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General Mills expands retail flour recall

General Mills | Posted on July 28, 2016

Consumers are reminded not to eat uncooked dough or batter made with raw flour. Due to four new confirmed illnesses, General Mills is adding additional flour production dates to the previously announced U.S. retail flour recall that was originally announced on May 31, 2016. The illnesses reported to health officials continue to be connected with consumers reporting that they ate or handled uncooked dough or ate uncooked batter made with raw flour. No illnesses have been connected with flour that has been properly baked, cooked or handled. The addition of new flour production dates is the result of General Mills conducting proactive flour testing and new information from health officials who are using new whole genome sequencing techniques to trace illnesses. E.coli (several sub-types) has been detected in a small number of General Mills flour samples and some have been linked to new patient illnesses that fell outside of the previously recalled dates. At this time, it is unknown if we are experiencing a higher prevalence of E.coli in flour than normal, if this is an issue isolated to General Mills’ flour, or if this is an issue across the flour industry. The newer detection and genome sequencing tools are also possibly making a connection to flour that may have always existed at these levels.

Food safety survey ranks fears, information sources

Meatingplace (registration required) | Posted on July 28, 2016

A recent survey showed twice as many consumers view bacterial foodborne illnesses as their top food safety concern as those who topped their list with chemicals, carcinogens, antibiotics use in food animals or GMOs.  Consumers were asked to choose and rank their top three food safety issues from a list. Here are the percentages of respondents that ranked the items below as the most important food safety issue today: 29 percent: foodborne illness, 15 percent: carcinogens,14 percent: pesticide residues, 12 percent: chemicals in food, 11 percent: food additives (caffeine, MSG, flavors, colors, preservatives)n 8 percent: biotechnology (GMOs)n 7 percent: animal antibioticsn 5 percent: allergens in food

Leading food activist calls GMO bill a 'good compromise'

Agri-Pulse | Posted on July 28, 2016

A leading critic of federal food and agriculture policy believes the GMO disclosure bill passed by Congress this month is a fair compromise that is likely to have little impact on consumer food choice.Tom Colicchio, co-founder of Food Policy Action and a judge on the Bravo series Top Chef, says he thinks his fellow activists were mistaken in opposing the bill, which would allow companies to disclose biotech ingredients through digital, QR codes as an option to on-package text. Colicchio said, “It was a big mistake for some of these anti-GMO folks to just completely roll over and say we got killed here … Right now everything is so politicized that if you don't get 100 percent of what you're after it's failure.”

6 Big Nutrition Myths, Debunked By Experts

Huffington Post | Posted on July 28, 2016

We live in a society where many people tend to gravitate toward “black and white thinking” and extremes. The health and wellness industries are fraught with examples of extremism in many forms. Everyday a new headline pronounces a certain food as “bad and ruining our health,” while exalting another food and praising it’s “amazing benefits.”  These lists of proclaimed “superfoods” and “harmful foods” seem to change on a weekly basis- leading many people to be confused as to the mixed messages they are receiving. Each year, new studies in nutrition science come out, many of which dispute earlier findings. Additionally, we are sold the lie that if we eat the “correct foods” and follow a set of rigid rules, that we will discover health and happiness. In light of all of the misinformation out there, the following are some of the biggest nutrition myths, debunked by experts.

Food labeling has little to do with knowing what is in your food

Forbes | Posted on July 28, 2016

I feel bad for the USDA. Congress has just assigned them the thankless task of overseeing a compromise law on GMO labeling.  The compromise was possible even for our fractious political system because the alternative was to allow the state of Vermont to demand a food labeling, segregation and tracking system that would severely disrupt the national food system. That was a clear-cut violation of the interstate commerce protections in the Constitution, but it would have taken years to be resolved in the courts. So, the USDA gets to come up with the details and elements of a rule-set which won’t end the tedious debates about “GMOs” or their labeling. USDA is likely to be criticized and sued no matter what they do. More importantly, the net effect of all of this will do very little to help Americans “know what is in their food.”  That assessment may sound harsh, but a quick review of the history of U.S. food labeling is rather sobering.

GMO Tomatoes May Stay Firm Longer

Wall Street Journal | Posted on July 28, 2016

The genetic tweaks don’t significantly affect color and may preserve flavor, according to a new study. In an attempt to produce plump, tasty tomatoes with longer shelf lives, scientists have successfully tweaked a gene that slows how quickly the fruits soften without affecting their size or color. The genetically modified tomatoes, described in a paper published Monday in the journal Nature Biotechnology, didn’t show telltale signs of softening, like pruned skin, 14 days after harvesting, compared with wrinkled ones from normal plants. To engineer them, the researchers turned to two DNA-altering techniques, including CRISPR-Cas 9, an editing tool used to snip out and replace unwanted genes.

Americans Are Buying Gene-Edited Food That's Not Labeled GMO

Bloomburg | Posted on July 20, 2016

Farmers and scientists have manipulated crops for thousands of years. Gene-editing is what proponents call a more precise version of mutation breeding that’s been used since the mid-1900s. Commercial varieties of edibles, including wheat, barley, rice and grapefruit, were created by mutating DNA with chemicals or radiation.  Crops are on the forefront of gene-editing because plant DNA is the easiest to manipulate. San Diego-based Cibus changed one letter from canola’s DNA to create the new variant. Farmers in North Dakota and Montana planted about 20,000 acres of sulfonylurea-resistant canola this year, and Cargill Inc. is making it into cooking oil. Developing a new trait takes just five years with gene-editing, compared with seven to nine years with traditional breeding techniques and as long as 15 years with transgenic methods, which have been used to create the current generation of GMOs.


GMO spud sponsors Boise Olympic cyclist

Capital Press | Posted on July 20, 2016

Boise cyclist Kristin Armstrong will head to the Summer Games in Rio de Janeiro with the apparent distinction of being the first athlete ever sponsored by a crop bred using biotechnology.  Armstrong will be 43 when she pursues her third Olympic gold medal, competing in the individual women’s time trial.  She’ll also be raising awareness about the nutritional value of potatoes — and Simplot Plant Sciences’ Innate line of genetically modified Russet Burbanks and Ranger Russets in particular. Marketed under the White Russet label, the first generation of Innate russets contains traits introduced from other potatoes to keep them from browning after cutting, reduce bruising and reduce the formation of a potentially unhealthy chemical, called acrylamide, found in certain fried foods. The second generation of Innate, which awaits approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will include the original traits, plus enhanced cold storage and strong resistance to the destructive late blight pathogen.

FDA’s Strategic Plan for Foods and Veterinary Medicine

OFW Law | Posted on July 20, 2016

The FDA Foods and Veterinary Medicine Program-Strategic Plan.  This FVM Program outlines goals and objectives for the next 10 years: GOAL 1: Food Safety Hazards -- Protect America’s Consumers and Animals from Foreseeable Hazards. 1.1: Establish and gain high rates of compliance with science-based preventive control standards across the global farm-to-table continuum. 1.2: Improve prevention, detection, and response to foodborne illness outbreaks and other food and feed safety incidents.1.3: Strengthen the ability of consumers to play a proactive role in minimizing food safety risks. 1.4: Enhance the safety of food and feed additives and dietary supplements. 1.5: Strengthen existing partnerships with international, federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial agencies to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of the FDA’s food safety program for government and industry. GOAL 2: Nutrition -- Foster an Environment to Promote Healthy and Safe Food Choices.     GOAL 3: Animal Health -- Protect Human and Animal Health by Enhancing the Safety and Effectiveness of Animal Health Products.  GOAL 4: Organizational Excellence -- Continuously Improve the Leadership, Management, Staffing and Organizational Capacity of the FVM Program to Protect Public Health


U.S. Consumers Becoming Anxious About the Economy, Leading to Unease in Restaurant Industry

National Chicken Council | Posted on July 20, 2016

It appears that consumers are growing anxious about the economy, and that is leading to some unease in the restaurant industry, according to a QSR magazine report.  Signs are ominous that almost every sector in the $783 billion restaurant industry is in trouble. Although breakfast sales at fast-food restaurants rose 2 percent during the first quarter of 2016, far more critical lunch sales were down 3 percent, while dinner sales were off 2 percent, reports The NPD Group.

It is as if consumers who never fully recovered from the last recession are now preparing for the next one, says Bonnie Riggs, restaurant industry analyst at NPD. “I’m not an economist, but I’ve studied all the past recessions and how consumers behaved, and we’ve never experienced anything quite like this before,” she says. If there is one clear sign that something might be amiss in the restaurant industry, it is this: even the high-flying fast-casual dining sector has hit turbulence. For years, the fast-casual industry grew at an explosive pace. But uncertainty is settling in, as it has in the rest of the restaurant industry, and the onus is not just on troubled Chipotle, which has faced a series of health and safety-related issues.