Now is a fascinating time to be a food lover. From wild innovations to controversial statements, from criminal wrongdoing to huge mergers, it seems as if every day there’s a food-related news story that’s making headlines. These were the 15 biggest food stories of 2015.
Whole Foods really outdid itself when someone at a Los Angeles location thought it would be a good idea to stick a few stalks of asparagus in a bottle of water and sell it for $6. The photo, which sums up everything that detractors don’t like about Whole Foods, quickly went viral.
A teenage chef “prodigy,” Flynn McGarry, opened a Manhattan restaurant called Eureka, where he serves a 14-course tasting menu. Reviews were generally negative, with the New York Post curmudgeonly Steve Cuozzo calling it “proof kids should stay out of the kitchen.”
Love cheese? It was proposed this year that it’s as addictive as morphine. "In cheese, we get massive concentrations of fat and salt, which our highly evolved brains continue to love,” Dr. Neal Barnard told Thrillist. “Combine this with the opioid-like casomorphins, and cheese suddenly goes from 'very delicious' to 'obscenely tempting.”
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Oprah Winfrey purchased a ten-percent stake in the struggling Weight Watchers for $43.2 million, also becoming a board member and adviser.
News of the transaction was an immediate boon to Weight Watchers stock, and Winfrey’s investment yielded her a nearly-immediate profit of $72 million.
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McDonald’s has been in the news nearly every day for the past couple years, for everything from fancy new burgers to cage-free eggs. This “throwing everything against the wall” approach, helped along by all-day breakfast, finally yielded fruit for the chain this year, when it was announced that sales were seeing significant growth for the first time in two years.
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New CEO Steve Easterbrook announced that net income during 2015’s third quarter rose 23 percent, to $1.31 billion.
Bacon lovers everywhere had reason to freak out in October, when the World Health Organization listed processed meat, including bacon, as a carcinogenic substance.
However, it’s important not to take the story out of context; Processed meat isn’t nearly as carcinogenic as smoking; it offers the same level of danger as sunlight radiation, air pollution, salted fish, and alcohol.
Whole Foods didn’t have a great year from a PR standpoint. The grocer was forced to recall 500 pounds of blue cheese, curry chicken salad, and pasta salad after they were discovered to contain listeria.
There were no reports of the food making anybody sick, but the recall caused the company’s stock to slide by five percent.
The egg lobby appears to have it out for Hampton Creek, the company responsible for the popular vegan mayonnaise called Just Mayo. After the American Egg Board was suspected of using public funds to convince the rest of the food industry to reject the product, the USDA has stepped in to investigate potential wrongdoing. The FDA also got involved in August, warning Hampton Creek that calling their product “mayo” was misleading, but they’ve since backtracked.
The always-outspoken Anthony Bourdain waded into the Trump fray after the candidate proposed deporting millions of Mexicans. “The backbone of the industry — meaning most of the people in my experience cooking, preparing your food,” Bourdain said. “Twenty of those years in this business I was an employer, I was a manager employer. Never, in any of those years, not once, did anyone walk into my restaurant — any American-born kid — walk into my restaurant and say I’d like a job as a night porter or a dishwasher. Even a prep cook — [there were] few and far between. Just not willing to start at the bottom like that.”
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Marc Vetri is one of Philadelphia’s (and America’s) most prominent chefs, so it’s no surprise that it sent shockwaves through both the retail and culinary worlds when he sold his restaurants, including Lo Spiedo, Alla Spina, and Pizzeria Vetri, to Urban Outfitters. His flagship restaurant, Vetri, will remain under his control, thankfully.
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Subway Spokesman Jared Fogle, who famously lost a ton of weight by eating only Subway sandwiches, was arrested and dropped by the chain after being charged with child-pornography related crimes.
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After pleading guilty to charges of child pornography and sex with minors, Fogle was sentenced to 15 years in prison.