Tag Archives: USDA

Should You Eat Chicken?

Freedom Fowl

It’s a good question. In recent weeks, salmonella on chicken has officially sickened more than 300 people (the Centers for Disease Control says there are 25 illnesses for every one reported, so maybe 7,500) and hospitalized more than 40 percent of them, in part because antibiotics aren’t working. Industry’s reaction has been predictably disappointing: the chicken from the processors in question — Foster Farms — is still being shipped into the market. Regulators’ responses have been limited: the same chicken in question is still being sold.

Food safety advocates are demanding to know why there has been no recall of Foster Farms chicken. The U.S.D.A.’s Assistant Administrator for F.S.I.S. Field Operations, Daniel Engeljohn, talks about the current state of the inquiry.

Until the Food Safety and Inspection Service (F.S.I.S.) of the Department of Agriculture (U.S.D.A.) can get its act together and start assuring us that chicken is safe, I’d be wary.

This is not a shutdown issue, but a “We care more about industry than we do about consumers” issue. Think that’s an exaggeration?  Read this..

Is This the End of Real Food?

 

The effects of eating genetically engineered (GE) foods are still largely unknown. The studies that led to the market release of certain genetically modified seeds were conducted by the same companies that manufacture the seeds themselves, and the raw data for these tests have not been released for the public to see. There have been independent, peer-reviewed studies that suggest that there could be harmful effects to human health caused by the use of GMOs and the chemical pesticides and herbicides that go along with them, but again, there has not been enough research done and the jury is still out. Also, without labeling GE foods, we cannot associate any health problems with people who ate them — because we do not know who ate them. Since the FDA has no way to track adverse health effects in people consuming GE foods, and because there is no requirement that food containing GE ingredients be labeled, there is no effective way to gather data on health problems that may be happening.

BuyTickets

Seeds of Freedom

Seeds of Freedom seeks to challenge the mantra that large-scale, industrial agriculture is the only means by which we can feed the world, promoted by the pro-GM lobby. In tracking the story of seed it becomes clear how corporate agenda has driven the take over of seed in order to make vast profit and control of the food global system.

Through interviews with leading international experts such as Dr Vandana Shiva and  Henk Hobbelink, and through the voices of a number of African farmers, the film highlights how the loss of indigenous seed goes hand in hand with loss of biodiversity and related knowledge; the loss of cultural traditions and practices; the loss of livelihoods; and the loss of food sovereignty.  The pressure is growing to replace the diverse, nutritional, locally adapted and resilient seed crops which have been bred by small-scale farmers for millenia, by monocultures of GM seed.

The story of seed has become one of loss, control, dependence and debt. It’s been written by those who want to make vast profit from our food system, no matter what the true cost.  It’s time to change the story.  http://seedsoffreedom.info/

“If we don’t radically transform the direction of the global food system we will never feed the billion who are hungry, nor will we be able to feed ourselves in the future.”

http://stephenleahy.net/2012/10/11/double-food-production-in-10-years-and-reduce-global-warming/

The CAFO – MRSA Connection

Americans are under threat from antibiotic-resistant superbugs, making us vulnerable to common, once treatable infections (such as MRSA). A remarkable 80 percent of antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used not by humans, but by the meat and poultry industries so factory farm animals can grow faster and survive the crowded and unsanitary conditions found in Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs).

This is creating superbugs on the farm and humans are exposed in a number of ways, including when we handle or eat undercooked meat. Our life-saving drugs are becoming less effective when we really need them. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has refused to take meaningful action to restrict the use of unnecessary antibiotics in livestock production.

The “natural” label has nothing to do with how an animal was raised.  The USDA requires only that no coloring or artificial ingredients are added to the final meat or poultry product and that it be “minimally processed” (although salt water can be added).

“Natural” meat or poultry products can definitely be given antibiotics in their feed or water while being raised—and can also be raised in confined spaces with thousands of other animals, given hormones and other drugs, fed animal by-products and subjected to many other unnatural practices.

Consumers should beware of several labels that are unapproved by the USDA, such as “antibiotic-free” and “no antibiotic residues”, that could mislead them to think a product was raised without any antibiotics, when in fact that may not be the case.  –Consumer’s Union

If you choose to eat meat, please be a conscientious consumer.  The best sources of clean, healthy animal products are generally those that are organic, grass-fed, often sold at farmers’ markets or CSA-style meat-shares (visit EatwildLocalHarvest or Real Time Farms to find resources in your area).

Time To Rein In The Industry-Run USDA

Internal Documents Reveal USDA Dietary Guidelines Panel Dominated by a Profession Under Fire

Washington, DC–December 15, 2011–Under pressure from the Healthy Nation Coalition, the USDA recently revealed the identities of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines “Independent Scientific Review Panel,” which is credited with peer-reviewing the Guidelines to ensure they are based on the preponderance of the scientific evidence available. Seven out of the eight panel members are Registered Dietitians (RDs), chosen according to the USDA, “for their knowledge in nutrition communication and dietary guidance.”

At the same time, RDs across America are reeling from the news that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will not reimburse them to provide intensive behavioral counseling for obesity. While the Federal government appears to be relying on RDs as experts in the midst of America’s obesity crisis, it doesn’t want to pay them to help people lose weight.  This news comes as the American Dietetic Association (ADA)—the professional organization for RDs—is under scrutiny for its ties to food and pharmaceutical industries.

“An ongoing investigation by Congress recently revealed that the ADA receives over $1 million a year in payments from pharmaceutical companies and an undisclosed amount from companies such as Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, and Hershey. In addition to receiving payments from industries with obvious conflicts of interest, earlier this year the Alliance for Natural Health-USA revealed that ADA’s continuing education courses for RDs are being taught by the Coca-Cola Company’s Beverage Institute,”  stated Darrell Rogers from Alliance for Natural Health-USA. RDs have voiced their dissatisfaction with the ADA’s corporate ties, with members indicating that the ADA’s relationship with corporate sponsors has a negative impact on the public image of RDs and undermines the credibility of the profession.

Credibility has been further undermined by the lack of evidence that the methods RDs use to treat obesity are effective.  The ADA’s own Evidence Analysis Library contains few studies that demonstrate that dietitian-led dietary interventions result in meaningful weight loss.

As a result, many insurance companies, and now CMS, do not reimburse RDs for its treatment.  Tennessee’s state insurance doesn’t cover seeing a dietitian for weight loss. Why? “There’s really no evidence to support the fact that providing those services would result in a decrease in medical cost, certainly not immediately, and even in the longer term,” according to Dr. Wendy Long, chief medical officer of TennCare.

This lack of evidence may be due in part to the limited scope of dietetic education and practice. The ADA relies on the USDA as a scientific authority and follows its lead in most matters of nutrition, limiting the training of RDs to USDA-approved diet recommendations.

Valerie Berkowitz, RD, Director of Nutrition at the Center for Balanced Health and author of the award-winning nutrition guide “The Stubborn Fat Fix” states:  “Registered Dietitians lack education and practice in manipulating macronutrients [protein, fat, and carbohydrate] to switch fuel sources from carbohydrate to fat burning. It is unfortunate that educators do not acknowledge the therapeutic value of lower carbohydrate consumption at least as an additional tool to increase the success of medical nutrition therapy for obesity prevention and treatment.”

The ADA not only limits the training of RDs, it is sponsoring legislation in New York and multiple other states that would essentially restrict the practice of nutrition to RDs, and outlaw highly-qualified non-RD nutrition professionals from practicing. If successful, this would restrict consumer choice of nutrition professionals to those trained to follow USDA recommendations.

Given the ADA’s close ties with the food and drug industry and the lack of effectiveness for USDA-approved dietitian-led interventions for obesity, the public should be concerned about the dominant role that RDs and other ADA members played in the creation of the 2010 Dietary Guidelines. In addition to the Independent Scientific Review Panel being comprised primarily of RDs, ADA members were also one-third of the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee, the group of experts that creates the Report that guides the writing of the Dietary Guidelines. The majority of the USDA and HHS staff members who worked with the Committee or on the Dietary Guidelines are also RDs.

According to Adele Hite, Director of the Healthy Nation Coalition and lead author of a 2010 peer-reviewed article examining the limitations of the Dietary Guideline process, “The ADA is an industry-friendly organization. The USDA appears to rely on the dietetics focus of ADA-trained Registered Dietitians to confirm their own industry-friendly guidelines. The self-supporting relationship between the ADA and the USDA does not benefit either the credibility of RDs or the health of Americans.”

The Healthy Nation Coalition is an organization dedicated to improving the health of Americans through reforming national food and nutrition policy and does not solicit or accept contributions from the food or pharmaceutical industry.

Media Contact: Kimberly Hartke, Publicist
Hartke Communications
703-860-2711, 703-675-5557

Future of Organic Food and Agriculture at Risk

Action alert from The Cornucopia Institute

Dear Secretary Vilsack, Deputy Secretary Merrigan and NOSB members,

As an organic industry stakeholder, I respectfully request that you consider the following:

1.    I object to the NOSB and USDA leadership accommodating corporate interests that want to enhance their profits by including gimmicky synthetics and novel, patented ingredients in certified organic food.

 Martek Biosciences Corporation’s DHA/ARA oils are inappropriate for use in certified organic foods.  Some Martek oils are extracted with the neurotoxic petrochemical hexane, posing questions about human health and environmental impacts.

These supplements, from fermented algae and soil fungus, have never been part of the human diet.  In the late 1990s, Monsanto Corporation’s scientists genetically modified strains of algae for high DHA production (now marketed by Martek and added to some organic products).

Martek’s oils also contain various synthetic ingredients that have never been petitioned and approved for use in organics.  These include ingredients like mannitol, sodium polyphosphate, sodium ascorbate, glucose syrup solids and modified starch.

Adverse reaction reports filed with the FDA indicate at least a subset of infants suffer serious health complications after consuming formula supplemented with Martek oils.  Serious and prolonged gastrointestinal illnesses have resulted in hospitalizations and dangerous invasive diagnostic testing.  Many of the reports indicate that these babies recovered as soon as the Martek oils were removed from their diets.

Martek creates the impression that scientific consensus supports its DHA and ARA oils as beneficial supplements.  But Martek leaves out the preponderance of key studies which point to a single conclusion in independent scientific analysis: Martek DHA in infant formula does not benefit infant development.

2.    I object to the NOSB allowing factory farming practices in the production of chickens (both for egg and meat production) and hog production.

The livestock subcommittee’s proposal for requiring 2 square feet per laying hen, outside, is woefully inadequate, as are some of the other recommendations for poultry production (including turkeys) and the miserable amount of space proposed for hogs. These standards would literally make the US the laughingstock in international organic production and marketing.  Welfare benchmarks need to be mandated in the regulations, not merely in unenforceable “guidance.”

I support a minimum of 5 square feet per laying hen and enhanced space for pullets, turkey, other fowl and hogs.

3.    Enforce the organic standards on factory dairies masquerading as “organic.”

After the organic community has invested almost 11 years of policy debate, attempting to rein-in “factory farms,” milking thousands of cows each and masquerading as organic, it is entirely unacceptable that the USDA has been unwilling to expend the resources necessary to carefully verify whether these dairies, and their certifiers, are complying with the new regulatory benchmarks set in the “pasture rule.”

I respectfully ask USDA leadership to immediately verify that the largest producers of certified organic milk are not economically disadvantaging smaller ethical competitors or continuing to defraud consumers and that new rules immediately be promulgated to prevent conventional cattle from being brought on to organic dairy farms as replacements for expansion.

4.    And finally, I want to clearly go on record that I want the Obama administration to appoint the best and brightest representatives in the organic community to sit on the NOSB board, truly upholding the will of Congress.  No more corporate-backed imposters!

As a consumer, I buy food with the USDA Organic seal precisely to avoid unproven, questionably safe products like Martek’s oils—genetically novel and synthetic—in my diet and to support humane animal husbandry practices resulting in superior nutrition.

The NOSB should improve animal husbandry standards and reject the Martek petition for “DHA Algal Oil” and “ARA Single-Cell Oil.”  I call on the USDA to immediately remove these materials from the marketplace.

Thank you for listening to my concerns.

Sincerely yours,