Environmental Working Group President Ken Cook often points out that many pesticides that were once liberally sprayed on food crops and considered perfectly safe turn out to be anything but – after farm workers and consumers have been exposed to them for years.
Earlier this week, while Lindsay Lohan’s latest legal woes were trending on Google News, an important study that got little attention in the media gave a big boost to Ken’s argument. Read more
If you want to bury an unsavory news story, the afternoon before Christmas vacation is a good time to break it. The FDA chose December 21 to release its Environmental Assessment (EA) of the genetically modified “AquAdvantage“ salmon. This move quietly slid the fish closer to making history as the first GM animal approved for human consumption. The public was given 60 days to comment on a farmed salmon that American fish farmers wouldn’t be allowed to raise, but American consumers would nonetheless be allowed to eat.
If the announcement’s timing suggests FDA wants the application to flow smoothly, also consider that it has been 17 years since AquaBounty first applied for permission to sell its recombinant Atlantic salmon in the U.S. The company has paid a heavy price for trying to be first. Read more
After a year-long delay, two sweeping new food safety rules that will for the first time mandate produce safety standards and preventive controls nationwide will be released today and published to the Federal Register on Monday, according to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
“It’s a big deal that these two are coming out because it’s the central framework for prevention,” said Michael Taylor, FDA’s Deputy Comissioner for Foods and Veterinary Medicine, in an interview with Food Safety News. “We’re eager to get to the next phase of the process.” Read more
Jane Brody, a long-time health columnist for The New York Times, has undoubtedly written great columns over the years, but her most recent one, published on December 31, 2012, was not one of them. In fact, this column, which claims to debunk health myths, is one of the most misinformed columns on health, nutrition and the environment to be published recently in the Times, filled with factual errors as well as outdated nutrition information. The piece warrants a detailed rebuttal, because so many people turn to the Times and to Brody for health advice and this time she was way off the mark. Read more
As Americans ring in the new year, many of us will resolve to get healthy. Meat and poultry producers can help — by making a resolution to put their farm animals on an antibiotics diet.
Antibiotics are lifesaving medicines. But overusing them can have unintended consequences. That’s what we’re seeing on industrial farms where these drugs are being used on a massive scale in a way that threatens the public’s health. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), nearly 30 million pounds of antibiotics are sold each year for use in food animal production, most often to make the animals grow faster and to compensate for overcrowded and unsanitary conditions. By comparison, drug makers sold about 7 million pounds of these products last year to treat sick people. Read more
‘Tis the season for giving thanks, counting blessings and reflecting on the year past. While many Americans may not be aware, we can all now be grateful that on November 27, President Obama signed the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act (WPEA) into law, providing federal government employees with the power to speak the truth … which consequently gives all consumers the gift of safer eating.
How? Because now, more than 110,000 USDA and FDA employees enjoy solid whistleblower protections, and can feel more secure to speak up when they see something wrong with the food we eat. Read more
Unbeknownst to just about everyone, nanoparticles made a quiet entrance into the nation’s food supply at least a decade ago. Nanoparticles are materials that are microscopic—significantly smaller than a red blood cell; and tens of thousands of times smaller than the width of a human hair. These particles can help deliver nutrients, ensure longer freshness of food, act as thickening agents or enhance taste or flavor. The problem is, scientists are still determining the health and environmental impact of these tiny particles, even as industry is forging ahead. Read more
In the midst of the domestic energy boom, livestock on farms near oil-and-gas drilling operations nationwide have been quietly falling sick and dying, according to the latest report by Food & Environment Reporting Network. Elizabeth Royte wrote the cover story, “What the Frack Is in our Food,” for the December 17, 2012, issue of The Nation magazine.
“In Pennsylvania, the oil and gas industry is already on a tear—drilling thousands of feet into ancient seabeds, then repeatedly fracturing (or ‘fracking’) these wells with millions of gallons of highly pressurized, chemically laced water, which shatters the surrounding shale and releases fossil fuels,” Royte writes. “New York, meanwhile, is on its own natural-resource tear, with hundreds of newly opened breweries, wineries, organic dairies and pastured livestock operations—all of them capitalizing on the metropolitan area’s hunger to localize its diet. But there’s growing evidence that these two impulses, toward energy and food independence, may be at odds with each other.”
The story, the first in-depth look at the potential impact of fracking on food, cites the first and only peer-reviewed report, published earlier this year, suggesting a possible link between fracking and illness in food animals. It includes 24 case studies of farmers in shale-gas states whose livestock have experienced neurological, reproductive, and acute gastrointestinal problems after being exposed—either accidentally or incidentally—to fracking chemicals in the water or air. Read more
In a new study of raw pork chops and ground pork, Consumer Reports found 69 percent samples were contaminated with Yersinia enterocolitica, according to a report published by the group today. A lesser-known foodborne pathogen, Yersinia enterocolitica can cause fever, abdominal pain and diarrhea, lasting one to three weeks, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. There is approximately one confirmed infection per 100,000 people reported each year, but since these cases are severely under-reported, CDC estimates there are actually around 100,000 infections in the United States annually.
Consumer Reports tested 198 samples and found that while the vast majority were positive for Yersinia, only 3 to 7 percent were positive for more the more common foodborne pathogens Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus or Listeria monocytogenes.
According to the report, several of the isolates found were resistant to one or more antibiotics: Six of the eight Salmonella samples, 13 of the 14 Staphylococcus samples and 121 of the 132 Yersinia samples. The study also found MRSA on one sample.
The group points to the widespread use of antibiotics in agriculture as a key contributor to the resistance problem. Read more
Never one to pass up an opportunity to spread a little doom and gloom, I felt compelled to emerge from blog-writing hibernation to bring you the latest bummer food news. Today, Consumer Reports released “Arsenic in Your Food,” a report describing its recent investigation of arsenic levels in rice. The results are unsettling. According to the report, analysis of 65 rice and rice products (including infant cereals, hot cereals, ready-to-eat cereals, rice cakes, rice crackers, rice pasta, rice flour and rice drinks) revealed that samples of almost every product contained measurable levels of total arsenic, including organic and inorganic forms. Read more