Rather than dedicate a lengthy blog post to each, here is the Small Bites’ Cliff’s Notes version.
What’s the deal? What are the important takeaways? Here’s your cheat sheet:
1) Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy Outbreak
The Story: “Mad cow” is back (wow, the ’90s really are back with a vengeance!), this time at dairy farm in California. This Food Safety News article has the latest grizzly details.
The Lesson: The industrialized meat complex is a food safety terror, barely held together by a deeply flawed model that continually puts our health at risk. Despite USDA’s — and the beef industry’s — unequivocal assertion that beef and milk are both perfectly safe to eat and drink, there is reason to believe the picture isn’t quite as rosy.
Mother Jones‘ Tom Philpott explained why milk shouldn’t be off the hook, and here’s a most frightening tidbit courtesy of the always illuminating Dr. Marion Nestle’s blog — “The USDA tests about 40,000 cows a year out of the 34 million slaughtered.” That’s less than one percent. Yikes.
2) Multi-State Sushi-linked Salmonella Outbreak
The Lesson: This once again comes back to a food system where cutting corners trumps food safety. Another fact we need to look at — over three-quarters of seafood consumed in the United States is imported. Guess how much of that in inspected upon arriving to these shores? A mere two percent.
3) Kashi’s Genetically Modified Debacle
The Story: Laboratory testing revealed GMO soy in some of Kashi’s “natural” products. An extra tidbit many people are not aware of: Kashi is owned by Kellogg’s.
The Lesson: Don’t be deceived by “natural” — a term that means close to nothing. The Food & Drug Administration does not have a clear definition; instead, it allows food manufacturers to claim a product is ”natural’ as long as it free of artificial flavors, artificial dyes, and synthetic ingredients (i.e.: artificial sweeteners). Everything else — including GMOs — is fair game.
To avoid GMOs, look for organic certification. For extra peace of mind — especially when it comes to soy and corn — look specifically for mentions of “non-GMO “.
4) Nutella Lawsuit
The Story: Woman sues makers of Nutella (a sweet hazelnut spread) for advertising it as a healthful product — and wins. “In settling the lawsuits for $3 million, Ferrero agreed to change its marketing campaign, modify its product label, create new TV ads and change the Nutella website,” the Los Angeles Times reports.
The Lesson: Advertisements are meant to sell you a product, not necessarily tell you the whole truth. No matter what a product’s front of package or commercial claims, always take a look at the ingredient list and Nutrition Facts label. In Nutella’s case, the first ingredient is sugar (hello!), and a two-tablespoon serving delivers the sugar of 27 Skittles (21 grams).
Stick to nut and seed butters that have either one ingredient (i.e.: peanuts, almonds) or, at most, two — nuts/seeds and salt.
5) “Meat Glue”
The Story: Though it was a hot topic in Australia a few years ago (see this short video), it’s the latest PR nightmare for the beef industry. “Meat glue” is a powder known as transglutaminase which serves as “filler” and as a possible trap for E.Coli. Yum.
The Lesson: More food industry deception. “Meat glue” is one way in which cheap scraps of beef can be passed off as higher quality — and sold at a premium price. If you eat meat, you need to be extremely mindful of — and informed about — your source. If possible, get to know the various people who supply your food; establish rapport, get to know them, and ask questions. Social interaction within your community is the new black, hadn’t you heard?