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Category Archives: Food and Nutrition

Consumer Groups Urge USDA to Finalize Labeling of Mechanically Tenderized Meat

Members of the Safe Food Coalition wrote today to U.S. Department of Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack urging him to finalize a rule to label mechanically tenderized beef products by the end of the year. The Secretary must then send the rule to the Office of Management and Budget for final approval. The letter is available here. If the rule is not finalized before December 31, 2014, then consumers will not see these labels until 2018. FSIS’ new rule about uniform compliance dates for meat and poultry labeling require all new labels to be implemented concurrently every two years.  In the current timeframe for implementation, labels finalized by December 31, 2014 will go into effect on January 1, 2016. Any labeling changes after December 31 will be implemented in the next cycle. Delays by USDA and OMB in finalizing the current proposed rule could mean that a proactive and preventive label, designed to protect public health, would not be implemented until 2018, leaving consumers vulnerable and in the dark for far too long. Often used on less expensive cuts of meat to increase tenderness, mechanically tenderized products (such as steaks and roasts) are repeatedly pierced by small needles or blades, thereby increasing the risk that pathogens located on the surface of the product will be transferred to the interior. After treatment, these non-intact steaks and roasts have a greater risk of being internally contaminated, yet they look no different than non-treated product.  Therefore, without a label, consumers have no indication that they are purchasing a high-risk product that needs to be cooked to a higher internal temperature to ensure safety.  Labeling of mechanically tenderized products would provide institutional cooks and consumers with important product information aimed at preventing illness…According to USDA, 88% of the beef establishments that performed mechanical tenderization did not use any pathogen-reduction intervention prior to treatment, and 82% of those facilities did not test the finished product. In addition, most of the beef establishments with mechanically tenderized beef operations listed 3-6 sources for their products, yet only 3% of the facilities cleaned and sanitized their equipment between batches of beef from different sources.  Instead, 94% of the facilities that used mechanical tenderization cleaned/sanitized daily at the end of production.  Following a once-a-day cleaning/sanitizing schedule greatly increases the likelihood of cross contamination when multiple sources are being treated at the same facility.”

Oxfam’s new report on global inequalty

“From Ghana to Germany, South Africa to Spain, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly increasing, and economic inequality has reached extreme levels. In South Africa, inequality is greater today than at the end of Apartheid.The consequences are corrosive for everyone. Extreme inequality corrupts politics, hinders economic growth and stifles social mobility. It fuels crimeContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Airport and Airway Trust Fund, Food Safety, Information Sharing

FISCAL YEAR 2014 AGREED-UPON PROCEDURES: Excise Tax Distributions to the Airport and Airway Trust Fund and the Highway Trust Fund, GAO-15-152R: Published: Nov 6, 2014. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 2014. FOOD SAFETY: FDA and USDA Should Strengthen Pesticide Residue Monitoring Programs and Further Disclose Monitoring Limitations, GAO-15-38: Published: Oct 7, 2014. Publicly Released: Nov 6, 2014. INFORMATION SHARING: DHS Is Assessing FusionContinue Reading

New food label targets limiting massive amount of food waste

Washington Post – Landfills are overflowing with food. Here’s a gelatin label that could limit the waste: “The next time you start to toss an “expired” carton of milk, consider this: Dates on packages don’t actually have anything to do with food safety or FDA regulations. Instead, the dates are a somewhat arbitrary indication of whenContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – Changing Crude Oil Markets, Federal Paid Admin Leave, Food Safety

CHANGING CRUDE OIL MARKETS: Allowing Exports Could Reduce Consumer Fuel Prices, and the Size of the Strategic Reserves Should Be Reexamined, GAO-14-807: Published: Sep 30, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2014. FEDERAL PAID ADMINISTRATIVE LEAVE: Additional Guidance Needed to Improve OPM Data, GAO-15-79: Published: Oct 17, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 20, 2014. FOOD SAFETY: USDA Needs to Strengthen Its Approach toContinue Reading

FISHWATCH – U.S. Seafood Facts

“Today, 91 percent of seafood consumed in the United States is imported, and about half of this is wild-caught. Because of our interests both as a seafood-consuming nation and a fishing nation, it is critical that NOAA take an active role in shaping the conservation and management of international fisheries. For U.S. consumers of importedContinue Reading

Where GMOs hide in your food – Consumer Reports

“More than 70 percent of Americans say they don’t want genetically modified organisms in their food, according to a recent Consumer Reports National Research Center survey of 1,000 adults. The trouble is, it’s hard to avoid them. Consumer Reports’ tests of breakfast cereals, chips, soy infant formulas, and other popular products found that GMOs lurkContinue Reading

On Front Lines of Recycling, Turning Food Waste into Biogas

Rachel Cernansky, Yale environment 360: “An increasing number of sewage treatment plants in the U.S. and Europe are processing food waste in anaerobic biodigesters, keeping more garbage out of landfills, reducing methane emissions, and producing energy to defray their operating costs. In February, trucks from Waste Management, Inc. started working new routes in Los Angeles County, California.Continue Reading

Food Price Crisis Observatory

World Bank: “How do we know if and when a food price spike will become a full-fledged crisis? How do we prepare for such situations? The Food Price Crisis Observatory is an interactive information platform for policymakers, civil society and global organizations, the private sector and anyone else interested in identifying multi-country food crises asContinue Reading

New GAO Reports – DOD Joint Bases, Federal Real Property, Fish Stock Assessments

DOD JOINT BASES: Implementation Challenges Demonstrate Need to Reevaluate the Program, GAO-14-577: Published: Sep 19, 2014. Publicly Released: Sep 19, 2014: “Joint base officials reported varying progress in consolidating installation-support functions, and challenges resulting from consolidation efforts that created inefficiencies and inequities. Overall, the joint bases reported partially consolidating 80 percent of their installation-support functions, but the extentContinue Reading

The Rise of Data Poverty in America

Daniel Castro | September 10, 2014 “Data-driven innovations offer enormous opportunities to advance important societal goals. However, to take advantage of these opportunities, individuals must have access to high-quality data about themselves and their communities. If certain groups routinely do not have data collected about them, their problems may be overlooked and their communities heldContinue Reading

Consumer Expenditures – 2013

“Average expenditures per consumer unit (1) in 2013 were $51,100, little changed from 2012 levels, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today. In 2013 spending decreased 0.7 percent during the same period that the Consumer Price Index (CPI-U) increased 1.5 percent. In 2012 spending had increased 3.5 percent, outpacing the increase in prices. In 2013 average income perContinue Reading