Food Safety In the News
2749 Food Safety Enhancement Act" passes the House
of the Plate: Casting the Food Safety Net too Wide" in
Gourmet Magazine (an article about H.R. 2749
all the Consequences" in California Farmer
in Biodiveristy" in the Center for Urban Education about
Sustainable Agriculture's (CUESA) weekly newsletter
Farming adds Risk to Food Safety" in California Farmer
"Wildlife War Misguided:
Speaker discusses food safety efforts gone astray" from Capital
Safety Conference Sees Misguided Industrial Agriculture Strategies"
on the Slow Food Blog 'Civil Eats'
Farmers Use Guns, Poison to Protect Crops" in the LA Times
Wildlife" from the American Vegetable Grower
Safe is your Salad?" in the San Francisco Chronicle
Metrics a Work in Progress" in California Farmer
Current research and available science articulate the false nature
of the conflict between food safety and environmental stewardship. Eliminating
wildlife, which studies have shown do not pose a significant risk to food
safety, and removing wildlife habitat that filters pathogens exacerbates
the problem of E.coli 0157 entering the food supply.
From "Wildlife War Misguided: Speaker discusses food safety
efforts gone astray" in Capital Press:
California and the nation are waging a misguided war on wildlife and
family farms in the name of food safety, a Wild Farm Alliance official
said in San Francisco last week.
"Although the origin of the E. coli that tainted those bags of spinach
in 2006 was not determined, wildlife was quickly misconstrued as the most
probable disease vector," said Jo Ann Baumgartner, director of Wild
Farm Alliance. "It is the main focus of food safety auditor's concern
to this day."
The Thursday, Nov. 20, conference was hosted by the Wild Farm Alliance.
She told a packed audience of concerned agriculture stakeholders and decision-makers
that this decision to blame wildlife is not based primarily on facts but
marketing strategy and the unreasonable stance that zero risk must be
forged. Researchers in the field report that cattle are the major multiplier
of the E. coli strain. Wildlife is being used as a scapegoat and took
pressure off the processing aspect of the bagged salad industry.
the entire article
From "Wildlife in Middle of War on E. coli" by Jane
Zhang, Wall Street Journal:
“Farmers around California's "Salad Bowl"
have mounted an assault against wildlife to appease buyers who worry about
E. coli in their leafy greens.
About one-third of the farmers surveyed in the region have cleared wide
swaths of land surrounding their fields, leaving felled trees scattered
along the Salinas River. Most used poisons, traps or fences to keep out
frogs, squirrels and other wildlife last year, according to a Monterey
County Resource Conservation District survey. Some farmers let ponds and
irrigation reservoirs -- potentially prime wildlife habitat -- go dry.
Caught in the middle is wildlife whose complicity in the transmission
of E. coli is unconfirmed. And farmers. While fresh-produce farmers are
forced to absorb skyrocketing food-safety costs, not all of the measures
are justified by science.
Despite his concerns about harming the environment, Bob Martin, general
manager of Rio Farms in King City, says he cleared vegetation and trapped
and poisoned mice and squirrels on the 6,000-acre farmland that mainly
produces leafy greens. To keep birds out of his property, he has tried
fences, propane-powered blast cannons, and hawk-like kites tied to poles.
They work, but not for long. "It's all smoke and mirrors," he
says, noting birds get used to the tricks.
To keep his fields as clean as possible, Mr. Martin says he spent more
than $500,000 in 2007 on food-safety steps, including a full-time food-safety
overseer. He is chagrined much of the extra costs have been imposed without
scientific proof of their necessity.
"We are definitely between a rock and a hard spot," says Mr.
Martin, who is participating in a study of the risks of E. coli from deer.
"I understand the necessity of adhering to a basic set of standards."
But he thinks many measures are "window dressing."
Some farmers said buyers have rejected acres of lettuce and other leafy
greens after inspectors saw "potential frog habitat" or tadpoles
in a nearby creek.
Some smaller farmers opt out. Dale Coke, owner of a 250-acre farm in San
Juan Bautista, said he lost $50,000 to $60,000 in sales to Canadian buyers
because he isn't participating in a California initiative that set standards
for leafy-green growers. Had he signed up, he says, he would have to apply
the rules to all of his crops, even though 70% aren't leafy greens.
Although Mr. Coke spends more than $10,000 a year on food safety, he sells
to wholesalers who don't require him to follow the "draconian measures"
imposed by processors, he says.”
Consumers need to communicate that "they will not tolerate environmental
destruction for the production of their leafy greens," says Jo Ann
Baumgartner, director of the Wild Farm Alliance. "These current practices
in the Salinas Valley are bad for human health and bad for wildlife."
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From "Fields of overkill" by Li Mao Lovett, High Country
“In California's verdant Salinas Valley, the tangles of trees and
shrubs that once bordered the fields of leafy greens are disappearing.
Chain-link fences now barricade the Salinas River as it flows through
the nation's salad bowl. In early April, a small lake that once sheltered
migratory birds and insects beneficial to farmers had been reduced to
a bulldozed pit; by the end of the month, it had disappeared completely.
Like the vanishing trees and hedgerows, the pond was another victim of
food-safety measures gone awry.
After an E. coli outbreak in 2006 was traced to tainted spinach, the leafy
greens industry and big corporate buyers like McDonald's and Wal-Mart
responded with an array of tough new standards for growing spinach and
lettuce. Packaged produce has been the culprit in the majority of outbreaks
linked to leafy greens; those who fell sick or died in the 2006 outbreak
had eaten bagged spinach from a single processing plant in California
owned by Natural Selection Foods. Still, native vegetation and waterways
that provide habitat for deer, birds and other wildlife were suddenly
seen as health threats by those high up on the corporate food chain.
Pushed by inspectors and buyers, leafy greens growers on California's
Central Coast are sterilizing their fields, ripping out wildlife habitat
and putting up fences. Often, the farmers' contracts and livelihoods are
at stake. "Growers have been told to cut down trees on family farms
that have been around for 50 years," says Kirk Schmidt, executive
director of Central Coast Water Quality Preservation. And it's not just
farmers and wildlife that are losing out - the excessive measures are
changing farms in ways that could actually make our food supply less safe.
"Buyers are taking advantage of food safety to get a competitive
edge," says Joseph McIntyre, facilitator of the California Roundtable
on Agriculture and the Environment. "They're putting pressure on
growers toward practices that may not have food safety benefits, as well
as (cause) unintended consequences."
here to read the entire piece.
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From "GAP Metrics a Work in Progress"
by Len Richardson, California Farmer:
"Confusion still clouds strategies for dealing with food
safety despite development of the Good Agricultural Practices Metrics
following the 2006 E. coli outbreak...New evidence discounts
the feral-pig hypothesis -- the most commonly encountered explanation
of how the bacteria got onto the outbreak spinach field, " said Charles
Benbrook, chief scientist at The Organic Center [which] issued a report,
"Unfinished Business: Preventing E. coli O157 Outbreaks
in Leafy Greens," in June. It explains why dust blowing from the
cattle pasture just north of the spinach field was the likely contamination
"Ironically, the GAP Metrics bare-earth policies to discourage animals
from venturing into leafy green fields might actually increase the risk
of future outbreaks because bare ground around fields will increase dust,"
Benbrook said. He and other speakers questioned the GAP Metrics, which
call for only a 50-foot buffer between a cattle pasture and leafy green
field. In the Organic Center report, a buffer of one-half mile is called
for, unless the grower and processor implement a "test and hold"
comparable to the program now in place at Earthbound Farms.
Discussion also hit on the lack of science behind the GAP Metrics water
testing, which focuses on generic E. coli, not the pathogenic
strains. Testing conducted by farms and processors during 2007 shows a
low rate of E. coli O157 in irrigation water, and a poor correlation
between the presence of generic and pathogen E. coli."
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