July 17, 2024

Organic Foods Not Automatically Safer Than Conventionally Grown

A study published in the Journal of Food Protection has found that while consumers think that organic foods are "safer" than conventionally grown or produced foods, the standards applied to those products do not directly address microbial or chemical safety issues. Researchers looked at the CDC's Foodborne Disease Outbreak Surveillance System in this study. They found that there have been 18 food poisoning outbreaks linked to organic foods from 1992 to 2014. Those outbreaks caused 779 illnesses, 258 hospitalizations and 3 deaths. Moreover, 56% of the outbreaks occurred from 2010 to 2014. Nine of the outbreaks were in a single state, and nine sickened people in more than one state. Salmonella bacteria caused most of the outbreaks, at 44%, and 33% of the outbreaks were caused by E … [Read more...]

GAO Says USDA Needs to Enhance Oversight of GMO Crops

The U.S. Government Accountability Office has released a report stating that the USDA needs to enhance its oversight and better understand the effects of unintended mixing of GMO (genetically modified organisms, also known as GE, or genetically engineered) crops with other crops. This has long been a concern of those opposed to genetically modified organisms. The report states that the USDA has "not updated its regulations to oversee GE drops derived from alternative technologies in which the GE crop developed contains no plant pest DNA." While the EPA regulates some GE crops as part of its pesticide regulation process, and the FDA works with companies that develop GE crops to consider food safety issues, USDA's GE crop regulations only pertain to crops for which the donor, vector, or … [Read more...]

Recalls of Organic Foods and All Foods on the Rise

According to a new report from Stericycle, recalls of organic foods for microbial reasons has increased in the past year. In fact, recalls of all foods is up significantly from the first quarter of 2015. That company analyzed data from the FDA and USDA for their study. According to the USDA, 70% of consumers think that food is safer or of high quality if it is labeled organic. But organic food is just as susceptible to bacterial contamination as conventionally grown food. There were 178 FDA food recalls in the second quarter of 2015, which is an increase of 47% from the previous quarter. Sixty-two percent of those recalls were for bacterial contamination, mostly for Salmonella and Listeria. Vegetables were 61% of the recall activity. Foods recalled by the USDA, which include meat, … [Read more...]

Survey Says: One in Three Farms Have GMO Contamination

Food and Water Watch has conducted a survey with the Organic Farmers' Agency for Relationship Marketing that shows contamination from GMO (GE) crops is happening and affecting organic produce in farm fields around the country. The survey asked farmers in 17 states, primarily the Midwest, about contamination of organic and non-GMO farm fields with GMO crops. The survey found that "the risks and effects of GMO contamination have unfairly burdened organic and non-GMO farmers with extra work, longer hours, and financial insecurity, which has led to a general skepticism of coexistence amongst the organic community. Some even expressed the feeling that their chosen method of production is being seriously threatened." GMO growers and producers aren't require to mitigate the risk of … [Read more...]

USDA Changes Process for Organic Labeling

Food & Water Watch, the Center for Food Safety, and Consumers Union issued a joint statement yesterday about the USDA's unilateral and surprising change to the organic labeling standards process, filed in the Federal Register on September 16, 2013. Under the old law, there was a controlled process for allowing otherwise prohibited synthetic and non-organic substances in organic foods because of extenuating circumstances. Those exemptions were for a five year period, to encourage the development of organic alternatives. The USDA's National Organic Program (NOP) reversed that rule, and those prohibited substances can now be included in organic products indefinitely unless specific action is taken. The USDA made this decision without the two-thirds "decisive" majority vote of the … [Read more...]

Petition to Allow Antibiotics on Organic Fruit Denied

Yesterday we told you about the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) being petitioned to allow the use of oxytetracycline, an antibiotic, on organic pears and apples beyond October 21, 2014. The NOSB rejected that petition, so the antibiotic will not be used on fruit trees after that date. The debate over the petition was long and contentious because some growers think they don't have good alternatives to antibiotics, which are used to fight fire blight. Since antibiotics are not allowed in any other kinds of organically produced food, including food animals, advocates wanted to see the use of this antibiotic ended in orchards. The Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and Food & Water Watch issued a statement that said, "we urge the USDA to help growers continue to find … [Read more...]

Consumer Groups Urge Organics to Stop Antibiotic Use

The Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, and Food & Water Watch are urging the National Organics Standards Board (NOSB) to discontinue the use of antibiotics in apple and pear production. Most consumers (me included) do not know that antibiotics are used to treat diseases in fruit trees. And most think that fruit treated this way should not be qualified to carry the "organic" label. The antibiotic oxytetracycline is sprayed on these treats to treat a disease called fire blight. Some farmers also use streptomycin on fruit trees. Antibiotics are not allowed in the production of other types of organic food, including farm animals. Consumer groups and scientists are concerned about the massive amount of evidence linking antibiotic use to the development of antibiotic resistant … [Read more...]

USDA Steps Up Residue Testing On Organics

In November 2012, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s  National Organic  Program (USDA’s NOP) announced a new rule for required residue testing aimed at bolstering consumer confidence. Effective January 1, 2013, the rule requires all accredited certifying agents to conduct periodic residue testing on a regular basis of all agricultural products to be sold, labeled, or represented as “100 percent organic,”  “organic,” or “made with organic” ingredients. Testing is not a new part of the NOP, but the new rule specifies how much testing is required stating certified agents will conduct residue inspections on at least 5 percent of the farms they certify each year. Test results will help agents identify problems and take enforcement action where necessary. The NOP sent letters to … [Read more...]

Organic Foods Not Safer, More Nutritious than Conventionally Grown Foods

A new study conducted at Stanford Center for Health Policy and published in the Annals of Internal Medicine questions whether organically-grown foods are safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced foods. This systemic review, which extracts data from English-language studies, says no. Seventeen studies in human beings and 223 studies of nutrient and contaminant levels in foods were examined. There were no long-term studies of health outcomes among people eating organic versus conventionally raised foods. Three of the human studies researched clinical outcomes; those found no difference between populations who ate organic foods and those who ate conventional foods for allergic reactions or Campylobacter infections. Two of the human studies found significantly lower pesticide … [Read more...]

Organic Standards Protection Act Introduced in Congress

Representatives Lois Capps (D-CA) and Richard Hanna (R-NY) have introduced the Organic Standards Protection Act to the U.S. House of Representatives to give the National Organics Program authority to make sure that foods labeled with the organic seal quality for that designation. The Organic Trade Association and the National Organic Coalition support this bill. The legislation would: Grant the USDA the authority to stop the sales of products labeled "certified organic" when they are not organically produced or grown. Streamline the recordkeeping requirements of the 1990 Organic Foods Production Act. All organic producers and certifiers would be required to maintain records and sent them to the USDA. A fine of up to $10,000 per incident would be levied for those who … [Read more...]

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