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Why Frito-Lay’s Move Towards “Clean Labels” Is Smart Marketing

By Melanie Warner via www.industry.bnet.com

Frito-Lay has decided to reformulate its snacks so that by mid-2011 more than half of the company’s sales will come from products without things like MSG and artificial colorings and flavorings. The move illustrates why PepsiCo (PEP), Frito’s corporate parent, is the most savvy and proactive of the major food companies when it comes to health and nutrition.

Recent ill-conceived remarks about obesity aside, PepsiCo executives are taking the lead in responding to Americans’ increasingly sophisticated concerns about the healthfulness of food. A Deloitte survey done in March found that 31% of respondents said “over-processed food” was among their top concerns. And 29% said they were highly concerned about the “possible use of chemical ingredients that are detrimental to long-term health.”

It’s this kind of consumer sentiment that’s inspiring major manufacturers, Pepsi among them, to ditch high fructose corn syrup and replace it with sugar, which is thought to be more natural.

Clearly, Pepsi can’t stop making processed food any time soon, but it can make its products a bit healthier and more closely resembling actual food. In the age of Michelle Obama, that’s what every major packaged food company (restaurants are a different story) wants to do, and virtually all them have pledged to cut back on some combination of sodium, calories and/or saturated fat.

But Frito-Lay’s full-fledged embrace of what the industry likes to calls “clean labels,” which was announced at the company’s annual meeting last week, takes the endeavor to a whole new level. It’s a rare acknowledgment that the healthfulness of a product depends not just on easily manipulated things like calories and fat, but on the quality of the ingredients that go into the product. Artificial food colorings, which can cause hyperactivity in children and are linked to cancer in lab rats, and MSG, which causes some people to have allergic reactions, are the kind of things that make food products sound more like a chemistry experiment than something made from things that once grew in soil or from a tree. According to that Deliotte survey, a majority of consumers — 55% — say they understand half or less of the ingredients in food these days.

The fact that Frito-Lay is already making products without chemical additives in its line of so-called natural snacks will no doubt help make the transition easier. The company has already figured out how to make Cheetos, for instance, without yellow 6, MSG and partially hydrogenated soybean oil that was extracted using hexane, a neurotoxic and highly flammable chemical.

The big challenge will be taking out all this “dirty” stuff without raising prices significantly, since Frito Lay’s core customers are accustomed to getting their snacks for cheap.

Image by Flckr user Merry~Blues

New Food-Safety Rules Threaten Small, Organic Farms

By Jane Palmer, Mercury News Correspondent
original link: www.mercurynews.com

Tom Willey is so concerned about food safety he is willing to bet the farm on it.

Literally.

Willey and his wife, Densesse, own an organic farm just outside of Madera in the central San Joaquin Valley, where they grow lettuce, carrots, cabbage and nearly 50 other hand-harvested vegetables. They supply 800 local families and West Coast retailers with a year-round supply of fresh produce.

But in the last three years, a dark cloud has gathered over Willey’s farm. He and other organic farmers say stricter food-safety regulations, developed after a cluster of outbreaks of bacterial contamination in spinach and lettuce in 2006, threaten the principles upon which their farms are based.

While Willey already adheres to the voluntary food-safety regulations deemed necessary by the organic farm community, he feels that many of the rules — which include cutting bare buffer zones around crops, using poison to kill rodents and washing produce with chlorinated water — run contrary to growing healthy and safe food.

“Healthy produce cannot be grown in sterile environments,” Willey said. “That’s both ignorant and dangerous.”

Moreover, opponents of the regulations say that the new measures are threatening the livelihood of small-scale and organic farms. Willey, who refuses to adhere to regulations he believes are ultimately harmful, runs the risk of not being able to sell his crops. Other small farms that do comply face burdensome
costs.

But supporters of the regulations, part of the California Leafy Green Marketing Agreement, argue that all farms should comply in the interests of food safety.

“For the smaller growers, I don’t think it is reasonable to throw up their hands and say it doesn’t apply to us, or we are not the problem or we can never be the problem,” said Trevor Suslow, a food-safety expert and plant pathologist at UC Davis whose research helped form the basis of the regulations.

The incentive for the California agreement was a virulent outbreak of E. coli O157:H7 in spinach grown in San Benito County in 2006. It resulted in the hospitalization of more than 200 people in the U.S. and Canada, and the death of three. The pathogen also claimed another victim: the leafy greens industry.

“Spinach was off the menu nationwide,” said Paul Simonds, spokesman for the Western Growers Association. The outbreak cost the industry $100 million in lost sales as customer confidence in all leafy greens plummeted.

Food-borne Illnesses in U.S. Cost $152B Annually

By Steven Reinberg via www.businessweek.com

WEDNESDAY, March 3 (HealthDay News) — Food-borne illnesses cost the United States an estimated $152 billion each year in health-related expenses, much more than previously thought, a new report contends.

“These costs are significantly more than previous official estimates, and it demonstrates the serious burden that food-borne illness places on society,” Sandra Eskin, director of the Food Safety Campaign at the Pew Charitable Trusts in Washington, D.C., said during a Tuesday press conference.

These health-related costs include physician services, hospital services, medicines and also quality-of-life losses, such as deaths, pain, suffering and disability.

Every year, an estimated 76 million Americans are sickened by contaminated food and 5,000 of these people die, according to federal statistics.

Although most of these of costs are due to unidentified germs, infections from well-known pathogens play a large role. For example, costs related to campylobacter exceed $18.8 billion annually; costs linked to salmonella are estimated at $14.6 billion; and costs related to listeria are $8.8 billion, according to the report.

The majority of food-borne illnesses are caused by produce, which are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. Thirty-nine percent of E. coli outbreaks were due to produce regulated by the FDA, the report said.

According to the report, California, Texas, New York, Florida and Pennsylvania have the highest costs related to food-borne illness, ranging from $6.7 billion to $18.6 billion each year.

The report was based on federal government sources using the same statistical methods used by the FDA, report author Robert L. Scharff, an assistant professor in the Department of Consumer Sciences at Ohio State University, said during the teleconference.

Don’t Frack with New York! Governor Patterson Poisons the Well to Balance the Budget

By Alison Rose Levy via www.health-journalist.com

Former New York State Governor Eliot Spitzer may have had his sexual peccadilloes but he knew how to stand up to corporate interests that threatened the public good. It was a big boost for oil companies, planning to despoil New York State, when the powerhouse Spitzer was replaced by his easily rolled-over successor.

While belt-tightening throughout the state budget, Governor Patterson added $3 million to fast track harmful gas drilling practices–a quick fix economic solution with tragic long-range health, economic, and environmental consequences.

On Monday, a statewide coalition of New York state residents, businesses, and environmental groups rallied in the state capital of Albany to ask legislators to oppose Patterson’s plans to contaminate state-wide water supplies (including New York City’s) by permitting a damaging form of gas drilling, known as “fracking,” or hydraulic fracturing.

Thanks to lobbying by Halliburton and other energy companies, under the Bush-Cheney administration, fracking got exempted from the Clean Water Act even though it releases large quantities of undisclosed carcinogens and toxic chemicals into the earth and water supply.

According to a recent study, conducted by the Environmental Working Group (EWG), just one drilling site deploys harmful chemicals sufficient “to contaminate more than 100 billion gallons of drinking water to unsafe levels … more than 10 times as much water as the entire state of New York uses in a single day.”

The chemicals used in fracking “pose a serious threat to the nation’s water supplies, but those risks have been largely ignored,” says the report. “Drinking water contamination and property damage have been linked to hydraulic fracturing in four states–Colorado, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wyoming. In one incident that polluted a Colorado creek, the drilling company is still trying to clean it up–four years later.”

Nor does the drilling create local jobs or business. Instead, companies bus in workers from Texas, housing them in “man camps,” sites where reportedly alcohol and drug abuse, and sexual predation abound. While no one wants a “man camp” next door, a gas well also ruins the neighborhood. If one owner sells property for drilling, all neighboring land can be conscripted for leasing, with no rights of refusal. Fracking also releases chemicals into the air; an army of trucks must carry over roads and New York State highways up to four million gallons of contaminated water (per well)– which amps up air pollution and costly highway repairs. There is currently no way to effectively decontaminate the high quantities of waste water produced by fracking.

“We can’t let the gleam of potential profits leave us with a legacy of polluted water and industrialized landscapes,” said Wes Gillingham, program director of Catskill Mountainkeeper.

Last month, New York City’s Department of Environmental Protection issued a report urging a halt to gas drilling since, “Natural gas drilling and exploration are incompatible with the operation of New York City’s unfiltered water supply system and pose unacceptable risks for more than nine million New Yorkers in the City and State.” They noted that drilling entails “invasive industrialization and creates a substantial risk of chemical contamination, and infrastructure damage.”

This week, Mayor Bloomberg chimed in, “The consequences are so severe that it is not a risk that I think we should run. I do not think that we should allow fractured drilling anywhere near our water supply.”

Although land can be fenced in, water can’t be. It flows underground, it rises into clouds, it’s borne by the winds, and released by the rains, far from its source.

While the Mayor nobly aims to protect the immediate area surrounding the city’s upstate water reservoir, so far no studies have investigated how far water-born contaminants from throughout the state could flow downstream to impact NYC, or it’s water supply. Fracking originated in arid western regions, and its proponents don’t know the extent of pollution possible in a region of interconnected rivers and frequent rains like New York and New England.

In New York State, gas drillers hope to use fracking in the regions of the New York City Watershed, the Delaware River, the Finger Lakes, and upstate watersheds, the source of waters that flow downstate to New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and Delaware.

With fresh water resources becoming scarcer worldwide due to population growth and climate change, it’s unconscionable for a short-term Governor to short-sell a precious resource to balance his budget. Perhaps the soon to declare gubernatorial candidate, Andrew Cuomo, will like his popular father, Governor Mario Cuomo, become a successful champion.

To take action, sign up with the Environmental Advocates NY, Citizens for Safe Energy The Environmental Working Group proposes a national ban or better regulation. Or join No Fracking Way on Facebook. Or cut to the chase, and ask soon to declare candidate, Andrew Cuomo to make New York State a model for future-oriented policies, rather than a disastrous object lesson in the costs of short-sighted gain.

The Single Biggest Thing We Can Do To Reform Food

by Jill Richardson
January 28, 2010

When it comes to problems with our food system, we’ve got a chicken and egg problem on our hands. Enormous corporations sell most of our food and they use environmentally harmful methods to produce it and put unhealthy ingredients in it – much of which is legal (and sometimes when something is illegal, the law isn’t enforced). The obvious solution would be changing the law, except these same corporations lobby politicians NOT to change the law (and too often, the politicians obey the lobbists).

Currently, Congress has a few bills that would ban BPA – a harmful chemical found in can linings and some types of plastic – but a powerful BPA lobby that includes aluminum can makers, soda companies, and other food companies has thus far succeeded in keeping any of those bills from passing. Then there’s the climate change bill, which specifically excluded agriculture from emissions caps even though agriculture is responsible for quite a bit of greenhouse gas emissions. And there’s the upcoming child nutrition reauthorization, which governs school lunch and other federal nutrition programs. Every single food industry wants to make sure that their products are allowed to be sold in schools, so their lobbyists are working on that. And, of course, there’s the commonsense Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act, which simply says that you cannot drug livestock with classes of antibiotics important in human medicine if the animal is not sick. Sick animals would still get the care they need. The goal is to avoid creating antibiotic resistant bacteria, a problem that is already documented in livestock operations in the U.S. The bill was introduced by Louise Slaughter, a microbiologist, yet the livestock industry is lobbying hard against it and so far they are winning.

So – if we have bad food because our laws are too lax, but we can’t get better laws because food companies lobby the government, what can we do? I believe that the single biggest thing we can do right now is to try to break up agriculture corporations that violate our nation’s antitrust laws. We need fair competition, and that’s something we don’t currently have. Farm Aid recently posted a graph of consolidation in a number of agricultural industries and that says it all. In each industry within food and agriculture, only a few companies control most of the market. And, quite often, they also have a considerable amount of influence over the government as well.

Fortunately, Obama’s antitrust czar, Christine Varney, stated in her confirmation hearings that she would look into anticompetitive behavior in agriculture, and she’s keeping her promise. The Department of Justice recently began an investigation of Monsanto and filed a suit against dairy giant Dean Foods.

Monsanto’s in trouble over its soybeans. The issue is a particularly disturbing one because it involves not just the buying and selling of seeds but ownership and patenting of life itself. Seed companies don’t just own seeds – they own traits (and the DNA that governs those traits). Monsanto licenses other companies to sell seeds made with traits they own. Over the years, they’ve written licensing agreements in a way that makes it very hard for their competitors to compete with them. Either they were shrewd businessmen or they were breaking the law – that’s what the DOJ is trying to find out. (Find more information on this here.)

The suit against Dean Foods seeks to undo their acquisition of two companies, but it won’t be enough to fix the dairy industry. This past year, dairy farmers suffered the hardest times since the Great Depression. Farmers received prices as low as $10 or $11 per hundred pounds of milk even though it cost them about $18 to produce it. They lost money with each gallon of milk they sold, and many dairy farmers lost their farms altogether. Prices are beginning to go up, but the dairy farmers I know have felt for a long time that a few powerful players in the industry have been manipulating prices. They went to the Senate about this a few years ago and several Senators asked the Government Accountability Office to begin an investigation, which it did. Then the investigation got a little too close to friends of Bush, and the investigation was called off altogether.

The two actions taken by the Dept of Justice are necessary but they are a drop in the bucket. Fortunately, the Department of Justice has been accepting comments about antitrust issues in agriculture (the deadline was a month ago) and they are holding a series of public workshops on the topic as well. I look forward to these workshops, and I hope that the DOJ continues and expands its action to promote fair competition in food and agriculture.

Jill Richardson got involved in food policy activism after working for several years in health care and observing the high rate of diet-related chronic illness among the American patient population. She blogs at La Vida Locavore and her first book is Recipe for America: Why Our Food System is Broken and What We Can Do To Fix It

With Tylenol Recall 2010, A Corporate Icon Stumbles

By Laurent Belsie / January 15, 2010 via www.csmonitor.com

tylenol

Johnson & Johnson burnished its image with a gutsy Tylenol recall in 1982. But its 2010 recall was long overdue, an FDA report charges.

In a moment of startling corporate clarity, Johnson & Johnson recalled all its Tylenol from US store shelves in 1982 after capsules tampered with in Chicago were linked to six fatalities.

The move cost the company $100 million and threatened to decimate its leading share of the market. Instead, consumers applauded the company’s openness and sales rebounded within a year. Three decades later, the move is still regarded as a shining example of corporate social responsibility.

The time it took the company’s CEO to make that gutsy call? Six days.

On Friday, a unit of Johnson & Johnson expanded a recall of Tylenol products to other over-the-counter medicines, including Benadryl, Motrin, and Rolaids, because of reports of nausea and other symptoms. The time from those initial reports to Friday’s action? Twenty months – and only after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had finished an investigation that found multiple problems at the Johnson & Johnson factory.

It’s sad to see a corporate icon stumble, especially when the problems are of its own making. The move is a reminder of how fragile corporate reputations are.

Users of Johnson & Johnson’s over-the-counter drugs can click here to see which products are being recalled. They can also call the company for help at 888-222-6036 (including weekends).

Less lethal, more embarrassing

To be fair, Johnson & Johnson’s current problems are far less severe than in 1982. The effects of the tainted drugs have been uncomfortable but not lethal. There’s no killer this time running around injecting Tylenol tablets with cyanide.

How To Fix S.510: A Sustainable Ag Perspective III

by Helena Bottemiller via www.foodsafetynews.com

Part three of a three part discussion with Harry Hamil, founder of North Carolina’s Black Mountain Farmers Market, on how he would change the Senate food safety bill to lessen the impact on small and sustainable agriculture

Harry Hamil has worked to revive local, healthy food for people in western North Carolina since 1995. He and his wife, Elaine, work full time growing, distributing and retailing locally grown food at the Black Mountain Farmers Market, a year-round market the couple founded in 2003.

Since the passage of the House Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) last July, Hamil–who has a rare affinity for detail and a keen understanding of the policy making process–has focused full time on the pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) in the Senate, advocating for changes that would help lessen what he foresees as a detriment to the burgeoning small and sustainable agriculture movement.

Food Safety News had a chance to discuss, in detail, some changes Hamil would like to see made to the food safety bill before it clears the Senate. (See Part I and Part II of the discussion)

Part III: More recommendations and the outlook in the Senate

“We’re all in favor in safe food,” says Hamil. “But we’ve created a bifurcation, that you’re either for it or your against it, which is exactly what the Make Our Food Safe Coalition campaign has been doing to this. They say you’re either for it or your against it.”

“Who on earth can be against food safety?” asks Hamil. “Nobody can–but I can look at a specific provision and say, what does this provision have to do with food safety?”

In a perfect world, Hamil would split S.510 into two pieces–the provisions that would impact growers, producers, and value-added processors directly would be split off and sent to the Senate agriculture committee to address what Hamil considers “extremely serious issues.”

FDA Finds Roaches, Listeria at Airline Caterer

roach

original link: www.msnbc.com

DALLAS (AP) – A company that prepares food for major airlines says it has cleaned up its Denver kitchen after federal inspectors found live and dead roaches and listeria bacteria at the facility.

The Food and Drug Administration warned the company, LSG Sky Chefs, that it could be barred from selling food to the airlines at the Denver airport if it flunks further inspections.

LSG Sky Chefs said Monday it took the FDA’s comments seriously, fired the general manager and head chef, and believes it will pass a follow-up review.

LSG is owned by Deutsche Lufthansa AG, the big German carrier. Its U.S. subsidiary provides food to Delta, American, United and other airlines from 43 kitchens around the country.

According to an FDA letter to the company, inspectors who examined the Denver facility found live and dead roaches “too numerous to count” in several areas of the kitchen, including at least 40 live insects in the silverware station.

The FDA said inspectors saw employees touching food with bare hands or while wearing unwashed gloves. They also noted problems with the building, including water dripping from the ceiling into utensil-cleaning areas and holes in walls that could house insects or vermin.

H. Thomas Warwick Jr., director of the FDA’s Denver office, said in an interview that such conditions were more common 10 to 15 years ago but are seen rarely today because of better sanitation practices and more inspections by federal, state and local agencies.

LSG “has been pretty good” over the years, Warwick said. “This one sort of slipped a little. We will be back very shortly.”

LSG spokeswoman Beth Van Duyne said the company took the FDA’s findings seriously and fired the general manager and executive chef in Denver. When chemical treatments failed to kill listeria found in a kitchen floor drain, the company replaced the pipes and drain, she said. Listeria is a bacteria linked to food-borne illness.

“We make no excuses for this report,” Van Duyne said. “We’ve taken immediate and aggressive actions after we received the initial findings in October. We’re confident we’ll pass” the follow-up inspection.

Van Duyne said the company hasn’t received any reports of airline passengers becoming ill from its food. She said FDA inspectors were back in the Denver building on Monday.

How to Fix S.510: A Sustainable Ag Perspective II

by Helena Bottemiller via www.foodsafetynews.com
Jan 04, 2010

Part two of a three part discussion with Harry Hamil, founder of North Carolina’s Black Mountain Farmers Market, on how he would change the Senate food safety bill to lessen the impact on small and sustainable agriculture

Harry Hamil has worked to revive local, healthy food for people in western North Carolina since 1995. He and his wife, Elaine, work full time growing, distributing and retailing locally grown food at the Black Mountain Farmers Market, a year-round market the couple founded in 2003.

Since the passage of the House Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) last July, Hamil–who has a rare affinity for detail and a keen understanding of the policy making process–has focused full time on the pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) in the Senate, advocating for changes that would help lessen what he foresees as a detriment to the burgeoning small and sustainable agriculture movement.

Food Safety News had a chance to discuss, in detail, some changes Hamil would like to see made to the food safety bill before it clears the Senate.

See Part I of the discussion from yesterday’s FSN here www.foodsafetynews.com.

Part II: Give the FDA adequate resources, improve accountability, and increase food safety education

“What we have in this bill, at this point in time, is no discussion of funding,” Harry points out. “We have lots of mandates, but no funding.”

“We have to give the FDA (and USDA) adequate funding, because they clearly have not been funded adequately. The funding is, in my opinion, what we should have focused on first. It doesn’t do any good to have a good rule if no one is enforcing it.”

The House food safety bill would charge an annual, flat registration fee of $500 on all facilities that hold, process, or manufacture food to help defray the costs of food safety activities–but the fee would only raise a fraction of the funds the agency needs and the authority to collect the fees would expire after 2014.

Harry is in favor of the agency collecting fees to help pay for a revamped regulatory program, as long as those fees are appropriately scaled.

“If the government is having to do something for a particular industry then that industry needs to be footing the bill–I think that idea is great.”

“I think a single fee, on other hand, is absolutely crazy,” Hamil thinks it would be much more reasonable to base FDA fees off of gross profit so that small producers are not disproportionally affected.

In addition to ensuring adequate funding to back the mandates in the Senate food safety bill, Hamil thinks Congress should specify mandates and benchmarks to guide how the money is spent.

How to Fix S.510: A Sustainable Ag Perspective

by Helena Bottemiller via www.foodsafetynews.com
Jan 03, 2010

Part one of a three part discussion with Harry Hamil, founder of North Carolina’s Black Mountain Farmers Market, on how he would change the Senate food safety bill to lessen the impact on small and sustainable agriculture

Harry Hamil has worked to revive local, healthy food for people in western North Carolina since 1995. He and his wife, Elaine, work full time growing, distributing and retailing locally grown food at the Black Mountain Farmers Market, a year-round market the couple founded in 2003.

Since the passage of the House Food Safety Enhancement Act (H.R. 2749) last July, Hamil–who has a rare affinity for detail and a keen understanding of the policy making process–has focused full time on the pending FDA Food Safety Modernization Act (S.510) in the Senate, advocating for changes that would help lessen what he foresees as a detriment to the burgeoning small and sustainable agriculture movement.

Food Safety News had a chance to discuss, in detail, some changes Hamil would like to see made to the food safety bill before it clears the Senate.

Part I: Regulation should be appropriately scaled

Hamil, like many small and sustainable agriculture advocates, sees S.510, as it’s currently written, as “one-size-fits-all” regulation with the potential to force small growers and producers out of the business.

“They’re calling for increased regulation because of globalization,” says Hamil. “We aren’t globalizing, folks. We’re producing it locally–local health food for local people. The level of regulation that applies to us clearly is different.” Hamil would like to see the regulations in the bill tiered so that they are more appropriately scaled.

Hamil points to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA’s) new egg rule, finalized last summer, to help minimize Salmonella Enteritidis, as an example of of the kind of tiered regulation that could be applied to the rest of the food industry.

“The egg rule says very clearly that the rule shall apply to egg producers with greater than 3,000 layers,” says Hamil, who explains that the rule is tiered because the smaller producers, of which there are few, just don’t have the same impact. “Federal regulation needs to focus on those food production enterprises with the potential to distribute products to large numbers of people rather than those distributing to small numbers of customers.”