On April 23, 2014 both houses of the Vermont Legislature passed the country's first GMO labeling bill. On May 8, 2014 Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin signed it into law targeting July 1, 2016 as its' effective date.

DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH!  

This bill will face numerous legal challenges from the Grocery Manufacturers Association and many others and they will have a reasonable possibility of success based on peer reviewed research showing that GMO products are safe and pose no threat to consumer health. These could well delay implementation beyond the July 2016 effective date as they work their way through the legal system.

A second challenge to this law will be the passage of a national labeling law under the auspices of the FDA. I think this will be the final solution as it will prevent a 50 state patchwork quilt that could very well make interstate commerce nearly impossible and even more ridiculously expensive.

As I said above….. DON'T HOLD YOUR BREATH! The fight is just getting started.

 

It may be hard to believe, but a bi-partisan group in the U.S. House of Representatives has begun the process of applying common sense to an issue that has been bubbling at the State level for several years. Kansas Republican Mike Pompeo and North Carolina Democrat G.K. Butterfield have introduced the Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2014 (H.R. 4432) which if passed would prevent the individual states from passing legislation requiring the labeling of food and beverage products that contain bioengineered ingredients.

Whether you favor or, like me, oppose the movement to label these foods, the issue will never be resolved, or effective legislation passed so long as it is being left to the individual State legislatures to act piecemeal, which would result in market chaos on a grand scale, a tremendous waste of money, and great consumer confusion. The only logical common sense approach is for the U.S. Congress to intervene and create a debate environment where all parties will be given the opportunity  to state their arguments on a level playing field, and let the U.S.Congress legislate national rules for everyone to follow.

Already, both sides of the argument are complaining about the content of the Pompeo/Butterfield bill, but as I said above, this debate is best argued on a national level, so it can eventually be put to bed. This way, either way it goes at least it will give us a national policy for everyone to follow.

 

This week the FDA went from soup to nuts with several stops in between. ConAgra voluntarily recalled a total of 27 tons of chicken noodle soup that was misbranded and then mislabeled as "Healthy Choice Chicken with Rice" soup. This combination of missteps put them in violation as the labels carried no warning of the undeclared allergens that are in the Chicken Noodle product.

On the dairy front, three separate dairies received warning letters concerning holding animals under conditions that were so inadequate that medicated animals bearing harmful drug residues were likely to enter the food supply.

Two egg production facilities received warning letters citing violations of regulations designed to prevent Salmonella enteritidis in egg shells.

Finally, ARO Pistachios of Terra Bella, CA was cited for insanitary conditions whereas product may have been contaminated with filth.  

The more things change, the more they stay the same from soup to nuts.

 

It has been a while since I have taken on the dismal food safety record of the mainland Chinese food industry. In the past we have seen the use of melamine in milk and other dairy products which resulted in the deaths of three children and the sickening of more than 300,000 people. We saw the use of duck urine on goat meat to make it taste like lamb while some meat labeled as lamb has been found to contain rat, fox, and mink meat. Recently, "gutter oil", an illegal cooking oil pulled from grease traps and sewers has been discovered being used in restaurants and street vendor stalls.

The Chinese government has tried repeatedly to curb these and other abuses but has fallen woefully short. Even the threat of executions has not seemed to have had any impact.

While I wish the Chinese well, I think the only thing we can do is stay away from finished food products that carry the "Made in China" label. Unfortunately, it will be much more difficult to determine which grocery shelf packages contain ingredients sourced from China. 

The above is truly a shame as the Chinese palate and traditional food stuffs could be a really good addition to all the other Asian cuisines that are impacting our eating habits in a big way.

 

I am not a big fan of Federal Government agencies getting involved in judging the performance of state run agencies on pretty much all levels, but today I may have found an example of which I approve.

On Friday, January 17th, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) posted a proposal to the Federal Register requesting approval to evaluate local and state food safety programs (FSPs). The rationale for this request focuses on the tight budgeting our current economic environment has imposed on state and local agencies, resulting in the reduction or elimination of many food safety and public health programs over the past several years. The information generated will give a good look at current food safety activities, workforce competency and the relationship between funding and program effectiveness. It would be conducted over a two year period. 

I think this is a good, common sense idea.