Los Angeles

In the News… Tuesday, June 12, 2007

† Standards for “Organic” Foods: The Los Angeles Times reported this weekend that changes in the stardards under which a food product can be labeled “organic” are moving through the USDA:

A deadline of midnight Friday to come up with a new list of nonorganic ingredients allowed in USDA-certified organic products passed without action from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, leaving uncertain whether some foods currently labeled “USDA organic” would continue to be produced.

The agency is considering a list of 38 nonorganic ingredients that will be permitted in organic foods. Because of the broad uses of these ingredients–as colorings and flavorings, for example–almost any type of manufactured organic food could be affected, including cereal, sausage, bread and beer.
. . .
“Adding 38 new ingredients is not just a concession by the USDA, it is a major blow to the organic movement in the U.S. because it would erode consumer confidence in organic standards,” said Carl Chamberlain, a research assistant with the Pesticide Education Project in Raleigh, N.C.

In addition to hops, the list includes 19 food colorings, two starches, casings for sausages and hot dogs, fish oil, chipotle chili pepper, gelatin and a host of obscure ingredients (one, for instance, is a “bulking agent” and sweetener with the tongue-twisting name of fructooligosaccharides).

Visit the L.A. Times website to read the complete article.

The New York Times also featured an article about the changes and the criticism that has been voiced:

More than 90 percent of the food/agricultural items on the proposed list of materials in this rule are items that can easily be grown organically,” said Merrill A. Clark, an organic farmer from Michigan and a former member of the organic advisory board, in comments to the Agriculture Department.

She said that allowing such nonorganic ingredients are “totally unhealthy for the organic industry down the road,” and are “opening the organic rules to ridicule and unflattering public exposure.”

† The Bee Mystery continues: Also in the L.A. Times, an article about how scientists, researchers, and individuals in the field are eliminating some possible causes of colony collapse disorder, finding some answers, but still struggling with the larger questions. Irradiation of possibly contaminated hives seems one possibility, but the question of what, exactly, is killing the bees is still unanswered.

† Do you know where your food comes from? The BBC shared the results of a study by the Linking Environment and Farming (LEAF) organization that 22% of UK respondents “did not know bacon and sausages originate from farms” and “47% of people [polled] did not know farms produced porridge’s main ingredient.”

The survey also found four in 10 people did not know yoghurt is made using farm produce, nearly half were unaware the raw ingredients for beer start off in farmers’ fields and 23% did not know bread’s main ingredients came from the farm.

Thanks to grist.org and Chews Wise for the pointers. Would U.S. consumers be more knowledgable? Less? The disconnect between the food on people’s plates and the sources of that food seems greater than ever.