On the last Friday of each month (or sometimes, two days late...), Food Manufacturing looks back at the most surprising or unusual food-related stories of the month. Here are our top picks for August:
- Owners of a Hawaiian vegetable farm went on trial for human trafficking. Federal prosecutors alleged that the brothers who owned the farm tricked Thai immigrants into a kind of indentured servitude. Charges were soon dismissed.
- A Kuwaiti military food supplier stands accused of defrauding the U.S. government out of $68 million. The indictment dates back to 2009, but federal prosecutors are now considering adding new charges.
- In a move that should surprise no one, the FDA has deemed relaxation brownies — marketed with a winking association to the effects of marijuana — unsafe.
- The owner of a wine cellar withdrew his guilty plea, standing accused of arson after $200 million in wine was destroyed in a warehouse fire in 2005. Prosecutors assert that the man set the fire to cover up an embezzlement scheme.
- An aide to an Alaska senator has pled guilty, admitting that he falsified records in order to rake in an extra $100,000 from his deep sea fishing activities. The man faces up to five months in prison.
- Kraft announced this month that it would split its business in two, one company will focus on its snack business and the other on its grocery business.
- OSHA has fined A-Treat Bottling Co. $111,000 after uncovering two dozen worker safety violations at the company’s Allentown, Pa., facility.
- The Japanese beef supply has dwindled and U.S. consumers are still hesitant to buy in the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, so American ranchers are taking matters into their own hands, raising and marketing “Kobe-style beef” to fill the void in the market.
- China cracks down hard again in response to a tainted food scandal. Seven people have been jailed for adding poisonous chemicals to pork in an attempt to create a leaner meat.
- Sara Lee has a beef with Kraft. The company’s respective Ball Park and Oscar Mayer hot dogs have been the focus of two-year feud between the companies. Each claims to have the finest franks, but the marketing techniques used to make those claims have prompted this latest courtroom showdown.
- The recent strawberry E. coli contamination and recall may have been caused by deer. Scientists working on the case are confident that samples taken from deer droppings in the area will prove that the animals were the source.
- The State Department says it is investigating claims made by Hershey employees that the company’s “cultural exchange” employment program forces workers into sweatshop conditions. The company alleges that the student workers have been promised cash in exchange for their rabblerousing, but no benefactor has yet been uncovered.
- Some Hawaiian farmers suspect eco-terrorism in a case involving the destruction of 10 acres of genetically modified papayas. No suspects have been arrested.
- Another day, another tainted food scandal from China. This time, bottles used to store antifreeze were later used to store vinegar, which was then consumed, killing 11 and sickening 120.
- Halliburton CEO Dave Lesar takes a gulp of a newly developed hydraulic fracking fluid in an attempt to show that the food industry-sourced fluid is safe.
- The Fukushima government begs the Japanese government to buy up all the remaining beef that area farmers released onto the market before receiving word that the beef was testing much higher for radiation than national standards allow. No word on what the Japanese government is expected to do with all that radioactive meat.
What crazy/funny/unexpected stories have you been following this month? Let me know at email@example.com.