Digest – News and Commentary: canned food recall, Farm Bill happenings, soda sagas

starBotulism alert boosted: The recall of canned meat products made by Castleberry’s Food Co. (under many, many labels) has expanded to cover almost 100 products. The article has a list of brand names and a contact number. (San Francisco Chronicle (AP)) (More information: the official FDA press release and some background on the case and on botulism at Newsday)

Committee commits: Late last week, the House Ag Committee sent their version of the Food and Farm Bill to the full House. The press release has a few of the highlights and a link to the full legislation. In my scan of the documents, I did not see the infamous Section 123 (state and local preemption). Could someone confirm that the section was indeed stripped from the bill? (House Agriculture Committee)

Long label deal: The Food and Farm Bill passed by the House Ag Committee contains a deal on country of origin labeling (COOL) for meat (fruits and vegetables labeling still needs to be worked out). Animals born in another country will get a "Product of U.S. and (other country)" label; packages of ground beef will list each country that supplied beef to the package. Seafood COOL went into effect two years ago. Seafood industry officials claim that consumers don’t care about COOL. They obviously haven’t been talking to Ethicurean readers. (Des Moines Register)

starSmells like sh*t: I’m not sure how we missed this, but it’s a major piece of bad news for our environment. A federal appeals court ruled that the EPA was acting legally when it signed agreements with CAFOs that temporarily exempts them from compliance with clean air laws and shields them from lawsuits. Industry and the EPA argued that the exemption agreement was necessary because no solution to the horrendous odor and other air emissions exists—except perhaps, you know, not keeping thousands of hogs or tens of thousands of chickens in one place. (San Francisco Chronicle (AP))

Not even death can stop the checks: The Government Accountability Office issued a new report showing that USDA has paid over $1 billion to deceased farmers over the last seven years. The USDA depends on the heirs or corporations to stop the flow of money instead of checking using other government records to check the status of recipients. (Washington Post) (Here is the GAO report cited in the article)

FDA follies: Another article about last week’s Congressional hearing on the FDA’s food inspection practices, this one with some disturbing details. For example, the ways that importers game the system by "port shopping" (resubmitting rejected imports to a different port; or sending fish to Las Vegas, a port without a fish lab) or by submitting small fish for testing (so that levels of toxins will be below the limit) then switching back to large fish (which might have unacceptably high levels of toxins). (New York Times)

starBig is back: McDonald’s has returned a 42-ounce soda–which delivers 410 empty calories–to its menus. It even has a nickname ("Hugo") and advertisements in several languages. In 1955, the largest McDonald’s soda was 7 fluid ounces. Today the child’s soda is 12 ounces. (New York Times)

Second thoughts on syrup: Sam Fromartz points out a market research study finding that consumers are feeling negative about sugar and high fructose corn syrup. At least that’s what they told the survey taker–could this be another one of those surveys where the respondent says one thing but does another? (Chews Wise)

Fun with epidemiology: The legendary Framingham Heart Study (started in 1948 with 5,209 subjects) has released a new report showing that drinking diet soda does not decrease the risk of heart disease. A conclusive explanation for this finding–or a determination that a confounding factor is at play instead of the soda–is still yet to come. (News at AOL)

Microscope on Mackey: SF Chronicle Business columnist Kathleen Pender examines the legal issues around John Mackey’s sock puppetry on internet message boards. (San Francisco Chronicle)

Bring the labels, dump the trans fat: The King County, Washington Board of Health voted to require nutrition labels on menus of chain restaurants with 10 or more outlets in the county and to incrementally ban the use of artificial trans fats in all food service establishments. (CSPI)

Crying salty tears: Chicken giant Foster Farms is clucking about the practice of pumping chicken full of chicken broth, salt and carrageenan and labeling the chicken as "100 percent natural." In 2006 the USDA changed its rules to allow such additives in "100 percent natural" chicken. (Capital Press)

Annapolis, Maryland considers a plastic bag ban (New York Times)

Immigration plan for agricultural workers not dead yet (Naples Daily News)

Oxfam reports that minority farmers get a rotten deal from U.S. farm programs (Reuters)

Sharp decline in Texas turtle population to make soup in Asia (Reuters)


1943 photo of a soda fountain in San Augustine, Texas from the Library of Congress FSA-OWI collection, taken by John Vachon.

One Responseto “Digest – News and Commentary: canned food recall, Farm Bill happenings, soda sagas”

  1. Dan Owens says:

    123 was indeed pulled from the House version of the farm bill, which is a credit to those who spoke against it. It was one of the few really good things that happened in the House process.
    During Committee hearings, however, Rep. Goodlatte of Virginia spoke in favor of 123, even after it had been stripped from the bill. Given that Peterson has not been a historical ally of progressive activists, vigilance will be required to make sure they don’t slip it in the farm bill down the road during conference committee. But a big congratulations and thank you to everyone who worked on this issue.