Food security refers to the monitoring and inspection of our food supply to reduce its vulnerability to targeted attacks. Areas covered include domestic production, imports, and distribution. Additional regulation of these activities is currently under consideration.
What is Bioterrorism?
- Bioterrorism is the act of any individual, group, or government to spread disease pathogens with the intent to harm others.
- Many now believe that terrorists could attack the US food supply.
The Department of Homeland Security
- The Department of Homeland Security includes the Coast Guard, Customs Service, Immigration and Naturalization Service, Border Patrol, Secret Service, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the Transportation Administration.
- The CIA and FBI (reporting to the Department of Justice) are separate organizations.
What are Genetically Modified Organisms?
A genetically modified organism (GMO) is any item that has been altered at the molecular level.
In agriculture, GMOs are typically created in order to boost yields, improve quality, and repel insects.
- An international panel of scientists found that genetically altered crops are as safe as traditional crops.
- Genetic modification allows crops to be grown with additional vitamins and nutrients.
- Crops can also be engineered to repel certain insects.
- Foods might be grown in places that are today ridden with drought or floods.
- Many scientists believe that GMOs increase new toxins and allergens in foods.
- May increase the use of chemicals.
- May create herbicide-resistant weeds.
- May disturb the ecological balance.
What is Integrated Pest Management (IPM)?
An IPM system seeks to implement socially responsible and economically feasible methods of reducing agricultural pests and promoting sustainable agriculture for the preservation of the environment. Management options include
- Cultural: crop rotation
- Mechanical: cultivating beneficial weeds
- Biological: releasing beneficial insects or parasites to control other pests
- Genetic: use of plant disease-resistant varieties
- Chemical: herbicides, insecticides, fungicides
- Potential for increased production and improved quality of crops
- Lower incidences of pesticides in the environment
- May reduce farming costs
- Live and/or dead pests in harvested produce
- Time consuming
- Inconsistent results
For information about IPM in general: National Integrated Pest Management Network
What is Irradiation?
A process in which high energy rays pass through packaged food. The process destroys dangerous microbes within and on the surface, including foodborne illnesses such as E. coli 0157:H7, Salmonella, Campylobacter, Shigella, Cyclospora, and Listeria. The process also eliminates pests (such as fruit flies) and slows foods' natural ripening process, extending shelf-life. Nutritional changes are insignificant.
Critics claim that studies of irradiated foods are inconclusive or outdated, and that studies point to the mutation of genes in both animals and humans.
What Methods are Used in the U.S.?
Electronic beam, or e-beam technology
- Most prevalent type used today
- Used by over 75% of ground beef producers and 50% of poultry processors
- Purchased by U.S. Postal Service to safeguard mail supply
- No radioactivity is involved
- Turned off and on with a switch
- In use for 15 years
- Most used in the irradiation of produce
- Stronger version of the medical x-ray machine (can penetrate deeper than e-beam, but not as deep as gamma rays)
- No radioactivity is involved
- Turned off and on with a switch
- More effective than e-beams on products that have high water density or inconsistent shapes (such as most fruits and vegetables)
Gamma ray radiation
- In produce industry, most often used on dried herbs and spices
- Also used in medical supplies, dental equipment, and household products
- Rays are emitted by radioactive substance (either Cobalt 60 or Cesium 137)
- Elements give off high-energy photons that can penetrate solids
- Gamma rays do not make food, or anything else, radioactive
- In use for over 30 years
- Does use radioactive materials
Foods Currently Approved for Irradiation
- Tropical Fruits & Vegetables, Imported (2002, USDA)
- Meat (1997 FDA, 1999, USDA)
- Poultry (1990, FDA, 1992, USDA)
- Herbs and spices (1986, FDA)
- Fruits and vegetables (1986, FDA)
- Pork (1986, FDA)
- White potatoes (1964, FDA)
- Wheat flour (1963, FDA)
Does Markon Sell Irradiated Produce?
At this time, no Markon branded products are irradiated. In general, the degree of irradiation needed to kill pathogens in produce can damage it (for example, cause lettuces to wilt).
For More Information: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Introduced in June 2011 to replace the Food Pyramid, MyPlate aims to simplify nutritional needs with a colorful plate diagram divided into four portion-size quadrants (fruits, vegetables, grains, and proteins) and one side portion for dairy products. The diagram is accompanied by the United States Food & Drug Administration's advisory tips, including:
- Balancing Calories
- Enjoy your food, but eat less
- Avoid oversized portions
- Foods to Increase
- Make half your plate fruits and vegetables
- Make at least half your grains whole grains
- Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk
- Foods to Increase
- Compare sodium in foods like soup, bread, and frozen meals--and choose the foods with lower numbers
- Drink water instead of sugary drinks
See the diagram and additional information at MyPlate.gov.
What Constitutes Organic?
The USDA's National Organic Standards went into effect on October 21, 2002. The standards, established by the National Organics Standards Board with the help of thousands of industry and public comments, were written over a period of twelve years. Only foods that meet specific standards can display the national label.
What Are the Labeling Laws? The National Organic Program (NOP) has four classifications of certification
- Foods must be produced and processed according to specific USDA guidelines
- Guidelines preclude the use of pesticides, chemical fertilizers, antibiotics, hormones, genetically modified ingredients, and irradiation, among other practices
- Foods certified to meet these requirements may display the USDA Organic label and/or the statement "100% Organic"
- Foods must be made with 95% organic ingredients
- The remaining ingredients may be non-agricultural or not commercially available in organic form
- Foods certified to meet these guidelines may display the USDA Organic label (but not the statement "100% Organic")
Made With Organic Ingredients
- Foods made with 70-95% organic ingredients can state "Made With Organic Ingredients" on the label (and list up to three organic ingredients), but cannot display the seal
Less Than 70% Organic Ingredients
- Such foods may list organic ingredients in the packaging information panel only (not on the principal display panel)
To view the standards in detail, see The National Organic Program.
- Provides consistent guidelines across the nation
- Increases consumer awareness and confidence
- Predicted to boost sales of organic products
- May increase organic farming worldwide; better for the environment
- Smaller farmers may not be able to afford the cost of certification
- May lock smaller grower/suppliers out and relegate organics to bigger businesses
- May create incentives to import organic ingredients grown in countries with lower costs of production, i.e. Mexico
How Do The New Organic Laws Affect The Foodservice Industry?
To date most foodservice operators are excluded from these regulations, but foodservice establishments may someday be required to document organic suppliers' certifications in order to mention "organic" on menus or in advertising/promotional materials.
For more information about organics and the USDA standards, visit:
What is perchlorate?
Perchlorate is an industrial chemical. In the US it is used as primarily as an ingredient in rocket fuel, and in fireworks and flares. Perchlorate has also been found to occur naturally.
Does food contain perchlorate?
- There is a potential for perchlorate contamination in food, most likely through the use of contaminated irrigation water, processing water, and via sources used for bottled water (which is a 'food' regulated by US Food & Drug Administration [FDA]). However, FDA does not know the relative contribution of any particular source of perchlorate to that found in foods. Recognizing this potential for perchlorate contamination in food, FDA conducted exploratory surveys in 2004-2005 to investigate the occurrence of perchlorate in certain foods and is using the data collected in these surveys to develop preliminary assessments of human exposure to perchlorate through food; FDA has additional investigations planned. The FDA found low levels of perchlorate in milk, bottled water, and lettuce. According to the Environmental Working group, a more recent study by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) found that Òa significant number of women are at risk of thyroid hormone depression from perchlorate exposure.
- Perchlorate at high doses (e.g., therapeutic, pharmacologic) can interfere with iodide uptake into the thyroid gland, interfering with thyroid hormone production. Sustained inhibition of iodide uptake can lead to hypothyroidism, which can lead to metabolic problems in adults and abnormal development in utero and in infancy.
Is perchlorate regulated by the government?
- There is currently no enforceable national drinking water standard for perchlorate either in Canada or in the United States, although various states have implemented guidelines or goals ranging from 1 ppb to 18 ppb for perchlorate in drinking water. In the US, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) requires public water systems serving more than 10,000 people (and some smaller systems) to monitor drinking water for the contaminant. As of March 2007, there are several bills under discussion in the US House and Senate requesting that the federal government establish a new drinking-water standard for perchlorate contamination.
What should I do?
- Dr. Robert E. Brackett, Ph.D., Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition Food and Drug Administration stated, "Consumers should not view the low levels of perchlorate in the foods tested as an indicator of the 'risk' of eating certain foods, particularly when many of the foods are important components of a nutritious and balanced diet. Some of these food items are also important sources of iodine. Until more is known concerning perchlorates occurrence in foods, FDA continues to recommend that consumers eat a balanced diet, choosing a variety of foods that are low in trans fat and saturated fat, and rich in high-fiber grains, fruits, and vegetables."
Why Are Pesticides Used?
Farmers use pesticides to keep diseases, harmful insects, and rodents from infesting and damaging otherwise healthy crops. Without the use of pesticides, it is believed that production in every category of agricultural farming would fall and consumer prices would rise dramatically.
How Are Pesticides Regulated?
- Pesticides are regulated by the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) and the Food Quality Protection Act (FQPA).
- In order to be approved for use, pesticides must be subjected to more than 120 tests by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to determine their effects on our environment and its inhabitants.
- Federal law requires all pesticide labels to include explicit directions for use and precautions to protect users, consumers, and the environment.
Is It Safe to Eat Produce Grown With The Use of Pesticides?
- The office of the Assistant Surgeon General, the National Cancer Institute, the American Association for Pediatrics, and the USDA, among others, believe that the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables far outweigh any potential risks that might be involved with ingesting foods correctly treated with pesticides.
- "Trying to avoid pesticide residues by avoiding fresh fruits and vegetables altogether is detrimental—not beneficial—to your health," says Edward Growth III, director of Technical Policy and Public Service for Consumers Union and publisher of Consumer Reports magazine.
- Markon concurs with these scientists and the majority of health professionals who support these views.