EWG news roundup (2/3): Updated Farm Subsidy Database, FDA creates new role to address food safety failures and more

On Wednesday, EWG released its latest Farm Subsidy Database update, which shows the Department of Agriculture has become less transparent with disclosing federal farm subsidy payments, obscuring who has received some $3.1 billion.

“The USDA’s decision inexplicably conceals the beneficiaries of almost $3.1 billion in taxpayer dollars between 2019 and 2021,” said EWG Midwest Director Anne Schechinger, food and agricultural economist and co-author of the analysis. “This omission makes it impossible to know how many people would be getting such payments, what they’re growing and other information important for agency accountability.”

In another example of rampant gas price gouging, ExxonMobil posted record windfall profits in 2022 of $56 billion. As EWG has been reporting, hard-working Americans getting fleeced at the gas pump are to thank for the company’s obscene earnings.

This week, Food and Drug Administration Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf proposed the creation of a deputy commissioner for human foods.

“Today’s proposed reorganization by Dr. Califf is an important first step toward addressing the structural and cultural challenges that contributed to several tragic food safety failures,” said Scott Faber, EWG senior vice president for government affairs.

And finally, Valentine’s Day is right around the corner – if you’re in the market for a fine fragrance, be sure to do your due diligence to make sure you’re buying a transparent product. A handful of brands make fragrance that bears the EWG VERIFIED® mark, meaning they are free from chemicals of concern and manufactured according to our strictest standards.

Here’s some news you can use going into the weekend.


Farm subsidies database update

States Newsroom: Billions in federal farm payments flow to a select group of producers, report shows

In total, the federal government paid more than $478 billion from 2015 to 2021 in farm support for crop insurance, disasters, conservation payments and subsidies for certain crops like corn and soybeans, according to the analysis of federal data the Environmental Working Group released Wednesday. Reprinted by Iowa Capital DispatchThe Columbus TelegramThe PulseMissouri IndependentBeatrice Daily Sun (Neb.)Fremont Tribune (Neb.)The Anniston Star (Ala.)Patch and more than 100 additional media outlets.

Agri-Pulse: EWG criticizes USDA as subsidy database lacks some names

USDA is being less transparent about who gets farm subsidies, the Environmental Working Group says in the latest update to its farm subsidy database. Reprinted by Industry Update.

The Fern: USDA now obscures the names of some farm subsidy recipients (subscription)

“It’s a mystery as to why the USDA began to hide the names of many recipients,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environment Working Group (EWG), which files a Freedom of Information Request every year to obtain information about who receives farm subsidies, where the recipients live and how much they get.

Pro Farmer: Fed Day: Key is Comments from Fed Chair Powell

“It’s a mystery as to why the USDA began to hide the names of many recipients,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environment Working Group (EWG), which files a Freedom of Information Request every year to obtain information about who receives farm subsidies, where the recipients live and how much they get.

Red River Farm Network: EWG Highlights Lenders in Latest Farm Payment Database

The Environmental Working Group is out with its latest farm subsidy database. Rather than releasing the names of farmers receiving government payments, USDA is now releasing the name of the bank or financial institution financing the farm’s operating loan.

Successful Farming: USDA Now Obscures The Names Of Some Farm Subsidy Recipients

“It’s a mystery as to why the USDA began to hide the names of many recipients,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environment Working Group (EWG), which files a Freedom of Information Request every year to obtain information about who receives farm subsidies, where the recipients live and how much they get. 

The Daily Yonder: What the New York Times Got Wrong About “Rural Rage”

While Krugman is correct in saying farm subsidies increased under the Trump Administration, those subsidies didn’t predominantly benefit the smaller-scale, rural farmer who made, on average, $9,109 per-farm from two Trump-era subsidy programs, according to the nonpartisan research organization Environmental Working Group. 

Drovers: USDA Withholds the Names of Farm Subsidy Payment Recipients

“It’s a mystery as to why the USDA began to hide the names of many recipients,” said Scott Faber, senior vice president for government affairs for the Environmental Working Group (EWG).

Dakota Free Press: South Dakota Ranks 8th for Dependence on Farm Subsidies

According to a new analysis from the Environmental Working Group, from 1995 through 2021, South Dakota farmers took the eighth-largest share of federal farm subsidies, beating California farmers’ federal dependence by $4.7 billion.

Bluestem Prairie: In House transportation committee, Bjorn Olson hostile to state right-of-way & ditch mowing law

Not that Olson is averse to securing government aid in his farming endeavors. The EWG Farm Subsidies Database includes information that the Elmore/Fairmont farmer has received $12,834 in 2016-2018 under the name "Christian Bjorn Olson" and $14,813 for 2019-2020 under the shortened name "Bjorn Olson."

Farm bill

E&E News: Congress’ ‘biggest fight’ over climate? It’s the farm bill.

“We couldn’t even use the word ‘climate’ five years ago when talking about the farm bill,” said Scott Faber, vice president of government affairs for the Environmental Working Group, who has worked on five previous farm bills. Reprinted by Governors’ Wind & Solar Energy Coalition

FDA and cosmetics regulation

Scripps News: Cosmetic product regulation is getting a makeover in the US

A 2021 report from the Environmental Working Group, a research and activism nonprofit, found dozens of countries had stricter cosmetic rules than the U.S. Aired by 61 tv stations in 41 markets. 

FDA and food reorganization

Progressive Grocer: FDA Shares New Vision for Human Foods Program

The coalition included American Frozen Food Institute, Association of Food and Drug Officials, CBA, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, International Fresh Produce Association, STOP Foodborne Illness and Western Growers. 

InsideHealthPolicy FDA Week: FDA’s Restructured Food Program Will Be Led By One Deputy Commissioner (subscription)

Scott Faber, president of the Environmental Working Group, said that Califf's proposal to hire a deputy commissioner for human foods is an important step forward for the agency, but it's unclear whether the new leader will have the power to ensure that food safety inspectors are trained and deployed to "keep us safe."

Food Navigator USA: FDA heeds call for unified Human Foods Program under one leader as part of ‘transformative vision’ for food safety, nutrition oversight

[…] said the coalition, which in addition to CBA included American Frozen Food Institute, Association of Food and Drug Officials, Consumer Brands Association, Consumer Reports, Environmental Working Group, International Fresh Produce Association, STOP Foodborne Illness and Western Growers

Conservation Reserve Program

Stacker: Participation is down 40% in this agricultural program that protects wildlife, water, and soil

The Environmental Working Group estimates that if all the land enrolled in the CRP over the last three years were plowed, it would release more than 2 million tons of soil carbon back into the atmosphere—just one example of the drawbacks of these temporary incentives. Reprinted by ArcaMaxThe Port Lavaca Wave (Texas); The Messenger (Ky.)Floyd County Chronicle (Ky.); Douglas Budget (Wy.); almost 100 additional media outlets

California and Diablo Canyon

The San Luis Obispo Tribune: Federal Regulators Tell PG&E to Submit New Application for Diablo Canyon License Renewal to Stay Open

Nonprofit groups San Luis Obispo Mothers for Peace, Environmental Working Group and Friends of the Earth filed a petition with the NRC on Jan. 10, arguing that it would be unlawful for federal regulators to allow PG&E to keep Diablo Canyon operating while the agency reviews its license renewal application. Reprinted by Nooz Hwak 


Inc: These Inclusive Lingerie Brands Are Putting a Spotlight on Breast Cancer

According to the latest research from the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit Environmental Working Group, the U.S. has banned a mere 40 toxic chemicals that can be found within textiles. Europe has banned more than 1,600 such chemicals. Drescher adds that this means that more than 900 known toxins could be next to a woman's skin each day.

Cosmetics marketed to Black women

Health Day News: Black Hairdressers May Be at High Risk From Toxic Chemicals

Homer Swei is senior vice president of healthy living science for the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. He said there's no doubt there are many "harsh chemicals" used in salons. Yet little is known about the specific substances salon workers absorb through their skin or inhale -- even in comparison to household personal care products. Reprinted by Montana Right NowThe Southern IllinoisanOmaha World HeraldKPC News (Ind.)Corydon Times Republican (Iowa); 127 additional media outlets

Cosmetics regulation: New York ban

Health News: NY bans cosmetics with deadly mercury amid health concerns

“There’s not the capacity to test every single product that finds its way to the US,” Tasha Stoiber, a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, told Gothamist.

Skin Deep® cosmetics database

Bustle: The 7 Best Noncomedogenic Shampoos, According To A Derm

It does contain some behenyl alcohol, commonly used as an emollient, emulsifier, and thickener, but the Environmental Working Group (EWG) indicates that this ingredient has a low chance of causing irritation. Reprinted by MSN

Green America: Women Farmworkers Shouldn’t Be Forced to Risk Their Health

Additionally, women tend to use more personal care products than men. The Environmental Working Group estimates women are exposed to 168 different chemical per day through personal care products; while men, on average, are exposed to 85 per day – this number does not factor in pesticide exposure or exposure to cleaning products.


Rocky Mountain Institute: Cryptocurrency’s Energy Consumption Problem

To mitigate crypto industry emissions, RMI supports the “Change the Code, Not the Climate” campaign, launched by Greenpeace and the Environmental Working Group, intended to motivate Bitcoin to move away from proof-of-work and toward a less energy-intensive consensus mechanism. Reprinted by Green Building Africa


Best Products: 25 Natural Cleaning Products That Are Better For You And The Environment

For this guide, we looked to product verification from the Environmental Working Group (EWG) to help inform our product research. The EWG is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization that researches the ingredients of personal care, baby care, and cleaning products.

Real Simple: The 10 Best Laundry Pods of 2023

These natural yet effective laundry pods are made with organic and plant-derived ingredients, and they’re also EWG Verified, which means they meet the Environmental Working Group’s strictest standards for health and transparency. Reprinted by AOL and Beauty News UK. 

New York Post: The 9 best all-purpose cleaners of 2023, according to an expert

For eco-conscious and budget-conscious folks alike, Maker recommends Attitude, as the brand has been a longtime favorite brand of hers. “Years before it was trendy, the brand was looking to meet the highest standards of eco-conscious products, and today they are a leader,” she notes. “Their products are eco-logo certified and EWG verified.”

EWG VERIFIED®: Cosmetics

Best Reviews: Best moisturizing body wash

Avoiding body wash that contains parabens and microbeads helps reduce those toxins from ending up in our waters. Additionally, shop for cruelty-free body washes verified by the Environmental Working Group — a nonprofit with the goal of providing information on what’s safe for you and the environment. Reprinted by Baton Rouge ProudTexomasMy Fox 8 (N.C.)KHON (Hawaii)KRQE (Albuquerque); 39 additional media outlets

Cosmopolitan: 17 Best Shampoos for Damaged Hair to Strengthen and Moisturize

Plus, it's EWG-verified (basically, confirmed to be safe for you) and made without potentially sketchy ingredients like parabens, silicones, SLS, or mineral oil. 

The Skinny Confidential: What Michelle Pfeiffer Wants You To Know About The Fragrance Industry

Henry Rose made with a combination of safe synthetics & safe natural products & is the first every fine fragrance to be EWG Verified® and Cradle to Cradle Certified™.

Food chemicals

The Daily Meal: 12 Red Flags To Look Out For At Italian Restaurants

According to EWG (Environmental Working Group), Kraft 100 Percent Grated Parmesan Cheese has real cheese, but it also contains cellulose powder and potassium sorbate. Reprinted by MSN

PFAS in drinking water

Asheville Citizen Times: Answer Man: Are PFAS, 'forever chemicals,' found in Asheville's water supply?

PFHpA is not one of the chemicals for which the EPA offers guidance, but the nonprofit Environmental Working Group, which tracks contamination to America's drinking water sources, recommends levels be below 1 part-per-trillion.

Washington Examiner: Not so PFAS: EPA’s blitz against 'forever chemicals'

Such risks are fueling the campaign to limit their escape into groundwater and the food supply, where the presence of PFAS has become "incredibly ubiquitous," said Melanie Benesh, vice president of government affairs at the Environmental Working Group. EWG, an environmental non-profit group pushing for stricter PFAS regulation, mapped some 2,800 sites in the U.S. where PFAS has been measured in drinking and groundwater supplies.

Science Line: You’re probably awash in ‘forever chemicals.’ Here’s why that matters

An analysis conducted by the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, found that PFAS levels in water far exceeded the previous advisory level in many major U.S. cities, including Miami, New Orleans and Philadelphia, and posits that no more than 1 part per trillion is safe for human consumption

PFAS in freshwater fish

North Carolina Health News: Study: Forever chemicals abundant in fish from contaminated rivers, lakes

Researcher David Andrews from the Environmental Working Group, an advocacy organization, worked with a researcher from Duke University to look at hundreds of samples of freshwater fish caught from around the United States, including North Carolina. Reprinted by Triangle News HubBlue Ridge Public RadioWUNC News (N.C. 

Spectrum News 1 (Syracuse, N.Y.): Report warns of PFAS contamination in freshwater fish

That’s the takeaway many have from a new study published by the Environmental Working Group. It suggests the consumption of one freshwater fish a year could be equal to a month of drinking water contaminated by per-and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS.

Inside EPA: Quote-Unquote: GHG waivers and PFAS petitions (subscription)

- A new study by the Environmental Working Group leads one of its coauthors to call for “a single health protective fish consumption advisory for freshwater fish across the country.”

Counter Punch: Forever Chemicals, Everywhere

A new study by Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists uncovered very disturbing levels of PFASs in America’s freshwater fish found throughout the country from coast-to-coast with levels of chemicals “that may be harmful” according to EWG’s polite way of saying: “Stop and beware of what you put into your mouth.”  Reprinted by Counter Currents.

KUNR (Reno, Nev.): Freshwater fish are filled with ‘forever chemicals’ at alarming levels, researchers find

Researchers at Environmental Working Group analyzed more than 500 fish fillet samples collected by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from 2013 to 2015. The median level of the PFAS compound known as PFOS in the fish was 8,410 parts per trillion, or ppt. Reprinted by Wyoming Public RadioBoise State Public Radio.

KYSS News (Mont.): Are Montana Trout Addicted to Meth and Almost Too Toxic to Eat?

Environmental Working Group (EWG) scientists discovered that the average amounts of PFAS in freshwater fish throughout the U.S. were 280 times greater than forever chemicals detected in some commercially caught fish.

KCRA (Sacramento, Calif.): Study shows dangerously high levels of toxins in fish from Northern California rivers

Some freshwater fish in Northern California are testing for dangerously high levels of toxic chemicals, according to a new study by the nonprofit Environmental Working Group. The EWG says it is finding dangerous levels of PFAS and PFOS in fish that are found in rivers located across northern California.

KTVH (Mont.): Harmful 'forever chemicals' found in freshwater fish in US

Conducted by the Environmental Working Group, the study found that median levels of PFAS in freshwater fish were 278 times higher than the PFAS levels in commercial fish tested.

KSTP News (Minn.): Minnesota health experts monitoring PFAS contamination in freshwater fish

According to research from the Environmental Working Group, eating just a single serving of freshwater fish could be equivalent to a month of drinking water contaminated with PFAS.

Polluted pets

Great Pet Care: Why Do Cats Eat Plastic?

According to a study conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), dogs and cats contain high levels of chemicals found in plastics, food packaging, and other products. While the health risks of these chemicals have largely not been studied for our pets, we cannot assume they are completely harmless. Reprinted by MSN.

Shopper’s Guide to Pesticides in Produce™

Parade: These 10 Grocery Stores Sell the Most Organic Produce—and Yes, Costco Makes the List!

Schleiger says that according to the Environmental Working Group (EWG), nearly 70% of fresh produce in America contains residues of potentially harmful pesticides. “These pesticides are known to disrupt hormones such as estrogen in many ways,” she says. Reprinted by Quick Telecast

American Alliance of Museums: Elevating Sustainability Efforts in Museum Dining Operations

It encouraged thoughtful discussions with Phipps’ food vendor, Sodexo, about how to be creative under constraints, for example by finding replacements for foods on the Environmental Working Group’s “Dirty Dozen” list with ones on its “Clean Fifteen” list.  Meanwhile, the team received valuable information on farming practices and organic methods and health attributes.

Tap Water Database

Cumberland Times News (Md.): EWG tap water database includes stats for Midland-Lonaconing

Sydney Evans, a science analyst on the investigations team at Environmental Working Group based in Washington, D.C., said open communication between folks in charge of the water system and the community is an important step to identify and resolve the issues. Reprinted by Yahoo! News.

Toxic Substances Control Act

Inside CAL/Inside EPA: Environmentalists float path for EPA to limit chemicals to ‘essential’ uses (subscription)

The paper's authors include Simona Balan, an official with California's Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), as well as academics and environmentalists such as David Andrews of Environmental Working Group, Arlene Blum and Carol Kwiatkowski of the Green Science Policy Institute, and Elizabeth Harriman -- who serves as Deputy Director of the Toxics Use Reduction Institute at the University of Massachusetts Lowell, which plays a formal role in the state's chemical safety program, known as the Toxics Use Reduction Act. 

Uranium in drinking water

Rio Grande Sun: 'Dangerous' Uranium Levels Contaminate Santa Cruz Drinking Water

“The stark reality is, uranium concentrations this high are very dangerous, especially for children,” said Sydney Evans, a Science Analyst at the Environmental Working Group, which studies U.S. drinking water.

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