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Food Safety



Minnesota next up to pass law banning undercover farm videos

If Big Ag has its way, even possessing this undercover image of a factory chicken farm would be illegal.Photo: Humane Society of the United StatesNPR had a report today on the anti-whistleblower laws in Florida and Iowa that would make it illegal to take photos or undercover videos of livestock facilities. (It's always nice to be NPR's assignment editor!) But it doesn't end in those two states -- this "campaign" by Big Ag to shield its production techniques from scrutiny is going national. Writer Will Potter -- author of the book Green Is the New Red about "how animal rights …


Hungry kids and the environment hit hard by USDA budget cuts

             Hungry kids may be getting less cheddar.The House Appropriations Committee has released a detailed list of budget cuts as part of the deal to avoid a government shutdown, and it looks like agriculture and food programs are getting hit pretty hard. The USDA budget will be cut by $2.6 billion, down from the $108 billion the department had been expected to spend this year. One of the largest cuts comes from nutrition and food programs -- in particular WIC, the program for low-income women and children -- since, as we know, rising food prices and a struggling economy mean that …


Crazy idea from the feds: Maybe companies should stop shipping contaminated meat

Here's a good way to prevent a food recall: Don’t ship contaminated food in the first place. Companies that process meat have to test it for salmonella, E. coli, and other buggies, but they can send it off to stores before they get results. The Department of Agriculture has recently caught on to the fact that maybe this is dumb, and they’re proposing that meat products be held until the lab results come back (a matter of 48 hours or less). This approach could have prevented 44 outbreaks in the last four years, averting hundreds of cases of food poisoning …

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grainy days

Why world food prices may keep climbing

Click for a larger version.In February, world food prices reached the highest level on record. Soaring food prices are already a source of spreading hunger and political unrest, and it appears likely that they will climb further in the months ahead. As a result of an extraordinarily tight grain situation, this year's harvest will be one of the most closely watched in years. Last year, the world produced 2,180 million tons of grain. It consumed 2,240 million tons, a consumption excess that was made possible by drawing down stocks by 60 million tons. To avoid repeating last year's shortfall and …

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Skippy dippy

The real scandal of ‘reduced-fat Skippy peanut butter spread’ isn’t the salmonella

Just say no.Photo: Bill CorCorrected: See below. ------ Skippy, a brand owned by European food giant Unilever, has issued a recall of its "reduced fat" peanut butter products. Evidently, they have become tainted with salmonella -- an unhappy echo of the widespread 2009 salmonella outbreak from salmonella-tainted "peanut paste." But the real scandal with Skippy® Reduced Fat Creamy Peanut Butter Spread and Skippy® Reduced Fat Super Chunk Peanut Butter Spread isn't that some unwanted pathogen somehow found its way into the finished product. The problem is the stuff that Unilever quite intentionally injects into its "peanut butter spreads" -- and …

Read more: Food, Food Safety, Scary Food


Super (gross) bugs

Flies and cockroaches carry antibiotic-resistant bacteria from factory farms, study finds

A fly's paradise: Near a giant hog factory in North Carolina, downed pigs fester while sprayers spread untreated manure onto fields. Photo: Steve WingWhat sort of antibiotic-resistant pathogens are growing on factory farms, along with all the cheap pork chops and chicken wings? And what level of threat do they pose to our health? Well, we know that in total, factory-farm animals consume a jaw-dropping four times as many antibiotics as do people in the United States, thanks to diligent reporting by Maryn McKenna and Ralph Loglisci and work by Rep. Louise Slaughter (D-N.Y.). And we know that a kind …


beard goggles

Maine governor on BPA: ‘Worst case is that some women may have little beards’

Image: JMS BoggioPaul LePage, governor of Maine, is pretty confident that nothing can harm him as long as he doesn't know sh*t about dick. Here's his scientific assessment of the dangers of plastic additive bisphenol A: "Quite frankly, the science that I'm looking at says there is no [problem]," LePage said. "There hasn't been any science that identifies that there is a problem." LePage then added: "The only thing that I've heard is if you take a plastic bottle and put it in the microwave and you heat it up, it gives off a chemical similar to estrogen. So the …

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Curdled logic

FDA’s crackdown on raw-milk cheese based on flawed data analysis

Italy's celebrated Pecorino di Farindola, pictured here, is now and has always been made from raw milk. We can get this right, peopleHas there been a serious jump in illnesses from raw-milk cheese recently? You might think so if you've read recent major pieces in The New York Times and The Washington Post -- or the study put together by product liability law firm Marler Clark, which documented 54 illnesses attributed to raw milk cheese in 2010. The FDA is certainly concerned. It has been considering significantly tightening the rule that allows producers to sell unpasteurized cheeses to the public, …


no rain, no grain

The world is one poor harvest away from chaos

An Indian woman sifts grain from a previous harvest. Water shortages could drastically affect this year's harvest.Photo: World BankIn early January, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that its Food Price Index had reached an all-time high in December, exceeding the previous record set during the 2007-08 price surge. Even more alarming, on Feb. 3, the FAO announced that the December record had been broken in January as prices climbed an additional 3 percent. Will this rise in food prices continue in the months ahead? In all likelihood, we will see further rises that will take the world …