Thursday, July 31, 2008
Serrano Chiles Join Do Not Eat List
Wednesday, January 16, 2008
Where's the Beef Beef Beef? There, There, There - FDA OKs Cloning
A long-awaited final report from the Food and Drug Administration concludes that foods from healthy cloned animals and their offspring are as safe as those from ordinary animals, effectively removing the last U.S. regulatory barrier to the marketing of meat and milk from cloned cattle, pigs and goats.The nearly thousand-page government report acknowledges ethical, moral, and religious issues, but says that it is not allowed to consider those.
How about this: until you can do widespread tests and see what the results are of people ingesting clones, you simply cannot state that there is no problem. When issues occur in any type of health study, they can occur so infrequently that it takes large numbers to notice them. I'm not arguing that meat and milk from cloned animals is going to have a problem. I can't know that and wouldn't want to pretend that I did. However, I know enough not to make dangerous assumptions of safety without equally valid information.
To create its final risk assessment, the FDA gathered data on nearly all of the more than 600 U.S. farm-animal clones produced and hundreds of their offspring, as well as many from overseas. But it faced challenges in the process.But permission comes down anyway. It's not as though the world is in danger of starvation through lack of livestock. What the clones are supposed to be is breeding stock, to get only the results companies think they want. But has anyone studied the potential issues of reducing biodiversity? Silly me, of course not - it's unimportant, because, hell, we're already creating genetically modified crops that are displacing traditional varieties. And those are fine, because government has already ruled that they are. So we see arguments for permitting a practice being predicated on permitting the practice, a logical merry-go-round. And who cares whether large markets for US agriculture won't buy genetically modified crops and might well refuse to buy meat and milk from animals bred from clones?
Those animals were made by scientists scattered among various universities and companies using different methods that in many cases were difficult to compare.
Moreover, many of those animals were not just clones but also had genes added to them for projects unrelated to food production.
There won't be any requirement to label meat from cloned animals as such, though the FDA may allow labeling that food comes from non-cloned animals. But how far does the mark of Clone go back? Do an animal's immediate parents cause concern? Next generation back? How would anyone even track this? But the approach the FDA has taken can't take this into consideration:
In the end, facing the reality that epigenetics have never been a factor in assessing the wholesomeness of food, agency scientists decided to use the same simple but effective standard used by farmers since the dawn of agriculture: If a farm animal appears in all respects to be healthy, then presume that food from that animal is safe to eat.What insanity. "Looks fine to me" becomes the food standard, at a time when our food production has become contaminated multiple times from agents and issues we already understand. Just when I think the shortsightedness of government couldn't get any worse, I find new depths of disgust with groups that want to direct nature and that don't want to take a responsible path. Proving a negative - lack of harm - is certainly a difficult, and perhaps ultimately impossible, task. But there's the old saying that the difficult we do immediately; the impossible takes a little longer. When you weight financial and corporate convenience with the health of billions, take a little longer.
Scientists also looked at nutrient levels in meat and milk from a few dozen cattle and pig clones and hundreds of their progeny, and compared them with values from conventional animals. They measured vitamins A, C, B1, B2, B6 and B12 as well as niacin, pantothenic acid, calcium, iron, phosphorous, zinc, 12 kinds of fatty acids, cholesterol, fat, protein, amino acids and carbohydrates including lactose.
Wednesday, September 26, 2007
Mars Capitulates on Chocolate Changes
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Update on Choclate Redefinition
Hundreds of people have filed comments with the FDA, with the overwhelming majority seeking to keep it that way, according to an Associated Press review of the file.Finally, interestingly enough, since 2003, the EU has allowed European manufacturers to substitute 5 percent of the cocoa butter with vegetable fat. Time to stick with US chocolate - for now.
Wednesday, July 04, 2007
Hot Dog Hot Facts
- For more than you ever wanted to know about hot dog consumption, preferences, history, and trivia, see this page from the National Hot Dog and Sausage Counsel.
- There's more on hot dogs (including information on the Oscar Mayer Wienermobile) at MadeHow.com.
- The FDA has its say about the way to cook one today.
- The Off the Broiler blog did a massive hot dog tasting.
- wikiHow has instructions on calculating the value of pi by throwing frozen hot dogs.
- HowStuffWorks on how hot dogs are made.
- Some history of that hot dog landmark, Nathan's, from Amusement-Parks.com.
- In 1981, the USDA tried to classify ketchup and pickle relish as vegetables, as FoodReference.com reminds us.
- GlobalGourmet.com brings a history of ketchup.
- For those who prefer mustard, here's a history of that condiment from GlobalGourmet.
Monday, June 18, 2007
Response from Annie's Homegrown About Organic Standards
I just came across your piece on this....Here is what I wrote on another blog to get the facts straight...I somehow doubt that the CEO himself is reading blog entries on this issue; I would have guessed a PR factotum. But as it was posted at 10:12 in the evening, who knows? Though as they're based in California, that's probably actually just after 7PM. And I just came across this comment on a site that was new to me, Ethicurean.com, which is about "sustainable, organic, local, and/or ethical" food. Pretty cool, and I'll be adding it to my links.
There is a whole lot of confusion around this issue, Here are the facts vis a vis the NY Times piece and the letter I wrote to the FDA on the issue...
Most importantly: Annie's is in no way seeking to undermine the organic standards. In fact, the organic standards are being tightened in this new process, and we completely support that! The USDA previously offered a blanket exemption for non-organic ingredients, like annatto, to be used in Certified Organic products when the ingredient is not commercially available in organic form. Recent changes in the organic guidelines (due to the Harvey lawsuit) now require manufacturers like us to get specific USDA pre-approval for any trace ingredient which is natural, but not organic, in a product that is Certified Organic at the 95% level. Approval for these trace ingredients will only be granted when there is no viable organic alternative for the ingredient.Literally what this says is that under an older set of standards, a company could use non-organic for up to 5% of the ingredients when the ingredient wasn't commercially available in an organic form. Now a company has to get pre-approval to use a non-organic ingredient when there is no viable organic alternative - which could actually be even looser than commercially available. If the product were commercially available but too expensive, a company could technically argue that it was a non-viable alternative. And we're talking about a list of pre-approved ingredients, so what's the big difference?
We have been making organic mac & cheese colored with annatto since 1998, and have been completely in compliance with the letter, and spirit of the organic National Organic Program guidelines. The product in question, Organic Shells and Real Aged Cheddar, is Certified Organic at the 95% level (it’s actually 99.4% organic), and always has been. The only non-organic ingredient is the natural color derived from annatto seed, a plant used by native cultures throughout history, and widely used to add color to natural and organic products. My letter to the USDA requested that annatto be added to the list of specifically pre-approved ingredients so that our product can continue to be legally labeled “Certified Organic” at the 95% level, as it has been since introduction to market.Yes, I think we all understand that food coloring isn't going to be a big percentage of the ingredients. I'm sure many of us are familiar with annatto seeds, which you can commonly find in Latin food shops because it's often used in Central and South American cooking. And thanks for letting us know that it was Annie's that was looking for the annatto exemption.
If we could find organic annatto, in the quantity, quality, and efficacy we need, we would use it, even if it were more expensive. We have been searching trying to qualify a source for a long time. I am sure we will eventually succeed. However, while we continue that effort, we need to ensure our ability to remain within the law; that is why I wrote the letter to the USDA, to ensure that annatto was not overlooked in the process.Fair enough - the quote did mention that you weren't getting a deep enough color from the organic. But maybe, just maybe, you could have a somewhat paler artificially colored mac and cheese. It could still be toward the orange end of the spectrum. The driving force to buy Annie's will be parents, not kids, and the parents just want something that appeases to some degree the child's demand for the Kraft blue box. And there do seem to be bulk producers of organic annatto, though as Ethicurean.com points out, it's about four times as expensive and the non-organic.
You may believe, and there are certainly others that agree, that there is no place for colored Mac & cheese. Why not just offer white? Well, we do offer white and it is very popular. However, there are millions of kids in America that have been convinced by decades of advertising from a large company that makes macaroni and cheese that shall remain nameless, that Mac and cheese should be orange/yellow. Overcoming that is difficult. In fact, we received thousands of letters from consumers asking us for an orange mac & cheese product. So, we bridge to give these kids and their parents a path to organic that they will accept, and adopt into their everyday life. The more consumers we bring into the organic tent, the better off we and the planet will be.Let's be frank - this is really about marketing and sales and the needs of the business, not about creating a path to organic. It's easier to make the sale when you have both types. I'm not arguing that - heck, your company wants to keep growing, and I understand that. And there are many expectations that cheddar cheese itself should be an orange color because so much of it has been dyed for so long, even though real cheddar might be a pale yellow because of whatever the cows eat. But I think you have to admit that the driving force isn't necessarily the good of others, even though that does clash with your overall branding. This is where businesses have problems. Branding is a communication of an espoused way of doing business and existing as a company. Things get uncomfortable when corporate practices start differing. I think that's what bothers people like me, and what makes things uncomfortable for CEOs.
Annie’s has long been a leader in converting consumers and the mainstream food companies toward more organic products. For example, I am very proud that there are now >16,000 acres of precious farmland that are now growing wheat for Annie’s organically, rather than through the unsustainable practices of conventional farming. This is just one example. We are part of the solution, not the problem.So why not hold off on yellow until you can get the organic source? And, to be fair, you haven't been converting consumers. It really bothers me when companies think that they're the ones in the drivers seat when often they aren't. Consumers have been moving toward organic foods because they have seen so many problems with commercial agriculture over many years and they want something more trustworthy. Companies like yours have been able to grow because of the demand. You aren't converting them; they're converting the market and making it possible for your business to exist. There are 16,000 acres of wheat that are now organic and sold to you because consumers want organic and farmers want the higher and more sustainable prices that organic crops offer. It's the consumer demand that is the solution, and you are benefiting from it. When you start doing things that appear to be backing away from that demand, consumers don't like it. When people ask for orange mac and cheese, why not say that it doesn't exist and part of the reason you get organic is to avoid that level of artificiality?
There is a detailed FAQ on our website for additional information about Annie's position on this subject. The link is:It largely repeats what is already here.
Wednesday, April 25, 2007
FDA Aware of Food Dangers
Overwhelmed by huge growth in the number of food processors and imports, however, the agency took only limited steps to address the problems and relied on producers to police themselves, according to agency documents.Apparently FDA officials are saying that there was nothing they could have done. Well, other than sit on their backsides, but it appears that they already did that.
The outbreaks point to a need to change the way the agency does business, said Robert E. Brackett, director of the FDA's food-safety arm, which is responsible for safeguarding 80 percent of the nation's food supply.Now just what paradigm is that? That someone has to make sure that food manufacturers do adequate jobs in keeping such things from happening? And all this time I thought that's what the agency was supposed to do.
"We have 60,000 to 80,000 facilities that we're responsible for in any given year," Brackett said. Explosive growth in the number of processors and the amount of imported foods means that manufacturers "have to build safety into their products rather than us chasing after them," Brackett said. "We have to get out of the 1950s paradigm."