Multiple Baby Steps in GE Food Labeling

usdaEfforts to label foods so that consumers know whether products include genetically engineered (GE) ingredients have gained momentum in recent weeks.

The most recent step toward transparency involved the Department of Agriculture's approval of a label for meat products that come from animals not fed GE products (as is the typical meal for most cows, pigs and chicken raised in America) – the first federal non-GE label claim for meat products. It would be more informative if the reverse label existed, marking meat products with a label stating the animals were fed Monsanto's GE corn, soybean or alfalfa. But it’s a notable step.

More good news emerged with GE food labeling measures passing in Connecticut and Maine. However, these state label requirements exempt meat products from animals fed GE crops (another reason the USDA label is useful).

Another caveat is that the bills will only be enforced if other states, including a neighboring state, also pass labeling requirements. Twenty-five other states have introduced similar labeling legislation but it remains uncertain how many will actually be adopted.

In related news, Chipotle became the first fast-food chain to label its menu items that contain GE ingredients, which include 12 of the 24 ingredients listed on its website! That's a huge step in transparency. However, the GE ingredients are only pointed out on the Chipotle website, not on the restaurants' wall menu, where most of its restaurant-goers will be looking.

There's a lot to be thankful for these days in the movement toward improving consumer awareness and informed food decision-making, but we still have a long way to go.


Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

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U.S. Labeling Rule for Tenderized Beef Moves Ahead

usdaFinally! One week after FIC criticized the lengthy delay on USDA's necessary label requirements for mechanically tenderized beef, the agency has published the rule with its proposed regulations on its website. Once they run on the Federal Register, which is expected soon, the public will have 60 days to comment, with the final version set to be implemented next year.

The rule had been held up at the White House Office of Management and Budget for eight months for reasons unknown to consumer groups pushing for its implementation. FIC and others believe people who eat steaks and roasts should know whether or not the product has been tenderized, which involves a process using needles or blades to puncture the intact meats to make them more tender. This process allows for the transfer of surface bacteria into the middle of the steak, requiring more thorough cooking than a regular steak. The proposed label would include proper cooking instructions.

From USA Today:

[USDA Undersecretary Elisabeth] Hagen said mechanically tenderized meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees, then allowed to sit for at least three minutes after it is taken off the heat to insure any potential pathogens are killed.

A phase-in is planned with the full rule effective on January 1, 2016.


Sarah Damian is New Media Associate for the Government Accountability Project, the nation's leading whistleblower protection and advocacy organization.

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Canada Beats U.S. with Tenderized Beef Labeling Rule

ahitt_kgotvFIC Dir. Amanda Hitt Speaking about Tenderized Beef on KGO-TVWe're in the midst of yet another BBQ season, but steak lovers beware. If you like them rare, the safety of your summer meal could be at risk without you knowing.

In the next two months, new labeling rules for mechanically tenderized beef will go into effect in Canada. That's good news for our northerly neighbors as well as some Americans who purchase meat from Canadian companies (such as XL Foods, whose tenderized meat products were included in the two million pounds of imported beef recalled from U.S. shelves last year).

Meanwhile, similar requirements in the United States remain under review at the White House Office of Management and Budget ... where the rule has been held up for eight months. It would require labels to distinguish beef that is tenderized, a process that utilizes needles or blades to puncture intact steaks and roasts to make them more tender. This process allows for the transfer of surface bacteria into the middle of the steak, which is why the label is needed to help consumers know how to properly cook seemingly but no longer intact tenderized beef.

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Study Reveals Extensive Seafood Mislabeling in U.S.

seafoodToday the nonprofit ocean protection group Oceana released the results of the largest seafood fraud survey to date. Findings indicated that consumers need to be concerned with more than just horse meat in hamburgers or meat glue in steaks and other products.

After two years of collecting more than 1,200 seafood samples from U.S. grocery stores and restaurants, researchers found that 33% of seafood products were mislabeled. Among the most common were snapper and tuna. With nearly one-third of samples mislabeled, these results clearly point to a lack of transparency and a need for improved mechanisms to trace, document, and inspect our food supply.

Mislabeled seafood poses a major health risk to vulnerable consumers. Seafood consumption is related to a variety of health problems such as allergies or digestion troubles. For mothers seeking to avoid fish containing higher levels of mercury – a substance known to harm the physical development of unborn babies and young children – these findings should be particularly poignant. Mislabeled seafood strips consumers of the right to make informed choices and avoid negative health consequences.

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California Says No to GE Food Labeling After Monsanto, Big Food Ad Campaign

cali_prop37The battle for improved food transparency faced a devastating blow in California as election results early this morning showed the failure to pass the state ballot to label food with genetically engineered (GE) ingredients. With 53 percent voting against the hotly debated Proposition 37, and with 47 percent in favor, the initiative to make California the first state to have such labeling lost by a substantial margin.

The final vote is a big difference from polls reported back in September showing Prop 37 to be overwhelmingly popular, with 65 percent in favor. The drastic shift may have something to do with the millions of anti-Prop 37 advertising dollars spent on the “No on Prop. 37” campaign, with agribusiness giant (and top GE crop producer) Monsanto leading the way. Monsanto alone contributed over $8 million to stop the proposition. Joined by other entities (including Pepsico, Kraft Foods, Nestle, Coca-Cola, Kellogg, etc.) whose products would require labeling as a result of the law, the industry spent nearly $46 million to defeat the measure. Meanwhile, the "Yes on Prop. 37" campaign spent $8.9 million to support the pro-labeling initiative. 

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Tenderized Beef in Canadian Costcos May Have Worsened E.coli Outbreak

steaksYikes! It's not looking good for Canadian beef right now, and a worrisome process unknown to many consumers may have made things worse.

Alberta-based XL Foods has recalled more than 1,500 beef products that are potentially contaminated with E. coli (890,000 pounds of which was sent to at least 40 U.S. states). The recall has been expanded 13 times as the company continues to add new products to the list, including ground beef and various whole and tenderized cuts.

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Monsanto Throws $2.89 Million More Toward Stopping GE Food Labeling

california_mapWe're less than two months away from the November election – when California's Proposition 37 could become the country's first law mandating the labeling of genetically engineered (GE). But the law won’t happen if Monsanto or other Big Ag companies have anything to say about it.

According to the California Right to Know campaign, Monsanto added another $2.89 million last Friday to defeat Proposition 37, making the GE crop producer's contributions against the labeling measure total $7.1 million.

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