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)


eric

Does the USDA have Mad Cow?

With all the recent headlines about tainted pet food (and tainted pet food fed to pigs and chickens) you would think that the USDA is going to do everything in it’s power to protect this country from contaminated food.  right?  Well, think again!  Apparently, the USDA and the FDA have "one percent" rule when it comes to food inspections.   The FDA only inspects one percent of imported food to the U.S. and the USDA only inspects one percent of cattle for Mad Cow disease.

Rule #1- don’t try to one-up the USDA.  If you are a meatpacker and want to start testing your whole herd of cattle for Mad Cow disease (because it’s the right thing to do), you could be in for some roadblocks.  You ask… who on earth would want to block you for this?  Surprisingly, the agency that is in charge of food safety is the same agency that fighting to keep meatpackers from testing all of their animals…you guessed it, the USDA.  What’s the reason?  Here’s the kicker….because the animals may have Mad Cow disease and that may hurt the meat industry.  No shit!  You just can’t make this stuff up. 

Three cases of Mad Cow have been found in the U.S. since testing started.  I am sure that if the USDA reduced the amount of cows tested to .01 percent, they could get that number down to zero.  Fewer cows tested, less Mad Cow disease, right?  **sarcasm**

read the full story (it’s short) on MSN
(interestingly, at the bottom of this link there is a "related story" on 129,000 pounds of beef recalled for E.coli)

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. 

eric

What’s with the labels?

Some “ethical” labels on foods can be a bit confusing (and unverifiable). There are labels for cage free, organic, dolphin safe, fair trade, grass-fed…and the list goes on. I stumbled on this article last night while reading this weeks Newsweek Magazine. It helps to decipher what some of these labels mean and how trustworthy they are. You can get more information on this subject and a pocket guide at the GreenGuide.

Organic: “This is the gold standard of labels,” says Pennybacker. Organic crops are free of genetic engineering, sewage sludge, most conventional pesticides and synthetic fertilizers. Livestock used for milk, eggs and meat are fed 100 percent organic feed, raised without antibiotics or growth hormones, and have access to the outdoors. (See ams.usada.gov.)

Bird Friendly: Some coffee growers plant their crops on land stripped of its natural vegetation. But the Smithsonian Migratory Bird Council of the National Zoo verifies that all coffee bearing the Bird Friendly logo (see nationalzoo.si.edu) is grown under a canopy of trees that provide shade for the coffee and a habitat for migratory birds. Coffee grown in the hot sun requires more pesticides and chemical fertilizers to flourish, but it costs about 20 percent less.

continue reading at Newsweek.

eric

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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