News bites, April 2016

This article was originally published in April 2016

Organic dairy, meat benefits

New research from The Organic Center finds organic milk and meat contain 50 percent more beneficial omega-3 fats. Organic meat contains lower concentrations of two saturated fats, and organic milk also has more iron, vitamin E, selenium and carotenoids. (

FDA revises raw-milk cheese stance

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has revised its stance on raw-milk cheese following a public comment period, taking a new, supportive tone for “the great care many take to produce raw-milk cheeses safely.” PCC submitted comments to the FDA (see ), citing research that suggests the microbial environment of raw-milk cheese inhibits the growth of pathogens. (

Obama’s action on slave labor

President Obama says he’ll sign a law to ban all imports of fish caught by slave labor in Southeast Asia, closing a loophole that has allowed such seafood to enter the United States for decades. Hundreds of people are thought to have been traded as slaves to support Thailand’s $7.3-billion seafood industry, and U.S.-sold shrimp and pet food recently have been linked to slavery. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also has proposed new rules to crack down on seafood entering American ports that has been caught illegally or is fraudulently labeled. (The Guardian)

New study: fish good for brain

A study in the Journal of the American Medical Association shows that even though mercury levels in the brain increased with seafood consumption, the elevated levels may not be associated with increased harm to the brain. Studying postmortem brain autopsies, the researchers found that seafood consumption was associated with less Alzheimer’s disease neuropathology despite increased mercury levels. The level of seafood intake in the study population was moderate, so the findings cannot be generalized to populations with higher seafood consumption or populations with high mercury exposure. (Journal of the American Medical Association)

Lead in water

While Flint, Michigan’s lead-poisoned drinking water continues to make headlines, studies show children in areas with fluoridated drinking water also have significantly higher levels of lead in their blood. Data from the Centers for Disease Control found that children drinking water with fluorosilicates are 20 percent more likely to have dangerous levels of lead. The National Institutes of Health and the FDA determined in the 1970s that fluoride facilitates uptake of lead and magnifies lead’s toxic effects on the body, but did not take follow-up action. Recent experiments confirm that fluoride “consistently increases concentrations of lead in blood.” (National Institutes of Health)

Pesticide combinations more toxic

Pesticides often are studied individually, but a new report by researchers at the University of California, Los Angeles took a rare look at several pesticides — all fumigants — that often are combined when applied. It found that when mixed together, the chemicals chloropicrin, 1,3-dichloropropene and metam salts can interact and become more toxic, endangering and leaving farmworkers, neighbors and children without adequate protection. Millions of pounds of these pesticides commonly are combined to grow non-organic strawberries, tomatoes, peppers, grapes, nuts and other crops. (Civil Eats)

Parmesan cheese fraud

The grated Parmesan some consumers buy at other stores is not the real thing. Bloomberg News had an independent lab test a variety of grated Parmesan cheeses and found significant amounts of cheap substitutes and fillers, including cellulose, an anti-clumping agent made from wood pulp. Some brands contained no Parmesan at all. PCC has verified its Parmesans are real. (

Testing for glyphosate in food

The FDA says it will start testing some foods for residues of glyphosate, the herbicide commonly used on genetically engineered (GE) crops. World Health Organizations experts declared glyphosate a probable human carcinogen last year and there’s growing public concern about its safety since the Government Accountability Office rebuked the FDA for failing to do safety assessments and not disclosing this shortcoming to the public. Private companies, academics and consumer groups launched their own testing and found glyphosate in mother’s milk, infant formula, cereal, wheat flour, honey, soy sauce and other foods. (Civil Eats)

Maple syrup labels

Maple syrup producer groups have sent a letter to the FDA arguing that foods labeled “maple” should contain real maple syrup. The groups say products such as Quaker Oats Maple & Brown Sugar Instant Oatmeal and Hood maple walnut ice cream are in violation of FDA regulations because maple syrup is not listed on their labels as an ingredient, and that the misbranding deceives consumers and hurts those producing real maple syrup. The FDA says it’s reviewing the letter. (Associated Press)

Controversial GE banana trial

57,309 petition signatures were presented to Iowa State University officials and the Gates Foundation to stop a human feeding experiment with GE bananas. The University plans to pay female students $900 to eat the GE bananas, which have not been proven safe. Critics say the study also is not being conducted in a transparent manner and they have not gotten answers about the research design, risks or the nature of informed consent. (

Also in this issue

Buy honey, save the bee

PCC honey vendor GloryBee donates a portion of proceeds to research about causes and solutions to Colony Collapse Disorder.

PCC Board of Trustees report, April 2016

Proposed PCC bylaws: key revisions, Bylaws questions or comments?, A former board member's thoughts on the bylaws proposal, and more

PCC Discovery Day

Saturday, April 23: All PCC stores will host displays, special guests, product and cooking demos — and PCC food, of course — We'll share with members and shoppers the many ways PCC partners with local organizations and vendors in our communities.