Sunday, February 1, 2009

CRS report: FDA authority over labs and other top headlines

It has often been said by food safety pundits, "You can't test your way to food safety." This is particularly so when you fail to heed test results showing that the food you produce is tainted.

Following that theme, Luis of the Fresh Produce Industry Discussion Group uploads
this CRS report titled "FDA authority to oversee private laboratories that analyze imported FDA-regulated food." From the summary:

Industry observers have raised concerns about perceived gaps in food import safety over the past few years. One particular area of concern focuses on imported goods that are released into the United States market after the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) detains them under an import alert. Generally, these goods may be released into the market after an importer “provides evidence that the entry is in compliance with federal laws and regulations.” Currently, the FDA
does not have express statutory authority to regulate the private labs that test these imported goods for compliance, although the FDA has authority over the importer and imported products. This report focuses on obstacles to and legislative proposals for FDA regulation of the private laboratories that analyze imported FDA-regulated goods. It will provide background to that relationship, as well as present information about agency and Bush Administration proposals and legislative responses from the 110th Congress (particularly the Dingell Draft, S. 2418, H.R. 5904, and H.R. 5827) to the lack of regulation.

Other headlines snatched from the Web:

Feds rarely file charges in tainted food cases
Passed along by Doug Powell of the Food Safety Network. Feds/ state vow to go after peanut butter manufacturer but precedent isn't with them

Food safety watchdogs and legal experts say criminal charges have only been brought against a handful of companies involved in high-profile outbreaks though federal law allows cases to be prosecuted without proof the company knew it was distributing contaminated food. They say the law is not used often because NRDC calls for ban of 2,4-d herbicidethere has been little will to pursue criminal charges in all but the most noteworthy and outrageous cases, and that has put the public at risk.

Bring me some wrinkle reducing jam

--THE OPRAH-IZATION OF FOODS. We want our food to come with compelling stories, says the Guru of New, aka Sarah Browne. A perfect example, she says: Dole organic bananas. Each one is branded with a number you can enter on the company's Web site and be transported, via Google Earth, to where it was picked -- and even find out by whom. The cooler your story (Ancient herbs! Long-lost tribes! Rare harvest!) the better.

Organic is good but too costly, consumers say Relating to use of organic inputs for gardening

Costa Rica expects EU offer on bananas in February
From The Guardian
Costa Rica expects the European Union to make a new offer on bananas next month in an attempt to resolve the world's longest-running trade dispute, Foreign Trade Minister Marco Vinicio Ruiz said on Friday.
Settling the row would end a decades-long dispute that has poisoned relations among dozens of countries and remove an obstacle to an overall deal in the World Trade Organisation's Doha round to free up global commerce.

Figuring cherry supply and demand Also talk in this piece about the TSA's Certified cargo screening program

Mark Powers, vice president of the Northwest Horticultural Council in Yakima, Wash., said that part of the equation facing shippers of produce in the Northwest is simply what the market is going to be this year and how much capacity will be available. The biggest crop shipped by air out of the Northwest is cherries, with roughly 50 percent going out on passenger aircraft. If there is a significant drop in capacity without an equal drop in demand, an alternative would be to go with freighter airlines. While using freighters is less expensive, they are not as reliable, he said. He also noted that the cherry crop in 2008 was less than normal, reducing the amount of capacity needed. The big question for cherry growers is how big the crop will be this coming summer.

Little chance of a turnaround this year From Fortune. It's worse than you think, probably.

Recession can change a way of life
From the NYT. Are we going to be a more stay at home, board game playing nation?

In addition to trying to get out of the recession — our first priority — many of us will be making do with less and relying more on ourselves and our families. The social changes may well be the next big story of this recession.

Not your father's recession
From Oregon
"This is not your father's recession; this is your grandfather's recession," Krugman says. "That's what's extremely frightening, because your grandfather's recession was the Great Depression."

Adult fast food diets tied to too much TV as a teen From the Washington Post
Five years out, high-school students who had watched more than five hours of TV a day and were now young adults ate less fruit, vegetables, whole grains and calcium-rich foods. Instead, they ate more snack foods, fried foods, fast food, sugar-sweetened beverages and foods containing trans-fats.

A tomato a day
From The Modesto Bee
Growers of processing tomatoes, meeting in Modesto this week, heard about a marketing effort that includes research into the cardiovascular benefits of the food.

Bee, mandarin decision may wait for bloom From Capital Press
Sometime in February, California Department of Food and Agriculture Secretary A.G. Kawamura is expected to issue a draft of rules designed to keep the bees away from the seedless oranges. Because that draft is then subject to a mandatory 45-day public comment period, the final resolution may come too late for any changes before mandarin trees bloom and are once again vulnerable to cross-pollination by the bees.

The long-simmering dispute between mandarin growers and beekeepers led to 2007 legislation that called for formation of a Seedless Mandarin-Honeybee Coexistence Working Group.

The group, made up of growers and beekeepers, was charged with coming up with an agreement that would protect seedless mandarins from bees that carry pollen from seeded varieties of citrus and cause seeds to form in the fruit. The rights of beekeepers to place hives was to also be protected.

The group had a deadline of June 2008 or the matter would be settled by CDFA. The law called for a rule to be in place by Feb. 1 so both sides would have time to adapt, but CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle said the need for a comment period was more important than meeting the deadline.

Growers blame honeybees for carrying pollen from seeded varieties of citrus to their seedless varieties, causing the fruit to develop seeds. One or two seeds in every few pieces of fruit are acceptable, but multiple seeds in large numbers mean lower prices for growers.

The citrus industry has also sought to limit the number of hives placed near vulnerable citrus plantings. Beekeepers have been adamant about their right to place hives where permission is given or on their own property.

In the past several years the problem has grown because of the number of hives coming into the state for almond pollination. Many remain in the state and are placed near citrus for honey production. Acreage of seedless mandarins has also grown.

Door to door organics A network of CSAs?

Door to Door Organics, serving Colorado, Michigan and the East Coast is one of many produce delivery services growing in popularity. Here’s how it works: Each week, you receive a box containing a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables based on arrivals from participating organic farms. You choose the quantity and variety that will meet your needs, and fresh produce arrives at your door with the click of your mouse.

Obama's FDA pick within days From Reuters

Tracking down a salmonella outbreak

Groups aim to protect U.S. jobs in stimulus bill From the LA Times
An amendment to the House bill, sponsored by Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), would require contractors that receive federal funds through the bill to verify the immigration status of their employees using a controversial program called E-Verify.

At least two senators have indicated they will push for a similar measure in the Senate version of the stimulus bill.

NRDC call for ban of 2,4-D herbicide

EPA spokesman Dale Kemery said the agency will accept comments through Feb. 23 about National Resources Defense Council's request to stop the use of 2,4-D in the United States. Comments can be submitted on the Internet via the Federal eRulemaking Portal at The docket identification number of the 2,4-D petition is EPA-HQ-OPP-2008-0877.

Dieting on a dime Another in an endless series of saving money with the food budget, and sure enough, this story plainly advises: substitute frozen fruits and vegetables for fresh.

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