Food safety remains priority in age of organic food

Even in an age when the consumption of organic food is booming, strict global food safety standards are needed to protect the consumers, a leading expert at the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said.

organic-manure1Mary Kenny, officer of FAO’s Agriculture and Consumer Protection Department, told Xinhua in an exclusive interview that the safety of all foodstuffs, including organic food, remains a global priority.

“It means that food should be safe and free from chemical and microbiological contaminants. And the nature of food supplies these days means that it’s an international issue,” she said.

organic-manure1

 

With this in mind, major food producers and exporters, including China, are constantly raising food safety standards, Kenny said, adding that, however, it is unclear to what extent the emergence of organic food is impacting food safety in China or elsewhere.

According to Kenny, even organic food may present certain safety risks. Therefore, it is vital to make sure that the right systems are in place and that food production and distribution is as risk-free as possible.

She noted for example that although organically sourced fruit and vegetables might have a lower risk of chemical contamination, the correct procedures to prevent microbiological contamination still have to be followed. As for meat and dairy products produced from organically-fed animals, they still carry the inherent risk of bacteria or parasites, which occur naturally in livestock.

“So we need to adopt the same food safety perspective to organic food that we adopt to other foods,” she said.

The conventional wisdom is that organic food is healthier and more eco-friendly than other food. However, Kenny said this does not mean that conventional foods should automatically be dismissed as having a higher risk.

“Conventional food production certainly uses more chemicals, such as pesticides,” she said. “But there are very strong and robust national and international systems to ensure the safe use of these chemicals and these are followed around the world.”

Organic don’t mean much, except profits for retailers

The $35 billion U.S. organic-food industry has nearly tripled in size in the past decade, challenging the Agriculture Department’s ability to monitor the more than 25,000 farms and other organizations that sell organic crops and livestock.

organic-manure1There are currently 81 accredited “certifying agents,” or groups that stamp food as organic in the U.S. But of the 37 that had a complete review this year, 23 were cited for failing to correctly enforce certification requirements on farms in audits, according to an internal Agriculture Department report. The 23 firms didn’t properly conduct onsite inspections or correctly review applications for organic certification, among other things, the report said.

A separate Wall Street Journal investigation of USDA inspection records since 2005 found that 38 of the 81 certifying agents failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.

In that time, 40% of these 81 certifiers have been flagged by the USDA for conducting incomplete inspections; 16% of certifiers failed to cite organic farms’ potential use of banned pesticides and antibiotics; and 5% failed to prevent potential commingling of organic and nonorganic products, according to the Journal investigation.

 

Z Natural Foods recalls Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder due to possible Salmonella health risk

We all experiment in university. For me it was six months of vegetarianism, and I replaced chocolate with carob powder, as I was cooking everything from scratch.

salm.carobCarob tastes like dust.

Z Natural Foods of West Palm Beach, Florida is recalling 55 lbs of Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder because it has the potential to be contaminated with Salmonella.

The recalled Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available for sale directly through Z Natural Foods website at www.ZNaturalFoods.com. It was not available in retail stores.

The Lightly Roasted Organic Carob Powder was available in a 1 lb and 5 lb standup resealable foil pouches either bronze (1 lb) or silver in color (5 lb) and marked with Lot # ZNCARB39513 and a Best By Date of 12/5/2016 at the bottom of the label.

No illnesses have been reported to date and we are issuing this recall purely as a precautionary measure. The potential for contamination was noted after learning that another customer of our ingredient supplier received a positive test for Salmonella. While sampling conducted by the manufacturer did not indicate the presence of Salmonella, we are recalling this product out of an abundance of caution. No other Z Natural Foods products are affected.

US consumers are misled about organic safety

I normally stay away from the organic nonsense because it’s about lifestyle, not safety.

organic-manure2But John Block of The Des Moines Register writes that every day millions of shoppers are paying out as much as 50 or 100 percent more to buy organic foods for themselves and their families. I have friends who make these choices because they have no reason to question claims on labels, in advertising and on social media that organic foods are safer, healthier and more nutritious.

One thing they will not read on any label is a new finding from Academics Review, a group of scientists dedicated to testing popular claims against peer-reviewed science.

The scientists’ conclusion based on U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reported recall information: Organic foods are four to eight times more likely to be recalled than conventional foods for safety issues like bacterial contamination. Nor will consumers see anywhere a reference to the body of peer-reviewed research finding that organic foods are no more nutritious than foods produced by conventional agriculture.

As Academics Review founder Bruce Chassy, a professor of food microbiology at the University of Illinois, recently reported to a professional trade association, not only is the federal government failing to require that the organic food industry state these risks to consumers. It also allows organic companies to make unfounded safety claims that, if they were made by any other industry, would attract the ire of federal regulators.

no_bullshitLacking such scrutiny, the organic industry appears to have adopted “black marketing” against conventionally grown foods as its core strategy. The Natural Marketing Institute admitted as much when it reported that “the safety message is a clear driver” of organic sales. A marketing executive for a major organic company was little blunter: “You can, and perhaps should, lead with fear as an industry.”

The industry does, in fact, lead with fear. The websites, social media, product packaging, marketing materials and annual reports of organic food companies are full of fear-based advertising against conventional farming. Even more hysterical claims about conventional foods are pushed in food scare campaigns run by NGOs funded by the organic foods industry, as well as by allied natural food and health companies.

In the midst of such claims, where do consumers turn for reliable information? They trust federal regulators to give them the straight scoop based on science. Yet even here, the federal government is passively complicit in allowing unscientific claims to mislead consumers. Exhibit A in federal complicity is the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) certified Organic label.

USDA’s research shows that more than 70 percent of consumers are likely to believe a food is safer, more nutritious or of higher quality if it bears the organic label. In fact, all the label signifies is that a given food has been grown, handled and processed without many of the modern techniques of conventional agriculture.

The label does not even mean that a certain food was grown without pesticides. Organic foods are routinely produced with certain kinds of “organic” pesticides. Meanwhile, organic recalls due to bacterial contamination are ballooning along with the expanding market for organic food.

In short, the federal government is strict about science, labeling and claims for all industries except one. The marketers of organic food are allowed to make scientifically false and misleading claims about the safety and wholesomeness of conventional food, while their products are increasingly likely to be recalled for safety reasons.

Federal agencies have a statutory responsibility to crack down on untruthful and misleading claims in food marketing. They also have a responsibility to warn consumers about real dangers.

The findings by Academics Review raise a number of questions federal regulators should have to answer.

– Will the USDA, FDA and Federal Trade Commission enforce existing rules against misleading advertising when marketers misuse the organic label to vilify competitors?

– Will regulators regard the sponsored attacks on conventional agriculture as advertising, subject to standards of truth?

– Will the Centers for Disease Control and the Food and Drug Administration investigate what is behind the frighteningly high recall record of organic food?

– And will the government perform more research on the safety of organic foods?

This is no longer a matter of who wins at the checkout counter. For many vulnerable people, it is a matter of safety. They just don’t know it yet.

JOHN R. BLOCK was U.S. secretary of agriculture from 1981 to 1986. The lifelong farmer now is senior policy adviser to the law firm of Olsson Frank Weeda Terman Matz PC in Washington, D.C. Contact: jblock@ofwlaw.com.

‘I pity the fool’ 29 in Canada, 17 in US sick with Salmonella in various sprouted chia seed powder products

There are now 29 people in Canada and 17 in the U.S. now sick with Salmonella from various organic sprouted chia seed powder products, up from zero and nine, respectively just a week ago.

chia.mr.tThere’s a bunch of products from a bunch of companies. As of June 2 in the U.S., 17 ill persons infected with the outbreak strains of Salmonella Newport (12 persons) or Salmonella Hartford (5 persons) have been reported from 10 states.

Always a step behind: chia pet seed powder sickens 9 in Canada

On May 28, 2014, Navitas Naturals issued a voluntary recall for organic sprouted chia seed powder products in the U.S.

No mention was made of sick people.

chia.seed.powderOn May 29, 2014, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control announced at least 12 people were sick with Salmonella from the chia stuff.

On May 30, 2014, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency said Advantage Health Matters and Back 2 the Garden were recalling various products containing sprouted chia seeds due to possible Salmonella contamination, and that “this recall was triggered by findings by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) during its investigation into a foodborne illness outbreak. The CFIA is conducting a food safety investigation, which may lead to the recall of other products. … There have been reported illnesses associated with the consumption of these products.”

Informative.

On May 31, 2014, the Public Health Agency of Canada announced that nine people were sick in three provinces, linked to chia stuff.

‘Superfood Co’ super-sucks with Salmonella on sprouted chia powder

Navitas Naturals, the Superfood Company is voluntarily recalling products which contain Organic Sprouted Chia Powder due to possible health risks related to Salmonella contamination. “We have chosen to voluntarily recall products containing Organic Sprouted Chia Powder with the goal of utmost safety for our consumers” stated Zach Adelman, Navitas Naturals CEO.

salm.chia.sprout.powderThe affected products were distributed nationally and include:

Navitas Naturals Organic Sprouted Chia Powder, 8oz, UPC 858847000369 with best buy dates from 04/30/2015 through 09/05/2015

Navitas Naturals Omega Blend Sprouted Smoothie Mix, 8oz, UPC 858847000314 with best buy dates from 07/29/2015 through 09/19/2015

Williams-Sonoma Omega 3 Smoothie Mixer, 8 oz, SKU 506436 with best buy dates from 09/12/2015 through 10/02/2015

No other Navitas Naturals products are affected by this recall.

Consumers who have purchased this item are urged to not eat the product, and to dispose of it or return it to the store where it was originally purchased.

Salmonella is an organism that can cause serious and sometimes fatal infections in young children elderly people, and others with weakened immune systems. Healthy persons infected with Salmonella often experience fever, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and abdominal pain. In rare circumstances, infection with Salmonella can result in the organism getting into the bloodstream and producing more severe illnesses.

The company is working closely with FDA and California Department of Public Health on this issue. “Ensuring the premium quality of the superfoods we provide is our highest priority,” said Adelman.” We stand behind the safety and integrity of our products and their valuable superfood nutrients,” confirmed Adelman.

Customers with questions or who would like product replacements or refunds may contact 888-886-3879 between 8:00-4:30 PST, Monday through Friday.

Defunct peanut plant to be auctioned next week after 2012 Salmonella outbreak

In fall, 2012, 41 people in 20 states contracted Salmonella from natural and organic peanut butter, produced by Sunland Inc. of Portales, New Mexico, and primarily through purchases at Trader Joe’s.

By Nov. 2012, Sunland was eager to reopen, but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration had other ideas, and filed a permanent injunction against Sunland.

In May, 2013, Sunland announced it was back in production and company officials said their barf-inducing coveted natural and organic butters could be back on store shelves sunland_20120925084929_320_240within a month.

By Oct. 2013 they were bankrupt.

Food safety can do that to an operation.

Now, the plant is headed to the auction block.

According to the Associated Press, the reserve price for all bidders in Thursday’s auction is $18.5 million. That’s the amount California-based Ready Roast Nut Co. already has offered to buy the defunct Sunland Inc. plant.

The sale seemed imminent when a bankruptcy trustee backed Ready Roast’s offer. But the Clovis News Journal reports another potential buyer has emerged.

A U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge has scheduled a hearing Friday to accept or reject the best bid in the auction.

Safe because it’s organic? Link found between moose meat and Toxoplasma in unborn baby

A woman in Alaska who ate a medium-rare moose steak at week 26 of her pregnancy gave birth prematurely at 34 weeks because of a toxoplasmosis infection.

According to the Anchorage Daily News, Lauren Hamm’s 34-week moose-steaksprenatal checkup was only supposed to be 10 minutes.

But she left the hospital 96 hours later. Her son, born prematurely, didn’t leave the neonatal intensive care unit for another three weeks.

Doctors said the meat was infected with Toxoplasma gondii, a parasite that can be found in under-cooked game meat. It causes toxoplasmosis, an infection that brings mild flu-like symptoms, like swollen glands, in adults but can be deadly to an unborn child. Hamm’s story was published in the September issue of Alaska Medicine.

Doctors said Hamm had the infection and passed it on to her unborn baby, Bennett. He was born on Dec. 13, 2011, with a heart rate of 200 beats per minute, Hamm said. He had fluid around his organs and lesions on his eyes and brain. Hamm said 45 minutes after Bennett was born, his heart rate was still irregular. Doctors used a defibrillator and shocked his heart back into rhythm.

“I had a prayer in my heart that everything was going to be OK,” she said.

Her doctor, Nelson Isada, a perinatologist at Providence Alaska Medical Center, was the senior author of the article.

Hamm said Isada wondered why Bennett’s heart rate was so irregular, and he ran as many blood tests as he could on her newborn son. moose.alaskaAccording to the article, after Isada found the lesions on Bennett’s eyes, he started to piece together that the baby might have toxoplasmosis.

Isada later tested the moose meat from the family’s freezer and found that it tested positive for Toxoplasma gondii.

According to the article, humans can get Toxoplasma gondii in three ways: by eating under-cooked meat that contains the cysts where the parasite lives, by a mother during gestation, or ingesting the cysts while they are opening in foods, soil, water or a cat’s litter box.

He said women who are pregnant can eat moose meat but they should make sure the meat is cooked all the way through. They should also cook beef, lamb and veal roasts or steaks to 145 degrees and pork, ground meat and wild game to 160 degrees.

Hamm said her husband shot the moose on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, and the family ate the steaks medium-rare, like they always do. She was 26 weeks pregnant.

She said she never considered it unsafe to eat moose meat, because it was organic.

Now, at 22 months old, baby Bennett’s lesions have healed and he is healthy.

What about the sprouts? ‘Organic’ cafe misled with veggie burger

Cancer sucks. So does foodborne illness, like for the 53 people, primarily women, who died in Germany in 2011 from eating raw sprouts.

A holistic wellness coach who says she felt “dirty” after eating a non-organic veggie burger at a Byron Bay cafe has apologized after an online “rant” about the food she was served.

‘Wellness warrior’ Jessica Ainscough vented on her blog after eating a burger she believed was 100 per cent organic, only to later discover it was organic.burger.jun.13‘not totally’ chemical-free.

The holistic health coach, who was in Byron Bay last week, follows a strict organic diet after overcoming cancer without using modern medicine.

In a June 18 post titled ‘BEWARE OF ORGANIC CAFES THAT LIE TO US’, Ms Ainscough said she was ‘pissed off’ that Manna Haven Cafe falsely claimed to be ‘vegan, raw and organic’.

The 26-year-old said she had initially been excited to find somewhere ‘safe’ for lunch and ordered the veggie Burger thinking it was organic.

The not-for-profit cafe’s menu describes its Big Burger as being ‘cancer fighting rather than cancer causing’ and vegan, low glycaemic index and a superfood.

“If a cafe claims to be organic and charge prices that reflect this, we should be able to trust that what they’re serving us is just that. Otherwise, it’s false advertising and on par with green washing.”

One of the cafe’s founders Anita Carvill saying she was shocked by the backlash.

“There was nowhere that said the burger was 100 per cent organic so I’m not sure how she got that impression,” Ms Carvill said.

“The options on the sign are just options, there is no false advertising.

Ms. Ainscough respoinded that, “The word ‘organic’ is the green light that tells us it’s safe to eat. It doesn’t matter if some of the ingredients are organic – if they’re mixed with conventional ingredients the whole dish is rendered poisonous to those of us who have to be so pedantic for the sake of our health and lives.”

Then avoid the sprouts. They tend to make people barf.