"So I decided on a radical experiment. I would spend eight weeks each on six different plans
representing the various options for would-be dieters, from popular fads to clinical studies: the Abs Diet, the Paleo Diet for Athletes, the Mediterranean Prescription, the Okinawa Program, the advice of a personal nutritionist, and the USDA's nutritional pyramid. [more inside]
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.
How to ensure food and drink water safety during a flood or other natural disaster, courtesy of
and the USDA
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.
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).
Obliterating Animal Carcasses With Explosives
-- An official publication of the United States Department of Agriculture.
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.
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?
The USDA has ended the pyramid scheme.
For the first time, the USDA advises Americans to "eat less." The previous design abomination (previously)
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]
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]
What is the USDA
’s definition of organic
, 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]
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]
Got a lazy quarter million? Why not raise a kid to the age of 17. Average cost $286,050. [more inside]
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
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.
"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]
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.
(warning: very graphic) released by the Humane Society reveals
abuse of animals on the slaughterhouse floor and other code violations. [more inside]
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...
"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
it, the USDA probably has it cataloged. And if they don't, search one of these
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.
The USDA is working on a plan
to enforce registration and identification of all livestock animals in the US. [More Inside]
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)
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?
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.
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?
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.
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."
"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
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. :-)
"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
"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!
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
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?
"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?
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
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?
Worried about nutrition?
Then you should be very scared if you eat at:
Jack in the Box
Even Subway which sells its food as healthy (low fat) contains more sodium than canned soup.