|Irradiation looms as a faulty food safety fix|
|What is food irradiation?
Food irradiation is the process of exposing food to controlled amounts of energy called "ionizing radiation." There are three different types of radiation permitted: electron beam (electricity), cobalt 60 (nuclear waste byproduct), or cesium 137 (also a nuclear waste byproduct).
Currently onions, potatoes, wheat, flour, whole wheat flour, and whole or ground spices and dehydrated seasonings are approved for irradiation and sale in Canada. Meat is currently not approved for irradiation in Canada but certain meat products in the United States are irradiated. For more information, visit Food and Water Watch
. Why is food irradiated?
Promoters of food irradiation try to sell this process as a food decontamination tool- an answer to today's industrial food production problems. Irradiation is used to:
- keep our food safe by reducing the level of harmful bacteria, such as E.Coli 0157:H7 in ground beef, Salmonella and Campylobacter in poultry, and parasites which cause food-borne diseases
However, it is possible for irradiated food to become contaminated after it has been treated so proper storage, handling, and cooking are still very important.
- increase the shelf life by slowing the ripening or sprouting in fresh fruits and vegetables
How can I tell if food has been irradiated?
Pre-packaged foods that have been wholly irradiated display the international radiation symbol, along with a statement that the product has been irradiated. Food that is not pre-packaged must have a sign with this information displayed beside the food. Pre-packaged foods that contain an ingredient which makes up more than 10% of the finished product must indicate which ingredients in the list have been irradiated. However, if the ingredient makes up less than 10% of the finished product, no information needs to be provided.
Although irradiation does reduce some bacteria, studies have shown that taste, colour, nutiontional value and texture are negatively affected. There has also been some evidence that animals who ate irradiated food had a slower growth rate than animals who did not eat irradiated food.
Why should I be concerned about irradiation?
With current outbreaks of Ecoli, Listeriosis, and Salmonella, promoters of food irradiation are looking toward irradiation as a solution to kill bacteria. Instead, food producers need to address the source of the problem - too fast processing lines and dirty conditions at plants - not promote an expensive, impractical and ineffective technology like irradiation.
Watch for our upcoming fact sheet on irradiation on our website!
PEI Beef Plant Closure Threatens Maritime Sustainable Producers
Sustainable and organic farming in the Maritimes is on the
verge of being dealt a major setback with the impending failure of the only
federally-inspected beef plant in the region.
Beef Products in Albany, PEI is reporting losses of up to $300,000 a month-
losses the provincial government says it is unwilling to continue to underwrite
as it has in the past. The plant has never turned a profit and PEI Agriculture
Minister George Webster has given the operation five months to turn a profit or
find new investors.
Maritime beef producers are already selling off herds as they prepare to leave
the cattle business, and observers believe many more will follow suit should
the plant close. The loss of cattle farmers will further reduce agricultural
diversity in a province that saw its only hog plant shut down just over one
consumers, the closure of the plant will mean access to locally-produced meat
will become more difficult, but it could also have serious consequences for
organic growers in the region as well. A diminishing livestock sector means
organic growers in the Maritimes could face shortages of manure vital to their
Factory Farming is working with agricultural and sustainable food organizations
active in the Maritimes to mount a public appeal urging the provincial
governments of New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and PEI to maintain support of the
plant and ensure its continued operation. Petitions to this effect are
circulating in all three provinces and we urge concerned Maritimers to write
their respective provincial government in support of the plant.
more on the story visit our webpage where you can also find contact
information for agriculture ministers in each province, a letter template, and
information on where to sign the petition.
|Help Save Canada's Only University Organic Program|
Canada's only program offering a degree in organic
agriculture was very nearly lost in April when the University of Guelph senate
narrowly voted to withdraw a motion to scrap it. Instead, the senate decided to
offer the program a one-year reprieve after which its viability will be
The program, administered by
Ontario's College of Agriculture, was one of nine under review by the
university senate as it looked to reduce expenditures and eliminate a
$16-million deficit. The other eight weren't so lucky and were scrapped. A
motion to grant the organic program a reprieve was tabled by Andreas Boecker, a
senate member and an assistant professor in the food, agriculture and resource
"Dropping an organic major would be a foregone opportunity for
the university to maintain its position within Canada as the only university
that educates students within this area," Boecker said before his motion
Ontario College of Agriculture now has less than a year to demonstrate that the
organic program can attract enough students to justify its existence. At last
count only 15 students were enrolled across the four-year program. The
college must also find funding from industry to support the program and a
replacement for Ann Clark who is retiring at the end of the 2011 school year and
teaches many of the program's courses.
program needs students, assistance, and friends. Anyone interested in learning
more about the program, enrolling in it, or supporting it with funding should
visit the University of Guelph website or contact Ann Clark.
Ontario Turkey Rule
Undermines Organic Poultry
For the past few months Beyond Factory
Farming has drawn attention to the plight of Ontario's organic turkey farmers
who are fighting a Turkey Farmers of Ontario rule that renders it impossible for
a farmer to raise more than 50 turkeys organically in the province.
May, 2008 the Turkey Farmers of Ontario introduced a rule that forbids
quota-holding members from raising their birds outdoors- effectively outlawing
a key requirement to obtain organic certification. The new rule makes Ontario
the only jurisdiction in North America that will not allow turkeys to be raised
commercially in accordance with organic principles.
Dick, an organic turkey farmer near Barrie, Ontario appealed to the provincial
Minister of Agriculture Leona Dombrowsky who declined to overturn it. The
Organic Council of Ontario (OCO) joined Dick in his fight to have the rule
struck down, and the farmer created a Facebook page to explain the issue
and instruct people on how they can help.
Dick and OCO are appealing to the public to write letters to Minister
Dombrowsky urging her to amend the Turkey Farmers of Ontario rule to allow
flocks access to the outdoors. For its part, the Turkey Farmers of Ontario's response to the issue is to ask that organic standards be amended to allow
turkeys raised in confinement to be certified organic. Many following the issue
suspect similar rules may follow for other poultry including laying hens and
learn more about the issue and how you can help visit the OCO webpage or Matthew Dick's Facebook page.
|People's Food Policy to
Chart Canadian Food Sovereignty
Much of Beyond Factory Farming's work is inspired and
informed by the principle of food sovereignty- a concept that emerged at the
World Food Summit in 1996. Reclaiming decision-making power in the food system
is the essence of food sovereignty, as is restoring the relationship between
people and the land and the relationship between the people who harvest food
and those who eat it.
Food Secure Canada launched the People's Food Policy Project- a multi-year
program that hopes to help realise the principles of food sovereignty here in
this country. The PFPP aims to establish a just and sustainable vision for
Canada's food system while developing a policy framework that will make it a
Factory Farming is proud to be part of the PFPP and we will be conducting
meetings with small groups over the coming months in an effort to gather ideas
and suggestions that will aid in bringing about food sovereignty in Canada. For
more information on food sovereignty visit our webpage
and to learn
about the PFPP visit the Food Secure Canada website
|Eat Local in Alberta|
Do you want to support local farmers, local
economies, and know where your food is coming from? Do you want to eat food that is produced
locally, is healthy and full of nutrients?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, but don't know where to
find local products, here are some options:
Find a Farmers' Market in Alberta
Find a market in your area, hours of
operation, a list of vendors, and what type of products are being sold.
Go straight to the farm
Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association is dedicated
to supporting the production of farm direct market vegetable crops, berry and
fruit crops, bedding plants, perennials, herbs, flowers, meats, poultry, eggs
and other specialty items in Alberta.
Dine Alberta links Alberta's producers and
growers to the chefs who showcase the province's bounty by featuring home-grown
goodness on their menus.
Chomp Around Alberta
a self-guided road trip that stops at
farms, farmers' markets, festivals and restaurants in the province of Alberta.
are participants in the annual Alberta regional cuisine program. They source as
many ingredients as possible directly from Alberta growers and producers, and
many offer house-made value-added products for sale in addition to serving
meals. They offer unique, memorable local foods, and are articulate culinary
ambassadors who exemplify how to make the most of Alberta's best ingredients.
|Listeriosis report offers unsettling portrait of food safety|
Late in the summer of 2008, a food-borne outbreak of
listeria dominated Canadian headlines as 22 people died from infected cold cuts
produced at a Maple Leaf Foods plant on Toronto's Bartor Road. The tragic
episode undermined public confidence in the food safety system and prompted the
government to hire Edmonton health care consultant Sheila Weatherill to
investigate the incident.
21 Weatherill released the report of her findings and its contents offer little
to restore Canadian confidence in our food safety system. If anything,
Weatherill exposed a system that is ill equipped to prevent contaminated food
from reaching consumers in the future, and poorly prepared to mount a
coordinated response once it does.
more than 100 interviews and meetings conducted with individuals and groups
involved in nearly every aspect of the outbreak, Weatherill reported some
unsettling facts about the food we eat that ought to give anyone pause the next
time they visit the supermarket.
Weatherill remarked that globalization,
along with the scale and concentration of the food industry, has contributed to
an alarming rise in outbreaks of food-borne illness. Reported cases of
listeriosis infection alone have doubled since 2005, and the actual incidence
of unreported infections could be as much as 350 times higher.
Coincidentally (or perhaps not),
2005 was also the year the Canadian Food Inspection Agency initiated a pilot
project at 120 meat processing plants across the country, including Maple
Leaf's now infamous Bartor Road facility. The pilot was a new inspection regime
called the Compliance Verification System (CVS) that was subsequently adopted
by all 400 federally-inspected plants in Canada early in 2008.
"The decision to proceed directly from the pilot to
full implementation was made with limited
evaluation of the pilot's
strengths and weaknesses and without detailed costing and adequate
determination of resources implications, including the need for supervision and
training," Weatherill remarked.
to claims that the CVS represented 'a more thorough' approach than the
pre-existing inspection system which required a full audit of a plant's key
control systems every three months, Weatherill revealed the Bartor Road plant
had only been audited three times in the three-year period leading up to the
outbreak, and not at all in 2008.
Officials from the union
representing meat inspectors complained on record shortly after the outbreak
that their numbers were insufficient to carry out the duties introduced with
the CVS. In response, federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz promised more
front line inspectors, and the CFIA hired 57, but not one of the new staff
members was assigned to scrutinize meat production. The shortage of meat
inspectors was not lost on Weatherill who also noted similar complaints.
"A number of sources said that the lack of staff was a
major constraint as was the pressure of time. The system's design did not take
account of the number of inspectors or the time available to conduct the CVS tasks
because of their other duties, nor did it take into account travel time from plant
to plant. Inspectors assigned to Bartor Road were also responsible for several
different plants in their district, necessitating travel between these
Regardless of whether the new system or the number of
inspectors is to blame, the status quo on both counts remains in place one year
Perhaps most shockingly, Weatherill
found that staff members at the Bartor Road plant were aware products were testing
positive for listeria as far back as early 2007 but declined to inform company
executive officers or CFIA inspectors and were under no legal obligation to do
so. It wasn't until the following year that first government and months later
the public became aware of the problem, and then only after the deaths of two
patients in an elderly care residence led Toronto public health officials to
trace their infections to tainted Maple Leaf products. Were it not for the work
of these officials the CFIA may never have discovered the source of the
outbreak on its own.
Once the outbreak was brought to
the attention of senior staff within Health Canada, the Public Health Agency of
Canada, and the CFIA it set off a chain
of interagency and inter-jurisdictional bungling that further undermined public
safety. Ultimately, the public was warned, the tainted products were recalled,
the plant closed and sanitized, but the portrait that emerges of Canada's food
safety system in this report is anything but confidence inspiring.
Weatherill introduces 57
recommendations for improving food safety and government's response to
food-borne outbreaks in her report. Beyond Factory Farming supports the
implementation of these recommendations as a starting point, but urges citizens
to remind their representatives that our food safety system cannot be
compromised and is in need of further reforms. To learn more about food safety
in Canada or to read the Weatherill report
please visit our website
|Ultra Juicy Burger Recipe|
Ultra Juicy Hamburgers
Recipe by: Laura Giannatempo Courtesy
of Sustainable Table ®
One bite of the Ultra-Juicy
Hamburger and any dreadful memories of tough, parched, leathery homemade
hamburgers will instantly vanish: this hamburger oozes with succulence. And,
what's best, it's extremely easy to make.
24 ounces sustainable ground
1 large sweet onion, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary leaves, minced
fresh thyme leaves, minced
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon Worcestershire
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
1 ˝ teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black
5 tablespoons of olive oil or canola oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1. In a medium sauté pan or
skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil over medium to high heat. Add the onion,
lower the heat, and cook for about 20 minutes until nicely browned and
caramelized. Add a tiny bit of extra oil or hot water if the onions start to
stick to the pan. Set aside to cool. (Note: you can prepare this ahead of time
and place the cooked onions in the refrigerator for later use)
2. Place the
beef in a medium-to-large bowl, mix in the onions, rosemary, thyme, mustard,
Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, and cumin.
(Note: you can add any other
spice and herb mix that you like; just make sure it doesn't overpower the
flavor of the burger)
3. Shape the ground beef mixture into four patties.
Place on a nice hot barbeque grill and cook, about 8-10 minutes per side.
Beyond Factory Farming is a national organization promoting socially responsible livestock production
in Canada. We help communities dealing with problems caused by
factory farms and factory farm proposals. As an alternative to
industrial livestock operations, we promote livestock production that
is safe, fair and healthy for the environment, farmers, workers,
animals, neighbours, communities and consumers.
For more information about Beyond Factory Farming or any of the contents from this newsletter, please email Lisa
, or visit our website