Food Related Amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill
The U.S. Senate voted last week to proceed with S. 3240, the Agriculture Reform, Food, and Jobs Act. Now Senators have submitted more than 80 amendments to the 2012 Farm Bill, as it is commonly known. Among those are amendments that would have an effect on food safety and nutrition.
These are the notable amendments:
- Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) would like to encourage the purchase of pulse crop products for school meals. Pulses are legumes, such as chickpeas, lentils, and black-eyed peas.
- The amendments by Sen. Robert Casey (D-PA) include requiring more frequent dairy reporting and authorizing small operating loans for producers and farmers markets.
- Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) wants to strike the reduction in the food stamp program and increase funding for the fresh fruit and vegetable program.
- Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) wants to replace the food stamp program with a block grant (and repeal the estate tax).
- Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) would like to increase criminal penalties for “knowing and intentional” violations to food that is misbranded or adulterated.
- Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) wants to repeal the Lacey Act and allow trade in “illegally obtained wildlife, fish, and plants.” He also wants to allow interstate shipment of raw milk.
- Sen. Pat Toomey (R-PA) wants to eliminate the farmers market and local food promotion program.
123 Now Sickened in Baby Poultry Salmonella Outbreak
Complacency, Not Fatigue, The Only Real Recall Danger
And while that might be a higher number than U.S. manufacturers and retailers might like, there is really no evidence that any regulator is losing any sleep over it
GAO Blasts Moving Catfish from FDA to USDA Jurisdiction
Step would be costly, impractical, report says
It is just not an efficient use of resources to move catfish inspection to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to a frank new report by the Government Accountability Office.
Seafood safety falls under the jurisdiction of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, but language in the the 2008 Farm Bill mandated that domestic catfish get special treatment and be inspected by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), which currently oversees meat, poultry and processed egg products.
With food safety regulation already highly fragmented, disjointed, and overlapping, why would Congress add to the problem by singling out a certain sector? The idea was to give domestic catfish producers a leg up on foreign producers, who have been flooding the U.S. market with catfish, or catfish-like species (there is no settled definition of “catfish”).
In 2002, imported catfish made up around 2 percent of the U.S. market and by 2010 imports accounted for 23 percent of the market, according to GAO.
Senator Thad Cochran (R) of Mississippi — a major catfish-raising state — has been pressing USDA to put the inspection program in place for three years. At a recent Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee hearing on the Fiscal Year 2013 budget, Cochran brought the issue up with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack.
“The outcome of this inspection process remains important to the U.S. fish industry, particularly in the South where a substantial investment has been made to produce catfish,” said Cochran. “We authorized this program to assure Americans that imported fish is being held to the same standards as domestic catfish and to put our catfish industry on more equal footing with the global competition.”
But the GAO report questions whether the USDA inspection program would improve food safety, pointing out that federal regulators are using “outdated and limited” information in their risk assessment, upon which the inspection program would be based.
The GAO notes that, in the risk assessment, FSIS identified just one outbreak of Salmonella, but the incident “was not clearly linked to catfish.”
The outbreak cited also occurred in 1991, before the FDA’s 1997 Seafood Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point regulations, which requires firms to identify where hazards might occur in their process and take steps to mitigate the risks.
According to GAO, no catfish-linked Salmonella outbreaks have happened since.
Some UK Residents Risk Food Poisoning To Save Money, Study Says
It’s Food Safety Week in the U.K. and to kick things off, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has published the results of a study that shows some people are taking big risks with the food they eat and prepare at home in an effort to save money.
Almost all of those surveyed, 97 percent, responded “yes” when asked if they believed their grocery bills had gone up significantly over the last three years. And about half, 47 percent, said they are trying to stretch their dollars, er, pounds, by making better use of leftovers. But some of them are taking things too far, and risking food poisoning with their frugality, according to the study.
For example, some of them are eating leftovers that should have been tossed and others are ignoring “use by” dates on food packaging. “Use by” dates are important because they are frequently used on chilled or ready-to-eat foods that can quickly become unsafe when their natural shelf-life is over, says the FSA.
Grocery Manufacturers Association Adds Food Safety Staff
The Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA) announced Monday it has added two experts to its food safety staff: Melinda Hayman, Ph.D., as the group’s director of microbiology and William Koshute, M.S., as a chemistry scientist.
“GMA has a world-class food safety practice, and I am confident that both Melinda and William have the scientific expertise and experience to help make it even more robust and effective,” said Dr. Dunaif, the group’s vice president of Food Safety and Technical Services. “Their appointments are part of GMA’s continued commitment to strengthen its scientific and technical capabilities in critically important areas of food safety.”
According to GMA’s announcement:
FDA Improves Adulterated Foods Tracking System
“As [RFR] lives and it’s been utilized, we’ve learned a lot,” explains Kathy Gombas, Acting Director of the Office of Food Safety Communication and Emergency Response at FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition (CFSAN).
How California’s GM food referendum may change what America eats
The vast majority of Americans want genetically modified food labelled. If California passes November’s ballot, they could get it
Last month, nearly 1m signatures were delivered to county registrars throughout California calling for a referendum on the labeling of genetically engineered foods. If the measure, “The Right to Know Genetically Engineered Food Act”, which will be on the ballot in November, passes, California will become the first state in the nation to require that GM foods be labeled as such on the package.
This is not the first time that the issue has come up in California. Several labeling laws have been drafted there, but none has made it out of legislative committee. Lawmakers in states like Vermont and Connecticut have also proposed labeling legislation, which has gone nowhere in the face of stiff industry opposition. And the US Congress has likewise seen sporadic, unsuccessful attempts to mandate GM food labeling since 1999.
What makes the referendum in California different is that, for the first time, voters and not politicians will be the ones to decide. And this has the food industry worried. Understandably so, since only one in four Americans is convinced that GMOs are “basically safe”, according to a survey conducted by the Mellman Group, and a big majority wants food containing GMOs to be labeled.
This is one of the few issues in America today that enjoys broad bipartisan support: 89% of Republicans and 90% of Democrats want genetically altered foods to be labeled, as they already are in 40 nations in Europe, in Brazil, and even in China. In 2007, then candidate Obama latched onto this popular issue saying that he would push for labeling – a promise the president has yet to keep.
In Europe, only 5% of food sold contains GMOs, a figure that continues to shrink. In the US, by contrast, an estimated 70% of the products on supermarket shelves include at least traces of genetically engineered crops – mostly, corn and soy byproducts and canola oil, which are ingredients in many of America’s processed foods.
Given their unpopularity with consumers, labeling “Frankenfoods” would undoubtedly hurt sales, possibly even forcing supermarkets to take them off their shelves. In one survey, just over half of those polled said they would not buy food that they knew to be genetically modified.
This makes the financial stakes for November’s referendum vote huge. California is not just America’s leading agricultural state, but the most populous state in the nation. If companies are made to change their labels in California, they may well do so all over the country, rather than maintain a costly two-tier packaging and distribution system.
Several hurdles will have to be overcome, however, before this happens. The ballot initiative will face fierce opposition from the food and biotech industries, which are expected to spend an estimated $60-100m on an advertising blitz to convince Californians that labeling is unnecessary, will hurt farmers, increase their food prices, and even contribute to world hunger.
One lobbyist the corporations have hired to make this case is Tom Hiltachk, the head of the Coalition Against the Costly Food Labeling Proposition (CACFLP), whose members include the Grocery Manufacturers Association (GMA), Monsanto, BASF, Bayer, Dow and Syngenta, as well as several big food processors and supermarket chains. Hiltachk is no stranger to the shadowy world of industry front groups, according to Alexis Baden-Mayer, political director of the Organic Consumers Association. The food activist reported on Alternet that:
by Staff Writers
Notre Dame IN (SPX)
By 2030, food demand is expected to increase by 50 percent. Global food transport has been increasing at an exponential rate since the 1960s – faster than food production itself.
University of Notre Dame network physicists Maria Ercsey-Ravasz and Zoltan Toroczkai of the Interdisciplinary Center for Network Science and Applications, in collaboration with food science experts, have recently published a rigorous analysis of the international food-trade network that shows the network’s vulnerability to the fast spread of contaminants as well as the correlation between known food poisoning outbreaks and the centrality of countries on the network.
Together with food science experts Jozsef Baranyi, from the Institute of Food Research in the U.K., and Zoltan Lakner, of Corvinus University in Budapest, Ercsey-Ravasz and Toroczkai recently published their results in the journal PLoS ONE.
As the world’s population climbs past 7 billion, the sustainable production and distribution of food is balanced against the need to ensure its chemical and microbiological safety. The new paper maps the international agro-food trade network (IFTN) – a highly complex and heterogeneous system formed around a core group of seven countries, each trading with more than 77 percent of the world’s nations.
Since any two countries in the IFTN have only two degrees of separation on the network, the IFTN is capable of spreading a foodborne contaminant very efficiently. It also tends to mask the contaminant’s origins once the system is compromised, since so many network paths run through the central nodes.
By 2030, food demand is expected to increase by 50 percent. Global food transport has been increasing at an exponential rate since the 1960s – faster than food production itself. As the system grows, so does pressure on regulation and surveillance organizations to track contaminants and prevent deadly outbreaks, such as the 2011 events in the U.S. (Listeria monocytogenes_) and Germany (_Escherichia coli).
While the paper does not predict an increase in food poisoning cases, it does predict significant delays with serious potential consequences in the identification of the outbreaks’ sources – calling for an interdisciplinary and incentivized approach to the understanding of the IFTN that will build on its identification of the network’s critical spots.
The paper, “Complexity of the International Agro-Food Trade Network and Its Impact on Food Safety,” was published in PLoS ONE as part of an international research collaboration between the aforementioned institutions. Ercsey-Ravasz is currently at Babes-Bolyai University in Cluj. Romania.
CA Recalls More Farmers Market Soups for Botulism Potential
The California Department of Health is warning consumers not to eat certain soups sold at southern California farmers markets because they may have been produced in a way that makes them susceptible to Clostridium botulinum.
Pork Dumplings Recalled for Undeclared MSG
A California-based company is recalling 55,757 pounds of pork dumpling products because they contain monosodium glutamate (MSG), but this ingredient is not listed on packaging.
Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream Recalled for Missing Allergen Statement
Unilever of New Jersey is recalling pint containers of Ben & Jerry’s chocolate ice cream because the packages are missing this allergen statement: “Allergy information: Fudge covered wafer pieces have been manufactured on shared equipment that processes peanuts and tree nuts.” Anyone with a severe allergy to peanuts or tree nuts (chestnuts, Brazil nuts, walnuts, hazelnuts, pecans, pine nuts, and cashews) may have a life-threatening reaction if they eat this ice cream.
E. Coli Found in Raw Milk from NY Dairy
A farm in upstate New York has been prohibited from selling its raw milk after a sample of the product tested positive for E. coli O157:H7.
WA Creamery Recalls Cheese: Potential Listeria Contamination
A creamery in Northwest Washington is recalling 124 pounds of cheese because it may be contaminated with Listeria monocytogenes.
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