Archive for the ‘Food Labeling’ Category

New England Fisheries to Reopen, and the Missing Identity of Most Seafood

Photo by Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Some rights reserved.

Photo by Jim Maragos, U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Some rights reserved.

The New England Fishery Management Council opened 5,000 square miles of protected waters off the coast of New England Thursday to new applications from commercial fishermen. These areas were closed in the 1990s to preserve habitat on the seafloor and give cod, haddock, and other species a safe place to spawn.

Fishermen have cheered the move, saying the 2010 adoption of a quota-based protection system made the geographic conservation areas an unnecessary restriction. Worried that 2013 will bring drastic cuts to the quotas for cod, haddock, and yellowtail flounder, industry groups will have to wait until January for the Council to review further fish stock data.

Environmentalists and scientists are concerned in particular because the protected areas provide a haven for older female fish that help increase stocks – but hope that the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration, which has to approve the vote and is expected to act by May, will be more cautious.

Fish are also noteworthy this week with the news – or reminder – that seafood fraud is widespread. That means seafood is often labeled as something it is not, usually a cheaper look-alike. A new report by Oceana, an international organization dedicated to ocean conservation, finds that 39% of seafood from 81 grocery stores in New York City was not what appeared on the label, and that 100% of the 16 sushi restaurants investigated sold mislabeled fish. Last year, a Boston Globe investigation found a problem of similar scope.

The problem goes beyond economic duping. Consumers and diners are buying fish whose incorrect labeling might mean it was caught illegally or contains unlisted and illegal chemical additives. Enforcement, however, has focused on health claims, and individual restaurants know that they are at little or no risk of being caught.

Personally, I was glad to read the tuna steak I bought last week had been injected with carbon monoxide to keep its bright red hue. Many of us in Seattle enjoy our inexpensive Japanese cuisine, but the New York wholesaler quoted in the Times is right: “People want cheap sushi, and this is what happens.”

Clones: Safe to Eat?

Although this document was released more than 3 years ago, it was recently modified so that it popped up in my Google reader. It is the USDA’s Statement in response to the FDA’s Risk Assessment on Animal Clones.

Photo of Dolly by Toni Barros. Some rights reserved.

And should you be wondering, the USDA’s response was positive:

“USDA fully supports and agrees with FDA’s final assessment that meat and milk from cattle, swine and goat clones pose no safety concerns, and these products are no different than food from traditionally bred animals.”

In fact, they compare cloning to artificial insemination:

“Many farmers and ranchers routinely use other assisted reproductive technologies such as artificial insemination, embryo transfer and in vitro fertilization to produce superior animals for milk, meat or breeding purposes. Cloning is another breeding technique that has evolved and has now been demonstrated to be safe. It is helpful in creating genetic twins of the very best animals who can transmit superior characteristics to their offspring and quickly improve a herd.”

However, despite the supposed safety, the USDA has not lifted the voluntary moratorium established in 2001 that urges producers to refrain from introducing meat or milk from clones or their progeny into the food supply. The USDA is supposedly in the process of determining “next steps.”

But when the moratorium lifts, ladies and gents, will you even know?

Maybe not. Sorry.

“FDA is not requiring any additional [labeling] measures relating to food derived from adult clones of cattle, swine, and goats, and the offspring of clones of any species traditionally consumed as food, including labeling. Under our current laws, FDA may require specific food labeling if there are any safety concerns, or if there is a material difference in the composition of food. We have not identified any food safety concerns, and we have found no material difference in food from clones as compared to food from conventionally bred animals […] Therefore, there is no science-based reason to use labels to distinguish between milk derived from clones and that from conventional animals.”
– FDA’s Consumer FAQs

Piqued your interest? The FDA has a whole section on their website devoted to animal cloning and answering the questions of the curious customer – find those answers here, along with the original FDA risk assessment.

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