News bites, February 2014

This article was originally published in February 2014

China rejects Washington shellfish

China banned shellfish from Washington and the West Coast after U.S. safeguards failed to screen out contaminated geoducks. China’s food inspection service reported that two shipments of geoducks, apparently from Washington, were contaminated with paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and inorganic arsenic at levels exceeding Chinese standards. Ninety percent of Washington’s geoducks go to China. (

Big Island bans GE

The mayor of Hawaii County has signed a law prohibiting new genetically engineered (GE) crops from being grown on the Big Island of Hawaii. The mayor says the new law reflects the desire for community-based farming and ranching, instead of hosting multinational biotech corporations. GE papaya and GE corn, already grown on the Big Island, are grandfathered in under the new law as exempt. (Big Island News)

Looser mad cow rules

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has loosened restrictions against beef from countries with a history of “mad cow” disease. This includes European Union nations, which have reported more than 190,000 confirmed cases of BSE in cattle since 1986. Canada has documented 19 cases of mad cow; the United States has reported four cases. (Capital Press/British Medical Bulletin)

More irradiated meat

Until recently, only refrigerated or frozen meats could be irradiated. Now, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is allowing unrefrigerated, raw meat to be treated and has raised the amount of radiation allowed for poultry from 3 to 4.5 kilograys. The FDA says it received many comments from consumer groups asking it to reject more irradiation. (The Cornucopia Institute)

Israel ends fluoridation

Starting this year, 2014, Israel will no longer add fluoride to public water supplies. A 1974 regulation started the fluoridation program throughout the country.  The Minister of Health, however, recently declared that fluoridation presents health dangers and supposed benefits from drinking fluoridated water are no longer widely accepted. (

Artificial sweeteners found in river water

Canadian scientists have found elevated concentrations of four artificial sweeteners commonly used in diet drinks — cyclamate, saccharin, sucralose and acesulfame — in water samples collected from municipal water supplies in Ontario, Canada. The research, published in the online journal PLOS ONE, adds to a growing body of evidence that contaminants such as antidepressants, antibiotics, steroids and fragrances survive the water treatment process and end up in drinking supplies. (Los Angeles Times)

Oregon restricts neonicotinoids

Oregon’s Department of Agriculture has restricted two neonicotinoid insecticides linked to massive bee die-offs. Imidacloprid and dinotefuran are banned from use on linden trees, basswood and others in the genus Tilia after an application of dinotefuran killed 50,000 bees from an estimated 300 colonies. States and local jurisdictions have authority under federal law to adopt more stringent pesticide policies than the federal government. (Beyond Pesticides)

Neonicotinoids stunt brains?

New findings out of Europe indicate the neonicotinoids imidacloprid and acetamiprid, used on U.S. fruit and vegetable crops, may stunt the development of brains in fetuses and young children. The discovery by scientists working with rats for the European Food Safety Authority prompted calls in Europe to further restrict neonicotinoid pesticides. Imidacloprid already is barred in the EU from use on flowering crops and plants because it kills bees and other pollinators. (Grist)

GE infant formula

Will shareholders of Abbott Laboratories try again this year to remove genetically engineered organisms from Similac, its leading infant formula? Last year, 15,000 shareholder signatures were gathered and presented at the annual meeting to urge Abbott to stop using GE ingredients for baby formula. Only 3.21 percent of Abbott shareholders voted in favor of the non-GE policy. (Cornucopia Institute)

Organic milk superior

Whole milk from organic dairies contains 62 percent more healthful omega-3 fatty acids than conventional milk, according to research from Washington State University. A study by Dr. Charles Benbrook also found organic milk contained 25 percent fewer omega-6s, which play a role in inflammation. The findings are being called the most clear-cut instance of an organic food offering a nutritional advantage over its non-organic counterpart. (Washington State University)

Sustainable palm oil?

The world’s largest trader of palm oil has announced a “No deforestation, no peat, no exploitation” policy that advocates an environmentally and socially responsible palm oil industry. Wilmar International, based in Singapore, promises it will provide only “products that are free from links to deforestation or abuse of human rights and local communities.” (

China rejects GE corn

China has rejected 545,000 tons of U.S. corn that included a GE variety not approved even by the United States. China allows only one GE crop to be cultivated — cotton — and requires labels on all GE foods. The unapproved strain called MIR162 was found by Chinese authorities in 12 batches at six inspection stations. (Associated Press)

Also in this issue

PCC Board of Trustees report, February 2014

Pre-election activity update, Have a burning question?, Board report, and more

Companies drop "natural" label

A growing number of food companies are removing the "natural" claim from packages. The reason? Mounting lawsuits for false advertising. Read more in the cover article of the Sound Consumer next month.