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For Safer Food, Just Add Viruses

In March 2012, inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture uncovered a problem in Elgin, Texas. Beef sausage from a small family-run meat processor appeared to have been contaminated with a nasty bacterium called Listeria monocytogenes. The bug can make people sick and, in rare cases, be deadly. The processor had to recall more than a ton of sausage. It’s the kind of story that strikes terror in the hearts of other sausage peddlers, including Mike Satzow, so he uses phages to keep his small company's sausages safe to eat.
posted by Blasdelb on Oct 1, 2013 - 58 comments

Can I eat this?

How to ensure food and drink water safety during a flood or other natural disaster, courtesy of the FDA and the USDA.
posted by MartinWisse on May 20, 2013 - 12 comments

Protect the Peaks

Environmental and Native American activists in Flagstaff, AZ face federal charges for allegedly "interfering with a forest officer" after a protest action in which they "quarantined" the Coconino National Forest Service lobby to protest a decision permitting the expansion of the Arizona Snowbowl ski resort onto the San Fransisco Peaks – a site regarded as sacred by the Navajo, Hopi, and Havasupai people. The proposed expansion entails the use of treated sewage effluent, aka reclaimed wastewater for snowmaking operations. These events occurred on the same day that the USDA and Forest Service issued a final report (pdf) which outlines recommendations for working more closely with Native representatives surrounding sacred sites issues.
posted by Scientist on Dec 11, 2012 - 19 comments

Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive?

Are Healthy Foods Really More Expensive? (6.78 MB PDF) It turns out that it depends on how you measure the price. In a recent study by the USDA, some 4,439 foods were compared using the following metrics: the price of food energy ($/calorie), the price of edible weight ($/100 edible grams), the price of an average portion ($/average portion), and the cost of meeting the federal dietary recommendations for each food group. The study found that for all metrics except the price of food energy ($/calorie) healthy foods cost less than less healthy foods (defined as foods that are high in saturated fat, added sugar, and/or sodium, or that contribute little to meeting dietary recommendations).
posted by Jasper Friendly Bear on Oct 20, 2012 - 123 comments

How to blow up a dead animal

Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives -- An official publication of the United States Department of Agriculture.
posted by Chocolate Pickle on Apr 22, 2012 - 26 comments

How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense

How Corporations Corrupt Science at the Public's Expense: Report looks at methods of corporate abuse, suggests steps toward reform [Full Report (PDF)] [Executive Summary (PDF)] [more inside]
posted by Blasdelb on Mar 11, 2012 - 27 comments

"Its fake!" Then she devours a piece in three bites, and asks for more.

Atomic Bread Making At Home is an in-depth article covering the ingredients, manufacture, and chemistry of; market research into; and social impact of the 1950's-era USDA No.1 white pan loaf.
posted by TheDonF on Feb 7, 2012 - 23 comments

"Rice Pudding. Milk. Bread and Butter. Tea. Coffee. A Little Borax."

But beyond the disgust element was another more important question concerning borax: was it actually safe to eat? This troubling issue was the reason why squad members were imbibing the compound at Christmas, the reason for the Poison Squad experiments themselves. Established by a famously outspoken, crusading chemist from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Harvey Washington Wiley, the squads were also meant to answer another, larger question: were manufacturers actually poisoning the food supply?
posted by liketitanic on Jul 12, 2011 - 19 comments

Just don't call it a pie chart.

The USDA has ended the pyramid scheme. For the first time, the USDA advises Americans to "eat less." The previous design abomination (previously) is archived for comparison.
posted by fatllama on Jun 3, 2011 - 98 comments

Food Desert

Do you live in a food desert? [more inside]
posted by backseatpilot on May 4, 2011 - 54 comments

Monsanto alfalfa: coming soon to a field near you

USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack announced today that the sale of Monsanto's Roundup Ready alfalfa will be fully deregulated: USDA factsheet [PDF]. Advocates of organic agriculture are outraged, while the biotechnology industry supports the decision. Monsanto is also pleased by the USDA's action. [more inside]
posted by catlet on Jan 28, 2011 - 38 comments

"Show me what you eat and i will tell you who you are" - Jean Anthelme Brillat-Savarin

While many government organizations are pushing a healthy lifestyle complete with a low-fat diet, one marketing group formed by the USDA, called Dairy Management, is making a case for more cheese in America's menu items. [more inside]
posted by mccarty.tim on Nov 6, 2010 - 65 comments

USDA glues acetaminophen-laced frozen mice to cardboard, bombs Guam treetops to kill snakes

USDA glues acetaminophen-laced frozen mice to cardboard, bombs Guam treetops to kill snakes
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 on Sep 30, 2010 - 48 comments

What is the USDA’s definition of organic?

What is the USDA’s definition of organic?
posted by rageagainsttherobots on Sep 20, 2010 - 53 comments

We've lined up a fabulous type of gorilla that thrives on snake meat

Screwworms, once the scourge of livestock (as well as pets and occasionally humans [link to VERY GRAPHIC slideshow]) throughout the Western Hemisphere, have been eradicated from the United States since 1966. In addition to constant vigilance by veterinary services and livestock handlers, who treated wounds immediately and set traps [link to 1920s informational film], the method which ultimately led to control of this horrifying pest is sterile insect technique. Maps showing the progress of the technique can be seen here. The USDA's National Agriculture Library maintains a special collection on the Screwworm Eradication Program. Here is a good overview of the problem and the USDA's solution, complete with (somewhat gruesome) pictures and videos. [more inside]
posted by fiercecupcake on Jul 29, 2010 - 58 comments

9 million pounds of flying meat

17 Atlantic states want to capture alive then kill and and bury 450 000 Canada Geese. Norman Spinrad says that it's a lot of meat so we should eat them.
posted by bru on Jul 24, 2010 - 164 comments

Olive Oil in the U.S. - A Smeared Reputation

A lack of federal rules has made the nation the dumping ground for cheap, adulterated and even dangerous oils. With many consumers in the U.S. becoming ill after consuming "olive oil", the USDA is finally moving to create standards defining what is "virgin olive oil". These are supposed to come out in the fall. Except 'the new rules are voluntary — not mandatory — so the prospect of more slick shenanigans continues'. Meanwhile, the FDA 'which oversees most food-label accuracy issues, said the agency does not regularly test olive oils for adulteration, and that it relies on tips about problems from the public, trade groups and others'. [more inside]
posted by VikingSword on Jul 8, 2010 - 74 comments

Cost of raising a kid to the age of 17? $286,050. USDA report

Got a lazy quarter million? Why not raise a kid to the age of 17. Average cost $286,050. [more inside]
posted by bystander on Jun 2, 2010 - 51 comments

Lettuce overlook this and pack ramen

American Meat Is Even Grosser Than You Thought In the focus on E. coli and salmonella, meat contaminated by heavy metals, veterinary drugs and pesticides has been slipping through the bureaucratic cracks. PDF report from USDA via. Pesticides previously and more.
posted by infini on May 1, 2010 - 89 comments

Fed up with school lunch

Fed Up is a blog by a teacher who has decided to eat the lunch her school serves every day. A Japanese Teacher is doing the same thing.
posted by martinX's bellbottoms on Mar 3, 2010 - 92 comments

Ug99

"Indeed, 90 percent of the world’s wheat has little or no protection against the Ug99 race of P. graminis. If nothing is done to slow the pathogen, famines could soon become the norm — from the Red Sea to the Mongolian steppe — as Ug99 annihilates a crop that provides a third of our calories." [more inside]
posted by SpringAquifer on Mar 1, 2010 - 36 comments

USDA Food Environment Atlas

USDA makes available in map form a searchable, county-level compendium of data about food in the United States.
posted by jefficator on Feb 16, 2010 - 25 comments

It's what's for dinner

Ammonia-injected centerfuged fatty trimmings = pink slime + E. Coli. Eight years ago, federal officials were struggling to remove potentially deadly E. coli from hamburgers when an entrepreneurial company from South Dakota came up with a novel idea: injecting beef with ammonia.
posted by cytherea on Jan 1, 2010 - 90 comments

Not quite your Vonnegut

Undercover video (warning: very graphic) released by the Humane Society reveals abuse of animals on the slaughterhouse floor and other code violations. [more inside]
posted by casarkos on Feb 1, 2008 - 75 comments

Won't somebody PLEASE think of the children?

Bored on your summer vacation? Well, the US government has lots of fun stuff for kids to do on line. Learn fascinating facts about cows (and agricultural marketing!) from the Department of Agriculture. Take a ride to Money Central Station with the Bureau of Engraving and Printing. If you live in a federally-funded housing project, HUD wants you to learn more about being a good citizen. Want something more action-packed? Help FBI Special Agent Bobby Bureau go undercover, or become one of America's Crypto-Kids at the NSA. Play thrilling puzzle games or visit the world's most secret museum at the CIA. Play more games or become a Disaster Action Kid at FEMA! And no list of government kids' pages would be complete without revisiting the children's art contest from the ATF, which I've linked to before...
posted by dersins on Jul 25, 2007 - 5 comments

And yet, no tomacco.

"The USDA PLANTS database provides standardized information about the vascular plants, mosses, liverworts, hornworts, and lichens of the U.S. and its territories." Among the highlights are a list of culturally significant plants and a searchable image gallery you can submit photos to. Forestry Images is a similar USDA-supported site dedicated to silviculture.

If that isn't enough for you, click on over to the Germplasm Resources Information Network. There, you'll find a smorgasbord of information on virtually all the food varieties commercially raised in the US: where the germplasm is held, lists of species at each site, detailed descriptions of individual accessions (e.g., cultivars), even who owns the Red Silk Radish. If it grows and you can eat, drink, smoke or inject it, the USDA probably has it cataloged. And if they don't, search one of these.
posted by cog_nate on Dec 6, 2006 - 7 comments

USDA, you're doin' a heckuva job

US Meat Supply at Risk of Mad Cow Disease is one of the headlnes I missed last week week. Auditors can’t say whether meat plants followed mad-cow rules is another. Plus 'Downer Cows' Entering Meat Supply, USDA Inspector General Says | USDA slammed for letting high-risk downer cattle reach consumers | USDA Didn't Follow Procedures In '04 BSE Test | Agency Fought Retesting of Infected Cow | USDA feared beef test and, um... Confidence in U.S. called key to exports. [more inside]
posted by soyjoy on Feb 10, 2006 - 39 comments

find out what's in it before it's in you.

Find out what's in it before it's in you... using free software provided by the US Department of Agriculture's database. The information, which can be kept on a PC (Windows) or PDA (Palm OS), provides a detailed listing of nutrients (calories, protein, fat, carbs, sugars, vitamins, minerals) on almost 7,000 foods, including processed and fast foods.
posted by crunchland on Jan 21, 2006 - 19 comments

A SSN for your horse?

The USDA is working on a plan to enforce registration and identification of all livestock animals in the US. [More Inside]
posted by turtlegirl on Jan 12, 2006 - 55 comments

And you thought FEMA was a mess

By the way...Americans may have eaten mad cow.
posted by soyjoy on Nov 4, 2005 - 65 comments

SOS or Safegaurd organic standards

SOS or Safegaurd Organic Standards is what the Organic Consumers Association is calling their effort to protect the USDA's National Organic Program's organic food standards adopted in 2002. A rider attached to the 2006 agriculture appropriations bill and sponsored by the Organic Trade Association contains changes to the standards that in their view will make "technical corrections" to the national organic standards. This became necessary in their view after a 73-year-old organic blueberry farmer from Maine named Arthur Harvey won a court appeal against the USDA, arguing that federal regulations guiding organic food standards were less stringent than the original legislation had intended. This issue is splitting the organic standards lobbying community. Or perhaps this has been in the works for sometime as large corporate food producers have moved to take advantage of the rapid growth of the organics market. (more inside)
posted by flummox on Oct 9, 2005 - 14 comments

Yes, YOU can run a corrupt govt. agency and NEVER pay taxes!

"I... Forgot."

Upon the death of a possible BSE cow, "the unidentified doctor preserved the brain stem sample in formalin... but then 'simply forgot' about it until mid-July." That's the reason why we're only hearing about it now. Any questions?
posted by soyjoy on Jul 27, 2005 - 50 comments

You have two cows.

Second US case of Mad Cow confirmed. The initial rapid screening test in November was positive, but a more stringent test was negative, and the USDA told America that the cow was BSE-free. The agency did not mention that it had skipped the Western Blot test, used in 2003 to confirm the first U.S. mad cow.
posted by soyjoy on Jun 24, 2005 - 65 comments

I'd like myPyramid with fries, please.

USDA releases new food pyramid(s). Instead of one cogent nutritional guideline for all Americans, the USDA has released a dozen because "one size doesn't fit all." Dietitians have advocated revision for a while now but change has been slow. According to author Marion Nestle, the nutritional guidelines have become highly politized by industry lobbyists: "My first day on the job, I was given the rules: No matter what the research indicated, the report could not recommend 'eat less meat' as a way to reduce intake of saturated fat." Newspeak for sweets appears to be discretionary calories; are we doing any better?
posted by fatllama on Apr 19, 2005 - 29 comments

Got hay?

Got hay? The USDA helps you sell hay in Tennessee and buy hay in Minnesota.
posted by NickDouglas on Jan 13, 2005 - 22 comments

The Food Pyramid Topples

The US Government pronounces the Food Pyramid dead. More information from the USDA. Hail the Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2005! The guidelines won't be released for a couple months yet, but some graphics on Food Groups, being On The Go and Physical Activity are being circulated as teasers.
posted by FlamingBore on Jan 13, 2005 - 18 comments

Yeah, it's...Organic, yeaaah that's the ticket

"The directives have not changed anything. They are just clarifications of what is in the regulations that were written by the National Organic Standards Board" Think your "organic" food is pesticide free? Not if the Bush Administration has their way. War is Peace and all that jazz... via Grist Magazine
posted by Windopaene on May 21, 2004 - 10 comments

Mad Cow Walking

What if the Mad Cow wasn't a 'downer'?
posted by soyjoy on Jan 24, 2004 - 17 comments

Go back to sleep, it's just the wind.

The White House wants to decide what, and when, the public would be told about an outbreak of mad cow disease, an anthrax release, a nuclear plant accident or any other crisis. Instead of the federal agencies responsible for public health, safety and the environment, the bad news would be in the hands of this guy, whose Harvard Center for Risk Analysis famously "proved" that talking on cell phones while driving is no safety concern, and that there was "very little risk that American cattle will contract mad cow disease or that the disease would ever pose a public health problem for people."
posted by soyjoy on Jan 12, 2004 - 38 comments

Weapons of Calf Destruction

"I guess any self-respecting rancher would have shot, shoveled and shut up, but he didn't do that". An annoyed Premier of Alberta Ralph Klein was quoted saying this on Sept 17th, 2003 at a weekend meeting of U.S. governors and western Canadian premiers in response to the discovery of one case of mad-cow found in his province.
Fast forward to today: USDA refused to release mad cow records , United Press has been requesting these documents since July 10th, 2003 and has been continually stonewalled as recently as Dec 17th ,2003. Especially troubling is the question of where the Canadian mad-cow possibly originated.
posted by CrazyJub on Dec 24, 2003 - 25 comments

grrrr

The USDA has announced the first 'presumptive positive' result of a test of a cow for Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, in Washington state. CNN hasn't caught up yet, but USDA themselves have a page on the issue, as do the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the EU, and the World Health Organization. My advice? Buy Chik-fil-A; sell Burger King. :-)
posted by baylink on Dec 23, 2003 - 73 comments

Hemp for Victory!

"Hemp for Victory!" A USDA educational film from 1942 extolling the patriotic virtues of growing the crop that, a half-century later, over 600,000 people would be arrested for possessing. (Gotta love the official "Producer of Marihuana" license.) How times have changed.
posted by digaman on May 4, 2003 - 7 comments

If they don't wanna cooperate, there's just nothin' we can do

"U.S. consumers would not benefit from knowing which grocery stores, restaurants and butchers stocked meat products potentially contaminated with deadly bacteria" sez the USDA. What am I missing here? Yes, I know, protein, but is it really just me? [more inside]
posted by soyjoy on Mar 14, 2003 - 20 comments

Mmm-mmm, good!

"64 grams of fat, 2,090 milligrams of sodium, and enough cholesterol to kill anything that's ever lived." 104% of your USDA daily requirements of saturated fat. 231% of your daily intake of cholesterol. Swanson's Hungry-Man All-Day Breakfast! (Pancakes included.)
posted by crunchland on Feb 25, 2003 - 49 comments

genetic spill

Biological Incident Even the food industry is concerned when medicinally-modified crops spread their genes to food crops. How can accidental or intentional contamination be stopped? Is even the USDA's power to quarantine and destroy enough?
posted by kablam on Nov 16, 2002 - 2 comments

Strike at Government Lab Enters Third Month.

Strike at Government Lab Enters Third Month. This is happening at the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, which studies highly contagious viruses. Maintenance workers are on strike and the replacement workers have been involved with missing equipment and an accident. The official site boldly declares that "Not once in our more than 40 years of operation has an animal pathogen escaped from Plum Island." Somehow I am not filled with confidence. And, while they say they only deal with animal pathogens, there is a lot of crossover with Foot and Mouth and West Nile. Should we be worried about this?
posted by sciatica on Oct 14, 2002 - 3 comments

"It's safe to bite when the temperature is right!"

"It's safe to bite when the temperature is right!" "Thermy (TM) is the messenger of a national consumer education campaign designed to promote the use of food thermometers, developed by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)." Have you ever used a food thermometer when cooking at home?
posted by nickmark on Oct 11, 2002 - 32 comments

GAO to USDA: Put your money where your mouth is!

GAO to USDA: Put your money where your mouth is! Despite advising Americans to eat "Five a Day" of fruits & vegetables, the USDA still spends a disproportionate amount of your tax dollars propping up meat production & consumption. In the wake of the enormous ConAgra beef recall (after the USDA waited two months upon finding E.Coli), lawmakers and newspapers are now openly questioning the links between the USDA and the meat industry. I think the question's already been answered definitively - a federal judge found a clear conflict of interest in the dietary guidelines panel - but are there alternate explanations?
posted by soyjoy on Sep 16, 2002 - 10 comments

Worried about nutrition?

Worried about nutrition? Then you should be very scared if you eat at:

Burger King

McDonalds

Taco Bell

Wendy's

Jack in the Box

Even Subway which sells its food as healthy (low fat) contains more sodium than canned soup.


posted by plinth on Mar 15, 2000 - 9 comments

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