TIME China

In China, McDonald’s, KFC and Pizza Hut Probe Expired-Meat Supply

Controversies over food safety are a fact of life in China

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Health officials have temporarily closed a Shanghai-based meat supplier after it was learned that the firm, which supplies products to major American fast-food restaurants throughout China, may have been selling expired chicken and beef.

Both McDonald’s and Yum! Brands — owner of KFC and Pizza Hut, with over 6,200 Chinese stores collectively — asked their restaurants on Sunday to abstain from selling meat provided by Shanghai Husi Food Co. after Dragon Television, a local news outfit, reported that the meat company’s employees were repackaging meat and extending its shelf life by a year. McDonald’s and Yum! have launched their own investigations.

Yum!’s sales have rebounded in recent months after a fit of bad publicity early last year, when a state television agency alleged that KFC — the largest restaurant chain in China — was selling chicken containing excessive amounts of antibiotics. Yum! insisted on the safety of its food and said it was working to improve its supply chain.

TIME Crime

Arrested Man Orders Pizza to Police Station, Gets in More Trouble

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Getty Images

He faces a slew of new charges for the stunt

A man in Kentucky who was arrested for shoplifting and public intoxication decided to pull a little prank — which totally ended up backfiring.

This jokester — 29-year-old Michael Harp — asked for permission to make a call on his cell phone and then used it to order five pizzas from Domino’s, WKYT reports. The pies arrived under the name of Officer Wilson, who had originally arrested Harp. They tracked the call to Harp pretty easily since, you know, he’d used his own cell phone.

Harp, however, denied the whole thing.

“I’m wrongfully accused on this here,” he told WKYT. “They’ve charged me with two felonies over this pizza deal because I had my phone inside the holding cell. There was about 10 people who probably used the phone, so it’s hard to say. Like I said, I never heard anyone say a word about Domino’s pizzas. Any of it.”

Still, he’s now facing additional charges including theft of identity, theft by deception and impersonating a police officer. Rough.

TIME Food & Drink

You Can Finally Start That Shrine to Yourself With This Selfie Toaster

Vermont Novelty Toaster

Eat Instagram for breakfast

For further evidence that selfie culture is turning from a form of self-expression into pure kitsch, we offer up the Vermont Novelty Toaster Corporation’s new selfie toaster. For only $75, you, too, can put your face on a piece of bread and then eat it for breakfast in the morning. It only takes a week to deliver!

“Yes, you don’t have to be famous or Jesus to have your face on toast,” company president Galen Dively says in the device’s press release. But you do have to pretty narcissistic to buy a toaster for the sole purpose of making your face appear more places!

It’s one thing to take a photo of yourself and Snapchat it to a friend in an earnest attempt at communicating something; it’s entirely another to stamp that face all over the world around you, turning your kitchen into a nightmarish temple to yourself.

With the help of CNC technology, making a custom-design toaster is cheaper than ever, so you can buy a toaster that prints just about anything, according to the company. They even take Bitcoins. Duh.

TIME Food & Drink

6 Food Industry Tricks You Don’t Know About

Apples
Arx0nt—Getty Images/Moment Open

Mind your menus!

The process of getting that apple on your plate sounds simple enough: farmer picks apple, apple gets loaded on a truck and shipped off to the grocery store where it lands in your cart. Well, not quite. In fact, your food goes through a lot to make it to you, from being treated with antibiotics to getting a chlorine bath and a wax coating. Many of these steps are no big deal (and we want to silence any fears you may have about them), but some are bad for your health and others huge money wasters.

Health.com: 30 Healthy Foods That Could Wreck Your Diet

Produce gets a wax coating
To prevent bruising, mold growth, and dehydration in storage, some fruit and veggies (apples, cucumbers) are coated with a drop or two of food-grade wax. Your body doesn’t digest them, and there’s no reason to avoid eating them, says Luke LaBorde, PhD, associate professor of food science at Penn State University. If you want to avoid waxed foods anyway, the FDA doesn’t require them to be labeled as such, so look for signs that say they’ve been coated (a suspicious shine is your first clue). To do so, don’t peel your produce-much of the fiber and phytonutrients are located in or just underneath the skin, says Joan Salge Blake, RD, nutrition professor at Boston University and spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Instead, wash with a bit of soap and water.

Health.com: 26 Quick, Healthy Juice and Smoothie Recipes

Salmon is made pinker
The salmon you see at the fish counter almost always sports a bright pinkish-orange hue, but in fact, salmon is naturally a greyer shade. The swimmers take on their classic coloring in one of two ways: wild-caught salmon eat krill, while farm-raised salmon are fed pigment pellets. But don’t let that stop you from buying farmed fish. Though wild-caught salmon is technically better for you than farmed-it naturally contains half the fat, and is slightly higher in zinc, iron, and potassium-it’s three to four times pricier. “Whether farm-raised or wild, there are so many benefits of eating salmon, namely its rich source of omega 3 fatty acids that we don’t get enough of,” says Blake. Buy whatever is on sale and aim for two servings of fatty fish a week.

Health.com: 20 Healthy Salmon Recipes

Some oranges are dyed
Believe it or not, the dye Citrus Red No. 2 is sprayed on some Florida oranges early in the season to brighten their coloring. These oranges are usually used for juicing, but some end up on grocery store shelves. The dye is FDA-approved and used in small concentrations, but the Center for Science in the Public Interest warns this dye is related to health risks, including cancer, in lab animals. (It’s not allowed to be used on California oranges.) Bags of these oranges need to include a label that says color has been added. The dye still isn’t meant for eating, so don’t make candied orange peel or zest them for cooking.

Health.com: 12 Foods With More Vitamin C Than Oranges

Actually, tons of foods are dyed
Many foods are dyed to appear healthier or more appetizing. Caramel color, for example, is often added to wheat or pumpernickel breads to make them look like they contain more wheat than they do. The same colorant is used in some roast beef deli meats for a beefier look. Meanwhile, yellow dyes are added to pickles so the spears appear more vibrant. They dyes are usually safe to consume, but when you spot them on an ingredients label, take it as a sign that the food may also harbor other ingredients commonly found in highly processed foods, like added sodium and sugar, says New York City registered dietitian Marjorie Nolan Cohn, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Olive oil may be mixed with a cheaper variety
Extra virgin olive oil has come under fire for not actually being olive oil. Many bottles are mixed with cheaper oils like soybean or canola, according to Consumer Reports, and shipped to the United States where you pay a premium price. In addition to wasting your money, you’re also losing out on the heart-health perks of the monounsaturated fats you’d find in pure olive oil, says Cohn.

Chicken is given a bath
The journey a chicken takes from the farm to your kitchen table is not pretty. After slaughter, warm chickens need to be cooled down, so they’re placed in a big tank of cold water and a sanitizer, like chlorine, to control harmful bacteria and contamination, explains Don Schaffner, PhD, of the department of food science at Rutgers University. The FDA and USDA say this process is safe, Schaffner says, but you can avoid chickens that have been treated this way by choosing air-chilled poultry.

One not-so-healthy thing some manufacturers do to your chicken: inject saltwater into raw meat to enhance its flavor. Considering most Americans consume far more sodium than they should, you’ll want to read nutrition labels carefully-unaltered chicken contains 40 to 70 milligrams of sodium per 4-ounce serving, while injected chickens pack in 300 milligrams or more.

READ MORE: 12 Food-Industry Tricks That Undermine Clean Eating on Health.com

TIME Economy

Here’s Why Americans Are Having a Lot Less Fun This Summer

Americans Spending Less on Fun Things
Shoppers walk through Herald Square, outside a New York City Macy's in May. Andrew Burton—Getty Images

Less money is being budgeted to discretionary purchases as food and fuel prices rise

A sizable chunk of Americans are cutting spending on fun activities this summer, while nearly half have upped their spending on household essentials, a new survey reports.

The biggest changes are in the kitchen, with a net percentage of 49% of Americans spending more on groceries, while 12% are cutting dollars put to dining out, according to the first Gallup poll to retroactively survey U.S. spending habits, comparing those of June this year and last year. Additionally, spending on gas, utilities and healthcare rose, while spending on travel, electronics and clothes dipped.

Americans Spending Less on Fun
Gallup

The findings arrive amidst rising prices of essential living items that are cannibalizing money that American families had previously budgeted to luxury or leisure activities, according to Gallup. Food prices, especially, have increased in recent months, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture predicting a 2.5 to 3.5% rise over 2013 levels. Gas prices are up too, with a 20 cent rise from last year’s summer. And already the bulk of Americans have felt the effects: between traveling and eating, this year’s Fourth of July was deemed the most expensive yet.

“These results paint a picture of consumers straining against rising prices on daily essentials to afford summer travel, dining out, and discretionary household purchases — the kinds of purchases that ordinarily keep an economy humming,” the Gallup report stated.

But Gallup data suggest that Americans aren’t willing to give up their fun altogether, even if that means they’re purchasing accommodations less lavish than before. Despite spending less money on traveling, for example, Americans are actually traveling more, made possible by increasing amounts of people deciding to travel somewhere close to home. Most Americans will travel by car this summer, with 69% planning to take a trip this summer, compared to 52% in 2009 during the recession.

Still, the real damage of Americans having less fun isn’t necessarily spiritual: it’s economic.

“Because consumer spending is the lifeblood of a healthy economy, these findings suggest that discretionary spending still has a way to go before it will fuel the kind of economic growth Americans have been hoping for,” the report said.

TIME Fast Food

Pizza Hut Is Now Selling Giant Cookies Cut Like Pizza

Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza
Pizza Hut's Cookie Pizza Pizza Hut/Yum!

A new dessert item

Pizza Hut’s menu just got a little sweeter. The pizza chain will begin delivering giant chocolate chip cookies sliced up like their famous pies on Monday.

Pizza Hut teased the new menu item on its Facebook page Sunday night.

The cookie, formally named the “Ultimate Hershey’s Chocolate Chip Cookie” will cost $4.99 with a pizza and $5.99 alone, the Chicago Tribune reports, and serves about 8. On Wenesday, 10% of each cookie’s sale will go to the World Food Programme during a nation-wide “bake sale.”

“Millennials tell us it’s what they want,” Carrie Walsh, chief marketing officer at Pizza Hut, told USA Today of the new pizza cookie. “They like to cap off a great pizza with a great dessert.”

TIME Food

Study: Organic Produce Has Fewer Pesticides, More Antioxidants

Organic produce
Getty Images

New research comes down on the side of organic food, but doesn't make any claims about health effects

Organically-grown fruits, vegetables and grains have substantially higher levels of antioxidants and lower levels of pesticides than conventionally-grown produce, according to a comprehensive review of earlier studies on the matter.

Organic crops contain 17 percent more antioxidants than conventionally grown crops, according to the study, to be published next week in the British Journal of Nutrition.

“It shows very clearly how you grow your food has an impact,” Carlo Leifert, a professor of ecological agriculture at Newcastle University in England who led the research, told the New York Times. “If you buy organic fruits and vegetables, you can be sure you have, on average, a higher amount of antioxidants at the same calorie level.”

The findings contradict a similar analysis published two years ago by Stanford scientists, who found that there are only minor differences in the nutritional content of organic and conventionally-grown foods.

However, the new study does not claim eating organic food leads to better health. However, many studies have suggested that antioxidants have been linked to a lower risk of cancer and other diseases.

Organic food purchases accounted for just over four percent of the total food market in the United States last year, or $32.3 billion.

[NYT]

TIME Food

Crumbs Might Not Crumble After All

A tray of cupcakes is pictured at a Crumbs Bake Shop, which specializes in over 50 varieties of cupcakes, in Hollywood, California
A tray of cupcakes is pictured at a Crumbs Bake Shop in Hollywood, June 29, 2011. Fred Prouser—Reuters

A bankruptcy filing could be Crumbs' lifesaver, as investors move to take a bite out of the cupcake company

Cupcake chain Crumbs filed for bankruptcy Friday evening, with plans to sell to a large investor group and reopen for business after abruptly shuttering its dozens of stores earlier this week.

A financier group that includes CNBC host Marcus Lemonis and Dippin’ Dots owner Fischer Enterprises plans to finance Crumbs during the bankruptcy process and intends to reopen Crumbs stores, the Wall Street Journal reports.

Cupcakes will continue to be central to Crumbs’ menu.

“Crumbs is known for its high-quality cupcakes, which will remain a mainstay in the new company but will be supplemented by a much improved product mix to broaden its appeal to a larger customer base,” Scott Fischer, the chief operating officer of Fischer Enterprises, said in a statement.

Crumbs has listed assets and liabilities of between $10 million and $50 million each, according to a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing made Friday. The company defaulted on a $9.3 million loan shortly before closings its stores.

Crumbs began in 2003 as a shop on the Upper West Side of Manhattan run by a husband-and-wife team, Jason and Mia Bauer. It then went public in 2011 as part of a boutique cupcake craze. But the company has been hemorrhaging money in the past two years, losing $18.2 million last year, and posting a $10.3 million loss in 2012 as customers’ desire for the sweet pastries seems to have faded.

The Chapter 11 reorganization will shoot some life into the teetering company, said the company’s new investors.

“Our goal is to create a viable business model by making Crumbs the nation’s ‘sweet and snack’ destination,” financier Lemonis said in a statement.

[WSJ]

TIME Food & Drink

The Ultimate Bacon Guide

Karin Swann

Travel + Leisure dishes on where to satisfy your craving for all things bacon, from the best BLT to the best bacon-infused cocktail

Talk about pigs: Americans ate 1.1 billion bacon servings during the 12-month period ending April 2014, about 6 percent more than the previous year, according to market research firm the NPD Group.

We’re not just eating more bacon, we’re also making better bacon (consider the proliferation of artisanal bacons and chefs curing their own bacon in house) and finding creative ways to enjoy it. There’s bacon butter, bacon soda, bacon-infused booze, and bacon ice cream, to name a few inspired iterations.

All-Bacon Meal: Sage General Store, Queens, NY

Bacon is always on the menu at this new American café in Long Island City, but diehards show up for the three-course bacon brunch. It kicks off with a trio of bacons: Nueske’s applewood-smoked bacon, Dewig’s slab bacon, and Ham I Am! peppered bacon. Diners have their choice of mains like grilled bacon-and-cheese, mac-and-cheese-and-bacon casserole, and Wisconsin breakfast pizza with caramelized onions, ricotta cheese, crème fraîche, and (naturally) bacon. A sweet-and-savory bacon brownie finishes the meal off.

Bacon Happy Hour: Bad Decisions, Baltimore

Chef-owner John Reusing describes his Fells Point spot as a bar with a bacon addiction. The low-key neighborhood joint is known for its monthly bacon nights, when offerings might include bacon-wrapped Vidalia onions with bacon onion dip, baconsatays, and bacon Bloody Marys. Even the non-bacon drinks are quirky; the Bee Sting is mixed with mead and cider.

Bacon on Wheels: Bacon Bacon, San Francisco

This food truck doles out bacon-accented comfort foods like bacon burgers; bacon fried chicken; and bacon, belly, and butt tacos, plus sweet treats like chocolate-covered bacon and bacon caramel corn. No wonder its Bay Area–wide reach stretches as far north as Larkspur and as far south as Sunnyvale.

Bacon Challenge: Paddy Long’s, Chicago

Five pounds of ground sausage, pork, and beef wrapped in brown sugar bacon and slow cooked, the bomb is intended to serve a table of six to eight—unless you’re after bragging rights. If you can eat the entire thing in 45 minutes or less, the glory of a Paddy Long’s T-shirt, a place on the wall of fame, and a free meal (the bomb) are yours. Warning: many (89) have tried; only six have succeeded.

Bacon Cocktail: Grange Restaurant & Bar, Sacramento, CA

Ryan Seng, the adventurous barman at the Citizen Hotel’s Grange, loves to get crafty with his seasonally driven cocktail menu. A crowd favorite? Tusk, a twist on a Boulevardier that pairs bacon-infused vermouth, Angostura bitters, and Buffalo Trace bourbon with a garnish of candied bacon.

READ THE FULL LIST HERE.

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