News bites, December 2011

This article was originally published in December 2011

Egg production standards

The egg industry alliance, United Egg Producers, and the Humane Society of the United States say they’re close to finishing draft legislation for the nation’s first egg production standards. The work was to be done in early November but Congress is not likely to act until next year. The two groups historically at odds agreed to work together on federal standards after a Washington state initiative forcing more humane conditions seemed likely to be approved by voters. (Capital Press)

Outdoor access for organic poultry

U.S. House and Senate members have sent letters to the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), asking them to continue allowing organic chickens outdoors. The letters follow a meeting of the Organic Trade Association, organic egg producers, USDA and Congressional representatives over FDA’s latest egg safety rules. FDA has indicated that letting chickens outdoors is not compatible with its rules meant to reduce salmonella in the egg supply. (Organic Trade Association)

Prison organic farm

A horticulture program at a federal prison in Leavenworth, Kan. has grown from a small garden to a 17-acre organic farm yielding 100,000 pounds of produce last year — and this year’s output could be two or three times more. The produce is consumed at the prison and donated to food banks and nonprofit groups. About a dozen inmates are enrolled in a 4,000-hour horticulture certificate program, while 40 others participate in the project. (Capital Press)

School lunch carbs

The U.S. Senate has blocked proposed rules that would have restricted French fried potatoes, corn, peas and other starchy fare in school lunch meals. Under the Healthy Hunger-free Kids Act, USDA is required to revise nutrition standards, according to recommendations from the Institute of Medicine. Senators from potato-growing states cried foul, arguing that it would be a “dangerous trend” for government to tell schools what to serve. (Capital Press)

“Downer” meat decision

The U.S. Supreme Court is preparing to decide whether a California law banning “downer” livestock of any species is legal. California voters passed its law in 2008 after an undercover video at Westland/Hallmark Meats revealed that cows too sick to stand were beaten, shocked, dragged by chains, and rammed with a forklift to get them to stand for slaughter. The scandal triggered the recall of 143 million pounds of beef, the largest beef recall in U.S. history. (Press-Enterprise)

Homeland Security and food

Dozens of non-native insects and plant diseases slipped into the United States undetected after the Homeland Security Department was formed post 9/11. Data obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveals that border inspectors diverted to stopping terrorists “all but ignored” the destructive pests and infections that have since been attacking fruits, vegetables and forests.

More than 30 pests got into the United States just last year, and consumers are paying in the form of higher grocery prices, substandard produce, and the risk from chemicals used to combat the pests. (Associated Press)

Federal funds for GE salmon

AquaBounty, the for-profit corporation producing genetically engineered (GE) salmon, reportedly has received $1.95 million in federal research grants at taxpayer expense since 2003. The consumer advocacy group, Food & Water Watch, says the grants are in addition to a $494,000 USDA grant to AquaBounty for studying ways to make GE salmon sterile. Critics point out that even supposedly “sterile” GE crops have exceptions and can breed; that “nature finds a way.” (California Progress Report)

B.C. salmon threatened

A highly contagious virus that caused the 2007-08 collapse of the salmon farming industry in Chile has been detected for the first time in the North Pacific. Canadian scientists from Simon Fraser University, investigating the collapse of the Rivers Inlet sockeye populations, have confirmed that Infectious Salmon Anemia (ISA) has spread into our region. Viruses such as ISA are known to mutate and the scientists say the presence of this disease potentially could decimate wild salmon runs in British Columbia. (Farmed and Dangerous)

Mislabeled fish

Two studies have found seafood sold in supermarkets, restaurants, fish markets, gourmet stores and big-box stores often are mislabeled and/or misidentified. Consumer Reports, the independent product-testing organization, and two “Boston Globe” reporters DNA-tested seafood in New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Massachusetts. They found that between 22 and 48 percent of the fish was not what it was supposed to be. Escolar was sold as red snapper; ocean perch and Vietnamese catfish were passed off as tuna, cod and haddock. (USA Today/NPR)

China suspends GE crops

The Chinese government has suspended commercialization of GE rice and wheat for five to 10 years. Questions about the safety of the crops and insufficient research and regulations reportedly are the reasons for the suspension. (Mother Jones)

Also in this issue

Easing stress through diet

Optimal nutrition can lessen the ravages of stress by reducing the chemical impact, repairing its damage, and preparing the body for future stress.

Letters to the editor, December 2011

GMO-Free Seattle, Concentration in food industry, Fair labor gelt?, and more

Sparkling wines for all seasons (and reasons!)

Tiny bubbles. A rain of stars. Champagne wishes ... Nothing is more evocative of living well, celebration and refined hedonism than sparkling wine and the mesmerizing ascent of lacy effervescence in a glass.