September 18, 2014

Council in Kaua’i Mandates Pesticide, GMO Reports


The Center for Food Safety (CFS) reports that the Kaua'i County Council overturned a mayoral veto of a bill that would require an assessment of risks stemming from pesticide use and the cultivation of genetically engineered crops. Mayor Bernard Carvalho vetoed the legislation last week. Sylvia Wu, an attorney with the Center for Food Safety said in a statement, "the people of Kaua'i have demanded that their elected representatives serve the people, not the corporations. Today the County Council proved that the people of Kaua'i cannot be bullied by big corporations with deep pockets." Bill 2491 requires that biotech and chemical companies report and publicly disclose the pesticides and the GE crops they use on the island. In addition, no pesticides can be used near schools, medical … [Read more...]

Center for Food Safety Urges Limits to Arsenic Content in Food


Did you know that there is no limit on the arsenic level in the foods you eat? The EPA regulates arsenic in drinking water, but the FDA and USDA have no such standards. The FDA is studying the impact of arsenic in rice products and withdrew approval of arsenicals in animal feed. And the FDA is proposing guidance, which is not enforceable and has no law behind it, for arsenic content in apple juice. The Center for Food Safety (CFS) is calling for "cumulative exposure" limits for apple juice and other staple foods. They say that "although individual foods containing arsenic may be safe to eat in moderation, they are often consumed in combination, thereby presenting a risk of 'cumulative arsenic exposure' that could reach dangerous levels." They sent a letter to the FDA on November 12, … [Read more...]

Researchers Discover New Treatment for Antibiotic Resistant Bacterial Infections

Petri Dish

Researchers at Northwestern University have discovered a new treatment for antibiotic resistant bacteria. Dr. Kim Lewis published his work in the journal Nature. The scientists have been working on "persisters" for more than ten years. Persisters are a class of cells produced by bacteria whose only function is to survive. The work was conducted on methicillin resistant Staphylococcus aureus, or MRSA, which infects 1 million people every year in the U.S. The bacteria has evolved to actively resist several front line antibiotics. And if they can kill this pathogenic bacteria, they can hopefully kill other antibiotic-resistant bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella. The scientists thought that an adaptive function of the persister bacteria may be why they develop resistance. And that … [Read more...]

ASPCA Requests National Chicken Council Update Guidelines


The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) has sent a letter to the National Chicken Council (NCC), asking them to update guidelines for humane handling and living conditions for chickens. They say that "current unprecedented growth rates and standard living conditions of chickens not only pose serious concerns for their welfare, but may also present food safety risks." A report from May 2011 by the Humane Society of the United States found that sixteen scientific studies showed hens confined in cages had higher rates of Salmonella, the leading cause of food poisoning related deaths in the United States. A European Food Safety Authority analysis found 43% lower odds of Salmonella contamination in cage-free barns. Free-range birds had 98% lower chance of … [Read more...]

What Causes Restaurant Outbreaks? Sick Employees.

Restaurant Food Poisoning

A study published in the Journal of Food Protection looked at restaurant outbreaks. More than half of all foodborne illness outbreaks reported every year are associated with eating in restaurants. They studied the restaurant outbreaks in the United States during the years 2006 and 2007 as reported to FoodNet (Foodborne Diseases Active Surveillance Network). Of the 457 outbreaks reported in 2006 and 2007, 300, or 66%, were restaurant associated. Of those, 98%, or 295, had at least one reported contributing factor, that is, a food safety violation that may have contributed to the outbreak. Of the 257 outbreaks with one single contributing factor, 64% were associated with food worker health and hygiene. Thirty-four percent were associated with food preparation practices, and 22% were … [Read more...]

Elisabeth Hagen Resigns Food Safety Post at USDA


Agriculture Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen, M.D., announced today that she is leaving the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) for a job in the private sector. As Under Secretary for Food Safety since August 20, 2010, Hagen has overseen the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) which is charged with safeguarding the nation's supply of commercial meat, poultry, and egg products. She is also a principal member of the President's Food Safety Working Group. She released the following statement this morning: "Today I am announcing that I will be embarking in mid-December on a new challenge in the private sector. I am grateful to Secretary Vilsack for the opportunity to serve as Under Secretary for Food Safety and be part of his leadership team. I also want to thank the dedicated … [Read more...]

FDA Issues Guidance for Acrylamide Reduction in Foods


The FDA has issued draft guidance for the food industry to help reduce levels of acrylamide in foods. Acrylamide is a chemical that forms in foods during high temperature cooking. Frying, roasting, broiling, and baking are the typical cooking modes that can cause this reaction. Acrylamide is characterized as "reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen." Acrylamide is used for industrial purposes, and it is found in cigarette smoke. It also forms when foods containing amino acids and sugars are heated to temperatures above 248 degrees F. Asparagine, the amino acid, combines with sugars to form the chemical. Foods that form the most acrylamide include potato chips and French fries. Microwave cooking, boiling, and slow cooking methods are less likely to produce the chemical. Reducing … [Read more...]

USDA Says Jury Still Out on Poultry Slaughtered in China


Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY)  has hit the panic button on poultry from China too early, says the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA- FSIS). Poultry slaughtered in China is not currently allowed for sale in the U.S., but if it were to receive approval it would meet U.S. food safety standards, the agency said in a rare clarification issued this weekend in response to Schumer's comments. Poultry slaughtered in China is not currently allowed for sale in the U.S. But, said Schumer on Sunday, the USDA is getting ready to approve it. In 2010, China asked the USDA to review its poultry slaughter methods. FSIS must review such requests from foreign countries. But, in this case, the agency has not finalized the audit or released preliminary results.  "If … [Read more...]

Politicians May Try to Repeal COOL in Farm Bill


A House-Senate conference committee might try to repeal the country of origin labeling law (COOL), as they are working on a final version of the U.S. farm bill. One of those members, Senator Pat Roberts (R-KS) said he would support a repeal of the law. Consumer advocates support COOL because consumers have the right to know where the food they are buying was grown, harvested, and processed. COOL laws cover beef, veal, lamp, pork, goat, chicken, farm-raised fish and shellfish, wild fish and shellfish, peanuts, ginseng, pecans, macadamia nuts, and perishable commodities. A coalition of consumer and farm groups that support COOL sent a letter in October to Farm Bill conferees, asking them to keep the law in place. COOL was passed into law in 2008. According to a statement on the USDA … [Read more...]

Counting Crows …


A new study published in Environmental Microbiology has found that antibiotic resistant bacteria are showing up in crows. This is disturbing, because human-derived drug resistant bacteria should not be in wildlife. The birds harbored vancomycin-resistant enterococci (VRE) that were not naturally derived; that is, the bacteria came from a human source. Scientists found the bacteria in 2.5% of crows sampled across the U.S. Vancomycin is a last-resort antibiotic used to treat staphylococcus infections in people.  And the vancomycin resistant gene is very rare. Scientists think that the birds may have acquired the bacteria from wastewater or dumpsters. And since crows migrate, the antibiotic-resistant bacteria can be spread over large areas. The bacteria are shed in feces. Bird … [Read more...]

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