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Food News

IBM-powered DNA sequencing could find bacteria in raw milk

engadget | Posted on June 23, 2017

To be able to build those tools, they first need to be intimately familiar with the substance and the microorganisms that tend to contaminate it. They'll sequence and analyze the DNA and RNA of dairy samples from Cornell's farm, as well as of all the microorganisms in environments milk tends to make contact with, including the cows themselves, from the moment it's pumped. Their tests will characterize what's "normal" for raw milk, so the tools they make can easily tell if something's wrong even if it's an unknown contaminant we've never seen before. This project however, is just the beginning. They plan to apply what they learn to other types of produce and ingredients in the future in order to ensure that they're safe for consumption, especially if they were imported from abroad.

USDA bans fresh Brazil beef imports over 'recurring' safety concerns

USA Today | Posted on June 23, 2017

The U.S. Department of Agriculture halted imports of fresh beef from Brazil on Thursday over recurring safety concerns about the products. Since March, USDA officials increased testing to cover "100% of all meat products" coming from Brazil, and turned away 11% of the country's fresh beef products, the USDA said in a statement.  In total, the health officials have turned away 1.9 million pounds of Brazilian beef products over health concerns, sanitary conditions and animal health issues.According to the USDA, the rejected products never made it to grocery store shelves. The ban could come as a blow to Brazil, which is one of the world's top exporters of beef and poultry. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said in a statement that while "international trade is an important part of what we do at USDA, and Brazil has long been one of our partners, my first priority is to protect American consumers." According to Reuters, several global buyers including China, reduced Brazilian meat imports following an investigation into corruption within the Brazilian meat industry. 

Governor Cuomo Announces Grand Opening of $4.9 Million Community Kitchen in Rochester

New York Governor | Posted on June 23, 2017

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the grand opening of Foodlink’s new $4.9 million community kitchen in Rochester. The 28,000-square-foot state-of-the-art facility will enable the non-profit organization to significantly expand its programs and services geared toward ending hunger in the region.  "This project will broaden access to fresh food, provide employees with skills they need for future success, and support efforts to reduce poverty and end hunger across the region," Governor Cuomo said. "Our investments in community health and job creation are helping to move the Finger Lakes Forward.”The food hub’s new community kitchen will work to build community health and nutrition and to reduce poverty through targeted job creation in the culinary industry. The project will retain Foodlink’s 77 employees and create up to 34 new jobs over the next five years. Additionally, its Culinary Career Training program will also train 20 to 30 individuals by 2019 at the new facility located at 1999 Mt. Read Boulevard in Rochester.

With Dow-DuPont merger, food ‘editing’ gets fresh start

Greenwich Time | Posted on June 23, 2017

In the past year, the GMO debate has faded as attention has shifted to the promise of genetically “edited” foods in which producers trim existing DNA in foods rather than introducing new DNA, as the case in GMO-based genetic engineering. DuPont has emerged as a major innovation in genetic editing with a new unit called CRISPR-Cas, designed to improve seeds without incorporating DNA from other species. DuPont describes the innovation as a continuation of what people have been doing since plants were first domesticated — selecting for characteristics such as better yields, resistance to diseases, shelf life and nutritional qualities.Research on CRISPR — and acronym for “Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats” — is being extended to mice used by Jackson Laboratory in Farmington and Maine for medical research, with one staffer calling the technology “a tremendously versatile tool” in engineering genetic alterations. In March, Jackson Lab received a $450,000 federal grant to improve genome editing for research, drug testing and potential future therapies.It is one thing to tinker with DNA for medicine, it is another to do it for everyday food people put on their table. To date, genetic editing has yet to spark the universal outcry that Monsanto incurred with its early efforts to produce GMO foods, with activists still absorbing the implications of the emerging technology.

Sanderson Farms sued over '100 percent natural' label claim

Meatingplace (free registration required) | Posted on June 23, 2017

Three consumer groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit against Sanderson Farms Inc. accusing the company of falsely advertising that its chicken is “100 percent natural.” The groups suing Sanderson Farms are the Organic Consumers Association, Friends of the Earth and Center for Food Safety. In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in California, the groups said testing in 2015 and 2016 by USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service found 49 instances in which samples of Sanderson products tested positive for residues of synthetic drugs. Government sampling found 11 instances of antibiotics for human use, including chloramphenical, which is prohibited in food animals. The complaint also said tests found the anesthetic ketamine, which is not approved for use in poultry; ketoprofren, an anti-inflammatory drug; prednisone, a steroid; and growth hormone melengesterol acetate and beta agonist ractopamine, which are banned in chicken production. In addition, the lawsuit cited six instances of residues of amoxicillin, a medically important antibiotic for human use that is not approved for use in poultry; three instances of penicillin residue; and positive results for the pesticides abamectin and emamectin. “We can unequivocally state that Sanderson Farms does not administer the antibiotics, other chemicals and pesticides, or “other pharmaceuticals” listed in the complaint with one exception. To suggest otherwise is irresponsible,” Cockrell said. “Our veterinarians do from time to time prescribe penicillin in FDA-approved doses to treat sick flocks, and our withdrawal times far exceed FDA guidelines out of an abundance of caution. Most all of the drugs and chemicals cited in the complaint are not approved for use in broilers, and some would be lethal to chickens,” he said. Cockrell said the company will continue its advertising campaign to educate consumers on its position on the judicious use of FDA-approved medicines to treat sick chickens and prevent disease in its flocks.

Supreme Court asked to reverse GMO cooking oil class action

Capital Press | Posted on June 22, 2017

A legal dispute over labeling vegetable oil as “natural” even though it contains genetically engineered ingredients could have repercussions for other food-related class action lawsuits.Earlier this year, the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals allowed a lawsuit against the Conagra food processing company to proceed as a class action, which means numerous consumers who bought its Wesson vegetable oil can join in the litigation.The complaint alleges that Conagra deceived consumers with labels claiming the oil was “100% Natural” despite being derived from genetically modified organisms, or GMOs, which aren’t considered natural.Conagra now wants the U.S. Supreme Court to reverse the class action designation because there’s no way to “efficiently and reliably identify” the millions of people who’ve bought Wesson oil over the past decade.“That left only one other possible source of information about the transactions — consumers’ memories of low-value grocery store purchases, recalled years later in hopes of a cash reward,” Conagra said in its Supreme Court review request.Apart from having implications for foods containing GMOs, the lawsuit is seen by food manufacturers as emblematic of a broader problem with litigation over labeling.

One big reason some foods cost so much more than others

The Washington Post | Posted on June 21, 2017

Why are some foods cheap and other foods expensive? Hint: It’s (mostly) not subsidies. Although they’ve certainly played a role in shaping our food supply such that we have huge quantities of just a few crops — a recipe for low prices — the discrepancy that seems to be at issue is the one between commodity crops such as corn and soy, and the fruits and vegetables that everyone’s trying to get us to eat more of. There’s a factor there that plays a much larger role than subsidies, and it doesn’t get much airtime. It’s machines.In general, if you can use machines instead of people, you can produce a crop for less. But let’s not talk in general. Let’s talk about tomatoes.The beautiful, ripe, in-season tomato will set you back up to $5 a pound, but you can buy a 28-ounce can of perfectly tasty tomatoes for as little as a dollar. The latest data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture have beefsteak tomatoes at $3.16 per pound and canned tomatoes at 92 cents per pound.A big part of that difference is machines.

China's pork demand hits a peak, shocking producers, as diets get healthier

Reuters | Posted on June 20, 2017

China's frozen dumpling makers are finding there's a quick route to winning new sales - increase the vegetable content, and cut down on the meat. This departure from traditional pork-rich dumplings is a hit with busy, young urbanites, trying to reduce the fat in diets often heavy on fast food. For pig farmers in China and abroad, it is a difficult trend to stomach. The producers and other market experts had expected the growth to continue until at least 2026.Chinese hog farmers are on a building spree, constructing huge modern farms to capture a bigger share of the world's biggest pork market, while leading producers overseas have been changing the way they raise their pigs to meet Chinese standards for imports. Some have, for example, stopped using growth hormones banned in China.China still consumes a lot more meat than any other country. People here will eat about 74 million tonnes of pork, beef and poultry this year, around twice as much as the United States, according to U.S. agriculture department estimates. More than half of that is pork and for foreign producers it has been a big growth market, especially for Western-style packaged meats.But pork demand has hit a ceiling, well ahead of most official forecasts. Sales of pork have now fallen for the past three years, according to data from research firm Euromonitor. Last year they hit three-year lows of 40.85 million tonnes from 42.49 million tonnes in 2014, and Euromonitor predicts they will also fall slightly in 2017.

KY Food banks may get boost from new law protecting donors from lawsuits

Louisville Courier Journal | Posted on June 20, 2017

As thousands of Kentuckians struggle to feed their families, nonprofits hope a new law will encourage supermarkets to donate food they typically throw away by shielding them from being sued if someone gets sick after eating their donations.  There have been virtually no lawsuits filed over someone getting sick from consuming donated food, but fear of legal action has still stifled donations, said Agriculture Commissioner Ryan Quarles, who launched an initiative last year that led to the "Food Immunity Bill." The law, which goes into effect June 29, protects groceries, farmers and other entities that donate food to nonprofit organizations from civil or criminal liability as long as there was no intentional misconduct.

FSIS to Publish Proposed Rule Regarding Equivalence of China’s Poultry Slaughter System

National Chicken Council | Posted on June 19, 2017

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published in the Federal Register its proposed rule regarding China’s  poultry slaughter system and its equivalence to the U.S. system.In March this year, USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) finalized an audit showing that China’s poultry slaughter system met the criteria for an equivalence determination.  However, FSIS still needed to take additional steps before it could make a determination as to whether China’s system for poultry slaughter is equivalent and therefore that China’s is eligible to export poultry that was slaughtered in China to the United States. FSIS still must take a number of steps, the first of which will be the publishing of the proposed rule, followed by a comment period, before it can make a final determination as to whether China is equivalent and thus eligible to export poultry to the United States that was slaughtered and cooked in Chinese establishments.Once the comment period closes, FSIS will assess the comments and then make a final determination on China’s equivalence and publish a final decision in the Federal Register.  If FSIS ultimately finds that China’s system is equivalent, China will be elible to export processed poultry sourced from China to the United States.U.S. chicken has been blocked by China since January 2015, when the country issued a blanket ban on all U.S. poultry over issues related to avian influenza.  Poultry exports to China peaked in 2008, with an export value of $722 million.