Digest: China does damage control (at last), pigs cleared, cheap food gets dearer, USDA OK’s non-organic ingredients

There are even more links worthy of inclusion today, but we ran out of time. Look for a follow-up Digest later tonight or tomorrow.


Don't blame our few bad melamine-tainted apples: China has urged the United States not to take punitive action against its exporters of agricultural goods. The government said this week it had shut down the two companies and detained several company officials for their role in setting off one of the largest pet food recalls in United States history. (New York Times)

Hmm, tastes like Formica: Roughly 56,000 pigs that were fed contaminated pet food scraps are safe to be eaten, says the USDA. About 80,000 birds fed contaminated feed at poultry farms are still held off the market in Indiana. (New York Times via AP)

And it begins: Prices are going up for staple U.S. groceries — including cereals, bread, bacon, pork roasts, chicken, eggs, cookies, hot dogs, oranges, soda pop and dried beans. It is happening for many reasons: inflation, drought, freezing weather — and the rising cost of corn. (Los Angeles Times)

Organic additives: The USDA is proposing to add a number of ingredients to the list of substances permitted for use in organic food products; most are already being used because of a misunderstanding. The additional 38 proposed substances include non-organic colors, starches and oils — for example, carrot juice and turmeric for color, celery powder for curing meat. The agency has opened a 7-day comment period on the proposed modifications. (Food Navigator)

Foodfight at the Slow Food corral: The Chron's Scoop gets the dirt on the meeting to resolve the spat between Slow Food's Carlo Petrini and the Ferry Plaza farmers who feel insulted by a passage in his new book — it "didn't end in a happy kumbaya moment." (San Francisco Chronicle) Bean farmer (and our new hero) Steve Sando gives the real inside scoop, over at his blog Rancho Gordo. Gotta say, we're bumming on how Petrini, and by extension Slow Food, handled this.

Disaster postponed: Colony collapse disorder is a major problem for beekeepers, but early indications are that it won't significantly harm crop yields this year. But next year? (Los Angeles Times)

House Committee looks into safety of produce (House Agriculture Subcommittee on Horticulture and Organic Agriculture)


An awesome slice of Pie Ranch: In an intricate web of farm-to-table, food justice, youth-support strands, a small cafe in San Francisco called Mission Pie supports a farm on the San Mateo coast, which in turn supplies ingredients for the pies. The cafe's counter staff comprises learning disabled teens who work on the farm one day a month, getting up-close exposure to the environmental issues they've explored in science class. (San Francisco Chronicle

FDA trashing: The NYT asks, Who's watching what we eat? Critics of the FDA say the agency lurches from one recall to another, reacting to outbreaks of illnesses rather than preventing them. Although we think the food-security system in this country is unncessarily complicated and completely ineffective, we also think Americans need to realize that there will always be some risk associated with eating, and other life activities. (New York Times)

Gutsy writing: John Birdsall revels in a restaurant that serves menudo, or tripe soup: "Maybe no other dish reveals the divide between America and Mexico, steeper than any border wall could ever rise. America's taste for violence ends at the table. We like our meat in the form of muscle, free of the slaughterhouse whiff that clings to organs. Mexico has less-conflicted animal appetites. A well-made menudo, like the one here, both wallows in and triumphs over the carnal." (East Bay Express)

Google Sea?: Satellite images show fleets of trawlers leaving plumes of mud behind them like contrails. Scientists hope the images will focus wider attention on trawling damage, and on the possible uses of satellites to monitor fishing. (New York Times)

Candy bars off-limits to strict vegetarians: Masterfoods has begun using whey containing rennet, an animal product, in famous chocolate bars such as the Mars Bar, Bounty, Snickers, Twix, and Milky Way. Since we know very few junkfood-eating vegetarians, as opposed to vegans, who actually avoid products made with gelatin or cochineal, we're guessing this is not going to hurt sales. (Guardian Unlimited)

"What else can you do in a small town"?: More than 300 people paid $5 for all-you-can-eat goat, lamb and bull testicles Saturday at the ninth annual Testicle Festival at Mama's Place Bar and Grill in Elderon in central Wisconsin. (Washington Post)

Ask Umbra on fighting pests with pests (Grist)

"Grub" coauthor Bryant Terry on food justice, kitchen improvisation, community activism and more (Culinate)


Feel the heat: Michael O’Gorman, who farms 1660 acres of organic vegetables in Baja California, Mexico, has a great essay about harvesting tomatoes in the heat, global warming and farmers, and how farming offers some answers for a country searching to understand war and ecological destruction and our drift away from democracy. (Farms Not Arms)

California and the Farm Bill: The president of the California Farm Bureau Federation on why the Golden State deserves to have its interests better represented in the Farm Bill. Fun fact: California agriculture represents more than 13% of U.S. farm income, yet its producers only receive 2% of the dollars allocated. (Press release)

Corporate complicity: Vandana Shiva says that "By protecting seeds und intellectual property laws, the G8 is encouraging the privatization of life, providing monopoly market access to multinational corporations and driving thousands of Indian farmers to suicide." (Deutsche Welle)

The market is about more than money: A farmer from Arkansas reflects on how he finds farmers markets as a place of refreshment, education, and glorious noise. (Plenty Magazine Blog)

Stamp Act: Representatives James McGovern (D-MA), Jo Ann Emerson (R-MO), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tim Ryan (D-OH) have pledged to live on an average food stamp budget — just $3 a day — from May 15-21, to raise awareness of hunger and inadequate benefits for food stamp recipients. McGovern is blogging about it at Congressional Food Stamp Challenge.

6 Responsesto “Digest: China does damage control (at last), pigs cleared, cheap food gets dearer, USDA OK’s non-organic ingredients”

  1. Anita says:

    Er, the bean farmer's last name is Sando. :)

  2. Anita --
    Thanks for the catch. I made a correction in the post to the correct last name of "Sando".

  3. Anastasia Bodnar says:

    "Since we know very few junkfood-eating vegetarians, as opposed to vegans, who actually avoid products made with gelatin or cochineal, we’re guessing this is not going to hurt sales."

    Just wanted to point out that the majority of vegetarians DO avoid gelatin and rennet from calves. Many also avoid cochineal and the various insect based additives. The problem is labeling. We can choose to avoid prepared foods, contact every company, or simply ignore what isn't plainly listed. Alternatives exist for just about every animal derived ingredient, but our society is disgustingly dependent on animal by-products. The lack of labeling for animal-derived ingredients is inexcusable.

  4. Wendy says:

    Anastasia, I think the point was that the vegetarians who avoid rennet, etc, and still eat junk food are few and far between.

  5. Tana says:


    Please note my updated column. Please help me in modifying your links, and please note the intention: mine was not to throw fuel on the fire, and yet that is what I did.

    Many thanks. Please help me help a truly good farmer.

  6. Aryeh says:

    masterfoods caved in to the vegetarian lobby :-)