Because I am a food industry attorney, my reputation is invariably tied to the successes and failures of the food industry as a whole. And, as a result, I tend to care deeply how the industry is doing. What I have learned over the last decade is that, whether we choose to accept it or not, there are a lot of food companies, every day, that are selling products that are making people sick. Just look, for instance, at the growing list of recent examples which include Blue Bell, Dole, General Mills and CRF. In each of these examples, the companies involved were selling foods that had become unknowingly and intermittently contaminated with pathogens over long periods of time. While some companies, like the examples I just cited, are eventually associated with resulting illnesses, the vast majority escape detection. We now know it’s happening because, as a result of PulseNet, we can watch it happening. While this system has allowed the government to solve many high-profile outbreaks over the last 20 years (linking consumers sickened by a pathogen sharing a common DNA strain to a single food product), the vast majority of foodborne illnesses uploaded into the PulsenNet database remain unsolved. What this means is that, every year, there are a large number of food companies that are unknowingly processing and distributing foods that are contaminated with pathogens which are making people sick.
The three main beef producing companies in Brazil -- JBS, Marfrig and Minerva – have received authorization to start exporting fresh beef to the United States this month, the first shipments since the North American market was formally opened to Brazilian exporters in August. Brazil is allowed to export up to 64,000 metric tons of fresh beef to the United States per year, competing in a quota with other Latin American countries. The expectation is that Brazilian exporters can occupy much of this quota, since the volume was never fully reached by the other competing countries, according to Marfrig.
Critics who intentionally disregard the progress toward greater transparency only serve to discourage it by refusing to give credit where credit is due. So, I encourage food system critics to be transparent about genuine progress among food producers just as I encourage producers who haven’t yet embraced transparency to build on the positive momentum. There is no denying the ability of transparency to increase consumer trust.
A new generation of genetically modified organisms will be genetically indistinguishable from non-GMOs. There are many potentially useful genetic modifications that scientists can now make to crops and livestock that don’t involve adding foreign genes, however. An example of this kind of next-generation genetic engineering wasrecently published by the small, Minnesota-based biotechnology companyRecombinetics. Scientists at the company created hornless dairy cows by using genetic engineering to put a naturally occurring bovine mutation into a normally horned cattle breed. How should we define what counts as a GMO — do we care about the process used to create them, or simply the end result? Second, GMOs clearly can be used to address important ethical and environmental problems in agriculture that are difficult to tackle by other means. As the technology gets better and less expensive, more companies will design GMOs to solve these problems, especially small companies that aspire to achieve some social good. That means choosing whether or not to eat a GMO won’t be as simple as deciding whether to avoid food with foreign genes produced by Big Agriculture. Sometimes, GMOs might be an ethical choice.
While purpose-driven organizations can't be manufactured and must be rooted in authenticity, there are tools to help define an organizational purpose. In our view, there could be no better sector suited for purpose-driven planning than agriculture. After all, food - healthy and sustainable food - is the foundation not only for health and wellness, but also for allowing people and societies at large to thrive. Add to that a growing food culture, and the opportunity is ripe for purpose-driven food and agriculture organizations.
Penn State researchers have found that eggs from small flocks of chickens are more likely to be contaminated with Salmonella enteritidis than eggs sold in grocery stores, which typically come from larger flocks. That conclusion was drawn from a six-month study done last year in Pennsylvania. Researchers from Penn State’s College of Agricultural Sciences collected and tested more than 6,000 eggs from more than 200 selling points across the state for the study. Federal regulations for these larger flocks require placement of Salmonella-“clean” chicks, intensive rodent control, cleaning and disinfecting between flocks, environmental monitoring of pullet and layer houses, continuous testing of eggs from any Salmonella-positive houses, and diverting eggs from Salmonella-positive houses for pasteurization. However, small flocks with fewer than 3,000 laying hens are currently exempt from the rule. Eggs from these producers often are marketed via direct retail to restaurants, health food stores and farmers markets, or sold at on-farm roadside stands.
For some, there's a a glam factor attached to the vegan lifestyle. And these days, there seems to be a growing chorus singing the praises of the environmental and health benefits of a plant-centric diet. Perhaps nowhere is the embrace of a vegetarian diet more on display than in Berlin, Germany, dubbed a global vegan mecca for its growing array of restaurants (think: vegan kebabs, pizza and ice cream) as well as vegan street festivals — and even a vegan butcher. One pro-vegan group estimates about 80,000 people in Berlin are following a vegan diet. But not everyone in Germany is on board. In a new paper, the German Nutrition Society says a vegan diet can't provide everything your body needs. "With a pure plant-based diet, it is difficult or impossible to attain an adequate supply of some nutrients," states the German Nutrition Society's new position on the vegan diet. "The most critical nutrient is B-12," which is found in eggs and meat. The group says if you follow a vegan diet, you should take supplements to protect against deficiencies. According to the German nutritionists, other "potentially critical nutrients" that may be a challenge to get in a vegan diet include omega-3s — found in fatty fish — as well as minerals such as calcium, iron, iodine, zinc and selenium. So the group recommends that vegans get advice from a nutrition counselor and be "regularly checked by a physician." In addition, the society recommends against a vegan diet for pregnant women, women who are breast-feeding, children and adolescents.
There is no doubt in my mind that television advertising has contributed to the gap between consumers and the source of their food. The primary reason is that showing a steer to sell steaks is not a great marketing strategy. Most commercials for meat products don’t use live animals but when they do it is usually a cartoonish approach. Only occasionally do we see realistic videos or photos of live animals. We know that humor will get a commercial watched. The latest Perdue commercials use humor after a serious message while Sanderson uses humor to present the serious message. I have no idea which will be the most effective as the messages are very different. Perdue’s “no antibiotics ever” commercials take place in a broiler house with Jim Perdue and another person holding a bouquet of thyme in one and oregano in the other. The birds, the lighting, the choice of locations where “windows” are visible. I do not know if I’m seeing actual windows or fan panels, but I don’t think it matters as the average viewer will see windows. The bottom line is that everything looks good.
The recent discovery of documents that the sugar industry paid scientists to blame saturated fat for promoting heart disease appears to vindicate the findings of an independent author who found that eating meat, butter and cheese may not be completely to blame for human heart illness. The report released this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Internal Medicine publication suggests that the sugar industry manipulated information to shift more blame for heart disease away from sugar and more toward saturated fat intake. The Sugar Research Foundation paid three Harvard researchers who issued the 1967 report linking nutrition and heart health with ingestion of saturated fats in meat and dairy products rather than to sugar intake.
This study reviews microbial hazards and risks in the U.S. meat and poultry supply that have emerged, are emerging, or that evidence suggests may emerge in the future. The study’s goals are to identify factors that favor the occurrence of emerging pathogens (EPs) and pinpoint traits that EPs transmitted through meat and poultry may share; characterize the challenges these pose, be they scientific, technological, or regulatory; and determine mechanisms that might facilitate the expeditious detection, characterization, and control of such EPs. For the purposes of this report, EPs are defined as new microbial hazards to which significant exposure to the public through meat or poultry is possible or likely, known hazards to which new or increased exposure is possible or likely, or known hazards to which human susceptibility is increasing. Unlike other definitions of EPs, this one includes pathogens such as Salmonella that have not increased in overall occurrence but have strains with new traits that continue to emerge.