October 23, 2016

GMO Labeling on the Ballot in OR and CO

Ballot measures requiring all foods containing genetically modified organisms (GMOS) bear labels that say so will be decided by voters in Oregon and Colorado tomorrow. Proponents of these measures say consumers have the right to know which foods contain GMOs so they can make informed purchasing decisions. Critics say state laws regarding GMOs create problems for food manufacturers. In Vermont, which passed the first such law in May, the issue has landed in court. The Grocery Manufacturing Association (GMA),  the Snack Foods Association, the International Dairy Foods Association and the National Association of Manufacturers filed suit in June to challenge the law set to go into effect July 1, 2016. “Vermont’s mandatory GMO labeling law – Act 120 – is a costly and misguided measure that … [Read more...]

Cost of US Foodborne Illnesses: $15 Billion Per Year

The Economic Research Service of the USDA has collected cost estimates of foodborne illness for the major pathogens that strike people in the U.S. That cost is estimated to be $15,600,000,000.00 every year, in medical care, lost wages and productivity, and premature deaths. That's billion with a "b". The research looked at 15 pathogens that account for more than 95% of illnesses and deaths in this country. The estimates build on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates of disease rates, medical and epidemiological literature, and peer-reviewed synthesis of data on medical costs. According to the data, Salmonella infections cost our economy the most money. Yearly cases of salmonellosis cost $3,666,600,031.00, sickening more than a million people and hospitalizing almost … [Read more...]

Appeals Court Won’t Rehear COOL Dispute

The fate of country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law took another turn when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit rendered a decision not to rehear the dispute. So unless the U.S. Supreme Court takes the case, the USDA rules that producers put information about where meat was raised and slaughtered on labels will stand. But the World Trade Organization disagrees. The countries of Canada and Mexico have sued the United States several times, stating that these labels discriminate against producers in their countries who export meat to America. Canada and Mexico could impose steep tariffs on U.S. exports in retaliation. Consumer and food safety advocates want meat labels to include information about where beef cattle, for instance, are born, raised, and slaughtered … [Read more...]

Study Reveals Misrepresentation of Shrimp in Markets

A study conducted by Oceana has revealed misrepresentation of America's favorite seafood - shrimp - across the country. DNA testing has confirmed that 30% of shrimp products purchased from 111 grocery stores and restaurants were misrepresented. Misrepresentation means that the shrimp were mislabeled, with one species substituted for another; misleading, with farmed species labeled as "Gulf shrimp", for instance; or mixed/mystery, with species commingled among bagged shrimp. The misrepresentation was found everywhere in the country. The highest rates of misrepresentation were in New York at 43%, 33% in Washington, D.C., and 30% in the Gulf of Mexico region. This problem makes it difficult for consumers to make informed choices about the shrimp they purchase in stores and in … [Read more...]

Farming and Deforestation Could be Behind Ebola Outbreak

According to an article in The Conversation, deforestation and industrial-scale farming could have been a contributing factor in the Ebola outbreak in Africa. The global palm oil industry has been deep-cutting into forests; this helps spread pathogens by opening areas formerly untouched to human exploration. And land grabs force animals out of forests where they come into more frequent contact with humans. The Ebola virus occurs in fruit bats, which are natural hosts. When people in very poor communities face scarcity of food, they go further into the forest to hunt and butcher wildlife, known as bush meat. Bush meat is a major source of the virus. These changes lead to something called an Allee effect, which occurs when changes in one part of the ecology cause populations in … [Read more...]

FTC Sues Gerber for Alleged False Health Claims

The Federal Trade Commission has sued the Gerber company (also doing business as Nestle Nutrition) for claiming that some of its baby food can prevent or reduce allergies in children. The complaint alleges that the company misled consumers because the claim is not true. Gerber Good Start Gentle formula is made with partially hydrolyzed wheat proteins, which the company claims makes the product easier to digest than formula made with intact cow's milk proteins.  The company advertises that feeding this formula to infants who have a family history of allergies will prevent allergies or reduce the risk that they will develop. Some of the ads read, "If you have allergies in your family, breastfeeding your baby can help reduce their risk. And, if you decide to introduce formula, research … [Read more...]

Maine CDC: Guess Which Restaurant Exposed You to Hepatitis A?

Do you have clay-colored stools, dark urine, fever, jaundice, yellow eyes, abdominal cramping and weight loss? If so, you have Hepatitis A and should see a doctor. If you have these symptoms and also spent time in Cumberland County, Maine from September 29 though October 11, you likely got the virus from a restaurant you ate at. But don't ask the Maine CDC which one, because they aren't saying. Maine Center for Disease Control and Prevention (Maine CDC) issued an advisory yesterday stating that the agency had "identified a case of acute hepatitis A virus infection in a Cumberland County food service worker." They are encouraging health care providers to be on the lookout for the above symptoms.  Hepatitis A is a virus that is transmitted when food contaminated with microscopic amounts of … [Read more...]

Brainerd MN Will Not Chlorinate City Water Supply

The city of Brianerd, Minnesota will not chlorinate its city water supply, the public utilities commission decided this week.  With a population of about 13,500 people, Brainered draws its water from an aquifer 170 feet below the city and has never added the chemical to to its water. But last month, a storm created conditions that could have contaminate the water supply with bacteria. So, the system was flushed with chlorine. With the problems created by the storm resolved, the public utilities commission had to decide whether to continue the use of chlorine. The vote on Tuesday was unanimous to end the use of the chemical. Brainerd residents are fond of the taste of their water and  didn't want it altered. This was the third time in 30 years that the city's water supply was … [Read more...]

USDA Providing $4 Million for Honey Bee Habitat

Honey bees around the world have been dying off at an alarming rate in recent years. Because the insect is so important to America's food supply, the USDA is giving five midwestern states $4 million to help farmers and ranchers improve honey bee health. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said, "the future of America's food supply depends on honey bees, and this effort is one way USDA is helping improve the health of honey bee populations. Significant progress has been made in understanding the factors that are associated with Colony Collapse Disorder and the overall health of honey bees, and this funding will allow us to work with farmers and ranchers to apply that knowledge over a broader area." The Midwest is home to more than 65% of the commercially managed honey bee hives in the … [Read more...]

AquaBounty Fined for Violations on GE Salmon

Officials in Panama have fined AquaBounty Technologies $9,500, stating the facility is operating in violation of environmental regulations as it experiments with genetically engineered (GE) salmon.  Food safety advocates such as Center for Food Safety and Friends of the Earth have ask the FDA to terminate its regulatory review of AquaBounty's facility and deny the company's application to sell the engineered fish in the U.S. Wenonah Hauter, executive director of Food & Water Watch said, "FDA has always assured the public that it is checking, monitoring, and regulating AquaBounty's production platform to ensure the company can mitigate the well-documented environmental impacts of escaped GE salmon. We now know that AquaBounty is unwilling or unable to follow basic rules and … [Read more...]

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