November 26, 2014

Consumer Reports on Arsenic in Rice


Consumer Reports has released new data and guidelines for consumers about arsenic in rice. That organization's 2012 report found measurable levels of the heavy  metal in almost all of the products they tested. People who are allergic to wheat, celiac patients, and those sensitive to gluten eat more rice and rice products. Arsenic is in two forms: inorganic and organic. Inorganic is more toxic and is classified as a carcinogen. It is naturally occurring, but humans put more arsenic into the environment through pesticides and poultry fertilizer. Chickens are fed organic arsenic to promote weight gain and growth on less food. The FDA stopped approval of most food animal drugs containing arsenic last year, but not all. The heavy metal stays in the soil for decades. And when animals eat … [Read more...]

Coalition Asks Vilsack to Finalize Mechanically Tenderized Beef Label


The Safe Food Coalition has sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, urging him to finalize the mechanically tenderized beef label and send it to the Office of Management and Budget for final approved. The USDA has delayed finalizing this rule that has been "in process" since 2008. Canada has already mandated a label for these products, which are whole cuts of beef, including steaks, pierced with needles or pins to tenderize them. This action forces pathogenic bacteria from the surface of the meat into the interior. If the tenderized beef is not cooked to 160°F, or well done, those bacteria can survive and make someone sick. A 2012 E. coli O157:H7 outbreak linked to XL Foods recalled mechanically tenderized beef in Canada prompted this change in that country. The treated … [Read more...]

McDonalds Rejects Simplot GMO Potatoes


McDonald's, which is one of the largest fast food chains on the planet, has said they will not use the J.R. Simplot Company's Innate GMO potato, according to Food & Water Watch. Pressure from food safety advocates and the public have forced this move. The Simplot potato has been genetically altered to silence the expression of genes in the plant that produces sugar and asparagine, which together produce acrylamide, a potential carcinogen when the potato is cooked at high heat. Some food safety advocates are concerned that this manipulation will turn off other genes in the plant, since many genes have the identical stretches of DNA. One of the genes that may be turned off naturally protects the potato against pests. Wenonah Hauter, director of Food & Water Watch said in a … [Read more...]

Campylobacter Uses Chicken “Juice” to Form Biofilms


A new study by the Institute of Food Research has shown how the bacteria Campylobacter uses "chicken juice" to persist in the food chain, attaching to surfaces and forming biofilms that make it more impervious to cleaning. Helen Brown, a Ph.D. student at the Institute, led the study. Scientists collected liquids produced from defrosting chickens, and found that Campylobacter used those liquids to form biofilms just like Salmonella bacteria, which are special structures that help the bacteria protect the colony from environmental threats. Brown said in a statement, "we have discovered that this increase in biofilm formation was due to chicken juice coating the surfaces we used with a protein-rich film. This film then makes it much easier for the Campylobacter bacteria to attach to the … [Read more...]

Oceana and Sky Truth Launch Global Fishing Watch

Fishing Boat

Oceana, Sky Truth and Google are announcing the launch of  Global Fishing Watch, a technology platform that creates the first global view of commercial fishing. It will give consumers an online platform to share and track information about fishing activity around the world. The system is designed to make what happens on the world's oceans visible and transparent. Too many fishermen harvest using bottom trawling and bycatch, which catches and destroys many vulnerable and important species of fish and marine life. Sustaining the health of the ocean is a critical priority for the future of the world and its citizens. Andrew Sharpless, CEO of Oceana, said in a statement, "Global Fishing Watch is designed to empower all stakeholders, including governments, fishery managers, citizens and … [Read more...]

Senators Ask FDA to Collect More Antibiotic Data


Four U.S. Senators have written a letter to the FDA to ask that agency to increase tracking of antibiotics used in food animals. They want the agency to propose a rule that improves collection of data on farm antibiotic use and its connection to bacterial resistance. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Tom Harkin (D-IA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) all wrote the letter.  It states, "we applaud your agency's recent step to issue improved, more transparent reports on annual food animal antibiotic drug sales and distribution data. However, we are disappointed to learn that your agency has decided to delay proposing a rule that would further enhance data collected on this topic until next year, when the OMB estimated the rule would be released in 2014." Foodborne … [Read more...]

Slaughter Wins U.S. House Race


Representative Louise Slaughter, the only microbiologist in Congress who has a Master's degree in public health, won her race against Mark Assini, who conceded Wednesday. Slaughter is a food safety advocate and a sponsor of PAMTA (Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act). Slaughter said in a statement, "It's gratifying to be re-elected for another term so that I can continue fighting for the community I love and am honored to represent. Like I said during this campaign, Washington might not be working, but I sure am, and I'm glad to continue that work." PAMTA is designed to reduce the number of antibiotics that are used in the production of farm animals. Massive scientific evidence shows that this overuse of antibiotics, especially in sub therapeutic ways, contributes … [Read more...]

More Food Safety Election Day News


The election may be over, but the food movement is still making news about ballot initiatives and members of Congress. In Oregon, the initiative to label genetically engineered foods is still too close to call. Measure 92 is only 6,900 votes behind, and enough absentee ballots are still outstanding that it may pass. The ballots will be counted until November 18. In Maui, voters passed an initiative to "prohibit the growth, testing, or cultivation of genetially engineered crops" until environmental and public health studies show they are safe. The opposition, consisting mostly Monsanto and Dow Chemical, spent $362 per vote and still lost. Voters in California's Humboldt County also voted to ban GE crops from their farmlands. Four other counties in California already ban these … [Read more...]

Dirty Dozen Food Additives Guide Published

Food Colors

Environmental Working Group has published its first-ever "dirty dozen" guide to food additives. That organization has a "dirty dozen" list of produce that contains large amounts of pesticides and herbicides. This list is for label readers; it tells you which additives to avoid. Nitrates and nitrates are first on the list; they are chemicals used in cured meats to make the product pink and add flavor. Nitrites have been linked to stomach cancer and may be associated with brain and thyroid cancers. Scientists at the World Health Organization have declared that these chemicals are probable human carcinogens. Potassium bromate is next on the list. This chemical strengthens wheat doughs and help them rise during baking. It is listed as a known carcinogen by the state of California. It is … [Read more...]

USDA Food Safety Tips for Winter Weather Emergencies


The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)  has compiled some food safety tips for those affected by severe winter weather in the northern Rockies and upper Great Lakes. Heavy snowfalls in Montana, the Dakotas, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan could cause power outages posing which create food safety risks. FSIS recommends consumers follow these steps to reduce food waste and the risk of foodborne illness during severe weather events. Before the storm, purchase appliance thermometers for the refrigerator and the freezer, freeze refrigerated items, such as leftovers, milk and fresh meat and poultry that you may not need immediately. Group foods together in the freezer, it will help them stay cold longer. Freeze water in one-quart plastic … [Read more...]

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