Sometimes people don't see the forest for the trees. I think that old adage can be very appropriately applied to Washington State Representative, Cary Condotta (R-East Wenatchee) who is a sponsor of a new initiative HB-2143 which calls for labeling genetically engineered salmon. One would think that the recent defeat of I-522 which called for the labeling of all products containing GMO's would have tempered the energy of the anti-GMO crowd, at least for a while, but no, here we go again. This bill may have a better chance of passage as it is being presented as an effort to protect the states' all important Salmon industry. This singular focus may actually carry the battle to a successful victory for the anti-GMO crowd. But if it does, it may be a short-lived victory. Why? For the answer we look to New Hampshire.

Two Granite State Reps, Tara Sad and Bob Haefner have put forth that even though New Hampshire did pass a GMO labeling initiative, they voted against it because they feel it is both unconstitutional and unenforceable. Their reasoning…. product labeling is not a state responsibility, but that it falls to Federal jurisdiction. 

While I am against the idea of labeling foods containing GMO's because no one has proven, though many have tried, that biotech foods are different from conventional foods in terms of safety and nutritional value and benefit, I do believe we will not be able to put this issue to bed once and for all, until it is decided at the federal level legislatively and then vetted through the courts and  ending up at the Supreme Court. THE SOONER THE BETTER!

During the seemingly never-ending publicity war between pro- and anti-GMO forces, each side repeatedly cite the latest research in support of its' viewpoint. Both sides depend on the credibility and methodology of their researchers to make their case for or against the use of GMO's in food products, or to demand that any foods containing ingredients derived from plants or animals that have been genetically modified, be labeled as such.

The recent voter defeat of moves to label foods containing GMO ingredients in the states of California and Washington were a great disappointment to the anti-GMO forces. And now, their challenge just got harder with the announcement by Elsevier Publishing that after a lengthly investigation, they were issuing a retraction of a November 2012 article in Elsevier's Food and Chemical Toxicology covering the results of the Seralini study which suggested that rats fed genetically modified corn were more likely to develop cancer, a study often cited by anti-GMO forces. While the investigation showed no evidence of fraud or intentional misrepresentation of data, it did find "legitimate concern regarding both the number of animals in each study group (20) and the particular strain (of rat) selected." Bottom line, no definitive conclusions could be drawn from the small sample size, and the breed of rat selected is known to have a high incidence of cancer (70% in males and 87% in females.

So, while the results, while not necessarily incorrect, are inconclusive and did not warrant publication in the Elsevier journal.

The worst thing one can say about any scientific research is that it is "junk" science, while the second worst thing is to label it "sloppy" science. In this case I think the proper labeling would be "sloppy with good intentions".

As we move forward with this highly important debate, let's hope both sides deal in credibly peer reviewed research.


Along with most everyone else in the food/restaurant industry and more pointedly, everyone in the culinary arts, I was shocked to hear the news this morning that Chef Charlie Trotter has died. 

I did not know him well, but the few times I was in his company he was always gracious and accommodating of my questions, of which there were many. I have eaten in his restaurants at least a dozen times and was never disappointed, indeed I was always impressed not only with the quality of the fare, but also with the presentation and service. He had a well-deserved reputation as a perfectionist (some might say tyrant) but one only has to enumerate the number of top chefs and restaurateurs who have passed through his tutelage and graduated to their own careers, to realize the great impact he had on the world of culinary art. His impact has been immense and he will be sorely missed.

R.I.P. Charlie Trotter


The news from Washington State this morning was not good for those who have been supporting the ballot initiative designated I-522, which if passed and enacted would require the labeling of all foods made with or containing any genetically modified organisms (GMOs). At last report, with over 1 million votes tallied, the initiative is trailing significantly by 10 points, 55% to 45%. While the final vote won't be known for several weeks due to the fact Washington State has voting by mail, it is pretty obvious that the voters of Washington State have followed the lead of their neighbors to the south in California who previously voted down a similar initiative.

I don't for a minute doubt the sincerity of those supporting I-522, but on balance I think this defeat is a good thing. So far, I don't believe there is any definitive proof that GMOs are a threat to the human population, and until there is, I think any and all attempts like I-522 are destined to fail. Perhaps the great effort, energy and money the I-522 supporters put into this effort should be redirected and focused on other areas of food safety. After all, there is no current shortage of scientifically proven areas where our food supply is under attack.


Yesterday the FDA issued a report on the testing their inspectors conducted on imported spices from 2007 thru 2010. During those three years, the results showed that 7% of shipments were contaminated with salmonella and 12% with hair, insects, excrement and other substances. They also concluded that the most likely stages of production during which contamination took place were harvesting and intermediate storage. 

On the surface, the above numbers seem troublesome, but when you consider that the study results reflect the status of the spices before they are further processed by companies here in the U.S., who perform further cleaning and sanitizing steps before the product is ever introduced into the production lines here, I think we are pretty safe as we use seasonings and spices sourced from anywhere in the world. This conclusion is supported by the fact that from 1973 through 2010, fewer than 2000 people have been reported sickened by outbreaks tied to spices. That's an average of only 54 people per year, and as far as we know, none of them died

When you consider the recent outbreaks of food-borne illness and deaths, some sickening thousands of consumers at a time, some of whom died, I think our seasoning and spice importers, suppliers, processors, and food manufacturers deserve praise.

All thigs considered.... BRAVO!