News bites, February 2008

Sound Consumer February 2008

Who do you trust about food?

Consumers apparently trust consumer advocacy groups and local grocers more than the government for information about food choices. According to a study commissioned by communications company Morgan & Myers, 64 percent of respondents said advocates and activist groups are reliable sources of information.

Retail grocers were considered reliable by 62 percent. Food manufacturers were viewed positively by 53 percent. Government ranked fourth with 47 percent considering it reliable. (MediaPost Communications)

China bans plastic bags

China is banning free plastic shopping bags and calling for a return to cloth bags or baskets — steps largely welcomed by merchants and shoppers. The ban takes effect June 1. Under the new rules, businesses will be prohibited from manufacturing, selling or using bags less than 0.025 millimeters (0.00098 inches) thick. Tax measures to discourage plastic bag production and sale also are being considered. (Associated Press)

Beans cut cholesterol

Consuming as little as half a cup of cooked dry beans every day can reduce total cholesterol. A study by the Agricultural Research Service found that all the volunteers who replaced a serving of chicken soup with pinto beans had reduced cholesterol after 12 weeks. (Capital Press/ Journal of Nutrition)

Ranchers worry about Ted Turner

With 2 million acres in 11 states, CNN founder Ted Turner is the largest private landowner in the United States and that’s starting to worry some western ranchers who want to know what he’s up to. Theories abound. Turner organizations admit they’re interested in developing a huge park where bison could roam. But a Turner spokesman says Turner just wants to make money; one of his properties offers elk hunting excursions for $12,000, and Ted’s Montana Grill restaurants feature bison meat. (Capital Press)

Country life can be unhealthy

Research from the University of South Carolina’s School of Public Health shows country life can be unhealthy. The study examined food-shopping options in Orangeburg County and found a dearth of food markets and grocery stores. Of the 77 stores that sold food there, nearly 75 percent were convenience stores. Stores with more fruits and vegetables often are too far away for residents to shop regularly. (Newsweek)

Modified atmosphere meat

Congressional Democrats are pushing legislation that would require “modified atmosphere” (MA) meat to be labeled. “Modified atmosphere” means carbon monoxide is used in packaging meat (or fish) so it retains its red color instead of turning brown as it ages. Critics say it deceives shoppers into thinking meat is fresh when it could be months old.

Canada, Japan and the European Union have banned the practice, and the House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee recently heard arguments for and against labeling. To avoid MA meat, look for a “pack date” on the package — in addition to the “sell by” date. MA meat typically is in a deep heavy-duty tray and vacuum-wrapped in heavy-duty plastic. (Capital Press)

Fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico?

Fishing families, charter boat operators, ocean and environmental advocates, elected officials and scientists have joined in opposing industrial fish farming in the Gulf of Mexico. At a demonstration in Biloxi, Miss., they delivered boxes of letters from more than 8,000 people and 35 national and regional organizations to the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council.

Mississippi State Sen. Deborah Dawkins joined them, saying the Gulf Council’s plan poses serious risks to the oceans, our coastal communities and health. The Gulf Council agreed to hold public hearings in each Gulf state. (Food & Water Watch)

Cleaning green

“Cleaning green” is catching on across the country. In New Jersey, an executive order says public buildings must be cleaned with less toxic products “that are safer for people, animals and the environment.” New York state law prohibits schools from using scented cleaning products that can trigger asthma. New York also banned products with even trace amounts of known carcinogens and reproductive toxins from use in schools. (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review)

Animal ID microchips

Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering (CASPIAN) says a review of academic literature shows a causal link between implanted microchips in animals and cancer. CASPIAN evaluated 11 academic articles and found that eight reported malignant tumors had developed around and sometimes fully encased microchip implants in rats, mice and dogs.

The findings compelled a lead biologist at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York to say there’s no way now that he’d allow a chip implant in his body or any of his family members. The voluntary Animal ID program using microchip implants is supported by Washington state’s chief veterinarian. (CASPIAN)

Cattlemen lukewarm on biofuels

The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association (NCBA) is the newest group opposing increased production of biofuels from grain-based sources such as corn. The NCBA has adopted a policy opposing legislation that increases the government mandate. The livestock industry apparently is concerned about the impact on the corn market and the rising price for animal feed. (Capital Press)

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