Regulations: GMO Apple Up for Approval Reply

On the regulatory front, there’s good news in food and agriculture: The federal government is moving towards approval of the Arctic Apple.

What in the world, you may ask, is an Arctic Apple? In short, it is an apple whose flesh stays white after you slice it. This neat little trick will make the apple more appealing to finicky eaters — children, say — who turn their noses up at slices that have turned brown. It would allow caterers to put apple slices on buffet tables where they have to sit for a while. It could significantly increase the demand for apples over a period of time.

So what’s the problem? Why is federal approval needed for such an appealing product?

Because it’s biotechnology, that’s why. The apple stays white because the gene that causes it to turn brown when exposed to air has been turned out. Gene silencing, they call it.

In most biotech crops — corn, soybeans, cotton, canola, sugar beets — the genetic engineering aspect is invisible to consumers. The plant is engineered to resist insects or to survive weedkiller, but the food made from the plant is no different in any meaningful way.

The Arctic Apple will be the only plant product on the market that you can tell at a glance has been bioengineered — because it doesn’t turn brown. The benefit will be out there for all to see.

Food activists vs. farmed fish: who’s right? Reply

My go-to meal when dining out is broiled salmon with a side of rice and some veggies.  Add a glass of pinot noir, and I’ve got a healthful and tasty meal.

The food activists, however, are eager to tell me that I am overloading on PCB’s, mercury, and antibiotics, particularly if – as is usually the case – the fish was raised in a tank or a pen rather than caught in the open ocean.  Farmed salmon is one of those food commodities that the food busybodies love to hate.

“Wild-caught” is as important to fish, in their view, as “organic” is to any terrestrial food.

Farmed or wild-caught?

Farmed or wild-caught?

Farm-raised fish is evil as far as Mike Adams, a.k.a. “The Health Ranger,” and numerous bloggers are concerned.

“Fish farming (is) killing off native species; boycott farmed salmon before it’s too late!” screams a post on Adams’ website.

Too late.  According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries Service, about two-thirds of the salmon eaten by Americans every year is farm-raised.  Most of it is imported from Norway, Chile, or Canada.

Science, fortunately, has debunked the scare stories about farmed salmon.  Harvard professors have estimated that that the health benefits of eating salmon far outweigh any risk from PCB contamination, for example.  EPA, FDA and the Institute of Medicine have all found the risk from mercury in fish is so hard to pin down that they can’t recommend any limits on seafood consumption by adults.

But there is always the hipster appeal of paying more for wild-caught.  It makes the buyer feel good and it tastes better, right?

Bigger, Tastier Wings Reply

Chicken wings really are getting bigger. I have this on authority of Sally Smith, president and CEO of Buffalo Wild Wings Grill and Bar, who says the company used to get ten or eleven wings per pound but now gets only eight or nine. This and other facts are in my article just published in Watt PoultryUSA magazine, based on her presentation to the National Chicken Council last October (long lead time). The piece is, I think, the last echo of my brief stint as a trade journalist from October to February. See it at

Buffalo Wild Wings Sees Growth, Keeps Focus on Chicken

Another Encyclopedia 2

If you happen to have $540 to spare, or represent a library, please run right out and buy the brand-new “Encyclopedia of Lifestyle Medicine and Health” from SAGE Publications.

It has an excellent article on “Chicken and Poultry” by yours truly.  I wrote it almost three years ago.  Encyclopedias tend to take a long time to get into print.

This is my second encyclopedia. The first, in 2003, was the “Encyclopedia of Food and Culture” from Scribner.  I wrote the article on “Poultry” and eleven others, ranging from “Botulism” to “Military Rations” and “History of Food Production.”

The only trouble with writing for encyclopedias is that they compete with Wikipedia, which pays nothing, so printed encyclopedia don’t pay very much.  But it’s a great byline!

Is bread the sodium bad guy? Reply

So, if you are worried about your blood pressure, you should stop eating bread because it is so high in sodium, right?  That’s the impression you get from the latest publicity blast from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention about sources of sodium in the American diet.

CDC fingered bread and rolls as the biggest single source of sodium, saying they contribute 7.4 percent of the nation’s sodium intake.  That’s funny — I like bread, especially the crusty kind, and I’ve never tasted a piece that I thought was salty. Do bakers really put a lot of salt in bread?

Well, no. The average slice of white bread has 137 milligrams of sodium; whole wheat, 134.  Since the average daily allowance for sodium under government guidelines is 2,300 milligrams, that doesn’t seem like a lot. More…

Industry groups back federal plan to address foodborne illness Reply

By Richard Lobb on 2/1/2012

from (reprinted by permission)

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The nation’s meatpackers are backing a plan by the federal government to get a better handle on which specific foods cause illnesses and death among consumers, saying the improved data can help fill gaps in the food safety system.

“The only way we can better understand what makes people sick is through this data,” Betsy Booren, director of scientific affairs for the American Meat Institute, said at a public meeting at USDA headquarters here. “By having timely, credible food attribution data, the food industry can accurately identify and improve any food safety gaps that may exist.”


Big changes coming for poultry inspection Reply

Picture of a chicken carcass

A typical chicken carcass

After years of hesitation, the U.S. Department of Agriculture is moving ahead with a plan to take inspectors off the evisceration line at chicken and turkey slaughter plants.  Since the 1950’s, inspectors have stood at fixed stations on the line and checked every chicken carcass that came along. (About one every two seconds, usually.) They were supposed to touch the carcass in a certain way to check for evidence of bird disease, look for bile or fecal contamination, and otherwise make sure it was wholesome.

Trouble is, most poultry diseases have been practically eliminated.  The concern in recent years hasn’t been for poultry diseases, but for microbial contamination such as Salmonella.  And you can’t see or feel Salmonella cells no matter how hard you try.