More foods getting labeled as US or foreign-grown
WASHINGTON (AP) — No more wondering where your hamburger came from, or where your lettuce and tomatoes were grown: Starting this week, shoppers will see lots more foods labeled with the country of origin.
It's a law years in the making but timely, as China's milk scandal and the recent salmonella-tainted Mexican peppers prompt growing concern over the safety of imported foods.
Still, hold the import-bashing: Numerous outbreaks in recent years have come from U.S.-produced foods, like spinach grown in California.
Until now, shoppers have had little clue where many everyday foods — meats, fresh fruits and vegetables, certain nuts — originate. That's what the so-called COOL law, for country-of-origin labeling, changes.
Those who want to buy local — or who prefer, say, Chilean grapes and New Zealand lamb — can more easily exercise their purchasing power. Those worried about lax safety regulations in certain countries can avoid those imports. And the next time tomatoes are suspected of food poisoning, consumers may be able to tell investigators they bought only ones grown in a certain region, speeding the probe.
"We do see it as an important step on the road to a more comprehensive system for tracing food items" during outbreaks, says Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
"It will be a very good thing because we'll have a lot more information," adds Jean Halloran of Consumers Union. But, "you can still be fooled by the COOL label."
How? There are bunches of exceptions. Fresh strawberries get a label but not chocolate-covered ones. Raw peanuts? Label. Roasted ones? No label. Those popular pre-washed salad mixes? Sometimes.
Here are some common questions as shoppers navigate the change:
Q: What does the new law require?
A: That retailers notify customers of the country of origin — including the U.S. — of raw beef, veal, lamb, pork, chicken, goat, wild and farm-raised fish and shellfish, fresh or frozen fruits and vegetables, peanuts, pecans, macadamia nuts and whole ginseng. (The aim was big agricultural commodities; ginseng was added for fear of imports masquerading as U.S.-grown.)
Q: Where will I see the country of origin?
A: Anywhere it fits. The rubber band around asparagus; the plastic wrap on ground beef; the little sticker that says "Gala" on an apple. If a food isn't normally sold in any packaging — such as a bin of fresh green beans or mushrooms — then the store must post a sign.
Q: Aren't many foods already labeled?
A: Some fresh produce already uses origin labeling as advertising. "Fresh from Florida" or "Jersey Grown" or "Vidalia Onion" tags don't have to be changed under the new rules; the shopper should realize they're all U.S. products.
The COOL law mandating such labels first passed in 2002, but lobbying by grocery stores and large meatpackers led Congress to delay the U.S. Department of Agriculture from implementing it. Seafood labeling was phased in first, in 2005 — a key change given recurring safety problems with fish and shellfish from certain countries, including China.
Q: What's the biggest exception?
A: The labels aren't for processed foods, meaning no label if the food is cooked, or an ingredient in a bigger dish or otherwise substantially changed. So plain raw chicken must be labeled but not breaded chicken tenders. Raw pork chops are labeled, but not ham or bacon. Fresh or frozen peas get labeled, but not canned peas. Raw shelled pecans, but not a trail mix.
Q: What if the foods are merely mixed together?
A: They're exempt, too. So cantaloupe slices from Guatemala get labeled. Mix in some Florida watermelon chunks, and no label. Frozen peas, labeled. Frozen peas and carrots, no label. As for bagged salads, USDA considers iceberg and Romaine to be just lettuce, so that bag gets a label. Add some radicchio? No label.
Q: Must all stores comply?
A: No. Meat and seafood sold in butcher shops and fish markets are exempt.
Q: What if companies buy food from various places — beef from both U.S. and Mexican ranchers, for instance?
A: That's a bone of contention between large U.S. meat producers and smaller ranchers that produce exclusively U.S. animals. Tyson Fresh Meats, for instance, says it's too expensive to separate which of its cattle came from which country. So in a July letter to customers, Tyson said it would label all beef "Product of the U.S., Canada or Mexico." The National Farmers Union is protesting; USDA is considering the complaints.
Q: Aren't country labels on some processed foods?
A: Yes, tariff regulations have long required that a food put into consumer-ready packaging abroad be labeled as an import; that doesn't apply to bulk ingredients.
Q: When does the change take effect?
A: The law goes into effect Tuesday, although USDA won't begin fining laggards until spring. Violations can bring a $1,000 penalty.
EDITOR's NOTE _ Lauran Neergaard covers health and medical issues for The Associated Press in Washington.
WASHINGTON - September 18 - Consumers Union finds it "incomprehensible" that the FDA will not require labeling of genetically engineered animals that are sold as food. Genetically engineered animals may contain genetic material from entirely different species. For example mouse genes have been put into pigs to help them metabolize phosphorous more efficiently, and spider genes have been put into goats so that they produce spider silk in their milk.
FDA proposed today that they will only review genetically engineered animals for their safety as food, and will not require any labeling. "It is incomprehensible to us that FDA does not view these animals as different from their conventional counterparts, and therefore something that under law is required to be labeled," stated Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives at Consumers Union, nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports. "In our view, consumers have a right to know if the ham, bacon or pork chops they are buying come from pigs that have been engineered with mouse genes."
Consumers Union is also concerned that cows engineered to produce antibiotics in their milk, which can help the cow avoid udder infections, also will not be labeled. "Unlike conventional antibiotics, which must be cleared from the cow before it can be used to produce milk or meat, the antibiotic that is genetically engineered into the animal will always be present. We are concerned both about the potential safety and lack of labeling on such food products," stated Michael Hansen, Ph.D., Senior Scientist at Consumers Union.
Very good article in the NY times about eggs labels :
IT used to be, an egg was an egg.
WHAT’S IN AN EGG? The array of labels on egg cartons can be bewildering. Some provide reliable information about audited claims (like “U.S.D.A. organic” and “certified humane raised and handled”). Others are unregulated and unverified.
Some claims on egg cartons are regulated by the federal government, some by the states and some not at all. Some affect consumers’ health, some touch upon ethics and some are meaningless.
All purport to describe how the hens were raised, or what they were fed, or what extra benefits their eggs might provide.
So, what do these terms mean?
First, the basics: egg grades — given by the United States Department of Agriculture or other agencies — depend mainly on the firmness of the whites. AA eggs hold their shape in the pan a bit better than Grade A eggs. (Grade B eggs, for processed foods, are rarely sold in stores.) Egg sizes, like large or jumbo, are based on the weight of a dozen eggs. Then things get confusing.
The easiest way to ensure truth in labeling is to look for cartons bearing the National Organic Program emblem (a circular seal with “U.S.D.A.” over what looks like a field), any of the animal-welfare-related labels described below, or the U.S.D.A. shield (which looks like an interstate highway sign and which indicates the eggs’ grade). The organic and animal welfare programs require that producers be audited by third-party certifiers. The U.S.D.A. shield, which can be found on about 35 percent of eggs in the market, means that the agriculture department is auditing the eggs’ producers at least once a year to verify that their claims are true.
Definitions for some other common terms on egg cartons are below. Keep in mind that the agriculture department’s rules apply only to eggs with the department’s shield. For eggs that are not a part of its grading program, either state rules apply or the use of the phrase is unregulated.
How Birds Are Raised
CAGE FREE The agriculture department says this means that the chickens were kept out of cages and had continuous access to food and water, but did not necessarily have access to the outdoors.
FREE RANGE The agriculture department says that in addition to meeting the cage-free standards, free-range birds must have continuous access to the outdoors, unless there’s a health risk present. There are no standards, though, for what that outdoor area must be like. (A concrete lot could do.)
PASTURE-RAISED There is no regulation of this term, which implies hens got at least part of their food from foraging on greens and bugs, which adherents say can improve flavor. Some studies have found that pasture-raised eggs have more nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin A, vitamin E and beta carotene, and less saturated fat and cholesterol.
ANIMAL CARE LABELS Four main terms indicate the level of care hens received.
For eggs from chickens that live in the sort of utopia conveyed by the images on most egg cartons, look for “animal welfare approved.” Available in limited markets, it is a new label by the Animal Welfare Institute that is given only to independent family farmers. Flocks can have no more than 500 birds, and chickens over 4 weeks old must be able to spend all their time outside on pesticide-free pasture with a variety of vegetation. They must have access to dust baths and cannot have their beaks trimmed (a practice on crowded egg farms) or be fed animal byproducts.
“Certified humane raised and handled” hens and “American humane certified” hens are kept cage free, though not necessarily outdoors.
“Certified humane raised and handled” is administered by Humane Farm Animal Care, the only animal welfare program audited each year for reliability by the Department of Agriculture. It is endorsed by many animal welfare organizations. It has requirements for, among other things, ventilation, density and the number of perches and nesting boxes that must be provided. It requires that each hen have at least 1.5 square feet of space (324 square inches).
The “American humane certified” label was created by the American Humane Association. Its standards, similar to those of “certified humane raised and handled,” prohibit forced molting (reducing feed to increase egg production) and require that hens have at least 1.25 square feet of space (225 square inches).
“United Egg Producers Certified,” formerly “Animal care certified,” is presented by the United Egg Producers, America’s leading trade association for egg farmers, which has standards for caged and cage-free layers. The group adopted the new name under pressure from the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau, which agreed with complaints they had received that “Animal care certified” misled consumers by implying more humane treatment than the hens were getting. Even with the new title, many animal welfare advocates say those standards are too low. The standards permit hens to have as little as 67 square inches of space, less than a letter-size sheet of paper, which is 93.5 square inches.
What Birds Are Fed
ORGANIC Any product with the “U.S.D.A. organic” emblem must meet the standards of the agriculture department’s National Organic Program. Among the program’s requirements: birds must be kept cage free with outdoor access (though the time and the type of access are not defined), they cannot be given antibiotics (even if ill) and their food must be free from animal byproducts and made from crops grown without chemical pesticides, fertilizers, irradiation, genetic engineering or sewage sludge. If organic eggs do not have the program’s emblem, they may be part of an independent or state-run program, and it may take some research to determine the program’s standards.
VEGETARIAN-FED For eggs that bear a U.S.D.A. grade shield, “vegetarian-fed” means the eggs came from hens raised on all-vegetarian feed. Hens are not naturally vegetarian, though; they enjoy eating grubs, bugs and worms. While there’s not a substantial nutritional difference between these eggs and conventional eggs, vegetarian eggs appeal to consumers who are turned off by some of the animal byproducts that can be included in conventional chicken feed, like feather meal, chicken litter, pork and cattle byproducts and “spent hen meal” (ground up dead hens).
NO HORMONES The Food and Drug Administration has not approved any hormone products for egg production, so this term is meaningless.
NO ANTIBIOTICS The Food and Drug Administration, which is responsible for food safety and oversees antibiotic use in poultry, does not allow routine use of antibiotics but does not define or regulate the term “no antibiotics.” The only way this claim is verified is if the eggs are U.S.D.A. graded (which means that hens did not receive therapeutic antibiotics but may still have been treated with antibiotics, if ill) or if the eggs are a part of the National Organic Program (which bans antibiotics entirely after chicks are 3 days old, even if ill). NATURAL, NATURALLY RAISED It means whatever the producers want it to mean because eggs in the shell are not a processed food.
FERTILE The term is unregulated but implies that the eggs came from hens that were likely to have been fertilized because they were uncaged and raised near a rooster. Some consumers like the idea of these more natural living conditions; others adhere to unproven beliefs that fertile eggs are more nutritious. Fertile eggs are stored at temperatures too cold for chicks to develop.
What’s in the Eggs
OMEGA-3 Eggs claiming to have extra omega-3 fatty acids, which are believed to improve heart health and mental acuity, come from hens whose diets include good sources of omega-3s, like flaxseed or algae. Producers in the U.S.D.A. grading program are audited to make sure the layers’ diets have been fortified and that omega-enriched eggs do not get swapped out for cheaper ones. The F.D.A. can audit producers’ claims about omega-3s but typically does so only if there has been a complaint. Unless the eggs claim to contain higher levels of docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) omega-3s, a form that is thought to be more important for cardiovascular health, the omega-3s are probably primarily in the alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) form.
PASTEURIZED This term is regulated by the F.D.A. and refers to eggs heated to temperatures just below the coagulation point to destroy pathogens. These eggs are recommended for recipes that call for raw eggs or for people susceptible to illness who prefer runny eggs.
Ever thought about all the preservatives and the synthetic ingredients that make the processed foods we eat?
Twin Oaks Farm the place "where real food is grown" will show you how to demystify food labels!
A couple years ago, due to ongoing food allergies, I started to read every label of everything I was buying and I started to research every ingredient that I could not understand .... SCARY !!!!!! since then I stopped buying anything that has more than one line in the ingredient's list ... try it next time you go to the super market .... your shopping list will be very short ...
Remember if you can not pronounce it there is a good chance it is not healthy
we are not supposed to eat food that glow in the dark !!!
here are a few that you want to avoid :
Sodium nitrite -- causes cancer and is found in processed meats like hot dogs, bacon, sausage etc ...
To most people, sodium nitrite simply sounds like a form of salt, but, in fact, this ingredient is extremely carcinogenic. When combined with your saliva and digestive enzymes, sodium nitrite creates cancer-causing compounds known as nitrosamines. These nitrosamines are so toxic to biological systems that they are actually used to give lab rats cancer in laboratory tests. In humans, the consumption of sodium nitrite has been strongly correlated with brain tumors, leukemia, and cancers of the digestive tract. Yet this ingredient carries absolutely no warning on food labels, and in fact, seems to sound like a perfectly safe ingredient, like sodium.
Hydrogenated oils -- causes heart disease, nutritional deficiencies, general deterioration of cellular health, and much more. Found in cookies, crackers, margarine and many "manufactured" foods. Used to make oils stay in the food, extending shelf life. Sometimes also called "plastic fat."
Excitotoxins -- aspartame, monosodium glutamate and others (see below). These neurotoxic chemical additives directly harm nerve cells, over-exciting them to the point of cell death, according to Dr. Russell Blaylock. They're found in diet soda, canned soup, salad dressing, breakfast sausage and even many manufactured vegetarian foods. They're used to add flavor to over-processed, boring foods that have had the life cooked out of them.
A great movie to watch for those using aspartame is "Sweet misery" (instant download at Netflix) and for those of you that do not use aspartame : watch it ... just to make sure you will never use it !!!
Food companies now "hide" MSG in safe-sounding ingredients like yeast extract or torula yeast.
Many so-called "healthy" or vegetarian foods also contain the very same "scarry" ingredients as conventional groceries ... once again read the label !!!!
While MSG is sometimes listed directly on the label, it is more frequently hidden in other ingredients, such as yeast extract, autolyzed vegetable protein, or hydrolyzed vegetable protein. All three of these ingredients contain monosodium glutamate, and yet they are designed to mislead consumers by avoiding mentioning MSG directly on the label ...
more to come .... :):)