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News for February 9, 2010

Whatever happened to the government’s war on raw milk? Just a shift in tactics

When the current phase of a nearly century-long government campaign to convince American consumers to abandon raw milk launched in 2006, heavy-handed intimidation tactics were the order of the day.

Kentucky farmer Gary Oakes was questioned so intensively by agents from the Ohio Department of Agriculture and U.S. Food and Drug Administration while delivering milk to consumers in a Cinciannati parking lot that spring that he was hospitalized three times for symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder. Michigan farmer Richard Hebron had more than $8,000 of dairy products confiscated in a “sting” operation outside Ann Arbor on Columbus Day weekend of 2006; for five months afterwards, he was threatened with criminal prosecution that might have landed him in jail, before finally being let off with a small fine. And Mennonite farmer Mark Nolt endured three raids on his raw dairy—including confiscation of expensive milk and cheese-making equipment—by state police, FDA, and Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture agents during 2007 and 2008.

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Food safety regulations eat away at small farmer wallets

Recent outbreaks of foodborne illnesses have some grocery stores demanding tougher safety regulations, but the standards may make it more difficult for East Tennessee farmers to stay in business.

"We're trying to get ready for this food safety on fruits and vegetables," Steve Longmire said, pointing to construction on a new packing facility for his Grainger County tomatoes.

Longmire remembers growing tomatoes with his grandfather.

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India: “Food Safety and Standards Act will hurt small traders”

The stringent standards prescribed in the Food Safety and Standards Act will adversely affect small manufacturers and traders of food products, the Agro Food Chamber of Commerce and Industry has said.

Chamber president S. Rethinavelu said that many villages in the country were yet to have easy access to potable water and implementing the stringent standards immediately would result in small traders in rural areas losing out to multinationals.

A delegation, comprising Mr. Rethinavelu; president of the Tamil Nadu Chamber of Commerce and Industry N. Jegatheesan; and other office-bearers met the Chief Executive Officer of Food Safety and Standards Authority of India in New Delhi recently and submitted a memorandum pressing their demands.

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Why the Race to Improve Food Safety May Punish Those Who Produce the Safest and Healthiest Food

Thanks to a recent spate of high-profile, food-borne pathogen outbreaks, there's been an understandable push for legislation to make America's food safer. Unfortunately, this push has resulted in pending and proposed legislation that, as written, threatens to punish the people and businesses that produce the safest and healthiest food of all, while depriving consumers of the opportunity to eat it.  

There are several reasons why food produced on small farms and marketed locally hasn't been implicated in any of the recent outbreaks. There's no long supply chain for contaminated food to get lost in, no massive warehouses where disease can spread, no processing facilities where foods from diverse sources are combined.

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China vows new food safety campaign

BEIJING: Following several reports of melamine-tainted milk products resurfacing, Chinese vice premier Li Keqiang on Tuesday vowed a new nationwide campaign in 2010 to ensure food safety.

"Food is essential, and safety should be a top priority for food. Food safety is closely related to people's life and health and economic development and social harmony," Li said at the first plenary meeting of the recently-established food safety commission under the State Council.

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Organic Burger Chain Signs First Overseas Franchise Deal

Arlington, VA, -- Elevation Burger, the wildly successful Northern Virginia based chain known for its tasty organic burgers and patented fresh cut fries cooked in olive oil has signed a multi-unit franchising deal with investment banker, businessman, entrepreneur, and Kuwait native Ali Ashkanani. The innovative burger concept is already expanding rapidly throughout the United States, with five locations open in Falls Church, VA; Arlington, VA; Austin, TX; National Harbor, MD and Baltimore, MD and over fifty new locations in development across Texas, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Northern Virginia, Washington, D.C., New York and Florida.

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Minnesota organic certification program adopted nationally

A model program developed a decade ago by the Minnesota Department of Agriculture to help organic producers in the state recoup certification fees is now being utilized in every state.

The National Organic Certification Cost-Share Program is helping organic producers nationwide with certification fees.

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New EU organic logo set for Europe's supermarkets

BRUSSELS (AFP) – The European Union on Monday unveiled a new Green logo that will have to be shown on all pre-packaged organic products produced in Europe from July.

"I'm delighted that we now have a fresh EU organic food logo," said EU Agriculture Commissioner Mariann Fischer Boel as she announced that the "Euro-leaf" logo, a green leaf design incorporating the 12 stars of the EU flag, had won a competition to find the right image.

"This exercise has raised the profile of organic food and we now have a logo which everyone will be able to identify with.

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FDA asks billions to strengthen food safety

The request includes an additional US$327 million for food safety, a 30 percent increase over current level of funding, which the FDA has said it would use for its “Transforming Food Safety Initiative.”

The initiative includes proposals for new safety standards, traceability frameworks, import safety checks, and better risk analysis to establish “strengthened inspection and response capacity.” The proposals mirror some of those outlined in food safety legislation awaiting consideration in the Senate.

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SIGNUP: The Week of Eating In

HuffPost Green readers have shown that they are totally engaged on topics like the local food movement, sustainable agriculture, factory farming, seafood politics, farmers markets and even hot farmers. But now we'd like to invite you to go beyond just consuming news to present you with a way to make it all personal. So that's why we'd like to invite you to participate in The Week Of Eating In Challenge.

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Chinese farms cause more pollution than factories, says official survey

Farmers' fields are a far bigger source of water contamination in China than factory effluent, the Chinese government revealed today in its first census on pollution.

Senior officials said the disclosure, after a two-year study involving 570,000 people, would require a partial realignment of environmental policy from smoke stacks to chicken coops, cow sheds and fruit orchards.

Despite the sharp upward revision of figures on rural contamination, the government suggested the country's pollution problem may be close to - or even past - a peak. That claim is likely to prompt scepticism among environmental groups.

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Got Milk? A Disturbing Look at the Dairy Industry

The bucolic scene of Holsteins grazing on a grassy hill that adorns milk cartons and cheese wrappers is nothing more than fantasy these days. While the meat industry has come under intensive scrutiny (and with good reason) for the massive factory farm system of raising cattle in confinement, animals in the dairy industry are arguably worse off.

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