President and highly questionable tweeter Donald Trump certainly left his mark on food in 2018, and not just by eating overdone steak doused in ketchup. The deregulator-in-chief loosened restrictions on everything from food safety to corporate taxes, raining down effects — many likely unanticipated — on both America’s businesses and its people.
As we look back on the year 2018, let us take a journey through every food-related thing the Trump administration ruined, whether directly or tangentially.
Let’s start with the most recent debacle: E. Coli and romaine lettuce. Leading into Thanksgiving, the CDC issued a warning for the entire country against eating any romaine lettuce, after several people were sickened from greens grown in Northern and Central California. The FDA consequently made pleas for increased safety standards — ironic, considering the agency is under the purview of Trump’s administration, which previously forced rollbacks of safety regulations. Funny how that happens.
In an ostentatious attempt at displaying American dominance, Trump’s trade wars have adversely impacted several food industries in the U.S. this year. Various countries have imposed retaliatory tariffs on American goods, hitting pork and soybeans particularly hard. China imposed a 25 percent tariff on pork, leading farmers to sell certain parts for much cheaper than standard price. While that makes certain products, such as bacon, more affordable for American consumers, it also takes a major toll on American farmers.
The Red Hen
Trump-adjacent businesses, as well as those that play host to members of the Trump administration (by choice or not), have caught heat from both sides of the aisle. Lexington, Virginia restaurant the Red Hen became embroiled in Trumpist outrage after White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders was asked to leave the establishment, prompting angry tweets and insults from the president, as well as protests, online harassment, and conspiracy theories galore from Trump supporters, at least one of whom actually hurled chicken poop at the restaurant.
Food service jobs for Americans at his own businesses
Perhaps unsurprisingly, Trump doesn’t care to enforce his stance on prioritizing the hiring of American laborers at his own businesses. Earlier this year, Mar-a-Lago — Trump’s country club home away from home in Palm Beach, Florida — filed a request with the Department of Labor to hire 61 foreign workers as temporary cooks and front-of-house servers, under H-2 visas for temporary workers. (The stipulation allows employers to fill non-agricultural roles for which there “are not enough U.S. workers who are able, willing, qualified, and available to do the temporary work,” which Trump’s organization apparently believes to be true for these positions.) Despite POTUS’s frequent criticism of businesses who outsource hiring beyond the U.S., the winery bearing his name also moved to hire dozens of foreign guest workers this year.
Healthy school lunches
One of Michelle Obama’s biggest policy initiatives as FLOTUS was making school lunches healthier as part of her anti-obesity campaign. Trump has done his best to destroy her legacy, however: In early December, the administration finalized a rollback of Obama-era school lunch regulations, relaxing sodium limits and whole-grain requirements and allowing schools to once again serve flavored, 1-percent milk (they’re currently limited to nonfat flavored milk, or plain milk that’s low-fat or nonfat). The new regulations go into effect July 1, 2019.
Trump ruining Thanksgiving isn’t new for 2018, but it’s definitely ongoing: A study by researchers from UCLA and Washington State University showed that politically divided families spent significantly less time around the Thanksgiving dinner table in 2016 (following the incredibly divisive presidential campaign) than they did in 2015. Anecdotally, anyone who has family members with opposing political views can attest that this trend has continued in 2018.