retail news in context, analysis with attitude

• The Associated Press reports that Chipotle has been fined $1.3 million by the Massachusetts Attorney General because of more than 13,000 child labor violations at its restaurants in the state.

According to the story, "The fine detailed that Chipotle had employees under the age of 18 working past midnight and for more than 48 hours a week. Teenagers told investigators their hours of work were so long that it was preventing them from keeping up with their schoolwork. The company also regularly hired minors without work permits … The violations also include failure to keep accurate records and pay timely wages. Lastly, the company was ordered a voluntary $500,000 payout to a state youth worker fund dedicated to education, enforcement and training."

• The Wall Street Journal reports this morning that the US Department of Justice is looking into a possible merger of bankrupt Dean Foods, the top-selling US milk processor, and Dairy Farmers of America, the largest U.S. dairy cooperative by membership. The two were said to be in deal discussions after Dean Foods filed for bankruptcy protection late last year, but antitrust regulators reportedly are "discussing with farmers and retailers the potential impact of such a deal on milk prices and competition in the dairy business."

The story says that "some farm groups have raised concerns that a tie-up between Dean and DFA might lead to an excessive concentration of milk buyers in parts of the country. As U.S. milk consumption has fallen about 40% over the last four decades, fluid-milk production has shifted to a smaller number of bigger plants."

• The Washington Post reports that while Kellogg's "made a commitment to phase out by 2025 wheat and oats on which farmers have used glyphosate as a drying agent," the company "neglected to tell the industry groups that support wheat and oat growers."

Those groups are not pleased.

Caitlin Eannello, the director of communications at the National Association of Wheat Growers, says that her organization maintains that "glyphosate is very safe, and there’s no real alternative. If it were to be totally eradicated, producers would probably stop growing. [Kellogg’s] made an announcement without talking to us."

The story points out that "glyphosate is the active ingredient in Roundup, the Bayer-Monsanto weedkiller that is the most heavily used herbicide in the United States … A 2018 study by the Environmental Working Group found glyphosate in all but two of 45 samples of products made with conventionally grown oats, most at higher levels than what EWG scientists consider protective of children’s health. They also found a third of the 16 samples made with organically grown oats had glyphosate, but at much lower levels."
KC's View: