News bites, March 2009

This article was originally published in March 2009

Washington continues to lose farmland

The 2007 Census shows that Washington state lost 345,219 acres or 2.25 percent of farmland between 2002 and 2007. During the same period, however, the number of farms and farm income increased. (Ag Census)

School principal bans sugar

For the past 10 years, Dr. Yvonne Sanders-Butler has banned sugar at Browns Mill Elementary in Georgia. She overhauled the school’s cafeteria menu — ordering more whole foods and fruits and vegetables — and required rigorous physical exercise by students.

The results? Standardized test scores increased 15 percent within the first year, discipline problems decreased by 23 percent, student health improved, obesity virtually was eliminated, and the school saved $425,000. (

High fructose corn syrup contains mercury

Two new studies show that high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) commonly is contaminated with mercury. The first, published in Environmental Health, found detectable levels of mercury in nine of 20 samples of commercial HFCS often found in dairy and condiments.

The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy also found mercury in nearly one in three of 55 foods from companies such as Quaker, Hunt’s, Manwich, Hershey’s, Smucker’s, Kraft, Nutri-Grain and Yoplait. Mercury is highly toxic and damaging to the brain and kidneys. PCC has no products containing HFCS. (Washington Post)

Alternative therapies

A Centers for Disease Control study estimates that more than one in nine young people in the United States try alternative medicine therapies and 2.8 million use supplements. The survey shows about one-third of adults use alternative treatments as well, and children are five times as likely to use them if a parent or other relative did. The most popular types of alternative therapy for adults and children are herbal remedies and dietary supplements. (Los Angeles Times)

Generation Y eating preferences

A report from the Center for Culinary Development and Packaged Facts found that people born between 1980 and 2000, known as Generation Y, are concerned with health and wellness and like to eat in casual, communal spaces. They reportedly also prefer local, organic and fair trade foods, and enjoy vegetarian and vegan foods, intense flavors and extreme textures. (Marketing Daily)

Artificially dyed farmed salmon lawsuit

The U.S. Supreme Court rejected an appeal from some of the largest grocery chains in the United States, including Supervalu, Safeway and Kroger (which owns Fred Meyer and QFC).

The court refused to stop a customer lawsuit that accuses the supermarkets of violating food-labeling rules. The supermarkets wanted to block charges that they failed to disclose that their farmed salmon contained artificial coloring. (Bloomberg News)

FDA unable to protect food supply?

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) says the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is a “high-risk” area and may not be able to keep the public safe from harmful drugs and foods. The GAO says the FDA is being hampered by globalization, more complex products, and laws that make it more difficult to ensure the safety of food and pharmaceuticals. (Reuters)

Ban reversed on antibiotics for animals

The FDA says it will allow cephalosporin antibiotics for livestock, reversing a decision to ban them. Cephalosporins are used to promote growth and to treat infectious diseases in animals. The FDA’s initial ban was based on fears that use in animals for food could promote drug resistance in consumers. (National Academy of Sciences)

FDA approves first drug made from GM animals

The FDA recently approved ATryn, a drug manufactured using milk from goats that have been genetically modified to produce a blood-thinning protein. Critics say the drug was approved without public input or proper review of the environmental and health impacts. (Center for Food Safety)

Animal clones in the food supply

Milk and meat from the offspring of cloned livestock reportedly have entered the U.S. food supply. The owner of a farm in Jefferson, Iowa — Phil Lautner — says he has sent offspring of clones to be slaughtered for food over the past “several years.” Government regulators are not tracking clones or their offspring. (Wall Street Journal)

Rice can trigger trouble for infants

Rice often is recommended as the first solid food for infants, but new findings by doctors in Australia confirm that rice can trigger a severe gut inflammation in infants. The reaction is known as “food protein-induced enterocolitis syndrome” (FPIES) and is characterized by vomiting and diarrhea within a few hours of eating. (Reuters Health/Archives of Disease in Childhood)

Men better able to suppress hunger

A new study shows that when presented with their favorite foods, women are less able than men to suppress their hunger. After fasting overnight, both genders were able to suppress thoughts of hunger, but brain activity related to food decreased for men and not for women. Researchers believe this finding may explain why women have higher obesity rates. (Yahoo/AP)

Also in this issue

Your co-op, March 2009

2009 election, Candidate forums, 2009 annual meeting, and more

A rowdy year in agriculture

Events related to food and farming, both organic and otherwise, have been somewhat astounding over the past year and a half. From world food riots to frantic price fluctuations for fertilizers and bold language by leaders at home and abroad, the first decade of the 21st century is on its way to leaving an indelible mark.

Letters to the editor, March 2009

Electronic Sound Consumer?, Foods from China, Sustainable heating?, and more