People are sick: Michigan cheesemaker recalls 10 tons of organic product after STEC discovered

Jim Harger of MLive reports that Grassfields Cheese LLC, is conducting a recall of about 20,000 pounds of organic cheeses due to possible contamination with Shiga toxin-producing E. coli (STEC).

Grassfields CheeseThe company is voluntarily recalling the cheeses “out of an abundance of caution,” according to a recall notice issued by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development (MDARD) on Wednesday, Aug. 3.

“The potential for contamination was identified during an ongoing investigation of seven cases of human illnesses occurring between March and July 2016 caused by a same type of STEC,” according to the recall notice.

The department’s Geagley Laboratory confirmed the presence of STEC bacteria in a sample of Grassfields cheese collected by state food and dairy inspectors, according to the announcement.

The recall involves all types and sizes of organic cheeses manufactured by Grassfields between Dec. 1, 2015 through June 1, 2016 including: Gouda, Onion ‘n Garlic, Country Dill, Leyden, Edam, Lamont Cheddar, Chili Cheese, Fait Fras, Polkton Corners and Crofters. The cheeses were sold as wheels, half wheels, and wedges of various sizes.

grassfields-cheese-50b115a61d45e028a800028aThe recalled cheeses were sold from the firm’s retail store at 14238 60th Ave., Coopersville MI 49404, to wholesale and retail customers, and to consumers nationwide via sales through the firm’s website: http://www.Grassfieldsscheese.com/.

Owned by the same family since 1882, Grassfields Cheese switched from confinement farming to grass-based pasture farming in 1991. They added artisan cheeses and a farm store in 2002. And in 2007, they were certified as an organic dairy.

Salmonella from organic sprouts, grown in China, sickened people in Finland

Two new cases of Salmonella enteritidis are being investigated in Finland after an earlier outbreak linked to imported organic mung bean sprouts.

Bean_sproutsAccording to the European Commission’s Rapid Alert System for Food and Feed, an outbreak of Salmonella enteritidis in Finland appears to be caused by organic mung beans sprouts from China, via the Netherlands

The sprouts have been withdrawn from the market.

More details can be found in the Food Quality News article.

Salmonella in organic shake: Gift that keeps on giving

A confirmed case of Salmonella in Wisconsin likely resulted from consumption of an organic shake and meal replacement that was recalled earlier this year, state officials said Friday.

Garden of Life Organic Shake & Meal ReplacementThe recalled product, Garden of Life RAW Meal, has been acquired by consumers from Internet retailers such as eBay and Amazon, according to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection.

People should not consume the product if it is from the lot codes listed in the previous recall announcements found on the FDA Recall website .

Consumers should dispose of the product or follow the instructions given in the original recall notices found on the FDA website.

Jessica Alba sued over ‘unsafe’ baby food

Taking nutritional advice from a celebrity is like driving over a bridge constructed by an “alternative, all natural engineer.”

Jessica-Alba-Interview-About-Honest-CompanyBut, people do.

So it’s ironical that D-lister Jessica Alba’s The Honest Company is facing fresh legal action over organic baby food – from the Organic Consumers Association.

OCA filed a complaint at Los Angeles Superior Court earlier this month on “behalf of the general public” claiming The Honest Company bosses have been falsely labelling their Organic Premium Formula as organic, according to New York gossip column Page Six.

OCA lawyers claim the product contains 11 substances which are prohibited from organic foods under federal law.

On their website, they also state, “Some of the ingredients are federally regulated as hazardous compounds. At least one is irradiated. And some have not even been assessed as safe for human foods, much less for infant formulas.”

The group want the company to be prohibited from selling the product as organic, and to cover their legal fees.

News of the legal action comes as Jessica was named as the first-ever recipient of the Entrepreneur of the Year prize at the 2016 Webby Awards for her natural lifestyle firm, which she founded four years ago.

 

27 now sick from Salmonella in 20 states linked to organic shake and meal products

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control reports nine more ill people have been reported from eight states linked to RAW Meal products. The most recent illness started on March 13, 2016.

raw-mealFive ill people have been hospitalized, and no deaths have been reported.

Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicates that RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal products made by Garden of Life, LLC are the likely source of this outbreak.

As a result of this investigation, Garden of Life, LLC voluntarily recalled several lots of RAW Meal Organic Shake & Meal products, available in chocolate, original, vanilla, and vanilla chai, on January 29, 2016 (initial recall) and February 12, 2016 (expanded recall).

I pity the fool: Flax & chia seed powder recalled due to Salmonella contamination

Health Matter America, based in New York state, is recalling specific lots of Organic Traditions Sprouted Flax Seed Powder & Organic Traditions Sprouted Chia & Flax Seed Powder because they may be contaminated with Salmonella.

chia.mr.tThe affected products were distributed nationwide in flexible plastic bags.

Included are the following products:

Organic traditions SPROUTED FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 8 oz./227g, UPC barcode 854260006261; Lots AHM626151103 Exp. 09/2017, AHM626151229 Exp.10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag);

Organic traditions SPROUTED CHIA & FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 8 oz./227g; UPC barcode 854260006216; Lots AHM621151217 Exp. 10/2017; AHM621151229 Exp. 10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag);

chia.seed.powderOrganic traditions SPROUTED CHIA & FLAX SEED POWDER, NET WT. 16oz./454g bag, UPC barcode 854260005479; Lot AHM547151217 Exp. 10/2017 (lot number located near UPC barcode on back of bag).

No illnesses have been reported to date. The company says random samples taken by Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) from retail stores in Canada tested positive for Salmonella.

Jersey, this is a bad idea: Green anole lizard found in salad greens from store becomes class mascot; science teacher says it proves organic is safe

I’ll leave this to others to comment (and thanks for the contributor who sent it in):

salm.lizard.jan.16Sally Mabon and her kindergartener, Faye, found an unexpected surprise last week when they unwrapped a bundle of tatsoi greens: a 3-inch lizard.

It was cold and lifeless after having survived in the refrigerator for days, but is now thriving after some warmth and moisture.

The following day, Faye brought the critter to Riverside Elementary School, where it has become a mascot of sorts for teacher Mark Eastburn’s science lab.

“Interesting things can happen when you’re working as a science teacher,” he said. “We set up a little cage for it. It really came back amazingly well.”

While some of his fellow teachers were disgusted to hear that a lizard might be lurking in their salad greens, Eastburn said the lizard can teach them a couple of lessons: that organic food is safe for even the smallest of creatures, and that during the cold months, fresh fruits and vegetables need to come from warmer regions.

He said green anole lizards live in the southeastern United States, from Texas to North Carolina.

The lizard, nicknamed “Green Fruit Loop” by the kindergarteners, traveled from Florida.

“It probably has some moderate adaptation to the cold which is why it made it through,” Eastburn said.

Mabon bought the tatsoi from Whole Earth Center, a Princeton natural foods store whose produce is 100 percent organic (marketed that way).

Mike Atkinson, the store’s produce manager, said the lizard’s survival is a testament to organic food, which is generally grown without synthetic pesticides or fertilizers.

“I don’t think the lizard would’ve made it in a conventional, non-organic box,” he said. “It might normally surprise or freak out conventional shoppers, but the majority of organic shoppers realize that produce is grown on a farm and there’s lots of bugs and animals that live on a farm too. It shouldn’t be a surprise that one here and there makes it to the produce shelf.”

Eastburn has been teaching about DNA so he said it makes sense that the green anole lizard — the first reptile to have its genome sequenced — has now found a new home in the lab.

“It’s a really fitting mascot for our science lab,” he said.

Microbial-based recalls of organic food on the rise

New data collected by Stericycle, a company that handles recalls for businesses, shows a sharp jump in the number of recalls of organic food products, according to a story in the N.Y. Times.

organic-manure1Organic food products accounted for 7 percent of all food units recalled so far this year, compared with 2 percent of those recalled last year, according to data from the Food and Drug Administration and the Department of Agriculture that Stericycle uses to compile its quarterly report on recalls.

In 2012 and 2013, only 1 percent of total units of food recalled were organic.

Kevin Pollack, a vice president at Stericycle, said the growing consumer and corporate demand for organic ingredients was at least partly responsible for the increase.

“What’s striking is that since 2012, all organic recalls have been driven by bacterial contamination, like salmonella, listeria and hepatitis A, rather than a problem with a label,” Mr. Pollack said. “This is a fairly serious and really important issue because a lot of consumers just aren’t aware of it.”

For that matter, the overall amount of food recalled because of suspected bacterial contamination has increased this year, adding to what has been an upward trend in food recalls since 2012, according to Stericycle, which predicts a 24 percent increase in the number of food units that will be recalled by the F.D.A. this year.

The Organic Trade Association, however, took issue with Stericycle’s accounting of recalls, saying its own quick analysis of recall data from the F.D.A. and the Agriculture Department show the problem is less severe, with organic products accounting for 4.9 percent of recalls, in line with the percentage of organic food sold out of total retail sales of food.

“A key point to keep in mind is that an overall increase in organic recalls between 2012 and 2015 would not be surprising — not because organic food is less safe, but because of the dramatic increase in organic food sales and purchases that we’ve been seeing in this country,” said Gwendolyn Wyard, senior director of regulatory and technical affairs at the trade group.

“Sales of organic food in the U.S. have risen by almost 25 percent just since 2012, and the number of organic products on the market is increasing steadily as demand for organic increases,” she said.

Ms. Wyard also noted that food safety mechanisms had increased since 2012, with a corresponding increase in food recalls.

The colossal hoax of organic agriculture

Henry I. Miller, a physician, is the Robert Wesson Fellow in Scientific Philosophy and Public Policy at Stanford University’s Hoover Institution. He was the founding director of the Office of Biotechnology at the FDA. Drew L. Kershen is the Earl Sneed Centennial Professor of Law (Emeritus), University of Oklahoma College of Law.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/henrymiller/2015/07/29/why-organic-agriculture-is-a-colossal-hoax/

organic-manure1Consumers of organic foods are getting both more and less than they bargained for. On both counts, it’s not good.

Many people who pay the huge premium—often more than a hundred percent–for organic foods do so because they’re afraid of pesticides.  If that’s their rationale, they misunderstand the nuances of organic agriculture. Although it’s true that synthetic chemical pesticides are generally prohibited, there is a lengthy list of exceptions listed in the Organic Foods Production Act, while most “natural” ones are permitted. However, “organic” pesticides can be toxic.  As evolutionary biologist Christie Wilcox explained in a 2012 Scientific American article (“Are lower pesticide residues a good reason to buy organic? Probably not.”): “Organic pesticides pose the same health risks as non-organic ones.

Another poorly recognized aspect of this issue is that the vast majority of pesticidal substances that we consume are in our diets “naturally” and are present in organic foods as well as non-organic ones. In a classic study, UC Berkeley biochemist Bruce Ames and his colleagues found that “99.99 percent (by weight) of the pesticides in the American diet are chemicals that plants produce to defend themselves.” Moreover, “natural and synthetic chemicals are equally likely to be positive in animal cancer tests.” Thus, consumers who buy organic to avoid pesticide exposure are focusing their attention on just one-hundredth of one percent of the pesticides they consume.

Some consumers think that the USDA National Organic Program (NOP) requires certified organic products to be free of ingredients from “GMOs,” organisms crafted with molecular techniques of genetic engineering. Wrong again. USDA does not require organic products to be GMO-free. (In any case, the methods used to create so-called GMOs are an extension, or refinement, of older techniques for genetic modification that have been used for a century or more.) As USDA officials have said repeatedly:

Organic certification is process-based. That is, certifying agents attest to the ability of organic operations to follow a set of production standards and practices which meet the requirements of the Organic Foods Production Act of 1990 and the [National Organic Program] regulations . . . If all aspects of the organic production or handling process were followed correctly, then the presence of detectable residue from a genetically modified organism alone does not constitute a violation of this regulation. [emphasis added]

Putting it another way, so long as an organic farmer abides by his organic system (production) plan–a plan that an organic certifying agent must approve before granting the farmer organic status–the unintentional presence of GMOs (or, for that matter, prohibited synthetic pesticides) in any amount does not affect the organic status of the farmer’s products or farm.

Under only two circumstances does USDA sanction the testing of organic products for prohibited residues (such as pesticides, synthetic fertilizers or antibiotics) or excluded substances (e.g., genetically engineered organisms). First, USDA’s National Organic Production Standards support the testing of products if an organic-certifying agent believes that the farmer is intentionally using prohibited substances or practices. And second, USDA requires that certifying agents test five percent of their certified operations each year. The certifying agents themselves determine which operations will be subjected to testing.

The organic community, including the International Federation of Organic Agricultural Movements (IFOAM), supports the USDA’s lenient testing protocols and opposes more frequent mandatory testing of organic products for prohibited and excluded substances.

The organic community and USDA offer two explanations for such minimal testing. First, they emphasize that organic farming is process-based, not product-based, meaning that what counts for organic certification are the approved organic system (production) plan and the farmer’s intention to comply with that plan as reflected through record-keeping obligations.

Second, widespread testing would impose substantial costs on organic farmers, thereby increasing production costs beyond the already greater expenses that organic farmers incur. Organic farmers offset these higher productions costs by earning large premiums for organic products, but there is always a price point beyond which consumers will shift to cheaper non-organic.

Few organic consumers are aware that organic agriculture is a “trust-based” or “faith-based” system. With every purchase, they are at risk of the moral hazard that an organic farmer will represent cheaper-to-produce non-organic products as the premium-priced organic product. For the vast majority of products, no tests can distinguish organic from non-organic—for example, whether milk labeled “organic” came from a cow within the organic production system or from a cow across the fence from a conventional dairy farm. The higher the organic premium, the stronger the economic incentive to cheat.

Think such nefarious behavior is purely theoretical? Think again. USDA reported in 2012 that 43 percent of the 571 samples of “organic” produce tested violated the government’s organic regulations and that “the findings suggest that some of the samples in violation were mislabeled conventional products, while others were organic products that hadn’t been adequately protected from prohibited pesticides.”

How do organic farmers get away with such chicanery?  A 2014 investigation by the Wall Street Journal of USDA inspection records from 2005 on found that 38 of the 81 certifying agents–entities accredited by USDA to inspect and certify organic farms and suppliers—“failed on at least one occasion to uphold basic Agriculture Department standards.” More specifically, “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 non-organic products.”

Speaking of trust and faith—or lack thereof–in organic foods, there was the example of holier-than-thou Whole Foods importing large amounts of its supposedly “organic” produce from China, of all places. Those imports even included Whole Foods’ house brand, “California Blend.” (Yes, you read that correctly.)

Organic agriculture is an unscientific, heavily subsidized marketing gimmick that misleads and rips off consumers, both because of the nature of the regulations and cheating. The old saying that you get what you pay for doesn’t apply when you buy overpriced organic products.

Food as snake oil: ‘diet gurus’ hook us with religion veiled in science

With full respect to Kurt Vonnegut, I listen to the ethical pronouncements of the leaders of the church of organic and am able to distill only two firm commandments from them. The first commandment is this: Stop thinking. The second commandment is this: Obey. Only a person who has given up on the power of reason to improve life here on earth, or a soldier in basic training, could accept either commandment gladly.

vonnegut.back.to.schoolFood is 21st century snake oil. In an era of unprecedented affluence, consumers now choose among a cacophony of low‑fat, enhanced‑nutrient staples reflecting a range of political statements and perceived lifestyle preferences, far beyond dolphin‑free tuna.

And to go with the Salt Spring Island goat cheese, the all‑organic carrots and the Snapple-laced echinacea is a veritable sideshow of hucksters and buskers, flogging their wares to the highest bidder ‑‑ these things always cost a premium ‑‑ or at least the most fashionable.

In 2001, the U.K. Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) upheld four complaints against claims in a Soil Association leaflet entitled Five Reasons To Eat Organic. The ASA ruled there was no evidence that, contrary to the assertions of the Soil Association, that consumers could taste the difference, that organic was healthy, that it was better for the environment, and that organic meant healthy, happy animals. On one claim, the Soil Association responded that 53% of people buying organic produce did so because they thought it was healthy. The ASA rightly ruled this did not constitute any sort of clinical or scientific evidence.

Alan Levinovitz writes for NPR that from Paleo to vegan to raw, nutrition gurus package their advice as sound, settled science. It doesn’t matter whether meat is blamed for colon cancer or grains are called out as fattening poison — there’s no shortage of citations and technical terms (tertiary amines, gliadin, ketogenesis) to back up the claims.

But as a scholar of religion, it’s become increasingly clear to me that when it comes to fad diets, science is often just a veneer. Peel it away and you find timeless myths and superstitions, used to reinforce narratives of good and evil that give meaning to people’s lives and the illusion of control over their well-being.

Take the grain-free monks of ancient China. (My specialty is classical Chinese thought.) Like all diet gurus, these monks used a time-tested formula. They mocked the culinary culture around them, which depended on the so-called wugu, or “five grains.”

According to the monks’ radical teachings, conventional grain-laden Chinese diets “rotted and befouled” your organs, leading to early disease and death. By avoiding the five grains, you could achieve perfect health, immortality, clear skin, the ability to fly and teleport. Well, not quite. To fully realize the benefits of the monks’ diet, you also had to take proprietary supplements, highly technical alchemical preparations that only a select few knew how to make. All of this may sound eerily familiar: Look no further than modern anti-grain polemics like Dr. David Perlmutter’s Grain Brain — complete with its own recommended supplement regimen.

Despite basic logic and evidence to the contrary, the philosophy of the grain-free monks gained popularity. That’s because then, as now, the appeal of dietary fads had much to do with myths, not facts. Chief among these is the myth of “paradise past,” an appealing fiction about a time when everyone was happy and healthy, until they ate the wrong food and fell from grace.

hucksterThe mythic narrative of “unnatural” modernity and a “natural” paradise past is persuasive as ever. Religious figures like Adam and Eve have been replaced by Paleolithic man and our grandparents: “Don’t eat anything your great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize as food,” is journalist Michael Pollan’s oft-quoted line.

The story also has a powerful moral dimension. It’s the Prince of Evil, after all, who tempted Eve. Once secularized, Satan reappears as corporations and scientists who feed us chemical additives, modern grains and GMOs, the “toxic” fruits of sin. (No matter if science doesn’t agree that any of these things are very toxic.)

Paradise past. Good and evil. Benevolent Nature with a capital N. The promise of nutritional salvation. After you’ve constructed a compellingly simple narrative foundation, all you have to do is wrap your chosen diet in scientific rhetoric.

For Chinese monks, that rhetoric involved “five phases theory.” For ancient Greeks and Romans it was “humors” — four fluids thought to be the basis of human health. Now it is peer-reviewed studies. Thankfully for diet gurus, the literature of nutrition science is vague, vast and highly contested — just like religious texts — making it easy to cherry-pick whatever data confirm your biases.