November 20th, 2010 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Most people have never seen a pomegranate up close, let alone eat one. But humans have been eating pomegranates for thousands of years; growing them in places like Israel, China, Egypt, and the United States. California is a major producer of pomegranates and pomegranate juice.
And pomegranate juice has become very popular in recent years, with brands like POM Wonderful fueling the U.S. market. But now the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is taking issue with POM Wonderful, criticizing the marketing of their juice and the health claims associated with the product.
Read More:Feds Spar with POM Juice Over Health Claims
November 3rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s proposal to ban the use of food stamps for soda purchases is still under U.S. Department of Agriculture review.
Some critics, however, believe regulations are no substitute for education.
“In search for yet another ‘quick fix’ to obesity, legislators and politicians nationwide have been trying to regulate what we eat and drink, and this latest proposal is no different,” says Pat Baird, author of The Pyramid Cookbook: Pleasures of the Food Guide Pyramid (right). “As a registered dietitian who advises clients on a daily basis, I know that telling people they can’t have something does not teach them how to make healthier choices. Education is key to cracking obesity. People need information to help them make healthy lifestyle changes.”
Read More:Can Regulations Help Fight Obesity?
October 26th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Remember Galt, IA-based Wright County Egg—the key factory farm involved in August’s recall of 500,000 eggs after a multistate salmonella outbreak? The company whose owner, Austin “Jack” DeCoster, was called a corporate criminal by former Secretary of Labor Robert Reich?
After the recall, DeCoster was required to outline corrective actions in a formal letter to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
Not surprisingly, the agency has found his proposed measures to be sorely lacking. Kansas City District Director John W. Thorsky has sent DeCoster a warning letter that requires “prompt and aggressive actions” to correct a host of unresolved problems. If DeCoster fails to comply, the FDA can enjoin his company from selling eggs or seize the foul farm.
Read More:FDA Should Shut Down Iowa Egg Farm
October 13th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
As I reported Friday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg (right) wants to prevent food-stamp recipients in the Big Apple from using them to buy soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
New York Times reporter Anemona Hartocollis has since put Bloomberg in an awkward position by revealing that his company, Bloomberg, L.P., offers free Coke, Pepsi, Fanta orange soda, ginger ale and Mountain Dew to its employees.
Critics are debating whether Bloomberg’s food-stamp proposal makes him a hypocrite or hero. In the meantime, New York City obesity stats remain alarming:
Read More:NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg: Hero or Hypocrite?
October 8th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
As the New York Times reported on Wednesday, New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg has asked the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to bar residents who receive food stamps from using them to purchase soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages.
His goal: to help combat the obesity epidemic—a move supported by the state and city health commissioners.
Read More:NYC Mayor Seeks to Ban Use of Food Stamps for Soda Purchases
August 25th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
We’ve been regularly updating you on the ongoing egg recall that has sickened 1,300 people, with posts on how salmonella contaminates eggs, the recall’s scope and why going organic is your best choice.
Here’s the latest news wrap-up:
- More Recalls Issued. As expected, more distributors that purchased eggs from Wright County Egg have issued recalls. Fullerton, Calif.-based Luberski Inc. recently recalled eggs distributed to food wholesalers, retail centers and food service companies in California and Nevada; no retail cartons were involved. In addition, Fontana, Calif.-based Moark, LLC, Monday recalled approximately 291,600 eggs sold to retail stores.
- Full Recall List Now Available. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has compiled a master list of recalled egg brands, which will be updated regularly.
- Fears Driving Consumers to Farmers’ Markets. Hallelujah. Mainstream consumers may finally begin to appreciate family farmers.
- Guidelines for Cooking Eggs Emphasized. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is reminding consumers to cook eggs thoroughly. This means scrambled eggs should be cooked until firm, not runny. If you’re frying, poaching, boiling or baking eggs, cook them until both the whites and yolks are firm. And if you’re using eggs in casseroles, cook the dish until the internal temperature reaches 160°F; use a food thermometer to verify.
- FDA Commissioner Speaks Out. Margaret Hamburg, MD, who this week appeared on several network morning shows, says egg-safety laws that took effect in July could have prevented this crisis. She’s now pushing for passage of the Food Safety Modernization Act, which has yet to receive a full Senate vote. But some critics believe FDA and U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigations are inadequate. Food, Inc. producer Robert Kenner continues to call attention to the dangers of factory farms.
- Wright County Egg Owner Called “Corporate Criminal.” Robert Reich, former Secretary of Labor in the Clinton administration, reveals that Wright County Egg owner Jack DeCoster’s “malfeasance reaches back for decades, but he seems to regard fines as the cost of doing business.” Check out Reich’s blog for The Christian Science Monitor.
- Congress Is Getting Busy. Thanks to several congressional activists—Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA), Bart Stupak (D-MI) and Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)—our elected officials have launched an investigation into safety protocols and violations (environmental, health, safety, animal cruelty). As DeLauro noted in a press statement:
“This urgent nationwide recall is very disturbing, not only because it appears to have been preventable, but it also may have been the result of an inefficient and unresponsive food safety system. Given the split jurisdiction between FDA and USDA over ensuring the safety of eggs, I fear the investigation and subsequent recall may have been delayed as FDA traced the source of the contamination.
“Because USDA is responsible for egg safety at processing plants, it is troubling that FDA is the lead agency in this investigation, even though it has never inspected the Wright County Egg facility. Instead of reinforcing each other’s work, the current food safety system of split jurisdiction appears to have resulted in a disjointed inspection process.
“It has never been more clear that Congress needs to pass FDA food safety legislation this year that will increase inspections at high-risk facilities, establish performance standards for reducing foodborne pathogens and grant FDA mandatory recall authority. This bill, combined with the FDA egg safety rule that went into effect July 9, could have prevented or minimized this salmonella outbreak.
“In the long term, we must create a single food safety agency that consolidates the work that is currently splintered across 15 federal agencies. One agency focused exclusively on protecting our food supply would prevent jurisdictional confusion, result in an efficient and responsive food safety system, and diminish the potential for future outbreaks such as this one.”
Read More:7 New Facts About Ongoing Egg Recall
August 7th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Almost 70% of imported and 10% of California-produced extra-virgin olive oils sold at the state’s supermarkets and big-box retailers were mislabeled and may have confused consumers, according to a report from the Olive Oil Chemistry Laboratory at the University of California, Davis.
These findings prompted the California Olive Oil Council (COOC) to petition the U.S. Department of Agriculture to revise oils’ grade standards.
The USDA has granted the petition and is in the process of altering the standards so they’ll conform to those commonly accepted by the U.S. and international olive oil industry. Definitions for the various grades—including extra-virgin, virgin, refined and olive pomace oil—will be amended. The USDA expects these revisions to affect olive oil importers, as well as 500+ domestic producers and growers.
“The COOC was founded to promote quality extra-virgin olive oil grown in California, and we welcome the opportunity to help fund and support any research that exposes defective or adulterated oils wherever they exist—even in our own backyard,” says Albert Katz, cofounder of Katz and Company, a Napa Valley-based producer of organic oils.
Tips from Linda Sikorski, head buyer for Market Hall Foods in Oakland
- Check the label. Does it say “extra-virgin” olive oil? Is there a harvest or milling date, in addition to the best-use date? Is the harvest date within 12 months? Extra-virgin oil is “best used” within 18 months. Make sure the oil is purchased well in advance of the best-used date.
- What about the bottle? Is the bottle’s color dark, which reduces light exposure? Is it on the top shelf, exposed to direct light? Light dramatically shortens shelf life, so look for signs that indicate the bottle has been on the shelf too long (for example, dust).
- Look for the COOC seal, which assures the olive oil is extra-virgin, grown in California and from the most recent harvest.
- Know your retailer. Buy from retailers who know their producers, growers and importers. Ask for a taste. Many specialty retailers are generous with sampling, as they want you to know what you’re buying.
- Verify when buying online. Check for the harvest date, and always buy from the most recent harvest. Ask before you complete your purchase.
Photo: The World Through Athene’s Eyes
Read More:Is Your Olive Oil Fake?
July 10th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Healthcare and America’s obesity epidemic have been high priorities for President Obama.
On March 23, he signed a law that requires the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to implement a federal menu labeling program, which applies to certain restaurants, coffee shops, delis, movie theaters, bakeries, ice cream shops and vending machines.
- Facilities with 20+ locations that offer substantially the same menu must list calorie content on interior and drive-through menus and menu boards.
- Other nutrition information—total calories, total fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sodium, total carbohydrates, complex carbohydrates, sugars, dietary fiber and total protein—must be made available in writing, upon request.
- Vending operators with 20+ machines must disclose products’ calorie content.
The FDA must issue proposed regulations by March 2011. In the meantime, the agency has invited consumers, the food industry, state and local governments, and other interested parties to submit comments and suggestions. The deadline is Sept. 7.
Take the opportunity to get involved. To view the full document and submit comments electronically, click here.
Read More:How Should Federal Menu Labeling Requirements Be Implemented?
July 3rd, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
After the catastrophic BP oil spill, President Obama declared a moratorium on permits for drilling new offshore oil wells. But reports indicate that federal regulators have granted at least five environmental waivers and seven new permits for various types of drilling—some in waters deeper than BP’s Deepwater Horizon site.
These permits and waivers were huge mistakes, according to A. James Barnes, a professor of public and environmental affairs at Indiana University.
“I find it inexplicable that we are not taking a timeout after being faced with what is being characterized as the worst manmade environmental disaster in U.S. history,” says Barnes, who formerly served as general counsel and deputy administrator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
“We have very limited experience with deep-ocean drilling in U.S. waters, and we don’t really have a good understanding of why this disaster occurred and how it might have been prevented,” he adds. “What is painfully apparent is that neither BP and its drilling partners nor the federal government were prepared to deal with the consequences if something went wrong.”
Questions have been raised about the adequacy of the environmental review, permit requirements and provisions for governmental oversight.
“Equipment failures and possible human error appear to have played a part, and ad hoc—and, to date, unsuccessful—efforts to stem the flow of oil have put a spotlight on the absence of viable and redundant mechanisms to stop the flow of oil into the water column should a problem develop,” Barnes says.
“Day by day, we watch the continued destruction of a very valuable fishery and ecosystem as the oil moves into the marshes of Louisiana and onto the beaches to the east. We see humans and wildlife frantically trying to deal with the oily goo, as well as the pain of Gulf Coast residents watching their livelihoods and way of life wiped out. We do not yet know the full extent of the tragedy that is unfolding as oil continues to flow virtually unabated.”
Barnes is calling for a timeout for any further drilling “until we can figure out what went wrong and how to prevent another environmental disaster of this magnitude.”
Read More:We Need a Timeout from Oil Drilling
June 20th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
The oil industry, whose image couldn’t be worse in the wake of the BP spill, was less than thrilled that Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s (R-Alaska) resolution to handcuff the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was defeated.
Predictably, Big Oil’s spokesmouth employed the usual Freddy Kruegeresque scare tactics.
“Massive and rapidly imposed restrictions on greenhouse gas emissions would harm the American economy and hit every American in his or her wallet,” warned Charles T. Drevna, president of the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association. “If EPA’s aggressive campaign to regulate greenhouse gases under the Clean Air Act is successful, it will add billions of dollars to the cost of doing business in the United States, raise the cost of energy and other products for American families, wipe out the jobs of millions of American workers and simply shift greenhouse gas emissions from the United States to other nations without any increase in environmental protection.”
Can I come out from under the bed now?
Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), a true friend of the environment, quickly shot down Drevna’s sky-is-falling scenario, saying the Murkowski crowd has made false economic claims.
“Quite the opposite, it is [the Murkowski] resolution that will hurt our economy by causing the American people to forfeit a third of the greenhouse gas emissions reductions that are projected to come from last year’s historic agreement between the Obama Administration, the states, and the nation’s automakers and autoworkers,” he said.
“Much of what the special interests, and Big Oil and their lobbyists, have been saying in favor of this resolution is steeped not in science, but in politics and mistruths,” Leahy added.
Rebecca Rasch, communications manager for the Environmental Defense Fund, got it right when she noted that the Murkowski resolution would have nullified “EPA’s finding of scientific fact that greenhouse gases cause harmful global warming—a finding that forms the legal basis for any further steps EPA can take to address carbon pollution.”
Supporting the bill, Rasch added, would have been “a vote against the strong scientific consensus that climate change is a real threat we must avoid.”
For Your Organic Bookshelf: The Transition Handbook: From Oil Dependency to Local Resilience
Read More:Oil Industry Resorts to Scare Tactics