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Archive for 'FDA'

473
schools

300,000
students

1,200,000
pounds of antibiotic-free chicken

There is a big announcement from the windy city this week and this time it relates to school lunches. Chicago Public Schools (CPS) announced that on November 1st, they would begin serving antibiotic-free (ABF) chicken too all 300,000+ students i their 473 schools. The deal with main food service provider, Chartwells-Thompson Hospitality, will bring 1.2 million pounds of locally grown ABF chicken to Chicago schools.
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Regardless of how you feel about genetically modified organisms (GMOs), it’s hard to argue that consumers shouldn’t have the right to know if we’re eating them. Monsanto, big ag scientists, and our government keeps saying GMOs are perfectly safe and that GMO labeling would only “confuse” consumers. In national surveys, it’s something like 93% of Americans are in favor of GMO labeling. No wonder big ag and food manufacturers don’t want to label because they know people may think twice before buying foods with GE ingredients.
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Dairy, dairy quite contrary

How does your bacteria grow?

With metal grates and heated plates,

And filthy cows all in a row.

 

Ever wonder how your milk gets from the cow to your bowl of cereal? Grist.org just did a great story on dairy. Essentially, milk goes through a 3-step process of pasteurization, homogenization and fortification. Here is a list of must-know terms from today’s milk production.

Pasteurization

Pasteurization is the process of using heat to destroy microorganisms in foods. Do you know the difference between pasteurized, ultra-pasteurized, and raw?  Here are the 4 main ways dairy is pasteurized:

High Temperature Short Time (HTST)
This is the most common method of pasteurization in the U.S. HTST uses metal plates and hot water to raise milk temperatures to at least 161F/72C degrees for a minimum of 15 seconds, followed by rapid cooling.

Ultra Pasteurized (UP)
Milk or milk product is heated to 280F/138 C degrees for two seconds. UP results in a product with longer shelf life, but still requires refrigeration. Most organic milk is ultra pasteurized to extend the shelf life.
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We at Be Food Smart, are constantly telling and teaching people to read the nutrition facts and ingredient lists. It is, by all accounts, the only way to know what’s in packaged food.  Many argue, however, that the current labeling system is confusing and doesn’t allow Americans to quickly tell if the food they are about to buy or consume is good for them.  Ingredient lists are a pain too. Have you ever noticed the the smallest possible font size is used in combination with leaving Caps Locks on? This is not by accident. They’d rather you not read the 45 ingredients on that box of crackers. The good news is that the US Food & Drug Administration (FDA) is in the process of updating the required nutritional facts. It will be interesting to see how consumer friendly the new labels turns out. Yes, I am a bit cynical when it comes to the FDA siding with the consumer and not the food industry.

A few weeks ago I stumbled upon the Rethink the Food Label project which is put on by the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism’s News21 program and Good Magazine. Here is how they describe the project:

We asked the public, food thinkers, nutritionists, and designers to redesign the Nutrition Facts Label to make it easier to read and more useful to people who want to consume healthier, more nutritious and wholesome food. Designs could incorporate the nutrition label’s existing break down of fats, sugars, vitamins, calorie counts and percent daily values. Or, they could re-imagine the label to include geography, food quality, food justice, carbon footprint, or lesser-known chemosensory characteristics. Above all, we asked for designs that were informative, instructive and memorable.
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On Wednesday, consumer advocacy groups filed a lawsuit against the FDA for their failure to address the overuse of antibiotics in animal feed. Factory farms  include antibiotics and antimicrobial drugs in animal feed to fight against the myriad of illnesses that cows, pigs, chickens, and turkeys suffer from as a result of their CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations) lifestyle (horrendous living conditions, restriction of natural behaviors, use of  unnatural feed and growth hormones). The antibiotics can also help increase production in food-producing animals which is an obvious plus for farmers. The major concern with this practice is that humans and animals will eventually become resistant to these drugs and then they will no longer be effective when they are really needed. The FDA itself has acknowledged that non-therapeutic use of antibiotics contributes to antimicrobial resistance in humans and has urged the meat industry to phase out antibiotics in feed. The FDA issued a draft guidance for the industry and recommends “judicious use” be applied. Specifically, the “FDA recommends that all antimicrobial drugs for animals and people be used only when necessary and appropriate.”
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Last week, the California Assembly Health Committee passed a bill requiring the labeling of all genetically engineered salmon entering and sold within the state. Interestingly, genetically modified fish is not on sale anywhere in the United States. This move was a preemptive strike against the possible FDA approval of genetically engineered (GE) salmon.

In September 2010, the FDA found that there was not enough data to determine if AquaBounty’s GE salmon was safe for consumers or the fish themselves.  AquAdvantage , the fish under consideration, is Atlantic salmon that has been given a gene from the ocean pout, an eel-like fish, which allows the salmon to grow twice as fast as a traditional Atlantic salmon. It also contains a growth hormone from a Chinook salmon and reportedly requires 25% less food.

There are a whole host of concerns surrounding GE salmon which are outlined in CA Assembly Bill No. 88. One major concern is that the FDA’s current review of GE salmon does not adequately consider the potential environmental effects and health effects associated with genetically engineered salmon, including, but not limited to, risks to native salmon populations and other freshwater and marine species. The bill expresses that “accurate and truthful labeling to describe whether or not salmon is genetically engineered is the easiest and most protective practice to provide additional transparency in the state’s seafood supply chain so that individuals may protect their health and California’s environment.”

Also included as concerns in the bill:

  • Human health risks, including, but not limited to, potential allergenicity.
  • Religious-, ethical-, and cultural-based dietary concerns.
  • Potential job loss to wild salmon fisherman should consumers stop purchasing salmon altogether in an effort to avoid GE foods.

Unlike the European Union, as of today, genetically modified foods are not required to be labeled as such in the United States. The FDA has indicated that it will not require labeling of GE fish if approved which is in line with their position that labeling should not “suggest or imply that GM/GE foods are in any way different from other foods”. It seems, however, that the FDA’s position does not seem in line with public opinion. According to the bill,

“Public opinion polls indicate that 95 percent of the public want labeling of genetically modified foods and that nearly 50 percent of the public would not eat seafood that has been genetically engineered.”

Be Food Smart is based in California and we are surprised and encouraged by our state’s progressive position on this important subject. While the bill will not prevent GE salmon from being approved or possibly entering our wild fish populations, at least Californians will be able to make an educated purchase at our grocery stores and fish markets. The next step for the bill is the Appropriations Committee before being taken up by the full Assembly. Let’s hope it is approved and adopted in other states across our country. It we can’t have protection at a federal level, we need to look to our state government for solutions. We thank Assembly Member Jared Huffman for introducing the bill and the Center for Food Safety for co-sponsoring.

Sources:
CA Assembly Bill No. 88
Center for Food Safety
Food Navigator
Image: E. Peter Steenstra/USFWS

In September we reported that, the Corn Refiners Association (CRA) petitioned the FDA to allow the use of the term “corn sugar” as an alternative to high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) on ingredient labels. Instead of waiting for a ruling from the FDA, the CRA went ahead with a new ad campaign which uses the term corn sugar. This act has angered people in the sugar industry and on April 29th, a group of sugar farmers and refiners filed a lawsuit against the members of the corn refining industry. According to Food Navigator, “The suit…claims the industry’s corn sugar branding campaign for high fructose corn syrup constitutes false advertising.”

Watch the 30 second commercials here:

Corn Sugar TV Commercial – Maze

Corn Sugar TV Commercial – Question Mark

The United States uses more high fructose corn syrup than any other country in the world, but negative publicity over the last few years has caused many food manufacturers to switch to cane or beet sugar. The CRA maintains that HFCS is nutritionally equivalent to sugar and the name change will assist with consumer clarity. Hmmm…consumer clarity. That’s exactly what we were thinking!

The suit was filed in a Los Angeles US district court by Western Sugar Cooperative, Michigan Sugar Company and C & H Sugar Company; defendants in the case are ADM, Cargill, Corn Products International, Penford Products, Roquette America, Tate & Lyle Ingredients Americas, and the Corn Refiners Association.

Sources:
FoodNavigator.com
image: Emilian Robert Vicol via Flickr