Update: Veggie Booty Recall

There is a bit of news on the Veggie Booty recall front. It seems that the “Veggie Seasoning” is the ingredient suspected to contain the salmonella that was discovered. Last month, Veggie Booty caused 61 food-bourne illnesses in 19 states.

Here’s my favorite part.

According to Robert’s American Gourmet, Inc., the makers of Veggie Booty, the Food and Drug Administration ’suggested’ that the company voluntarily pull Veggie Booty from shelves until it was determined what was causing individuals to fall ill

I bet you can’t guess where the “Veggie Seasoning” came from? *Hint* think pet food and toothpaste.

Now, we are not accepting food from China and they are not accepting food from us (yesterday’s story). This is a great way to keep things local, right!? Too bad it takes poisoning the food system to reduce the “food miles” for both countries. Ok, that may be oversimplified, but it’s nice to dream.

Here are a couple of links to the story.

Denny’s Chicken Supplier, Shown Door- An undercover video showing all kinds of bad stuff happening at chicken factory farm, House of Raeford (sounds like a Tarantino horror movie), led to Denny’s dumping them as a supplier. Apparently, Arby’s doesn’t have a problem with it. (opednews)

Factory Fish Farms- Fish consumption has doubled in the last 40 years. It’s estimated that in another 40 years, ocean harvested fish will be no more. So, if the oceans can’t supply enough fish, why not farm them? Environmental contamination, disease and over fishing of “feeder fish” are three reasons. Good thing President Bush has an answer for us. (cnn)

The New Diet Craze- Atkins, Southbeach, Zone….meh, so passe`. Try the foodstamp diet. Instead of limiting the types and quantity of food you eat…limit the amount of money you have to spend on food. “Uh oh, you just broke a jar of peanut butter? You’re going to be really thin soon.” (sfgate)

What in your chicken?- More than just arsenic, chicken now come complete with and injection of extra water, sodium and seaweed. This so called “enhanced” chicken has up to 8 times the amount of sodium injected into it as compared to it’s “natural” counterpart. That’s 370 mg of sodium vs. 45 mg for the same size portion. (baltimore sun)

EU Standardizes Organic- The European Union finally agrees to rules around organic farming and standardizes labeling to inform consumers about the food they buy. The food must be 95% organic to be considered “Organic”. There is some debate over a rule that allows for .9% GM contamination to still be considered organic. Farmers say this is unavoidable. (international herald tribune)

US Loosens Organic Standards- Not to be outdone by the Europeans, the USDA may to loosen organic standards. (wait, that’s opposite of what the EU is doing). The new standard allows for 38 nonorganic new ingredients to be added to products that would still be labeled “organic”. Our trusted officials at the USDA apparently think the current standard is too tough for food processors to abide by. (la times)

FDA Moves to Risk Based Approach- A new approach in the way the FDA keeps our food safe. Switching to a risk based approach will require importers to supply the FDA with paperwork explaining how the food was packaged, produced and transported. So, are they inspecting food, or paperwork? You be the judge. (wall street journal)

As more news surfaces about melamine continuing to end up in our food system, I am beginning to wonder if our regulatory agencies will take away any lessons from this?  Yesterday, word came that 38 chicken farms in Indiana fed melamine tainted pet food to chickens back in February and that the chickens from these farms have already been processed and put into our food system.  My question is, “where is the FDA and the USDA in all of this, and how was this allowed to happen?”  With all of the press and stories about the tainted pet food, this contamination certainly wasn’t a secret.  I would have thought that this incident would serve as a warning sign and give the regulatory agencies a wake up call that, if left unchecked, this contaminated grain would eventually make its way into what we eat.  I don’t claim to know the exact procedures of the regulatory business, but I wonder why the FDA and the USDA did not order the tainted food be destroyed as a precautionary measure? In many cases (and not mistakenly), we, as Americans rely solely on these organizations to keep our food supply safe and tell us about potential and current dangers.  For anyone who has eaten this chicken and pork tainted with melamine, this system and its safeguards have failed you in a big way. 

So now what?  Instead of concentrating on placing blame, I am trying to focus on the positive side of this situation.  This incident has further cemented the conclusion that WE, as consumers, must be aware of and responsible for what we put into our bodies instead of allowing a third party (government agencies) to determine what is safe for us to consume.  To a certain point, we can do this by buying our food locally and organically.  Sometimes this is easier said than done, but the more we eat locally sourced, organic food, the less chance we have of running into problems like we are facing now.  Check out the “resources” link to find places that sell locally sourced produce, eggs, dairy and yes, organic local meats and poultry. 

The NY Times ran a story yesterday called "Filler in Animal Feed is Open Secret in China".  It’s worth a read if you are interested in the causes behind how this stuff is used and why it ended up in our food system at all. Some interesting points are the economics of protein and the widespread use of chemicals being fed to animals.  I have a feeling that we have just seen the tip of a very disappointing iceberg with this topic. 


The Food Has Eyes

For some reason the first thing that came to mind after I read this article was the movie, "The Hills Have Eyes".  A creepy movie where a bunch of people become mutated by nuclear bombs and spend the rest of their lives killing tourists in the desert.  Well, it looks as though you will not need to travel to the desert to become a mutant.  The FDA is going do give us a hand by allowing food companies to irradiate our food.  This is bad news on at least two obvious levels. 

Irradiated foods will not need to be labeled as such.  This is the same proposal the FDA is considering for cloned meat and dairy.   Food producers will only be required to label irradiated food as "Pasteurized" (which is a completely different process involving heating foods to high temperatures and then quickly cooling them off). 

All the recent foodborne illnesses that keep making the headlines are the catalyst for companies’ desire to revisit irradiation.  So instead of fixing the problem during the production of food, food companies can continue with their current practices and just "zap" to food at the end to make it "safe" for human consumption.

On a more serious notes, if I become a mutant, I hope I get another arm or something useful like that!  :)

Thanks to Pat for sending me the article.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The government proposed Tuesday relaxing its rules on labeling of irradiated foods and suggested it may allow some products zapped with radiation to be called "pasteurized."

continue reading at CNN


Food and Vegetarian Highlights

This morning I noticed a few good articles related to food and vegetarianism.  The first is a search result from Runner’s World that has a ton of articles and links associated with it.   This is definitely a good veg reference for runners and in general.  Next, Newsweek published an article this week about the carbon footprint of the food we eat.  It discusses how some corporate and college cafeterias are moving to sourcing their food locally to reduce their CO2 emissions.  I know that Google has just such a cafeteria on their campus.  I will write an article about it soon.  Finally, the San Diego Tribune reports that FDA has extended the public comment period for cloned meat and milk.  If you have not made your voice heard on this, you have until May 3nd.  Check out this article for links to the FDA’s site.


avoid the clone

It really looks like it’s going to happen.  Beginning soon we may start to see meat and milk from cloned animals at our dinner table.  One of the issues that remains is whether or not the USDA will require special labels to be put on products containing cloned animal products.  The likely answer is "No," there will not be a requirement to label these products. 

There are several questions that I have concerning this whole business of cloning.  The first one that really stands out is, why do we need to do it?  The countries and companies that have this level of advanced technology are also the countries and companies that have the most meat production and consumption.  It’s not like these countries/companies are cloning animals to send food to poor countries.  Don’t we already have enough meat and dairy products? 

You may say "Oh well, I will just buy organic milk and meat."  Good point, as we saw in the article ‘what does "USDA Organic" mean,’ this is a way to avoid eating food from cloned animals.  But…wait just a minute, although the USDA mandates that bio-engineered foods can not be labeled organic, it makes no reference to the offspring of cloned animals (progeny).  Even if we rely on the "organic" label to "protect" us from eating meat from cloned animals, there is no way to keep up with the bloodlines of animals.  Animal factories have thousands of animals on their "farms" and there simply isn’t a way to track them all.  Some recent studies have shown that progeny from cloned animals may already be in our food system.

The facts show that cloned animals have a significantly shorter lifespan than their un-engineered counterparts.  You may say "Who cares, food animals only have to live long enough to reach slaughter weight."  This again is a good point.  Even though cloned animals may have a shorter lifespan, they do in-fact live long enough to reach slaughter weight.  But, postmortem autopsies are showing that these animals are dying early from pneumonia, liver disease, cancer and a lower level of antibody production. 1  Needless to say, I certainly don’t want to put products from these animals into my body…do you?

You may say "All hope is lost, there’s nothing I can do."  -Yes you can, the FDA is taking public comments until April 2007.  The most important thing that you can do is make yourself heard where it can make a difference…

Send letters and emails to your State Congress and Senate Representatives.  Tell them that this process in unacceptable to you. 

Use this link to send your comments directly to the FDA.  Remind them that they have a responsibility to maintain the integrity of our food chain. 
FDA Comments  OR… Use this link to fill out a "pre-written" letter and submit it directly to them. Democracy in Action

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