Watch out for aspartame, milk-drinkers! »
Per national food-issues watchdog Parke Wilde at U.S. Food Policy blog, little dairy-consumers could be ingesting fun new chemicals in their federally purchased school-lunch milks!
The International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA) and the National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) have petitioned FDA to modify the standard of identity for milk, permitting companies to add a non-calorie sweetener without additional labeling.
The petition proposes to allow dairy companies to add the non-nutritive sweetener aspartame to milk, without being required to label the milk as “low-calorie” or “low-sugar.” Currently, aspartame is allowed in milk (just as in diet soda), but such milk must be labeled to let the consumer know.
It appears the dairy industry is especially interested in marketing low-calorie flavored milk through child nutrition programs.
Oh boy! What lucky boys and girls, drinking delicious, artificially flavored milk, full of even more artificial sweeteners! And the dairy industry wouldn’t even have to tell them about it! Gosh, you’d think if milk-sellers were so proud of their newest clever way of tricking children into consuming their hell-beverage, they’d announce it in a super-cool ad, not petition the FDA to hide their action. Why, it’s almost as if the dairy industry doesn’t want adults to know what’s inside the new-and-improved, lower-sugar, “better”-for-kids milk products.
The dairy industry lie (by omission) to us? Perish the thought.
[Photo by cinderellasg via Flickr]
Tell the FDA to properly regulate GMO salmon before they make wild salmon extinct ! »
Our pal Katie Cantrell of the Factory Farming Awareness Coalition wants to make us aware of two things regarding farmed GM salmon: One, that the FDA is thisclose to approving AquaAdvantage’s genetically modified salmon; two, that the FDA plans to regulate this new salmon as “an ‘animal drug’ rather than a new food product, drastically limiting the safety tests it must undergo.”
Equally disturbing, the FDA report does not assess how the salmon would affect the environment in which it is raised, because the actual farming will take place in Canada and Panama (5). The GE salmon grow twice as fast as wild salmon, and eat five times as much food (6). If the GE salmon were to escape, they would lead to the complete extinction of wild salmon within 40 fish generations. AquaAdvantage has sterilized the fish to try to prevent this, but 5-10 percent of sterilized fish are still fertile (7).
And farmed salmon do escape! FFAC invites you to participate in the FDA’s public comment period, which is open through Feb. 25. There’s a petition here asking the FDA to slow down on its approval of this salmon. Anyone concerned with the future of wild fish should read about AquaAdvantage’s product and consider signing the petition. If they are going to force this new fish on us, they should at least study it in depth so they can regulate it properly.
[Photo by Clive Moss via Flickr]
Massive peanut recall! Check your foods! »
Right now might be the only time ever that folks with peanut allergies are looking at the rest of us thinking, “Haha, suckers!” If you haven’t heard, there’s a massive peanut recall afoot, and it affects a lot of fancy vegan peanut products.
A whole bunch of products made in by Sunland, Inc between March 2010 and Sept. 24, 2012, might be infected with salmonella! So far 35 people in 19 states have gotten sick, and the FDA and CDC are all over it. TWO YEARS worth of products? WTF, Sunland?!
The full list of recalled products is on the FDA’s website, but here are some that vegans are likely to have bought! If you’ve got these in your cupboard, either just chuck them or go to the FDA site for more details if that seems wasteful! The good news is unless you’re a tiny child (nice work reading the blog!) or real old or have a compromised immune system, salmonella isn’t too serious.
- Trader Joe’s, Arrowhead Mills, Cadia, Kirkland, Natural Value, Naturally More, Sprout’s, & Sun Harvest peanut butter
- Sprout’s tahini & almond butter
- Justin’s Nut Butters—anything with peanuts!
- Luna & Larry’s Coconut Bliss Chocolate Peanut Butter flavor
- Peanut Butter Newman-O’s (yes, they’re vegan)
- Earth Balance Natural Almond Butter and Flaxseed
- Anything with the Sunland name on it
- AND SO MUCH MORE!!
[Photo by Yogma via Flickr]
On Listeria, Cantaloupe, and Cows: A Rant »
Rarr! Cantaloupe are scary now. That sucks. Though this one from chrisdonia on Flickr is obviously cute and awesome.
You’ve most likely heard about the whole huge Listeria food-poisoning thing going on, right? If not: Twenty-five people have died and more may still from food poisoning that, it turns out, came from eating cantaloupe from Jensen Farms in Colorado that was contaminated with Listeria bacteria (which I love saying and laugh every time I hear, even though Listeria bacteria are nasty little buggers).
This outbreak saga has been dragging on for a couple months now, and because it started in Colorado, I ended up hearing about it pretty early on, before they’d even figured out the cause. At first, all the news stories talked about how Listeria most often shows up in processed meats and cheeses. “Ick!” I thought. “Luckily the vegans are safe.”
THEN it turned out that the deadly stuff was coming from cantaloupe. And that’s when I got mad.
I’d just finished reading the excellent Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer, of which he devotes a big chunk to detailing the connection between CAFOs (factory farms) and infectious disease. The gist: We’re all gonna die of the plague because of the horrible diseases that thrive in those hellholes, whether we support them or not.
Thus it was with great confidence that I began proclaiming that the cantaloupe thing was going to trace back to factory farming somehow. Poor plants, taking the fall for what was at heart a systemic problem with the meat industry. Anything that makes people eat less fruit is a national tragedy in my book.
Well, last week the FDA release their first report about their investigation into Jensen Farms.
I was right. Kind of.
Turns out that gross equipment in Jensen’s fruit-packing house helped spread the Listeria. And no one can be quite sure where the bacteria came from. But the FDA’s best theory is that a particular truck that hauled damaged fruit to a cow farm might have brought the bacteria back.
I wish the evidence were clearer-cut. Obviously the cantaloupe farmers messed up, and it’s not all the meat industry’s fault. BUT STILL. I challenge you all to be agents of the cantaloupe’s resurrection. Buy melons when they’re in season! Eat them! Don’t get poisoned—buy from small farmers and wash the outsides! But redeem the poor cantaloupe!
And let’s get rid of factory farms, already.
Chow Down and All-Star Veggie Panel! It Was Crazy! »
[Can’t see the video? Watch it at Vegansaurus.com!]
Like I mentioned on Friday, I went to a screening of Chow Down on Saturday. The movie was good; I liked it. It was hokey as fuck with all these cartoons and shenanigans but it was informative and comprehensive despite the scientific subject matter. The film focuses on two men who are faced with surgery for heart disease. Instead of surgery, both men opt to work with Cleveland Clinic doctor Caldwell B. Esselstyn and follow a “plant-based diet.” The results are very impressive; both men hadn’t had a single coronary indecent since changing their lifestyle even though they were told they would die without surgery.
The other aspect of the movie that was very interesting is it really goes into the business of nutrition in America. It has a lot of information about the hold that the milk and dairy lobby has on the USDA and the huge conflict of interest the government organization has when it comes to being a.) responsible for national nutrition recommendations and b.) in charge of promoting American agriculture. The film interviews the woman who created the first food pyramid and even then, the main component of the recommended diet—the bottom of the pyramid—was supposed to be fruits and veggies. The government rejected that and replaced the bottom with good old American grain. Ultimately, the first food pyramid was bagged altogether under pressure from the meat industry. What a tangled web we weave!
Guess what else: it was made by some Philadelphians! I knew the one guy in the movie was Philadelphian as soon as he opened his mouth. Hilarious.
So that’s the movie; it was fine, good even. But THEN! It was time for the Q&A with the all-star panel! This is when things took a turn for the awful. OMG I think I hate vegans! I know, I can’t believe I said that but these people were kooks! And so like cocky and self-promoting! Maybe I’m overreacting; it wasn’t really the panel that got to me, it was more the Q than the A. The panel included Gene Baur of Farm Sanctuary; Michael Parrish Dudell of Ecorazzi; Simone Reyes, some chick that’s on Running Russell Simmons (haaa, that was a hilarious inclusion); Victoria Moran, super-author; Alexandra Jamieson, super-author, Top Chef veganizer, and co-star of Super Size Me; and Gary Null, crazy-ass mofo. Also on the panel were Julia Grayer and Gage Johnston, the filmmakers.
I really liked Jamieson and Moran; Dudell was good and I liked him, but he said he would be a strict moderator and ended up being a total nancy. That was the problem: crazy people in the audience kept hijacking the discussion! They would make these barely understandable rants with the only question being like, “What are your thoughts on my rant?” I forgot how much I hate Q&As! I used to go to them for films all the time when my mom worked at the Philly Film Festival. You have these really interesting people there but all you end up hearing all about are the trials and tribulations of various audience members trying to get funding for their own projects. It’s the same with authors: “But how do I get my book published?” Oy! Give me a break.
The crazy audience was only half the problem; the other half? Crazy-ass Gary Null. Oh my god, I did a face-palm whenever he started talking. He’s a complete nut. Like Christopher Walken on crack. He only made sense half the time and he kept talking about getting people to be vegan through spirituality, which just isn’t my bag. The worst was that he was like making sermons with dramatic pauses and bringing in Martin Luther King and crap. And he kept directing his rants at the panel too—who the eff are you to lecture them? If I were the panel, I’d be like, Screw you, bro. And he barely let anyone else talk.
One theme that emerged in the questions was about inclusion and how to unite vegans; THEN at the end, this woman who organized the event came up to speak about this initiative she organized called NYC Goes Vegan. The whole event was supposed to kick off the start of this 21-day challenge. Granted, she was not the most eloquent and she really didn’t promote her initiative very well, BUT! The same people who were talking about uniting vegans and asking what we can do to reach the mainstream started talking straight-up shit on this woman WHILE she was talking! She was a very attractive, model-looking woman and she looked about 26—though she’s actually 38—and made a comment about facing old age and the older women around me like ‘bout had a mutiny! And they were talking trash on her “Valley Girl” speech. Is that how you spell inclusion?! Just petty. I was shocked. I wanted to stop being a vegan just to spite these people! Don’t worry, still vegan (I know you were worried).
Basically, your friend Megan was about to bust heads. It was a shame. I wanted to hear more from the filmmakers, like why they avoided the word “vegan” in the movie, and if the doctors are hesitant to talk about veganism and deliberately stick to “plant-based diet.” I would have also liked to hear a lot more from Moran, she was kind of awesome but didn’t speak much.
The movie was pretty good though and you can actually watch it RIGHT NOW on hulu. It’s only an hour long, you can handle it.
It’s Friday afternoon, which means time for this week’s link-o-rama! »
Welcome to the very first Link-o-Rama of 2011! To celebrate, here’s a photo of our Megan Rascal’s perfect little princess Mitsy, featured last week on fuckyeahfelines, for obvious reasons.
And now, on to business! Let’s start with adorable animal stories to warm your heart on this chilly January day. Here is a very sweet video/memorial to recently deceased Taj, the elephant artist. Everything about it is beautiful, and here is a tissue, crybaby. This memorial to Paul the “psychic” octopus is a six-foot-high plastic statue and frankly, a mite garish, but “public demand from around the world” was so great, his aquarium had to do something, right? Totally.
Mind the whiplash as we move onto animal abuse! Out in Rancho Cordova (it’s like Sacramento), Calif., 50 bunnies were rescued from an illegal breeding operation run from “a recently condemned home,” which, sweet lord, those poor little rabbits. Our pals at Harvest Home Animal Sanctuary is now working to get them all adopted, which you can do through the Sacramento SPCA. Conveniently, Harvest Home is holding a Sanctuary Rabbit Spa Day tomorrow, Saturday, Jan. 29 from 1 to 4 p.m. Go meet some buns, see how great they are, and help out a really good organization. Next let’s go to China and shut down this “farm” for swallows to make the nests that are eaten in bird’s nest soup; it looks like the missing link between an extra-horrendous Soviet-era apartment building and actual prison, and it is full of nesting birds. What happens to the “swiftlets,” a.k.a. the wee swallows for which the nests are ostensible homes? Mystery! Just like what happens inside those creepy cement walls. We know that Sweden is all about hunting wolves again this year—last year the government OKed the murder of 27, this year it’s 20. Wolves “are kept out” of the northern part of the country to prevent them eating up all the reindeer—whatever “ke[eping] out” entails—but this has led to pack isolation and inbreeding, the solution to which is clearly, obviously shooting some of them dead. Of course! Everyone is so smart.
Do they eat the wolves? We know love people love eating animals! Too bad a major report from the British government this week basically said, Meat production is totally unsustainable. Lions specifically got lucky this week, as another “let’s eat lion!” dude from Arizona (seriously what is it with that state?) bowed to public pressure and took the lion meat tacos off his menu. Now what will bored omnivores eat for thrills? GOD you’re a bunch of assholes. You’re also being completely fooled by food companies, whose claims of “health” and “structure/fuction” are poorly regulated by the Food and Drug Administration, because why wouldn’t they say anything to get you to buy their products? McDonald’s shows off its “all-natural ingredients” in its gross-ass “food” with realistic images of everything except the dead animals, which are presented as figurines. Maybe because no one who wants to eat chicken also wants to see what a dead fucking chicken looks like! On the positive side, Sodexo has chosen to participate in Meatless Mondays! Sodexo is a massive “food services provider,” this is kind of a huge and wonderful deal.
Now it’s been scientifically proven that eating more produce makes you objectively better-looking (Vegansaurus is staffed by very attractive geniuses, exclusively), maybe you non-vegans want to involve yourselves with us hot vegetable-eating bitches. If so, Laura wrote you a way better date-a-vegan guide than this nonsense from Grist, but we all know Laura is the cleverest, as evidenced by this week’s Three Vegan Dishes Worth (Temporarily) Ditching Meat and Dairy For, and The Week in Vegan. Like I said, very attractive geniuses.
Don’t forget to protest the dog show this weekend! Afterward—as in, beginning Monday and throughout the month of February—the SF SPCA is offering residents free spay/neutering services! Yeah, FREE. So you with the “intact” dog, do the world a favor and fix him/her, lest you burden the world with even more puppies it doesn’t need. WE HAVE ENOUGH PUPPIES.
[Thanks to reader Rosie for the story about bird’s nest farms! We love tips!]
Your government hates you: recalls and “hot” milk! »
Do NOT eat packaged leafy greens if you live, like, anywhere on the East Coast right now; some listeria got into Massachusetts’ State Garden’s manufacturing plant and wowza, there are so many brands that could sicken you, it’s scary!
More ground beef is out to get you, too: nearly 8,000 pounds of “Fully Cooked Black Angus Ground Beef Steak Patties” are also lousy with listeria; thanks, United Food Group, LLC (UFG) of Vernon, Calif.! Oh man, it gets better: These “patties” were produced on Oct. 11 last year, an inspection discovered they were all listeria-ful, and UFG shipped them anyway! Whoops!
Listeria is the choice for food-poisoning right now, it seems; almost 500 boxes of “Wheat Free, Gluten Free Mac and No Cheese” and “Wheat Free, Gluten Free French Bread Pizza” from Ian’s may be contaminated with the little buggers right now! When food safety standards are lax—and I mean, farm-to-shopping-cart safety standards—everyone suffers, even the Celiacs and the vegans.
The standards are super-lax, too: The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has so little power to regulate anything, the only reason every one of us eating food in the U.S. hasn’t been poisoned by it yet is absolute luck. Used-up dairy cows are sold to slaughter for human consumption without being subjected to the same tests your standard food-cows are, and these cows are full of antibiotics, like, illegally full of them, tee hee! The dairy industry, however, refuses to “allow” any further testing of any of the milk or milk products, and as the FDA is about as strong as A VERY WEAK THING, it can’t make the producers submit to these tests. HA HA HA your milk is full of substances that will kill you!
Of course the FDA gets to test your milk, and annually “only a small number of truckloads are found to be ‘hot milk,’ containing trace amounts of antibiotics.” Then that milk is “destroyed”—whatever “destroyed” means, it’s not like pouring it down the proverbial drain disappears the antibiotics from the world—and all the milk-drinkers can breathe easy. Except that the dairy farmers are actually injecting their cows with oodles of drugs the FDA doesn’t test for! Because the law doesn’t require it! Because dairy industry lobbyists use their massive amounts of cash to “convince” our elected officials to eat a cheese sandwich and keep mum!
But, you know, drink your milk or you won’t grow up big and strong/lose all the calcium in your skeleton/fade away from dairy product deprivation. You can just die of a minor infection because the bacteria were resistant to every antibiotic known to modern medicine, you’ll just do it super-full of cheese. Definitely a good trade-off. The vegans will just suffer the fever and chills of listeria poisoning, no big deal.
You just buy a bag of fucking carrots and you eat them the way you’d normally eat a package of hotdogs, okay?
Why is it that fake news is the best news? DON’T ANSWER THAT!
Artisan cheesemakers: Don’t hold us to FDA standards! A little listeriosis is fine! »
It’s the retort of many a locavore/slow-foodie: “But I only eat meat/dairy/eggs from small, usually local producers who produce it ethically and safely.” There are a million reasons that that isn’t true, but most of them take a long time to explain, and people won’t agree with you anyway, so I’m happy (sort of) to report that today, finally, we can just say, “oh yeah?”
As it turns out, “small, local, artisan” food is no guarantee of either quality, safety, or a caring producer, looking out for his/her customers. The New York Times ran an article the other day about the Estrella Family Creamery, and their defiance of the FDA. The people at Estrella make artisan cheese. They make it in relatively small batches, and then (sustainably, one assumes) ship it all over the U.S. to snooty restaurants where people who really care pay lots of money for it, eat it, and feel superior—before they start to feel sick.
You see, in February 2010, F.D.A. inspectors found listeria in Estrella’s cheese, and all over the building where the cheese is produced and aged, including in the humidifier that blows air all over the production and aging area. Gross. Kelli Estrella, owner and principal cheesemaker at Estrella, recalled some cheese and cleaned the production facility. Later, follow-up tests by the F.D.A. showed there was still listeria in Estrella cheese. Listeriosis causes fever and muscle aches and vomiting. Nausea and diarrhea are less common symptoms. If the infection spreads to the nervous system it can cause meningitis, an infection of the covering of the brain and spinal cord. It can also cause miscarriages.
This time, though, Kelli Estrella’s fighting back. She refuses to throw out the contaminated cheese, saying essentially that regulators should go after bigger operations and leave small producers like hers alone—despite, apparently, the fact that her small operation has now twice tested positive for a bacteria that can cause serious illnesses. It turns out this kind of entitled attitude is pretty common among artisan cheesemakers, which isn’t all that surprising considering that it’s also pretty common for them to fail their inspections. In the last year, nine small cheesemakers have had to recall their products due to contamination. From the Times:
“If the F.D.A. wanted to shut down the U.S. artisan cheese industry, all they’d have to do is do this environmental surveillance and the odds of finding a pathogen would be pretty great,” said Catherine W. Donnelly, co-director of the Vermont Institute for Artisan Cheese of the University of Vermont, referring to the listeria testing at cheese plants.
So, wait, WHAT? Artisan cheesemakers think they should be exempt from the standards imposed on all other producers, even as they admit that most artisan cheese is probably contaminated with something gross? How does that make any sense at all? Yeah, yeah, you’re all raw-milk crusaders, and we should be allowed to put whatever the damn hell we want in our mouths, and blah, blah, blah, but come on! You are really fighting for your down-home, small-batch right to sell a product that you know is contaminated with a dangerous bacteria?
OK, small, artisan cheesemakers, let me tell you about how food contamination works. I’m not a microbiologist, but I’ve taken a food safety class and had a whole glass of wine, so I think I’m qualified, particularly given how you guys all apparently interpret it. First, bacteria doesn’t give a shit whether you are a faceless corporation or a chock-full-o-personality-and-gumption artisan. Second, bacteria doesn’t give a shit if your customers are wealthier foodie assholes as opposed to poorer, food-desert nomads; they will get EQUALLY SICK—though I suppose you could argue that your rich foodie customers probably have more money for doctors and so are less likely to die from the listeriosis they contract from your artisan cheese. Third, bacterial contamination (particularly by bacteria that causes fever, vomiting, and MISCARRIAGES) is bad! It’s not folksy or character-building. It’s bad! It’s also gross! In sum, artisan cheesemakers, your failing inspection grades are neither government persecution nor badges of honor. Food safety regulations are important because it’s important to NOT KILL PEOPLE WHO EAT YOUR FOOD.
Reading this whinefest made me wonder how many other “artisan” food producers think they should be exempted from food safety regulations. I’d sure think twice before putting that “small batch” brie in my mouth.
Pre-Thanksgiving food recalls for best tableside conversation »
Which government administrations love you, baby? Yeah, the FDA and the USDA, that’s right. Hence they’ve released these four recall notices just before Thanksgiving to keep you from spending the long weekend in bed, or heaven forbid the hospital. Hooray!
First, Krunchers! Inc. recalled all bags of Jay’s brand original potato chips produced on a certain date because whoops, 180 of them contain a “milk allergen.” What that milk allergen is exactly that snuck into the potato chips, the FDA and Krunchers! aren’t saying, but it’s some kind of milk product, so read about the details of the 180 affected bags of chips and act accordingly.
Second, following Bravo Farms’ recall of its Dutch-style Gouda last week, the company is now recalling ALL OF ITS CHEESES. The Centers for Disease Control fully found E.Coli O157:H7 in their Gouda, which led to testing of the entire Bravo Farms plant, where the CDFA found more E.Coli O157:H7 and Listeria monocytogenes. Cheese is so awesome!! Should anyone we know and/or love eat this brand of cheese, let them know they can either return it to the place of purchase, or just throw it away.
Update: These cheeses are also sold at Whole Foods, and apparently Bravo Farms cheese is usually of such high quality they all have a “distributed by Whole Foods” sticker on their packaging as well. Wherever there are animal products, there’s a risk of bacterial infection. Barf.
Speaking of bacteria, Calabro Cheese recalled 57 pounds of “Calabro All Natural Rotolini Mozzarella & Prosciutto,” lot number 3190, as they may be contaminated with, what? Lysteria monocygenes! Oh man, Lysteria is all over the place this week! This “possible contamination” was discovered by the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, rather than the FDA, because it contained a meat product—any food item involving meat, poultry, or processed egg products is regulated by the USDA through the FSIS. This’ll be the site to let you know about any risk of illness through dead turkey this week, too. Of course you don’t care, but maybe you want to keep your weirdo relatives from getting sick and having to stay at your house for an extra week.
Worst of all, Artisan Confections Company has had to recall 33 cases of Dagoba Organic Chocolate New Moon Rich Dark Chocolate 74 percent cacao 0.32 oz squares because of a Salmonella contamination risk. MAN is it frustrating when vegan products like this line of Dagoba chocolates come into contact with Salmonella, which is a bacteria of exclusively animal-origin. Where did it come from? That’s a question for the third-party manufacturer, I suppose; regardless, anyone with the New Moon squares is asked to call Artisan Confections Consumer Relations at 866/ 608.6944 between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. EST.
And now you have your Thanksgiving conversational topics! Maybe, in case the conversation starts to drag even with all this exciting news, you might want to look up the effects of E. coli, Salmonella, and/or Listeria illnesses on the body, to really get things going again. People love to hear exactly how their food is going to kill them while they’re eating it! That’s what holidays are for.