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FDA Clarifies Sanitary Transportation Rule Waiver for Retail Food Establishments

The Coastal Bend Chronicle | Posted on August 17, 2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration issued guidance to clarify that a waiver to the Sanitary Transportation of Human and Animal Food final rule (Sanitary Transportation rule) covers retail food establishments that sell food for humans, including those that sell both human and animal food, but does not apply to establishments that only sell food for animals. The Sanitary Transportation rule  established a process by which FDA may waive any of the rule’s requirements for certain classes of persons, vehicles, or types of food  if doing so will not result in the transportation of food under conditions that would be unsafe for human or animal health, or contrary to the public interest.  

FDA eases restrictions on ultra-filtered milk for cheese-making

Wisconsin State Farmer | Posted on August 17, 2017

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration says ultra-filtered cow’s milk can now be used to make all types of natural cheeses, a move that Wisconsin cheese-makers have sought for nearly 20 years. Ultra-filtered milk is fresh farm milk run through a filter to reduce the amount of water and lactose and concentrate the natural proteins.“FDA’s announcement is an important win for Wisconsin and other great cheese-making states,” John Umhoefer, executive director of the Wisconsin Cheese Makers Association said in a statement.Umhoefer said the FDA’s decision will allow cheese-makers to use the concentrated form of milk with flexible labeling restrictions.“There’s been an oversupply of milk in the U.S. for over a year, causing real financial stress for dairy farm families. This decision can lead to more production of … ultra-filtered milk and find new markets for our abundant milk supplies,” Umhoefer said.For years, the dairy industry has worked with the FDA to allow the use of ultra-filtered milk in cheeses with a federal standard of identity — such as cheddar, mozzarella, Colby and brick.The agency has allowed the use of the concentrated milk in standardized cheeses if the filtration took place at the factory where natural cheese was made.

Opinion: FDA overreach on FSMA Produce Safety needs to be addressed

Agri-Pulse | Posted on August 17, 2017

The Food and Drug Administration will soon be micromanaging a wide range of farming-related activities for many farms. In 2011, President Barack Obama signed into law the Food Safety Modernization Act, which impacts numerous areas of the food supply, including produce safety.The FDA finalized a FSMA produce safety rule in 2015, with most of the major requirements kicking in over the next several years.  The rule doesn’t require a commodity to be connected to a foodborne illness outbreak in order to be regulated, or even to be similar to the small number of produce commodities that are connected to outbreaks. The FDA has taken the view that because an outbreak is possible, regardless of the likelihood, that’s sufficient.    As explained by the FDA, “it is likely that at least some commodities that currently have never been implicated in an outbreak have a positive probability of being implicated in a future outbreak.”By this logic, except for the limited exceptions that exist in the rule, no produce is safe from the regulatory reach of the FDA. The FDA isn’t taking a broad interpretation of FSMA’s language; instead, it is ignoring FSMA’s language and doing the exact opposite of what Congress intended.By regulating more fruits and vegetable, the FDA has also given itself the ability to enforce its produce safety rule requirements on a far greater number of farmers.  These standards cover a wide range of issues that address potential on-farm sources of contamination from water quality and testing to sanitation of equipment, tools, and buildings.

Fear on the farm: what will America eat when Trump throws out migrant labor?

Pacific Standard | Posted on August 17, 2017

 "A lot of people in this country think of immigrants based on what they hear on television or read in the news or Internet," Wood says. "We want people to know that, every day, they eat or drink something an immigrant helps produce: wine, or a glass of milk, or cheese, or the hotel bed they sleep in."In 2013, Wood's family hired Pedro, a short, mustachioed man of 47 with a thick head of black hair. He has been in the U.S. for 13 years, leaving behind a large family in Veracruz on the Gulf of Mexico coast, where he raised cows. Wood says he hired the two other workers in a "kind of underground" system "through a friend of a friend.""We needed people and tried to get Americans," he says, "but they wouldn't do it."Pedro (not his real name), who speaks little English, says he is treated well by his farm family, and Vermonters, for the most part, are kind. "But now, the laws are different with the police, and we can feel that," he says. "I am afraid to go to public places. And it makes me sad."  The Wood family laughs when they hear the president talk brashly about their Mexican workers as "bad hombres" and say they hope immigration reform comes soon."If these guys were drug dealers or bad guys, they wouldn't be coming to a farm to work," Loren Wood says."If we didn't have them, I'd have to cut our numbers. If we lost the help, we'd have to sell the cows," he continues. "If all the immigrants on the farms are deported, what is the country going to eat?"

Can we feed the world with farmed fish?

NPR | Posted on August 17, 2017

For years, scientists and activists have sounded the alarm that humans' appetite for seafood is outpacing what fishermen can sustainably catch. But new research suggests there is space on the open ocean for farming essentially all the seafood humans can eat. A team of scientists led by Rebecca Gentry, of the University of California, Santa Barbara, found that widescale aquaculture utilizing much of the ocean's coastal waters could outproduce the global demand for seafood by a staggering 100 times.Their paper, published Monday in the journal Nature Ecology & Evolution, could have significant implications for a planet whose human population is projected to reach 10 billion by 2050. Nearly every coastal country has the potential to meet its own domestic demand for seafood, "typically using only a minute fraction of its ocean territory," write the authors.In their research, the scientists analyzed the potential of virtually every square mile of the ocean's surface for producing 120 different species of fish and 60 species of bivalves – that is, mussels, clams, oysters and scallops. They immediately eliminated ocean waters deeper than about 650 feet, since ocean aquaculture generally requires anchoring floating pens and cages to the seafloor. They sought out areas rich in dissolved oxygen and phytoplankton – essential for bivalves, which filter microscopic food from the water. The researchers also excluded marine protected areas and regions where floating pens and cages might block shipping lanes and port entries or interfere with oil extraction.They calculated that marine aquaculture could produce 16.5 billion tons of fish per year, or about 4,000 pounds per person."And we were being very, very conservative in our calculations," says co-author Halley Froehlich, a postdoctoral researcher at UC Santa Barbara.

Vegetable Growers’ Food Safety Vigilance Is Paying Off (Opinion)

Growing Produce | Posted on August 17, 2017

I wanted to get a handle on just how often food safety recalls involving vegetable growers occur, so I pored through public records from the FDA. The agency reports every recall it issues, from medical devices to vitamins and supplements, to meat and dairy, to produce. It turns out vegetable growers are doing pretty well.There have been 210 food safety recalls so far in 2017 as of this posting. Out of those recalls, only 49 involved foods that included vegetables in some way, including processed foods like carrot muffins and prepared salads, as well as straight up vegetables like salad greens.I read through each formal recall notice and learned that only 19 recalls could potentially be traced back to a grower. Disease Is the Leading Cause of Vegetable Recalls. Fourteen of the 19 recalls involved diseases.Foreign Objects Are a Less Common Cause. There were four recalls generated by detecting foreign objects, although two of the four were from the same incidence. A single recall stemmed from a supply of thyme containing lead.All of these numbers represent a sharp improvement. By this time last year, there were almost double the number of vegetable recalls due to disease. The hard work growers are putting into keeping their produce safe is obviously paying off.

JBS pork plant in Louisville agrees to new fines

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on August 17, 2017

The JBS Louisville pork processing facility has agreed to pay the Louisville Metro Air Pollution Control District $60,000 in penalties resulting from records-keeping omissions and an inspection that found faulty equipment handling.

Organic and Conventional Crops —Brought to You by Modern Agriculture

Huffington Post | Posted on August 17, 2017

As a pioneer of genetically modified crop technology, I often get questions about what I really think about organic farming…or if I personally buy organic produce. My thoughts and answers might surprise you – number one, that being “pro-GMO” does not make me “anti-organic.” Allow me to explain.I believe that a real strength of our agricultural production system in the U.S. is the successful co-existence of conventional, biotech and organic farms to meet the different market opportunities and consumer product interests. We should all celebrate the fact that we get to enjoy incredible choice and the safest and most affordable food supply in the world!

What Does 'Clean Eating' Mean, Anyway?

Food Network | Posted on August 17, 2017

While the term “clean eating” is one of the hottest eating-style trends of the past few years, it’s leaving consumers, the media, and dietitians alike confused about what the term really means and the benefits it conveys on health.The core definition of clean eating that most of its advocates agree on is choosing whole foods as they are closest to nature, or in their least-processed state. From there, different interpretations abound, from Paleo to dairy-free, grain- or gluten-free and vegan. But Wendy Bazilian, DrPH, MA, RD, author of Eat Clean Stay Lean defining the term as such: “Clean eating is about taking steps toward real, wholesome, simpler, minimally-processed foods more often (not absolute or always) and away from highly processed foods.” Let’s take a deeper dive into the science behind this healthy food trend. Most foods undergo at least some processing. Clean eating advocates question how exactly was the product altered. Foods that have certain components, and with them nutrients, removed or have undesirable ingredients added is where processing can turn food away from healthfulness.

Neil deGrasse Tyson Explains Why The Term “GMO” Is Misleading

Food and Wine | Posted on August 15, 2017

Neil deGrasse Tyson is a man of many interests. Besides his fascination with how the universe operates, he’s actually quite interested in both food and wine. When it comes to food, though, there is one topic that Tyson is constantly addressing: GMOs. Most recently, he discussed genetically modified organisms with Dr. Pamela Ronald, a plant pathologist, geneticist, and professor at UC Davis, on his StarTalk podcast. While the entire episode is certainly worth a listen, the video segment published by Mashable provides a concise look at GMOs from a food science perspective and why both Tyson and Ronald don’t necessarily agree with the arguments surrounding GMOs.“We’ve been modifying organisms ever since the dawn of agriculture,” says Tyson in the clip. “There are no herds of wild milk cows wandering the countryside. We cultivated, or genetically changed, corn from whatever cavemen ate to these big ol’ sticks of corn that we now munch on. This is essentially true for every food in the grocery store.”  The big issue that the two scientists agree on is that the blanket term "GMO" has been politicized over the years and is too often associated with “genetically engineered” food, which has only been present for the past 40 years or so. Specifically, from Ronald’s perspective, “It’s not that we need so-called 'GMOs,' but we need to advance sustainable agriculture. Within those, we need ecologically-based farming practices, but we also need seed.”According to Tyson and Ronald, all seed at this point has been modified through either selective breeding or crossing strains and the bigger problem facing American consumers might actually be ingesting pesticides (sprayed onto crops or sometimes even engineered into seeds) rather than genetically modified foods.