Food and Drug Administration (FDA)

The Food and Drug Administration has gotten faster at approving new prescription drugs over the past four decades, but the evidence it relies on in making those decisions is getting weaker, according to new research published Tuesday.

As a result, there are more cures and treatments on the market but less proof that they are safe and effective.

Americans know the dangers of drugs such as morphine and heroin. But what about a supplement that acts in the brain a bit like an opiate and is available in many places to kids — even from vending machines.

Kratom, an herb that's abundant, legal in most states and potentially dangerous, is the subject of an ongoing debate over its risks and benefits.

Esther Honig / KUNC

Since the first reports of a mysterious lung illness surfaced in August, the latest numbers from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are 530 cases, including six in Colorado. Seven deaths have also been associated with this condition, known as a “vaping related pulmonary injury.”

The Food and Drug Administration is holding its first public hearing on CBD, the cannabis extract that has quickly grown into a billion-dollar industry. Today's hearing will help officials determine how to regulate CBD products.

The compound can be extracted from marijuana or from hemp. It's promoted as a way to ease anxiety and inflammation – and it doesn't get people high because it doesn't contain THC, the psychoactive component of the cannabis plant.

High-tech meat alternatives are grabbing a lot of headlines these days. Last month, the Impossible Burger marked a meatless milestone with its debut as a Burger King Whopper. Meanwhile, Lou Cooperhouse was in a San Diego office park quietly forging plans to disrupt another more fragmented and opaque sector of the food industry: seafood.

His company, BlueNalu (a play on a Hawaiian term that means both ocean waves and mindfulness), is racing to bring to market what's known as cell-based seafood --- that is, seafood grown from cells in a lab, not harvested from the oceans.

Esther Honig / KUNC

Last December, hemp farmers and businesses celebrated. After 82 years of heavy restrictions, Congress passed the 2018 farm bill, stating hemp should be treated more like a crop and not like its cousin plant marijuana.  

That excitement carried over into the 6th Annual NoCo Hemp Expo, a Colorado convention for the hemp industry. A record 10,000 people attended, nearly double last year’s turnout. But as investors and entrepreneurs clamored to get inside the convention center, they may have been disheartened to learn the industry is still burdened by uncertainty and legal risks.     

The partial government shutdown is playing out differently for the nation’s top food safety regulators.

At the Food and Drug Administration, fewer than half of the usual number of food safety inspectors are visiting produce farms and food-packaging plants around the country. Meanwhile, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has kept more than 8,000 workers — about 90 percent of its food inspection staff — on the job at livestock slaughter plants without pay.

Luke Runyon / Harvest Public Media

A war is brewing over what you pour on your breakfast cereal.

Dairy farmers say the makers of plant-based milks – like almond milk, soy milk and a long list of other varieties – are stealing away their customers and deceiving consumers. And they’d like the federal government to back them up.

At its heart, the fight boils down to the definition and use of one simple word: milk.

Already reeling from a series of food-borne-illness outbreaks, Chipotle Mexican Grill now faces a federal criminal investigation, as well.

The company says it has received a subpoena from a federal grand jury in connection with a norovirus outbreak last fall at one of its restaurants in Simi Valley, Calif.

In August, 189 customers were sickened after visiting the restaurant, as well as 18 Chipotle employees, according to Doug Beach, manager of the Community Services Program at the Ventura County Environmental Health Department, in an interview with NPR.

Luke Runyon / KUNC and Harvest Public Media

A highly contagious strain of avian flu, a huge trade pact opening export markets and a few “restless” agribusinesses top Harvest Public Media's list of the biggest agriculture and food stories of 2015.

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