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
Last year, I wrapped up the year in food and nutrition stories with a detailed chronological summary. This time, I want to highlight four of the year’s most significant events in the realm of food, food politics, and nutrition — and the lessons they imparted. 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
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
After years of debating, petitioning, rulemaking, and outright stalling, this week the federal government is finally implementing new requirements for testing E. coli in ground beef.
Why is this cause for celebration?
Because while the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has for years required testing of the deadly 0157:H7 strain of E. coli, numerous other strains have also become a significant safety threat.
So now, any ground beef that tests positive for six additional strains will be considered adulterated under the law, which means the product cannot be placed into commerce. That’s what makes this such a big deal. Read more
As concerns grow about antibiotic-resistant pathogens in our food, environment, and hospitals, the Agricultural Research Service is trying to figure out the best alternatives for food animal producers, who have long relied on these miracle drugs for combating diseases and boosting feed efficiency.
Though antibiotic resistance is a known consequence of antibiotic use in both humans and animals, agricultural use has come under greater scrutiny in recent years as more consumers take an interest in how their food is produced. According to the most recent estimates, around 80 percent of all antibiotics sold in the United States each year are used in food animal production. Read more
Thanks to factory farming’s massive economies of scale, a lot of food today is either disgusting or cruel or disgusting and cruel. Just when people stopped talking about cantaloupes with deadly listeria, “pink slime” hit the news. And just when people stopped talking about pink slime, ground beef treated with ammonia to kill germs, mad cow hit the news. Does anyone even remember the arsenic in the fruit juice?
Food scandals are so costly to Big Food, it has repeatedly tried to kill the messenger rather than clean up its act. Read more
Since the homemade food renaissance has taken root in California, there’s been no shortage of home picklers, jammers, and bakers. But under current state laws, it’s a misdemeanor for those home artisans to sell their goodies in the open marketplace. Case in point: Last June, Department of Public Health officials shut down ForageSF’s popular Underground Market, which featured mostly home producers, because its sellers were not compliant with local and state regulations.
But due to a campaign launched by the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC), the laws might change this year. The Oakland-based SELC recently teamed up with Los Angeles Assemblymember Mike Gatto to introduce the California Homemade Food Act (AB 1616), a “cottage food” bill that would legalize the sale of certain foods produced in home kitchens. Read more
You’ve probably never heard of the Microbiological Data Program (MDP) but if you eat fresh produce, you should, because it’s currently on President Obama’s budgetary chopping block. The MDP is a small ($5 million annually) pathogen monitoring program tucked away in the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It tests fruits and vegetables for deadly bugs like E. coli, salmonella, and listeria.
While the testing program may be inexpensive, it’s critical because no other federal mechanism currently exists to conduct regular testing of fresh produce. (The Food and Drug Administration—which technically has jurisdiction over produce safety—conducts only limited inspections.)
To date, the MDP has tested high-risk produce such as alfalfa sprouts, cilantro, green onions, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, and other leafy greens. Every one of these vegetables has caused a food-borne illness outbreak or recall over the years, some of them lethal thanks in part to an industrialized food system that transports bugs nationwide. You might recall, a shocking 34 people (and counting) died from a listeria outbreak last year in cantaloupe in 26 states (yes, melon–also on USDA’s tested produce list). That tragedy alone should cause the Obama Administration to rethink this thoughtless budget cut. Read more
This growing season there’s a new GMO in town: Monsanto’s GE sweet corn. This Roundup Ready product is the first GE corn for direct human consumption, and it has not been tested by the USDA and will not be labeled. If you’re unhappy about this, you’re not alone. The majority of consumers don’t want to eat genetically modified foods, and 95 percent feel strongly that they should be labeled. Many retailers, including Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods, and General Mills, have already agreed to not use GE Sweet Corn in any of their products—but Walmart, the country’s largest grocer and self-proclaimed sustainability adherent, has yet to make such a promise. Read more