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How the World Health Organization's cancer agency confuses consumers

Reuters | Posted on April 25, 2016

Processed meat, such as bacon, ranks alongside plutonium as a carcinogen, according to an arm of the WHO. Here’s how such assessments happen – and what they mean.

Thanks to scientists working under the auspices of the World Health Organization, you can be fairly sure your toothbrush won’t give you cancer. Over four decades, a WHO research agency has assessed 989 substances and activities, ranging from arsenic to hairdressing, and found only one was “probably not” likely to cause cancer in humans. It was an ingredient in nylon used in stretchy yoga pants and toothbrush bristles.

All the other 988 substances, however, pose some level of risk or need further research, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer (IARC), which is an arm of the WHO. Some things in IARC’s top category of carcinogens are pretty obvious nasties, such as plutonium, mustard gas and smoking tobacco. Others are more surprising: Also ranked as “Group 1 Carcinogens” are wood dust and Chinese salted fish.


Judge Says Lawsuit Accusing Chipotle of Deception Over GMOs Can Go Forward

Wall Street Journal | Posted on April 25, 2016

The case, filed in U.S. District Court in the Southern District of Florida in September and seeking class action status, claims that Chipotle misled consumers in ads saying its food is GMO-free. Chipotle’s meat and dairy products come from animals that consume genetically modified feed, the suit alleges. A Miami judge rejected Chipotle’s motion to dismiss the lawsuit. A trial date is set for November.


Whole Food Effect: When Small Food Makers Get the Call to Go Big

New York Times | Posted on April 25, 2016

Companies have learned that the wxcitement of the Whole FOods effect can quickly turn to fear as they face producing and distributing their reciped at larger volumes while maintaining quality and consistency. 


Legal defeat only emboldens 'food sovereignty' soldiers

Connecticut Post | Posted on April 25, 2016

The farm is a way of life Heather Retberg said needs to be protected from an aggressive regulatory structure that keeps small farms from getting food to local people. State legislators' pushback against "food sovereignty" advocates like Retberg, in Maine and elsewhere in the country, has only emboldened her.   "It's my right, as an individual, to grow the food I eat, she said."

The Retbergs, like the food sovereignty movement they are a part of, aren't going anywhere. The movement consists of a loose collection of farmers and activists who want to exempt local food producers from federal and state regulations, arguing they work in favor of big food producers and trample on the little guy.

Sedgwick was the first town in Maine to approve an ordinance declaring local control of food production, and supporters believe it was the first of its kind in the country. Sixteen other Maine towns have followed.

A bill calling for the amendment, proposed by organic farmer and Democratic state Rep.Craig Hickman, would have declared the right to food as "inalienable" in Maine. The amendment, if also approved by state voters, would have made it impossible to infringe upon residents' ability to hunt, gather or farm for whatever food they choose, or to prevent them from buying from others who produce food they want.

Backers saw it as a way to prevent government from intruding in local farm production and sales, and to take food production back from corporate control. But the Maine Senate shot down the proposed amendment, after the House approved it by a two-thirds majority.


How Chick-fil-A’s famously cute ad campaign hurts beef sales

Meatingplace | Posted on April 25, 2016

Back in 1995, an innovative PR firm or in-house marketing genius invented the famous “save the cow” marketing strategy for Chick-fil-A.  For twenty-one years now, this award-winning ad campaign has helped the Chick-fil-A brand differentiate itself from the crowded beef burger landscape.  Kudos to them for their competitive creativity.  If only it didn’t come at the beef industry’s expense.

Negative ad campaigns seem to be the only way to win political elections in current times, but are they the best way to promote food brands?  I guess it’s really not too different from the strategy employed by many in the organic industry where they differentiate their organic items by throwing rocks at traditional agriculture. We all get why that happens; because it works.  The makers of many organic brands have convinced millions of mostly millennials that GMOs are bad, traditionally raised fruits and vegetables are bad, and pretty much anything other than “organic” and “GMO-free” is downright dangerous.  Let’s throw traditional agriculture under the bus to make our stuff sell more.  Similarly, Chick-fil-A has inadvertently brainwashed an entire generation into thinking that eating bird-brained chickens is morally superior to eating those clever, ever-so-adorable Holsteins.  


UF/IFAS study finds better way to keep shrimp juicy, tasty

University of Florida | Posted on April 25, 2016

When you eat a shrimp, you probably want it to be juicy. That’s why University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences researchers are trying to find alternatives to phosphates to lock in that texture and savory flavor.

Normally, phosphate or table salt is used to retain moisture in meat and seafood, said Paul Sarnoski, a UF/IFAS assistant professor of food science and human nutrition. But adding salt to the food puts more salt in a person’s diet, and that’s unhealthy, Sarnoski said. Additionally, phosphates are relatively expensive, he said.  In a study in the Journal of Food Science, Sarnoski and his UF/IFAS colleagues found that phosphate alternatives such as polysaccharides – a type of carbohydrate often used as a food additive – can help retain water in shrimp. UF/IFAS scientists tested the shrimp using phosphates and polysaccharides. They boiled, froze and dried the crustaceans to see how much water the shrimp lost.  For this study, UF/IFAS researchers tested Atlantic white shrimp, which, in addition to being tasty and nutritious, are a vital component to the United States economy. In 2012, 118 million pounds of the shrimp were harvested.


Bounty hunters could come after you from day one if you are not compliant with Vermont GMO labeling law

Food Navigator | Posted on April 22, 2016

Food manufacturers should be aware that private litigants may also enforce Act 120 (as it is codified in a part of the Vermont code that has a private right of action), and would likely exercise less restraint than the state AG in the first few months, predicted Hahn.

“There is a bounty hunter provision that allows individuals in the state of Vermont, lawyers for example… to enforce the law. We are concerned that bounty hunters will take action as soon as Act 120 goes into effect.

“Private individuals are not entitled to recover $1,000 per day per SKU [the amount the state is entitled to claim for non-compliant products under Act 120] but they are entitled to receive at least three times the [ticket price of the] product they purchase and retrieve their attorney’s fees, which could amount to a significant amount of money.

“We’ve also not been able to ascertain whether you could put together a class action and lawyers could argue that any consumer from Vermont who purchased your product from July 1 and found it was not properly labeled, should be entitled to compensation, so we’re talking about [potential awards amounting to] dollar sales of your product across the state of Vermont times three, and all the legal fees. And at a minimum, legal fees for one of these actions would likely be $250,000 to $1m.”


Are GMOs Causing Food Allergies? Setting The Record Straight

Forbes | Posted on April 22, 2016

There is nothing inherently different about food from GMO crops than food from conventional crops. Just the fact that a crop has been genetically modified does not make it more allergenic.


Why this genetically modified mushroom gets to skip USDA oversight

The Washington Post | Posted on April 22, 2016

For the first time, a food product created using CRISPR – could be on track to be sold and eaten. And it might be the first of many.  Few scientific issues are more divisive than the regulation and labeling of genetically modified organisms, otherwise known as GMOs. A new fungus shows just how murky our understanding of the technology – and our policy surrounding it – remains. Last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) confirmed that it will not regulate the cultivation and sale of a white-button mushroom created using CRISPR.

The decision came in the form of a letter to Yinong Yang, a plant pathologist at Pennsylvania State University who created the new mushroom. Yang's frankenfungi is a simple Agaricus bisporus, the kind of white-button mushroom you could buy at any grocery store. But Yang targeted several genes that code for the protein that causes mushrooms to turn brown as they age or get bruised. The result is a mushroom more resilient to automated harvesting and long storage periods. 


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