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Next Steps on Arsenic and Rice

This blog was originally posted on FDAVoice on September 12, 2013.

On Sept. 6, FDA announced the results of testing 1,300 samples of arsenic in rice and rice products and found that the arsenic levels in rice do not present an immediate or short-term health risk. As we said last week, the next step is to assess the potential health risk from long-term exposure to the arsenic in rice and foods made with this grain.

And that is where my job starts. I am a scientist at FDA and I’d like to explain the scientific legwork that will be done over the next few months by some of the most preeminent arsenic experts in the country. Keep Reading

Impact of GMOs on the Future of Agriculture

On August 10, the U.S. Dept. of Agriculture revised its estimated for this year’s corn crop, cutting it by nearly 17% due to the severe drought the United States experienced this spring and summer. And yet, this year’s corn harvest is expected to be perhaps the fifth largest on record. Recently, Kelly Hensel, IFT Digital Media Editor, spoke with Colin Carter, Professor of Agricultural and Resource Economics at the University of California, Davis, to get his insight on how techniques, including genetic modification, have helped U.S. farmers meet increasing demands under extreme weather variation. In addition, Carter addresses the concerns surrounding GM crops. Listen to the interview on IFT’s ePerspective blog and don’t forget to add your opinion to the dialog by commenting.



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Exposing the Truth Behind the ‘Slime’

There has been a lot of media attention given to a product that is unfamiliar to most consumers, even though they have been eating it for the last 20 years. Lean finely textured beef, known by the derogatory term “pink slime,” has come to mean many things to many people. And as is often the case with something unfamiliar, people sometimes jump to conclusions that are based on incomplete facts.

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The Use and Misuse of Science: A Commentary on Transgenic Salmon

Transgenic technology is a new high-tech tool developed by scientists to increase productivity and profitability of commercial food production, while at the same time increasing sustainability of food resources. Atlantic salmon is one example of such a nutritious limited food source. Our oceans cannot keep up with consumer demands for fish, a commodity that is not only highly sought after due to its culinary appeal, but is increasingly seen as healthy alternative to red meat. A transgenic line of Atlantic salmon (AquAdvantage salmon) was genetically engineered (GE) to grow faster by inserting an additional salmon growth hormone gene. The fast growth increases the annual output of aquaculture farms and also increases the efficiency of feed conversion (i.e., they need less food to produce the same amount of food compared with their slower growing, non-GE counterparts). Also, these GE-fish will be grown in contained, land-based facilities, preventing escape of the fish to the ocean and allowing general expansion of salmon aquaculture to meet growing demand without expanding the use of ocean net pens. Keep Reading

Foodborne Salmonellosis: A Persistent Challenge Far Beyond Ground Turkey

Human salmonellosis has remained a considerable challenge for the U.S. food industry, regulatory agencies (both USDA and FDA), and public health agencies over the last decade. The latest estimates on the prevalence of human salmonellosis suggest that foodborne Salmonella infections cause around 1 million domestically acquired disease cases a year in the U.S., including 350–400 cases that result in deaths.

There are a number of reasons why it has been so difficult to reduce Salmonella transmission in the U.S. Keep Reading

Fighting to Get Caramel Color Ingredient Off Prop 65 List

A group of plaintiffs—the California League of Food Processors, the American Beverage Association, Grocery Manufacturers Association, and the National Coffee Association—filed a lawsuit against the California Office of Environmental Health Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) for its wrongful listing of 4-methylimidazole (4-MEI) under Proposition 65. On Jan. 7, 2011, based on a technical report from the National Toxicology Program (NTP), OEHHA listed the compound as a carcinogen. Nevertheless, NTP does not identify 4-MEI as even “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen.” Keep Reading

Does Being ‘Small’ Mean Less Food Safety Risk?

Being a small business person myself, I am all for helping my peers who are working hard to make our businesses successful.  The order that comes with rules and regulations intended for Wall Street can be onerous and difficult to manage for those found mostly on the local main streets.  However, is it correct for FDA to require less food safety controls for smaller food manufacturers than for the larger ones?  I can’t agree that such a principle for regulation is in anyone’s best interests. Keep Reading

We Need More Practice at Being Dummies

Years ago when my mother was in the hospital we met a nurse named Barb, who told us about one of her patients—Charlie. Upon leaving the hospital, Charlie presented Barb with a card that read “Official member of the Dummy Club – Member # 172.” Charlie explained that while most people think they know everything, Barb was a “dummy.” She knew that she did not know everything and was thus open to all possibilities. When Charlie finds open-minded people, he rewards them with membership in the dummy club.

Recently, I have been talking to many people about the FDA’s hearings on genetically modified salmon. I have not found many dummies. People’s opinions on genetically modified (GM) food are so diverse—and so rock solid. Keep Reading

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