Category Archives: Food Safety

DNA Can Be Used To Track Products’ Origins

Ripped from the Headlines:

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USDA Issues Listeria Warning

BY CBSNEWS.COM STAFF CBSNEWS.COM STAFF

MAY 25, 1999 / 6:23 PM / CBS

There are several practical reasons for being able to determine, precisely, food products origins: Finding the source of product responsible for a listeria outbreak, for one; Providing verification for products ‘guaranteeing’ to be from a specific area is another.

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A commercial product described and explained in a recent in-depth FoodDive report has both those issues in mind. It seems to be living up to its promises, too.

FoodDive noted that a 2011 listeria outbreak involving cantaloupe killed 33 people and sickened 137 others. Had SafeTraces’ tools been available and in place then, the results could have been quite different, because authorities would have been able to quickly pull candidate cantaloupes from stores where problem ones were purchased, and track them back to the fields they were grown in – thus finding, or at least being way closer to finding, the source of the offending bacteria.

Alas, that listeria outbreak was, ultimately the source of the solution to the ‘source identification’ issue.

Anthony Zografos, who as chief operating officer of CPAC, (company Compact Particle Acceleration Corporation), previously helped develop a cancer therapy system, saw in that listeria situation a need to understand how to pinpoint the source of product contamination – particularly the type that causes listeriosis. He wanted to solve that problem.

He told FoodDive that while most traceability applications on the market do a good job of keeping track of food packaging, he wanted to find a way to trace further back in the system, to where the product – cantaloupe, in this case – originated. With that aim (and some sound ideas how to proceed), in mind, he founded SafeTraces, a company dedicated to enabling DNA-level tracking of food products.

In short, this now-a-few-years-old company, under its mechanical engineering PhD leader (Zografos), developed a sort-of bar code – comprised of a seaweed extract – that is applied to foods as they are processed (washed and sorted, in the case of cantaloupes). The embedded code can tell anyone who needs to know anything and everything about its provenance – where it came from – and more.

Last week, the company announced a deal with safety science giant UL to enhance palm oil traceability. This partnership gives businesses dealing with palm oil — a common food ingredient that has a reputation for being farmed using substandard sustainability and human rights practices — a potentially easy solution to guarantee the ingredient’s source.

Last month, SafeTraces announced a partnership with JBT FoodTech, a leading producer of food processing and packaging equipment. This partnership has not yet been fully defined, SafeTraces Vice President of Business Development Ulrike Hodges told Food Dive, but the companies are looking for a way to pursue food processing while integrating SafeTraces technology.

Links in the article will lead you to more details, if you’re interested.

UK Fear: Brexit Could ‘Force’ Chlorinated Chicken Imports From US

chicken-chlorinated

TheConversation.com

“If and when Brexit happens, the UK may well be obliged to accept chlorinated poultry as part of any separate trade deal with the US. Agricultural exports are a priority for US negotiators – it would be difficult to make an exception for chicken.”

That quote, from a June 3 article in The Guardian, expresses a fear in more than a minority of UK citizens, including the  increasing number favoring generally recognized as safe-type (GRAS) rules being applied in the preparation of material – foodstuffs – intended for human consumption. And beyond that, there is, there as in the US, an increasing move amongst consumers for chickens and chicken products from birds raised in ways closer to what nature intended – without additives in their food, being given adequate room to move and ‘act like a chicken’, to be treated, ethically, like something more than an entity to transform grain into meat. (The same issues arise when cattle-raising is discussed – as they should be.)

Consumers might wonder, given enough information to do so, how the chemical chlorine – generally thought of as a substance for sanitizing swimming pools – could possible have anything to do with the raising or processing of chickens. And why, come to that, it’s use would be acceptable under the GRAS standards.

GRAS defines, in  Food and Drug Administration (FDA) parlance, “any substance that is intentionally added to food is a food additive, that is subject to premarket review and approval by FDA, unless the substance is generally recognized, among qualified experts, as having been adequately shown to be safe under the conditions of its intended use, or unless the use of the substance is otherwise excepted from the definition of a food additive.”

The Guardian article focuses on a practice, the washing of chicken with a fluid containing chlorine, that has been banned in the European Union for 22 years. While the practice is being used less and less in the US, it is still legal here.

The National Chicken Council in the United States estimates that chlorine is used in some rinses and sprays in only about 10% of processing plants in the U.S. Most of the chlorine that is used in the industry is used for cleaning and sanitizing processing equipment. However, according to the web site ChickenCheckin.com, “numerous studies and scientific research have confirmed that the use of chlorinated water to chill and clean chicken is safe and effective. Chlorine-washed chicken does not pose any human health concerns and it is not present in the final product.”

Industry practice would suggest it’s perfectly OK for laying chickens – egg producers – to spend the bulk of their lives standing in their own waste. That like most other commonalities of chicken and egg producing is little-known to and less thought-about by American consumers.

It’s worth considering that, while the US has elaborate, well-thought-out, generally ‘reasonable’ rules for how food is procured, processed, transported and stored at the point of sale, the US’s rules aren’t necessarily the ‘best,’ or acceptable to governments – and ultimately the citizens – of other countries.

A decreasing number of American families regularly consume chickens that are home-raised, fed on table scraps, never subject to government inspection, and are tasty as all get out. I often experienced chickens raised that way when I was a kid. Like today’s home-raised chickens, none of them ever got me sick – aside from the occasional belly ache from eating too much.

As recently as a few years ago, I occasionally (very much) enjoyed chickens that were field raised in very small quantities on farms I visited in Southern Virginia. Their taste, and waste/fat-to-meat makeup was ounces-per-pound above store-bought chickens.

One of those farms was Amish-run. It may still be raising and selling its own chickens, but I’ve moved from that area, and on several recent trips through there the ‘dressed chickens’ sign was missing.

Another chicken-raising operation was run by two partners, one of whom had a small farm. The other guy obtained the chicks, and they split the cost of raising them, as well as the modest profits from selling them – straight to customers, via the non-farmer’s home in a nearby city.

Sadly, they found that food (grain) cost too high to justify the small farmer’s investment in time and effort to bring the chicks to a meaty-enough-for-market state.

All their customers were private, bird-or-two at a time ones, and I’m sure others, like me, were sad to see them have to give up on growing the kind of birds that used to be commonplace: Birds that were, to the degree chickens can be, ‘happy as a hen’.

I still had that taste of ‘old fashioned’ chicken in mind when, during half a decade living in England, I was regularly disappointed with the birds one or another supermarket – or local butcher – offered. One reason was the still-common use of fish meal to feed them. Over time, of course, my taste buds ‘settled’ on the taste of local chicken.

But I seriously noticed a taste difference when I returned to the US, in 1976, and resumed eating birds grown in this country. I doubt, but have no idea, if they were chlorine-washed then. Probably not; But over the years – into and through the chlorinated chicken era – the flavor of supermarket birds here has slide down the taste scale. More’s the pity.

Say ‘Best If Used By,’ FDA Urges Food Folks

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An example of a confusing date label: The ‘Sell by’ date on egg cartons can, the USDA says, by up to 30 days after the eggs were packed. When properly stored, though, the eggs will still be edible — but not as tasty — for several weeks beyond the ‘sell by’ date. (Source: USDA)

The US public has been vocally concerned for years about the over-abundance of ways food packers advise when, in their opinion, a product ‘expires’. After much consideration – stretching over more than a decade – the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) has made a recommendation. In a May 23 letter to the industry, the agency encouraged all consumer-facing companies to focus on one phrase: “Best If Used By”.

Confusion over the meaning of that and the likes of ‘Use By’ and ‘sell By’ to describe quality dates resulted in “less than half” of consumers surveyed in 2007 to determine or distinguish between those phrases, the letter noted. And that, in part, the agency declared, significantly contributed to the wasting of “approximately 133 billion pounds of food worth $161 billion each year.”

It is hoped by the FDA’s Economic Research Service that if the industry standardizes on the recommended phrase, a sizable share of that waste – 30% of food moving through the system – will end up where it’s intended to be: In stomachs rather than landfills.

Signed by Frank Yiannas, FDA’s Deputy Commissioner of Food Policy and Response, the letter is said to reflect the positions of a number of industry groups, including the Grocery Manufacturers Association and the Food Marketing Institute. Those groups are expected to encourage their members to follow the FDA’s suggestion so that, “over time, the number of various date labels will be reduced as industry aligns on this ‘Best if Used By’ terminology,” Yiannis wrote. He declared that, “This change is already being adopted by many food producers.”

Food Dive noted that the agency didn’t explain why it wasn’t taking a position on “use by” product date labels, which GMA and FMI support. That term applies to “perishable products that should be consumed by the date on the package and discarded after that date,” FDA’s letter said. It may be the agency doesn’t want to support a term that prompts consumers to discard food when it’s trying to reduce waste.

Industry response to the FDA’s letter has been positive so far. Food Marketing Institute President and CEO Leslie Sarasin said in a statement the group’s members appreciate FDA’s acknowledgement of industry’s desire to reduce consumer confusion with this label.

“The agency’s endorsement signals a best practice in ways industry partners can truly deliver on a promise to provide guidance to our customers that is easier to understand,” she said.

A survey by GMA and FMI released in December found 85% of U.S. consumers thought simplified date labels would be helpful, so this latest move could push more companies to use the “Best if used by” phrase.

Geoff Freeman, president and CEO of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said in a statement emailed to Food Dive that FDA’s support of the standardized phrase shows the CPG (consumer packaged goods) industry is working to help consumers make more informed purchasing decisions. GMA and the Food Marketing Institute came together with 25 companies in 2017 to find a way to reduce consumer confusion that led to unintended food waste, he said.

“Our solution was a streamlined approach to date labeling that has been recognized by USDA and now FDA as a smart approach and an important step in alleviating confusion and reducing food waste,” Freeman said in the statement.

While standardized use of the “best if used by” phrase on food products could begin to cut down on food waste, FDA supports additional consumer education by industry, government and non-government groups about what quality-based date labels mean and how to use them. Such ongoing efforts will likely be important to make sure “Best If Used By” continues to stand for something and that food waste declines as a result.

(Some produce packers further confuse the issue by use of “packed by” or “harvested on” dates. It can be argued that, to a great degree, those suggest consumers use common sense and their eyes to determine the freshness of an item.)

 

 

 

Food Recalls: Almost a Daily Occurrence

USDA-FSIS-large-Source-USDA-FSISFood recalls are – no exaggeration – so nearly an everyday occurrence these days that, for the most part, consumers scarcely notice them.

That doesn’t make sense? Sure it does: It points to how efficiently the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) gets the word, then gets the word out to product distributors and retailers.

A case in point: Yesterday, the FSIS issued the following press release:

WASHINGTON, May 17, 2019 – Caito Foods LLC., an Indianapolis, Ind. establishment, is recalling approximately 1,767 pounds of salad with chicken products due to misbranding and undeclared allergens, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) announced today. The products contain soy, a known allergen, which is not declared on the product label.

The ready-to-eat salads with chicken items were produced on May 12 through May 15, 2019. The following products are subject to recall: [View Labels (PDF only)]

  • 13.5-oz. plastic square bowl packages containing “Greek Salad with Chicken with Chicken Breast & Red Wine Olive Oil Vinaigrette Dressing” and Sell By dates ranging from 05/18/19 through 05/21/19 represented on the label.
  • 11.25-oz. plastic square bowl packages containing “Tuscan Style Caesar Salad with Grilled Chicken With Grilled White Chicken Tossed In Pesto” and Sell By dates ranging from 05/18/19 through 05/21/19 represented on the label.

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The products subject to recall bear establishment number “P-39985” inside the USDA mark of inspection. These items were shipped to Kroger retail locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

The problem was discovered by the recalling firm during label verification activities.

There have been no confirmed reports of adverse reactions due to consumption of these products. Anyone concerned about an injury or illness should contact a healthcare provider.

FSIS is concerned that some product may be in consumers’ refrigerators. Consumers who have purchased these products are urged not to consume them. These products should be thrown away or returned to the place of purchase.

FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks to verify that recalling firms are notifying their customers of the recall and that actions are being taken to make certain that the product is no longer available to consumers. When available, the retail distribution list(s) will be posted on the FSIS website at www.fsis.usda.gov/recalls.

Consumers with questions about the recall can contact Caito Foods LLC.’s Consumer Feedback Line at (844) 467-7278. Members of the media with questions about the recall can contact Meredith Gremel, Organizational Communications, Spartan Nash, at (616) 878-2830.

Spartan Nash is described by Wikipedia as “SpartanNash is an American food distributor and grocery store retailer headquartered in Byron Center, Michigan. In terms of revenue, it is the largest food distributor serving military commissaries and exchanges in the United States.”

As the press release notes, the recall affects product distributed to stores of one retailer, Kroger – the nation’s largest supermarket company – to stores in in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan, and Ohio.

Rest assured, Kroger got the word before that press release went out – and it promptly ensured that none of the potentially affected product made it to display cases.

That’s why consumers, and consumer-serving media outlets, seldom actually need to raise red flags about a potential allergen or whatever in this or that batch of Product X: The word’s already out where it needs to be, across the distribution chain, and the problem’s been dealt with.

The cause of the problem is another issue: How did it happen, what the company had to do to ensure the issue won’t crop up again – those points were, you can be sure, are being addressed as we speak.

Among the greatest risks and dangers posed by the Trump administration is it’s indiscriminate elimination of rules and regulations that, over the years, have been put in place for good, well-thought-out reasons. It’s   not just Americans, but citizens in all countries American food producers export to that need fear the random reduction of rules and regulations for food handling, packing, distribution and selling.

The food industry polices itself pretty efficiently, but the ‘policeman around the corner’ in the form of those rules and regulations enables retailers, and consumers, to breath easily, knowing they are protected.

‘Customer Complaints? Here’s How To Deal With Them’: Advice From USDA

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The following is a press release from the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

WASHINGTON, March 8, 2019 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) issued today a best practices guideline to help the meat and poultry industry respond to customer complaints that are determined to be associated with adulterated or misbranded meat and poultry products.

“FSIS has placed renewed emphasis on industry responding to customer complaints of foreign materials in meat and poultry and, as required, reporting those incidents to the agency within 24 hours once the determination has been made that the product is adulterated,” said FSIS Administrator Carmen Rottenberg. “We will continue to work with industry and offer guidance to assist them in complying with agency regulations.”

Update of 2012 Regulation

In 2012, FSIS announced a regulation requiring all establishments to report to the agency within 24 hours when they have shipped or received an adulterated product and that product is in commerce. While this requirement has been in effect for several years, recalls associated with foreign materials in product increased in recent years. FSIS intensified efforts and made presentations in 2018 to industry explaining that product containing foreign materials is adulterated even when a physical food safety hazard is not present. Additionally, the agency hosted two industry meetings to discuss an industry-drafted document of best practices for responding to foreign material customer complaints, which was published in August 2018.

FSIS began working on the guideline announced today in mid-2018 to provide reference material on best practices and recommendations on how to receive, investigate and process customer complaints.   While FSIS specifically developed this document to address foreign material customer complaints, establishments can apply the information to other customer complaints of adulterated or misbranded products in commerce. When an establishment needs to recall adulterated product from commerce, the establishment must identify the cause of the product adulteration and take steps to prevent recurrence in its Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP) plan, which federal inspectors review.

Agency’s Current Position

The guideline reflects the agency’s current position, and FSIS encourages the industry to begin using it now.  FSIS welcomes public comments on the guideline. The agency will accept comments for 60 days and will then update the document in response to suggestions, if necessary. Comments may be submitted via the federal eRulemaking portal at: http://www.regulations.gov; by mail including CD-ROMs sent to Docket Clerk, U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food Safety and Inspection Service, 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Mailstop 3758, Room 6065, Washington, D.C., 20250-3700 or by hand-or courier-delivery to 1400 Independence Avenue S.W., Room 6065, Washington, D.C., 20250-3700. All items submitted by mail or electronic mail must include the agency name and docket number FSIS-2018-0034

A downloadable version of the draft guideline is available to view and print at: https://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/portal/fsis/topics/regulatory-compliance/compliance-guides-index/retail-guidance.

Eggciting News: Eggs Aren’t As Unhealthy As Formerly Reported

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Eggs from Lohmann Brown chickens are sorted inside a barn at Meadow Haven Farm, a certified organic family run farm, in Sheffield, Ill., in August 2015. (Daniel Acker/Bloomberg News)

Americans love their eggs — more than… well, not ever, but more than since 1973, anyway.

Egg consumption has been trending upward over the past several years, since the government reversed course and said that, contrary to earlier advice, while eggs are relatively high in cholesterol, eating them won’t necessarily put you at risk of having high cholesterol.

Yes, an explanation is in order:

Live Science cited a report by Ying Rong of Huazhong University of Science and Technology and her colleagues published in the British Journal of Medicine, which reviewed 17 different egg studies. They concluded, “Higher consumption of eggs (up to one egg per day) is not associated with increased risk of coronary heart disease or stroke.’ They cautioned, though, that, ”The increased risk of coronary heart disease among diabetic patients and reduced risk of hemorrhagic stroke associated with higher egg consumption in subgroup analyses warrant further studies.”

The Chinese study is in line with the latest US government thinking, news of which has boosted egg-eating to almost 280 per year.

The last time consumption was this high, The Washington Post reported on February 28, was in 1973.

“This idea that eggs are healthy is really what’s driving this increase in consumption,” Jesse Laflamme, the chief executive of Pete and Gerry’s Organics, a free-range egg producer, told The Post. Laflamme pointed to other factors that have moved consumers to eat more eggs: their low cost compared with meat, the unprocessed nature of organic, free-range eggs, and the feeling of fullness that eating eggs can create.

The greater danger, US nutrition experts now contend, “lies not in products such as eggs, shrimp or lobster, which are high in cholesterol, but in too many servings of foods heavy with saturated fats, such as fatty meats, whole milk, and butter,” The Post reported.

egg_frying

Credit: Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post

The Life Science report cited above, was authored by Katherine Tallmadge, M.A., R.D.,  a registered dietitian and a frequent national commentator on nutrition topics. She’s also the author of Diet Simple: 195 Mental Tricks, Substitutions, Habits & Inspirations” (LifeLine Press, 2011).

Here’s her explanation for the case for eggs in one’s diet:

Yes, increased blood cholesterol levels can raise the risk of heart disease. Eggs are high in dietary cholesterol. But does eating eggs raise blood cholesterol and cause heart disease? This is where the story gets somewhat complicated, so stay with me, folks, and I’ll try to make sense of all of this.

First, the research

Most epidemiological research — the kind of research that studies large populations over time and analyzes their diets and their health — has found no connection between eating eggs and increases in heart disease. On the other hand, controlled clinical studies — where researchers feed subjects specific amounts of cholesterol and measure the effect on blood — do show a slight increase in blood cholesterol with increases in dietary cholesterol, though how much depends on genetic factors.

Cholesterol is an important component of all human and animal cells and influences hormone biology, among other functions. Since your body naturally has all it needs from producing its own cholesterol, there is no dietary requirement for more cholesterol. But the American diet contains plenty, since we eat a lot of animal products. All animal products contain some cholesterol, but they also contain saturated fat, an even more significant culprit in heart-disease risk.

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Credit: Archive — jsonline.com

The major determinant of plasma LDL level is saturated fat,said Alice Lichtenstein, professor of nutrition science and policy at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts University.

And while eggs are high in cholesterol (186 milligrams, 184 of them in the yolk), they’re relatively low in saturated fat (1.6 grams in the yolk).

In most people, for every 100 milligrams reduction in dietary cholesterol, one would predict a reduction in LDL levels of 2.2 points on average,said Wanda Howell, professor of nutritional sciences at the University of Arizona.

In fact, during my 20 years of counseling people with high cholesterol, just reducing their saturated fat intake to a range of 4 percent to 7 percent of their calories, causes their blood cholesterol levels to plummet — a double benefit.

Interestingly, people in Japan — consumers of some of the largest quantities of eggs in the world (averaging 328 eggs consumed per person per year — have low levels of cholesterol and heart disease compared with other developed countries, especially the United States. Why? In part, its because the Japanese eat a diet low in saturated fat.

Americans do just the opposite. Research has shown that we usually have our eggs alongside foods high in saturated fat, such as bacon, sausage and buttered toast. This meal pattern raises LDL levels and makes the effect of eating eggs worse than it actually is.

So how many eggs can you eat? That depends on a number of factors. The American Heart Association no longer includes limits on the number of egg yolks you can eat, but it recommends that you limit your cholesterol intake to 300 milligrams daily, or 200 milligrams if you have heart disease or if your LDL is greater than 100. You decide where that cholesterol comes from!

Other experts go further and say an egg a day is fine.

The amount that one egg a day raises cholesterol in the blood is extremely small, so small in fact that the increase in risk in heart disease related to this change in serum cholesterol could never be detected in any kind of study,said Walter Willett, professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s School of Public Health.Elevations in LDL of this small magnitude could easily be countered by other healthy aspects of eggs.

Based on the research, my recommendation is if you eat a healthful diet, go ahead and eat an egg a day. (My interview on CNN summarizes the key reasons why.) On the other hand, if your cholesterol is high and if you eat the typical American diet — high in saturated fat, devoid of fruits, vegetables and fiber — maybe you shouldn’t be eating an egg a day.

But will taking eggs out of an unhealthy diet make a positive difference? Probably not. I cant tell you how many times during my career Ive heard people say, Ive cut out eggs, but my cholesterol is still high! The impact of a healthy, balanced diet cannot be denied here.

Good for you

Assuming you’re eating a healthy diet, here are some ways you may benefit by eating eggs.

Protein. Eggs are considered the gold standard that other proteins are measured against. Because of the superior amino acid mix, an egg’s six grams of protein are absorbed easily and efficiently used by the body. The egg is also low-calorie (74 calories).

Choline. Yolks are one of the best sources of this essential nutrient. Choline is needed for brain development in a growing fetus and may also be important for brain function in adults.

Lutein and Zeaxanthin. These two, important, beneficial phytochemicals found in egg yolks (as well as kale and spinach) help prevent eye diseases, especially cataracts and age-related macular degeneration. While eggs contain less lutein and zeaxanthin than greens, these phytochemicals are more absorbable because of the presence of fat in the yolk.

Vitamin D. Eggs are one of the few natural sources of Vitamin D, important for the bones and teeth. Vitamin D aids the absorption of calcium, which is important for the heart and colon, as well.

To bring this all together, here is a recipe that is a regular meal for me any time of the day — quick, easy, delicious, nutritious!

Eggs Scrambled with Onion, Garlic and Sweet Cherry Tomatoes

Servings: 1
Sauté 1/4 sweet onion and a smashed garlic clove over medium-high heat in 1 teaspoon canola or olive oil until almost soft. Add a handful of chopped tomatoes to the pan (or any other vegetables you happen to have, such as chopped spinach, kale, mushrooms or peppers) and cook for another 5 minutes. Turn down the heat to very low. In a separate bowl, whisk two eggs. Pour eggs into the pan containing the onion, garlic and tomato — add 1 ounce low-fat cheese, if you wish. Stir continuously until eggs are cooked. Pour over toasted, whole rye bread.

According to the research arm of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Americans reached the height of their egg consumption at the conclusion of World War II, averaging 404, or more than one a day, in 1945. It bottomed out at 229 in 1992, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service.

 

 

Government to Study GMOs; Scientists Have Favorably Done So For Generations!

 

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Not everyone is familiar with the term GMO – Genetically Modified Food. Even fewer have more than a vague idea what the term means. The FDA – the US Food and Drug Administration – wants to see that changed, and has budgeted $3 million to “fund a campaign to promote genetically modified organisms in food” and “tout ‘the environmental, nutritional, food safety, economic, and humanitarian impacts’ of biotech crops and their derivative food products,” The Washington Post reported recently.

The paper noted that a few weeks ago, “more than 50 agriculture and food industry groups” recently signed a letter “urging the funding to counter ‘a tremendous amount of misinformation and agricultural biotechnology in the public domain’.”

The paper added, “Some environmental groups and House Democrats have derided the provision as a government-sponsored public relations tool for the GMO industry,” and that “an attempt by Democrats to redirect the project’s funding to pediatric medical projects was unanimously voted down by Republicans.”

All this is, to paraphrase Shakespeare, “much ado about (practically) nothing.” The agricultural community has been genetically modifying seeds, and the composition of assorted plants, for generations – as long as such procedures as grafting have been known. Anyone who studied high school-level science should know that.

True, the sophistication of modifications has advanced in recent years as favorable qualities are bred in and not-so-nice ones are bred out. But opponents of GMO foods would have you believe that more harm than good has been done along the way. ‘T’ain’t true.

We benefit in a wide range of ways from genetic modification of our foodstuffs – far more than we truly benefit from some of “advances” in the art of food processing. (There is, more than likely, no legitimate nutritional value in extruded foods, yet they exist in abundance in our food stores.)

The GMO argument has become a political battleground – and that’s a shame. Because when politicians start throwing “facts” around. Keep in mind that Mark Twain said, “There are lies, damn lies, and statistics” – and it’s the latter, which can be misleading based on the sources you use, and don’t use, that politicians most love to employ in favor of their favorite arguments.

Think about the wonders of how genetically modifying foods benefits you when you next look at an apple display in your favorite food store (or another one!). All those varieties didn’t just come to be: Most of them were created, via genetic modification of one sort or another.