(August 14, 2009) - In response to the principles developed by the White House Food Safety Working Group, the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) jointly announced on July 31, 2009 that they were taking steps to increase the security of the US food supply (USDA News Release 0359-09).
DHHS announced that its Food and Drug Administration had issued draft guidelines “aimed at minimizing or eliminating contamination of leafy greens, tomatoes, and melons that can cause foodborne illnesses.”
“Agriculture Secretary Vilsack announced that the USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service (FSIS) is issuing guidelines for inspectors to begin conducting routine sampling of bench trim for E. Coli. Bench trim is pieces left over from steaks and other cuts that are then used to make ground beef.” In this column we will be focusing on the new sampling of bench trim.
(August 7, 2009) - One of several comments that we have run across since we began writing about food safety is that imposing additional requirements on slaughterhouses is unnecessary because the ultimate responsibility belongs to the person cooking the meat.
One person writes, "Just cook it stupid! We're trying to protect people from ignorance...never going to happen no matter how hard producers or government tries."
A blogger responding to that comment says, "Amen. Brother!!! Americans would rather [complain] about everything than take personal responsibility. Leave the patty in the pan until it is 160 degrees, problem solved."
We believe that those preparing food items should engage in safe food handling procedures, including frequent hand washing and the use of separate cutting boards for meat and vegetable products. Certainly it would not hurt for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to better communicate the importance of safe food handling in restaurants and at home.
(August 2, 2009) - One of the basic rules of my incredibly successful one-dog, two-ink pen operation is that if the government wants to give some of my tax money back I take it.
Depreciation? Thank you. Double declining balance, three-backflips depreciation? Thank you very much.
That simple principle, however, was trampled July 22 when a Senate Ag Committee hearing took a look at the recently passed, farmer-friendly, House climate change legislation.
While the House plan is complex, everyone-Dems and Repubs, cowboys and plowboys, geniuses and (ahem) journalists alike-agree: the ag side of the House plan will net farmers and rural communities billions in the coming decades.
Indeed, recent studies from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Environmental Protection Agency and Iowa State University all point to how juicy carbon trading will be for American farmers and landowners.
But that clear message was muddied at the Senate hearing. Several Repub aggies complained that farmers would be big losers under cap-and-trade. Leading the charge was Mike Johanns, this year the junior senator from Nebraska, last year the secretary of agriculture.
(July 31, 2009) - The July 21, 2009 romaine lettuce recall by Tanimura & Antle puts another exclamation point on the issue of food safety. The lettuce was being recalled because of a positive result for Salmonella on a random test conducted by the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture. As of Sunday, July 26, 2009, the recall had not been posted on the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) "2009 Recalls, Market Withdrawals, & Safety Alerts" website even though Tanimura & Antle posted it on their site on July 21.
When President Obama established the Food Safety Working Group in the White House, he said, "We are a nation built on the strength of individual initiative. But there are certain things that we can't do on our own. There are certain things that only a government can do. And one of those things is ensuring that the foods we eat...are safe and don't cause us harm."
ST. PAUL (July 29, 2009) - The 28th annual Farmfest will be held August 4-6 at the Gilfillan Estate in Redwood County, Minnesota and both Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) and National Farmers Union (NFU) will be represented.
New NFU President Roger Johnson will be in attendance Tuesday, August 4 and in the morning of Wednesday, August 5 and will be on a panel titled, "Climate change. Challenges and opportunities for agriculture," at 1:15 on Tuesday, August 4. MFU President Doug Peterson will be on a panel on Wednesday, August 5 at 10:30 titled, "The Minnesota ag industry. Where are we at and where are we going?"
"The proximity of our Farmers Union booth just west of the forum tent gives members and farmers a great place to come by and discuss what they heard from the speakers, and to talk about rural issues," said Doug Peterson, Minnesota Farmers Union President. "NFU President Roger Johnson will be at the booth to discuss the importance of agriculture in the climate change debate and to talk to farmers about what's on their mind. Be sure to stop by our booth, grab a cup of coffee or a glass of water and say hello."
Congressman Tim Walz is scheduled to be at the MFU booth at 3 p.m. on Tuesday, August 4.
(July 24, 2009) - Food safety has been getting a lot of attention lately. In response to the peanut butter, pistachio, and toll house cookie recalls, the House Energy and Safety Committee has approved the Food Safety Enforcement Act of 2009 to strengthen and expand the US Food and Drug Administration's (FDA) role in food safety and inspection. To gauge the response of the agricultural community, the House Agriculture Committee held a hearing on this legislation.
At the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, a White House Food Safety Group was formed by the Obama administration. In July 2009, the Working Group recommended "a new, public health-focused approach to food safety based on three core principles: (1) prioritizing prevention; (2) strengthening surveillance and enforcement; and (3) improving response and recovery"
In all this, major-crop and livestock farmers are worried that the move toward increased emphasis on food safety will lead to the FDA inspection of farms as part of its role in protecting the integrity of the food ingredients that are produced by farmers. Many involved in beef production are resistant to an animal identification system that would allow traceback to the farm-level.
WASHINGTON (July 21, 2009) - Carver County Minnesota Farmers Union President Scott Hoese testified before the House Agriculture Subcommittee on Livestock, Dairy and Poultry today on the devastating economic conditions within the dairy industry. As a dairy farmer, Hoese said the current situation is unlike any experienced in the past and the width and depth cannot continue to be ignored.
"This crisis has not discriminated based upon herd size or geographic location," Hoese said. "The rollercoaster market dairy producers have been riding becomes more severe with each passing year, with the highs not lasting long enough to mitigate the lows".
Hoese told the subcommittee dairy farmers need a lifeline now. "There is no single factor why the dairy industry is in the economic condition it is in and there is no single option to solve this crisis. It will take a suite of options from Congress and the administration to ensure short-term survival and long-term prosperity for America's dairy farmers," he said.
(July 17, 2009) - As part of researching and writing this column for nine years now, we have uncovered a number of remarkable divergences between the original intents of public policies and, after years of reshaping, their current actual administration. We thought nothing would surprise us in this regard. Wrong.
The jolt to our consciousness came when researching food safety issues, specifically issues surrounding meat.
We assumed all the systemic sources of potential bacterial contamination of meat had been eliminated decades ago through hard-fought public policy legislation and strict federal enforcement. That would leave random, largely uncontrollable sources of contamination, which we assumed were the reasons for the various recalls of meat and other food products.
We were shocked by the revelation reported by John Munsell, Manager, Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement (FARE), and quoted in last week's column, that a USDA sampling experiment found that 8 of "24 packages of vacuum packaged boxed beef items" tested positive for E. coli bacteria. Even more troubling than that, the USDA does not consider E. coli on the surface of primal cuts of beef to be an adulterant.
BUT if the Bush administration's USDA would have had its way, that would have been fixed.
Calling all Women Living and Working in Rural Minnesota! Farmfest will feature the, “First Annual Farmfest Women’s Breakfast,”
From Farmfest '09:
On Thursday, August 6th at the Jackpot Junction Redwood Falls, MN (July 15, 2009) - Are you a woman living and/or working in rural Minnesota, the surrounding communities or know of one who meets these criteria? Then has Farmfest got the event for you! New for 2009, Farmfest is proud to introduce the, "First Annual Farmfest Women's Breakfast," held at the Jackpot Junction on Thursday, August 6th at 9:00am.
This event will feature a gourmet sit-down breakfast inclusive of a variety plate consisting of a multitude of pork and egg related products including; Mini ham/cheese omelet, Eggs Benedict, small wrap with sausage, parmesan hash browns, a mini muffin, strawberries and a variety of beverages.
The event also includes a raffle with chances to win great prizes donated by local companies, and prominent featured speakers including; Carol Molnau, Minnesota Lieutenant Governor, Colleen Lankamer, USDA Rural Development State Director, and Linda Hennen, State Farm Service Agency Director, and many more who will be on-hand to discuss events which led them to where they are in life as well as a question & answer session with attendees.
Legislators overlook serious flaw in USDA’s HACCP food-safety system—while promoting its adoption by FDA
(July 10, 2009) - The presence of salmonella in peanut butter this last winter prompted calls for a number of solutions to the inspection failure, including one for the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) to take over all food inspection and another for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to adopt the USDA Food Inspection Service's Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) method of inspection.
As House Agriculture Committee Chair Collin Peterson said, "We have jurisdiction over meat and catfish. FDA has jurisdiction over everything else. We're not perfect, but our track record is a helluva lot better at USDA than it is at FDA."
After the Jack in the Box E. coli outbreak in 1993, the USDA decided to move to the HACCP system of inspection. Based on the idea that the plant operator knows the plant better than the USDA, the responsibility for designing an inspection system was turned over to each individual plant.
According to John Munsell, Manager, Foundation for Accountability in Regulatory Enforcement (FARE), when USDA "officials initially described HACCP to the industry in the mid-90's, the agency made the following enticing promises:
Become a Member
Minnesota Farmers Union (MFU) works to protect and enhance the economic interests and quality of life of family farmers and ranchers and rural communities. MFU is a nonprofit membership-based organization. Membership is open to farmers and non-farmers. To learn more about the MFU Executive Board, click here.
Lake Sarah Park and Campground
According to the USDA, more than 80% of every food dollar spent by consumers goes to marketing, processing, distribution, retailing and wholesaling, leaving only 15.8 cents per food dollar for farmers! To learn more, click here.
The Minnesota Cooks program is an annual event held at the State Fair. The program brings together local farmers with some of Minnesota's premier chefs as they demonstrate how they use farm fresh, Minnesota-grown ingredients to create award-winning fare for their restaurants. The picture above is of the Minnesota Cooks 12-month calendar, which will be available for free during the duration of the state fair at our building. To take a look at the calendar and find out more, click here, Minnesota Cooks.
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