PCC Sound Consumer | News bites, September 2010

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Sound Consumer | September 2010

Raw almond ruling

A federal appeals court has ruled that California almond farmers may challenge a U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) rule requiring raw almonds to be treated with steam heat or a toxic fumigant before sale. The rule was imposed in 2007 to minimize the risk of salmonella contamination but individual farmers have lost millions of dollars in lost sales to customers who want truly raw almonds. USDA had argued that farmers did not have the right to challenge the regulation.(Cornucopia Institute)

Grass-fed milk

Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that people with the highest concentrations of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) had a 36 percent lower risk of heart attack. The findings of the study involving 4,000 people suggest that CLA, a certain fatty acid, offers heart-healthy benefits that more than offset concern about saturated fat in whole milk. Earlier experiments have shown that cows on a diet of fresh grass produce milk with five times as much CLA than cows fed grain. (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition/Reuters)

Calcium supplement heart risk?

Researchers in New Zealand have concluded that calcium supplements increase the risk for heart attack among older people while doing little to improve bone strength. They examined 11 randomized, controlled trials involving 11,921 people and found a nearly 30 percent increased likelihood of heart attack among people over 40 who took calcium supplements.

The lead author is suggesting that taking supplements to prevent or treat osteoporosis should be reconsidered, and that people should get their needed calcium from calcium-rich foods, such as sardines, sesame seeds, figs, dairy, broccoli and kale. (HealthDay News/Bloomberg Businessweek.com)

USDA olive oil standards

The USDA has adopted, for the first time, legal and scientifically verifiable classifications for olive oil. Starting in October, terms such as virgin, extra virgin, light, unfiltered and cold-pressed must conform to international definitions. The grade standards include mandatory tests for flavor, odor, color, fatty acid composition, and ultraviolet absorption. Optional tests include measures for flash point, heavy metals, pesticide residues and more. (Natural Foods Merchandiser)

OTA challenges dietary guidelines

The Organic Trade Association is demanding changes to the draft 2010 Dietary Guidelines. In testimony before a Congressional committee, Executive Director Christine Bushway challenged language that says the “nutritional value and contributions to human health” from non-organic and organic foods “are similar.”

She cited findings of the President’s Cancer Panel, which says exposure to pesticides can be decreased by choosing organically grown food. (Organic Trade Association)

Food companies promise to cut calories

Several of the nation’s largest food companies say they will take 1.5 trillion calories out of their products by 2015 in an effort to reduce childhood obesity. The companies made the announcement through the Healthy Weight Commitment Foundation, a coalition of retailers, food and beverage manufacturers, and industry trade associations. The industry foundation said the companies will introduce lower calorie foods, change product recipes, and reduce portion sizes to achieve the goal, seeking to reduce 1 trillion of the 1.5 trillion by 2012. (Capital Press)

Bayer liable for GE contamination

Bayer has lost its fifth straight lawsuit for contaminating the U.S. rice supply with unapproved genetically engineered (GE) traits. A St. Louis jury awarded $500,248 in damages to a Louisiana rice farmer who sued Bayer for causing the collapse of export markets, which now buy rice from Thailand, Pakistan, India and Uruguay. Bayer already has lost $52 million in jury awards and faces 500 additional lawsuits with claims by 6,600 plaintiffs. (EcoFarm)

Chile publicizes GE farmers

In Chile, the Transparency Council has ordered the names and locations of transgenic GE seed growers in Chile to be publicized by the government. Current law prevents the cultivation and exportation of transgenic crops from Chile but not the cultivation and export of transgenic seeds. Organic farming also is a growing trend in Chile. (Merco Press/gmwatch.org)

Court stops GE sugar beets

A federal judge has revoked approval of genetically engineered sugar beets, saying the USDA did not assess the environmental consequences adequately. The ruling effectively bans planting GE sugar beets at least until USDA conducts an environmental impact statement. The GE sugar beet crop already in the ground may be harvested and made into sugar but planting new crops next spring will be prohibited. Center for Food Safety

Washington bans methyl iodide

The Washington State Department of Agriculture says a controversial new pesticide called Midas, used on non-organic strawberries, won’t be allowed for use in the state. The department reviewed science on the pesticide’s main component, methyl iodide, and cited “unreasonable adverse effects on human health and the environment.” The pesticide reportedly contaminates groundwater and is linked to late-term miscarriages, damage to developing brains, and cancer. (Pesticide Action Network)

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