Cornucopia News Archive

Is Your Pet’s Food as Safe as You Think?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

5 Tips to Keeping Your Furry Friend Healthy and Well Fed

By Linley Dixon, PhD

In recent years, anecdotal reports by veterinarians
suggest there has been a spike in serious
maladies in pets. Americans spend
about $22 billion 
on pet food each year.

Pet food quality varies significantly and all too often includes dangerous chemical additives. In many cases consumers get what they pay for, but price doesn’t always indicate high quality. The good news is that discriminating shoppers will soon have a new tool helping them to weed through product labels and separate the good from the bad.

The Cornucopia Institute has completed a thorough analysis of the pet food industry and will release a detailed report this winter.

Our study reveals that many complete diet products significantly sway from the natural, wild diets of cats and dogs in terms of protein, fat and carbohydrate percentages. The majority of both dog and cat food product formulations contain too many grains and starches, including corn, wheat, rice, oats, peas, and potatoes. In addition, many products contain questionable and/or unnecessary ingredients. Read Full Article »

Food Safety Petition and Action Alert

Friday, December 5th, 2014

[This alert is over–comment period now closed]

Food Safety Modernization Act: New Draft Rules
Comments Due on December 15 to FDA

FDA3Please take action by reading the full Action Alert available on the Cornucopia website:

Although improved over the first draft the FDA’s proposed food safety rules are still onerous enough that they could jeopardize the existence of many of our safest, local organic farms.

Tell the FDA that small farms are not food processing “facilities” necessitating expensive oversight and testing. (It could cost a family farm over $12,000 a year to comply!). Irrigation water should not have to meet the same safety standards as a community swimming pool. And it should be clear that older farmers, without Internet access, or the Amish, can submit reports on paper rather than the web.

At a minimum, please join farmers and their urban-allies by signing on to the letter below. Additionally, we especially encourage fresh market vegetable farmers to also, very carefully, read the full action alert and submit your individual comments, based on your own farming experience, to the FDA. Your livelihoods are at stake.

TO: The Food and Drug Administration
RE: FSMA Food Safety Rules, Dockets FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 and FDA-2011-N-0920-1553
We the undersigned are concerned by several areas of the FDA’s revised food safety rules and endorse the following comments.

  • The cost to farmers for implementing the proposed rules will endanger the livelihoods of organic farmers and their customers’ access to safe and nutritionally superior local and organic food. This regulatory burden, as much as $12,384 for farms with sales of $500,000 or less, is an unacceptable imposition of financial hardship on producers with no history of food safety problems.
  • Farms are not facilities. Growing, harvesting, packing, or holding raw agricultural commodities are clearly part of many farm activities. Furthermore, the regulations should allow for non-contiguous farm parcel locations to be treated as one farm and not discriminate against cooperatives or food hubs.
  • The FDA must clarify that CSAs and direct market farmers are not facilities.
  • The proposed use of the EPA’s recreational water standard is an inappropriate and overly restrictive measure for testing the safety of irrigation water. Before establishing a numeric testing standard for the safety of irrigation water, the FDA must conduct a risk assessment for water used specifically for agricultural purposes, and follow the instructions from Congress that a science and risk-based approach be used for regulation.
  • Recordkeeping requirements should be reasonable, limited to one year, and allow for paper records.
  • The FDA must establish a fair process for any enforcement actions against farmers that allows due process, full documentation of any alleged food safety issues, and the opportunity for a hearing to contest erroneous information.
  • The FDA must respect the exemption from the food safety rules for smaller farms, as guaranteed by the Tester-Hagan amendment. That exemption must be determined by the level of sales of produce covered by the rule, not the total sale of all food grown and raised on a farm.
  • On-farm conservation practices need explicit support in the food safety rules. The grazing of livestock must not be considered manure application.
  • The FDA’s proposed changes made to the manure handling regulations are a needed improvement. The study committee that will be established to assess the risks of manure usage must include sustainable and organic farmers.
  • The FDA should remove the supplier verification program from the Hazard Analysis and Risk-Based Preventive Control (HARPC) food safety rule. This backdoor approach would allow for large produce buyers to impose more stringent and costly food safety regulations than outlined in the FDA’s proposed rules.
  • The FDA’s new definition of a small business is an improvement over previous proposals.

* denotes a require field

Thank you for your help! 

If you are interested in doing even more, please read the full action alert below: Read Full Article »

Action Alert — Food Safety Modernization Act: New Draft Rules Comments Due on December 15

Friday, December 5th, 2014

FDA3[This alert is over–comment period now closed]

In response to recent widespread, and sometimes deadly, outbreaks of foodborne illness, Congress passed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) charging the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) with improving their oversight of the food industry.

But the intense blowback the FDA received last year from family-scale farmers and consumers over their proposed food safety rules for produce led the agency to withdraw and rewrite their proposed rules. Your comments last year had an impact!

The FDA has now released their new draft, which addresses many of the objections. However, a number of problems and pitfalls for farmers remain in the new draft. The proposal will also be of interest to the customers of local, organic food purchased through farmers markets, CSAs and co-op grocers.

Public comments are due by December 15 on the draft rules.

The Cornucopia Institute, working with other groups, has requested a 90-day extension to allow for fuller and careful analysis of the latest proposal.

You can comment online, but be sure to do so at both of these locations as the regulations impacting family scale farmers are intertwined in both of these FDA dockets:!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0921-0973!submitComment;D=FDA-2011-N-0920-1553

Or you can comment by mail to Division of Dockets Management (HFA-305), Food and Drug Administration, 5630 Fishers Lane, Rm. 1061, Rockville, MD 20852. Make sure you note that you are commenting on dockets FDA-2011-N-0921-0973 and FDA-2011-N-0920-1553. Your letter needs to be postmarked no later than December 15.

According to the analysis performed by the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition, growers with sales up to $500,000 would likely spend 4% to 6% of their gross revenue to comply with the new food safety rules.  For small farms, FSMA could consume more than half of their modest profits. It is important that family-scale farmers producing our nation’s fda2best and safest produce be protected from unnecessary and onerous regulations — this could put some farmers out of business and/or reduce the availability of organic and local food and/or increase pricing.

Key Points to Mention in Your Comments:

  • Tell the FDA that the cost to farmers for implementing the proposed rules will endanger the livelihoods of organic farmers and their customers’ access to safe and nutritionally superior local and organic food.

Read Full Article »

New Report Criticizes Yogurt Industry

Wednesday, November 19th, 2014

Major Brands Accused of Turning Health Food into Junk Food

yogurt-report-cover final with borderA new report, Culture Wars: How the Food Giants Turned Yogurt, a Health Food, into Junk Food,issued by The Cornucopia Institute, accuses Dannon, Yoplait, Chobani and other major marketers of misleading parents, who are looking for healthier foods for their families, into purchasing yogurts loaded with sugar and containing a myriad of questionably safe artificial sweeteners, colors and emulsifiers.

The group alleges that agribusiness, in their marketing approach, has capitalized on yogurt’s historic, well-deserved healthful reputation while simultaneously adulterating the product, sometimes illegally, to gain competitive advantage and popular appeal.

In addition to The Cornucopia Institute’s comprehensive report on the yogurt industry, they also released a related buyer’s guide rating 114 brands and separating the truly healthy options from those that would be found on any dietitian’s shortlist of foods to avoid.

“What is most egregious about our findings,” said Mark A. Kastel, Codirector of The Cornucopia Institute, “is the marketing employed by many of the largest agribusinesses selling junk food masquerading as health food, mostly aimed at moms, who are hoping to provide their children an alternative, a more nutritious snack. In some cases, they might as well be serving their children soda pop or a candy bar with a glass of milk on the side.”

Cornucopia, a Wisconsin-based food and farm policy research group, found that the flavored varieties (strawberry, for example) of certain brands contain no actual fruit, and include total sugars that rival those in candy bars.

Alternatively, rather than with sugar, some yogurt is sweetened artificially with such substances as aspartame (also marketed as NutraSweet®).

According to Dr. Qing Yang, a professor of molecular, cellular and developmental biology at Yale University, “A rise in the percent of the population who are obese coincides with the increase in the widespread use of non-caloric artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and sucralose.” The use of aspartame is controversial and has been linked to brain tumors and neurological diseases in laboratory animals. Read Full Article »

Update: Oregon’s Measure 92

Friday, November 14th, 2014

GM foods demonstrationImage Source: Martin Deutsch

While the No side has been declared the winner, the Yes side is closing the gap as the final ballots trickle in.

Here’s the situation:

  • According to officials in Multnomah County, 5,900 ballots have yet to be counted because they arrived as unreadable to their machines.
  • In addition to these 5,900 ballots, there are 2,800 “challenge” ballots, which are ballots that weren’t signed or where there’s some other voter identification issue.  Oregon is a mail-in-ballot only state, so there are a number of voter identification measures in place that are not found in states where in-person voting takes place. Typically, only a small percentage of challenge ballots are resolved.  Voters get a letter from the state after the election inviting them to come in and resolve them.  This year for the first time, lists of voters submitting ballots that end up in the challenge stack have been made public, which means campaigns and other interested parties can encourage these voters to resolve their ballots.  This could lead to an unusually large number of challenge ballots being resolved.

Read Full Article »