Thursday, November 24, 2005

The Label Issue

Word count 1,427

November 23, 2005


I have been wanting to do an article for the Mystic River Press for almost a year now on the supermarket labels and how the consumer has no clue as to what they are putting in their mouths and how that food is affecting their health and the health of their grandchildren.

In my last article I spoke of how I was going to start a new diet, one that only requires you to buy LOCAL and IN SEASON. For months now I have been advocating that people develop a relationship with a farmer or a number of farmers, then go to the farm to see exactly how their food is raised or grown and perhaps more importantly how it is processed, then decide what product or products they can best use at their dinner table.

I have given the readers a list of local farms and we will add to that list in 2006. I have also told them they can come to our web site and follow links to local farms, we have given them information on farmers markets, now it’s time to address the labels in the stores.

All the information has been given, it is up to the consumer to make a educated decision as to whether they want to get more healthy or just be lazy and eat status quo. You see eating healthy takes a bit more time and costs a bit more money and God forbid that we should take any time away from our busy schedules just for the sake of our own health and the health of our descendants.

Many people spend hundreds to join a gym, or get plastic surgery, have a botox treatment, join a diet club or a exercise facility, they spend hundreds on running or walking shoes, fancy bikes, exercise equipment and then they refuse to take the time and effort to REALLY eat right.

Your real exercise and your basic road to good health starts here:

These are some links and quotes I have found on the web that will tell the story I need told.

In my opinion eco-label and ask Dr. Sears are the two best sites to get yourself educated.

USDA DRASTICALLY CHEAPENS MEANING OF ORGANIC LABEL National Organic Standards Board Meeting, Chicago, IL, April 28-30, 2004
New Changes: The USDA significantly undermined this standard by applying a blind use approval protocol. That is, an organic farmer can use ANY pesticide formulation before determining whether it contains List 2 or 3 ingredients. The farmer and the certifier must use "due diligence" to find out what is in these formulations but if they cannot ascertain the specific ingredients, then AS LONG AS THEY DON'T KNOW, IT IS APPROVEDFOR USE.

USDA HAS BACKED AWAY FROM CERTIFYING FISH AS ORGANIC FOR NOW--BUT IT CAN STILL BE LABELED ORGANIC (TO NO STANDARD) AND BE FED TO LIVESTOCKUSDA has halted the use of the USDA seal on any fish until it develops standards. In the meantime, any organic label can be used on fish and USDA is proposing to feed nonorganic fishmeal to cows. Allowance of non-organic fish meal (that could contain contaminants such as mercury and PCBs) as well as synthetic preservatives can now be used-- without review by the National Organic Standards Board--as a protein supplement for livestock feed.


New Changes: After this new guidance document, the USDA is expanding the use of antibiotics to individual animals AT ANY TIME DURING ORGANIC PRODUCTION while keeping the 12 month waiting period for organic milk production.

These moves constitute a serious blow to the meaning of the organic label on food for consumers. Barbara Robinson from the USDA was quoted in yesterday's meeting as saying that, "The public has no right to comment on these directives." NOP is a public program paid for by taxpayers who have a right to comment on any additions, interpretations or efforts to undermine the standards.

Food Safety and Inspection ServiceUnited States Department of AgricultureWashington, D.C. 20250-3700

Producers must demonstrate to the Agency that the poultry has been allowed access to the outside

A product containing no artificial ingredient or added color and is only minimally processed (a process which does not fundamentally alter the raw product) may be labeled natural.
Is organic food better for me and my family?
USDA makes no claims that organically produced food is safer or more nutritious than conventionally produced food. Organic food differs from conventionally produced food in the way it is grown, handled, and processed.

Angus: All it's cut out to be?
By Elizabeth Weise, USA TODAY
Geneticists are unlocking the secrets of the grocery story, and what they're finding is surprising.
First it was the fish counter, where researchers recently discovered that as much as 77% of all fish sold as red snapper actually wasn't red snapper.
Now it's the meat counter.
Scientists at a Texas company creating genetic tests for individual cattle breeds tested 560 cuts of beef sold as certified Angus and found that between 8% and 50% of the cuts weren't genetically at least 50% Angus.
The Angus breed is considered particularly tasty because its meat is well marbled with fat. Producers have been capitalizing on the Angus name since the 1970s.
Viagen, of Austin, tested beef purchased in Texas, Nebraska, Kansas and Illinois in 2003 and 2004. Four different Angus-branded beef labels were tested. Using two separate tests, the company looked for more than 50% Angus lineage and less than 25% Brahman, a breed associated with increased toughness.
The four brands varied widely in the percentage of samples that fit the Angus profile: 92%, 83%, 71% and 50%. When Viagen tested a non-Angus-branded beef label as a control, they found that 47% of those samples fit the Angus profile.
The findings aren't surprising, says Davey Griffin, a meat specialist at Texas A&M University, because certified Angus beef programs are actually based on hide color, not genetics.
In fact, of more than 30 Angus beef certification programs verified by USDA, only four require actual genetic confirmation. The rest, mostly older programs, are based on visual identification and require only that the animal's hide be 51% black. That's primarily because in the past hide color was the most reliable indicator of breed.
"They don't have to show or prove any Angus background," Griffin says.
The criteria used for the Certified Angus Beef brand, one of the oldest Angus certifications, are focused on quality issues, says a spokesman for the company that oversees the program. They include marbling, degree of muscling relative to fat, and age rather than genetics, says Brent Eichar of Certified Angus Beef LLC.
"We're a breed-influenced program," Eichar says. "We talk about the Angus influence, but we nowhere make claims of it as a pure breed."

"Natural" is probably the least trustworthy of all the label terms. While the term "natural" sounds appealing, it really says little about the nutritional quality of the food, or even its safety. In reality, "natural" is empty of nutritional meaning. Consumers believe that "natural" means the food is pretty much as Mother Nature grew it, but this is seldom the case. And even then, "natural" is not the same as nutritious, or good for you. The fat marbling in a New York strip steak is "natural," but it's not good for your arteries.
Isn’t it time you started to find local farms where you can get good, clean, humanely raised and hand processed meats and good, clean, fresh, handpicked fruits and veggies and herbs. Start your search now by going to and find the farms that will best fill your table.
Next visit the bookstore on line and purchase a good book on canning, drying and freezing food so that you can enjoy that fresh safe food all winter long.
Putting Food By -- by Janet Greene; Paperback Buy new: $10.85 -- Used & new from: $3.75
Complete Guide to Home Canning and Preserving (Second Revised Edition) -- by U.S. Dept. of Agriculture; Paperback Buy new: $9.95 -- Used & new from: $6.78
Stocking Up : The Third Edition of America's Classic Preserving Guide -- by Carol Hupping; Paperback Buy new: $13.60 -- Used & new from: $4.30


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