine consumer confidence in our food should be examined critically and recognized for the costs they carry, Washington Insider believes.

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