Finger Foods: the weekly news update

U.S.

Food Policy

Consumer Right to Know Food Labeling Act Introduced – The United States Agriculture & Food Law and Policy Blog
Representative Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) recently introduced a bill which would require labeling for genetically modified fish and cloned animals. The Consumer Right to Know Food Labeling Act would require the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to mandate labeling of genetically modified fish and would also require USDA to mandate labeling of products of cloned animals if intended for human consumption, according to the news release.

Agriculture

New Way to Help Chickens Cross to Other Side – William Neuman – New York Times, Front Page
Two premium chicken producers, Bell & Evans in Pennsylvania and Mary’s Chickens in California, are preparing to switch to a system of killing their birds that they consider more humane. The new system uses carbon dioxide gas to gently render the birds unconscious before they are hung by their feet to have their throats slit, sparing them the potential suffering associated with conventional slaughter methods. The new system is also meant to be better for workers. The live hang area today is usually dimly lighted to keep birds from being startled, and workers have to contend with struggling, flapping chickens. “I never felt comfortable showing people that part of our operation,” Mr. Pitman said. “I was embarrassed by it.” The gas technology is expensive. Each company said it would cost about $3 million to convert their operations and more over time to run the systems. That makes it a hard sell in a commodity-oriented industry that relies on huge volumes and low costs to turn narrow margins into profits.

Food Safety

Supplier recalls frozen vegetables because of glass fragments (VIDEO) – CNN Eatocracy
Packages containing frozen vegetables sold by Wal-Mart nationwide and Kroger stores in the Southeast may contain glass fragments, the supplier said Friday in announcing a voluntary recall. While there have been no reports of injuries, the Pictsweet Co. of Bells, Tennessee, is advising the public not to eat the recalled store-brand vegetables because of the potential for harm.

4 deaths tied to bacteria at food processing plant, Texas says – CNN, Health
Authorities have shut down a Texas food processing plant, saying it was contaminated by bacteria linked to the deaths of four people, state health officials said. The Texas Department of State Health Services on Wednesday ordered Sangar Produce and Processing to immediately stop processing food and recall all products shipped from its San Antonio plant since January. Besides the bacteria, inspectors found a condensation leak above a food product area, dirt on a food-preparation table, and hand-washing problems at the San Antonio plant, the state health department said. The state said that it is contacting distributors, restaurants and others who may have received Sangar products.

Salmonella Forces Recall of Barbecue Pork – Food Safety News
The Murphy House, a North Carolina processing plant for barbecue meats Wednesday issued its third recall for the year.  This time, the problem is Salmonella contamination in 4,920 pounds of ready-to-eat (RTE) pork barbecue products. Earlier in 2010, on Feb. 5 and April 29, the Louisburg processor recalled products that contained undeclared allergens.  Undeclared soy flour caused the February recall of 2,850 pounds of pork barbecue products. And 414 pounds of Brunswick stew products were recalled in April because they contained cracker meal with undeclared wheat and milk allergens. No illnesses have yet been associated with any of the Murphy House recalls, including Wednesday’s Salmonella-related recall.

DeCoster Gets Warning, Hillandale Sales OK’d – Food Safety News
In the official documents piling up over the nationwide outbreak of Salmonella, Austin J. “Jack” DeCoster, who may be the nation’s No. 1 egg producer, is getting only the obligatory warning letter from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. The Oct. 15 warning letter tracks the contents of FDA’s 483 Inspectional Observations that were previously released. And while it threatens “seizure and or/injunction,” it also notes there are “ongoing discussions” between FDA and DeCoster about “corrective actions.” Meanwhile, Gary Bartness at Hillandale Farms got a much nicer letter from FDA, one that gives permission to resume distribution of eggs for the table market. The New Hampton, IA farm began sales Monday.

Conflicts of interest mar food producers’ independent inspections – Washington Post
The voluntary quality control system widely used in the nation’s $1 trillion domestic food industry is rife with conflicts of interest, inexperienced auditors and cursory inspections that produce inflated ratings, according to food retail executives and other industry experts. Recent outbreaks of salmonella illness tied to contaminated eggs and peanuts have focused new attention on weaknesses in the decades-old system, which relies on private-sector auditors hired by foodmakers. Industry experts say that under the best circumstances the audits can be useful. But a key failure is that auditors are typically paid by the companies they are inspecting, creating a conflict of interest for inspectors who might fear they will lose business if they don’t give high ratings.

Miscellaneous

The world’s first organic dairy rap video (VIDEO) – Grist, Food
The hardworking yeomen and yeowomen at Yeo Valley Organic milk this genre to the last drop, from popping wheelies in tractors bedecked with shiny cow bling to their displays of perfectly timed lyrical and visual prowess: “Yeah, we’re down with the soil association and we do lots of what? Conservation!” Why rap about how awesome organic practices are? “If you’re going to talk about yourself and you’re going to talk about how great you are, rapping is pretty much the only art form that allows you to have that bravado,” said Julien Lutz (aka “Little X”), the legit rap music video director from Canada, in a behind-the-music video. Fun fact: It was his first time working with farmers.

International

European Union Plans Temporary Ban on Livestock Cloning, Cloned-Food Sales – Bloomberg News
The European Union’s executive arm plans to propose a temporary ban on livestock cloning in the 27- nation bloc as well as the use of cloned farm animals and the sale of food produced from such sources. The measures will be reviewed after a five-year period, the European Commission said in a statement on its website today. The commission also called for a system to trace imports of semen and embryos from clones. The European Food Safety Authority said in July 2008 it found no evidence that meat and milk from cloned cows and pigs differed from other animals. The EU science adviser said there are “significant” animal-health and welfare issues for surrogate mothers and clones.

Amid Reforms, Cubans Fret Over Food Rations Fate – NPR, Morning Edition
In Cuba, every person receives a basic monthly food ration from the communist government. It’s not enough to survive on, but no one starves, either. Now, with changes coming to the island’s economy, the rations — a hallmark of Fidel Castro’s revolution — are also in doubt. In every Cuban neighborhood, there’s a government food pantry called a bodega. A blackboard lists the available items and their prices. Government clerks weigh out portions of rice, sugar, beans and other basics. The government of President Raul Castro now says it cannot afford to maintain this system. More than 70 percent of the island’s food is imported, costing the cash-strapped government $1.5 billion a year. Castro has been turning over idle state land to private farmers and cooperatives, hoping they’ll produce more, but so far the experiment hasn’t delivered. Cubans supplement their diets mostly by shopping at produce markets. They are among the few spaces set aside for private enterprise; one is located next to the Vedado bodega. While it is filled with fresh local items, prices are steep for Cubans on fixed incomes. The vendors are widely despised for trying to cheat customers with faulty scales.

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