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April 2021, Volume 27, Number 2

Food, Wine

Amazon, which bought Whole Foods in 2017, is opening more Amazon Fresh and Just Walk Out stores without cashiers. Amazon Fresh emphasizes low prices, while Whole Foods offers organic produce and specialty meat and cheese at higher prices.

Over 40 percent of US adults are obese. There are many reasons, including more women working for wages and the increasing consumption of food that is processed with salt, sugar and fat so that it can be prepared quickly. Sugar and salt send pleasure signals to the brain more quickly than nicotine because they utilize some of the average person?s 10,000 taste buds rather than move through the bloodstream.

The food industry in rich countries has taken advantage of the evolutionary quest for salt, sugar, and fat and included them in processed foods. As a result of snacking between meals, snacks with salt, sugar, and fat provide a quarter of daily calories for most Americans.

Could a drug break the evolutionary desire for salt, sugar, and fat? Novo Nordisk reported in February 2021 that semaglutide, a treatment for Type 2 diabetes, led obese participants in a trial study to lose 20 percent of their body weight, more than twice the effect of the most common weight-loss drug currently available, phentermine. Bariatric surgery that shrinks the stomach helps people lose 25 percent to 30 percent of their body weight.

Semaglutide is a synthetic version of a naturally occurring hormone that acts on appetite centers in the brain and in the gut, producing feelings of satiety. The cost semaglutide to suppress overeating is likely to be more than $1,000 a month.

Over 40 percent of seafood is mislabeled. Cheaper fish is often labeled as more expensive fish and farmed fish is sometimes labeled as wild, and more often in restaurants than in supermarkets. A common mislabeling is to serve or sell shark catfish or pangasius farmed in Vietnam and Cambodia as a whitefish such as cod, sole and haddock. Tilapia is often labeled red snapper.

Wine. California crushed 3.5 million tons of wine grapes in 2020, down from 4.3 million tons in 2019. Growers received an average $679 a ton, down from $811 a ton in 2019. The smaller crush in 2020 was due to warm weather that reduced yields and some grapes not harvested due to lack of buyers and smoke taint from fires. The 2020 crush included about 320,000 tons of grapes crushed for concentrate or sweetener.

The 1.8 million tons of red wine varieties crushed were worth an average $795 a ton, and 1.6 million tons of white wine varieties crushed were worth $558 a ton. District 4 (Napa) grapes were worth $4,592 a ton in 2020, and District 13 (Fresno) wine grapes were worth $315 a ton. District 13 accounted for 1.2 million tons or a third of the 2020 crush.

The wine industry continues to struggle in the US and abroad with too much wine for too few wine drinkers. The closure of indoor restaurant dining reduced sales of high-priced wines around the world. US tariffs on European wine and food in retaliation for Airbus subsidies reduced European wine imports. China levied tariffs on US wines, which reduced US wine exports to China.

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