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News for April 9, 2010

Federal Organic Regulators Discover a Novel Concept -- Enforcement

To the list of things that were barely regulated during the Bush years — subprime mortgages, Wall Street, the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts — add a new category: organic foods. In an interview with The Washington Post, Kathleen Merrigan, deputy secretary of agriculture, offers up a surprisingly candid admission of what organic purists have suspected all along — that for the past nine years, the USDA regulators charged with ensuring that organic food is really organic have been asleep at the switch.

Of course, that’s not the language that Merrigan, a pioneer who helped create organic standards in the first place, uses. Here’s what she said:

I left a pretty long to-do list when we published the final rule [at the end of the Clinton administration]. Case in point: pasture. . . . What does it mean when we say “access to pasture,” for ruminants, particularly dairy cows? . . . Well, that was on the list when I left in 2001. . . . There were a lot of things on that to-do list. I inherited that list right back.

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The Cruelty of Industrial Egg-riculture

Iowa is the number-one producer of eggs in the country, with more than twice the number of laying hens than Ohio, the number two state. There are nearly 20 times as many hens here as there are people, producing a shade over 14 billion eggs a year. As one might expect, their living conditions are less than ideal.

A cursory glance at the website of the Iowa Egg Council does not reveal any of the images of the way the laying hens are treated, but rather concerns itself with recipes, coloring books for the kids, and "Eggbert's" somewhat rosy history of egg production in Iowa. A search of their site for the term "battery cage" yields a goose egg. But battery cages are one of the major reasons why Iowa out-produces everyone else - we have lots of them.

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Is raw milk becoming too popular for Its own good?

It’s been a tough twelve months for proponents of raw milk. Last April, as many as 81 Colorado consumers were sickened by campylobacter associated with raw milk. Last September, about 35 people became ill with campylobacter, apparently from milk from a Wisconsin dairy. And just in the last few weeks, 17 raw milk drinkers in the Midwest associated with a dairy in Indiana have become ill with campylobacter. Added to all that, Whole Foods last month notified producers in four states—California, Washington, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania—that it would no longer stock raw milk.

What’s the problem? As far as the public health and medical establishments are concerned, whenever people consume raw dairy products, it’s a problem. In their view, raw milk is inherently dangerous and shouldn’t be produced or consumed.

[ READ MORE ]

Don't fear the raw milk

Raw foods are quickly becoming some of the hottest new commodities in the food world, not only for their purported health properties but also — as is the case with milk — for their taste.

Dairy products, especially, have a high potential for flavor depreciation the more they are tampered with or as their shelf life progresses.

Raw milk has retained a stigma in the U.S., but, contrary to what many may think, journal articles tell readers that the risk of ingesting the harmful E. coli or Listeria isn’t enough to counterbalance the benefits that raw milk can provide. The Lancet, Britain’s famed journal of medicine, published an article in 2002 noting the benefits of raw milk consumption and living in a farm environment. Living among animals is also considered to greatly enhance the immune system’s strength and resistance to certain airborne diseases.

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Small Farms Balk at Food-Safety Bill

WASHINGTON—Congress's food-safety fight is nearing an end but small farmers still have a bone to pick with the legislation.

The Senate version of a food-safety bill has attracted broad bipartisan support and is expected to pass easily soon after Congress returns from recess next week. Iowa Democratic Sen. Tom Harkin, a co-sponsor, predicted it would be "on the president's desk by May." But small farmers worry the measure's fees and inspection requirements would be ruinously expensive and are pushing for exemptions.

"I know people who have been small farmers for 25 to 30 years who are looking to get out of the business because food safety is becoming so alarmist," said Mary Alionis, whose eight-acre Whistling Duck Farm in Grants Pass, Ore., sells produce to farmers markets and restaurants.

[ READ MORE ]

 

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