Aug 262010
 

Are you tired of these headlines yet?  Do you worry about the food you feed your family?  Find out how to become more self reliant and quit worrying about the food you eat.

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  • August 26, 2010, 9:29 AM ET

By Katherine Hobson

You might think that the two producers at the heart of the recall of more than half a billion eggs are tossing out fresh ones as fast as the hens can lay them. But as the Associated Press reports, the millions of eggs still being churned out by chickens at Wright County Egg and Hillandale Farms are destined for pasteurization facilities, where they’ll be turned into the liquid eggs sold in cartons or will be used in processed foods. Let’s be clear — these are not the same eggs that were recalled (those will be discarded), and these fresh eggs being diverted to so called “breaking plants” are being screened for possible salmonella contamination, CNN notes. And pasteurization would kill the bacteria in any case.

So, if you’re a consumer, will buying organic or farm stand eggs better protect you from salmonella? That’s unclear, says U.S. News & World Report. While being allowed to range freely improves a hen’s quality of life, “studies haven’t shown that well-treated hens are any less likely to carry and transmit salmonella to the eggs they lay,” reports USNWR, citing a Cornell food microbiologist. In fact, those hens may pick up bacteria or chemicals from the dust and soil they peck at, USNWR says.

Wright County Egg was identified by public health officials as a possible source of salmonella-contaminated eggs “at least two weeks” before the Aug. 13 recall, reports USA Today. The CDC waited to issue even a general public warning about the dangers of undercooked eggs until the FDA had fully sussed out the situation, the paper reports. An FDA official tells USA Today the agency needed time to verify the source of the outbreak before contacting the producer.

Meantime, the Washington Post continues its coverage of the history of the producers involved in the recall, reporting that the farmer who owns Wright County Egg once sued the state of Maryland for trying to close a facility that sold possibly contaminated eggs across state lines. He won his case, which argued the state had no power to regulate the sale of eggs not sold in Maryland, the paper says. The story illustrates the problems with the patchwork of authorities and laws overseeing food safety, the WP writes.

The FDA has a list of affected brands of recalled eggs.

Photo: Getty Images

Aug 242010
 

What ‘free-range,’ ‘cage-free,’ ‘organic’ and ‘natural’ truly mean. Are they really safer?

In the wake of the nationwide recall of eggs for contamination with salmonella, many consumers may be wondering what types of eggs are healthiest and safest to buy?

More than 90 percent of U.S. eggs come from caged hens. These birds have a space smaller than the size of a sheet of paper to move around, and live in filthy conditions. Aside from animal welfare concerns, that’s bad for our health, too, Pennsylvania State University shows, because researchers recently found eggs raised on pasture are much more nutritious than eggs from their caged counterparts.

6 things food industry execs aren’t telling you

Penn State’s study, published recently in the journal Renewable Agriculture and Food Systems found that pastured hens—ones kept outside on different pastures where they can exhibit natural behavior and forage for bugs and grasses—boasted higher vitamin and omega-3 fatty acid levels when compared to their commercially fed, battery-cage-kept counterparts. Eggs from pastured hens contained twice as much vitamin E and 2.5 times more total omega-3 fatty acids as the eggs from caged birds contained.

12 reasons to buy only organic

What it means
There are dozens of claims that manufacturers can make on egg cartons. Some of them are meaningful, but others are just ways to trick consumers into thinking they’re buying eggs from happy chickens. (Remember, 90 percent of chicken eggs produced in this country come from the worst type of production system—battery cages.)

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In an ideal situation, you would purchase your eggs from a local farmer in your area who raises chickens on pasture with plenty of space per bird, and uses moveable, open-air chicken houses, sometimes called chicken tractors, to protect the birds from predators. (You can look for this type of farmer on LocalHarvest.org.) Of course, you could also raise backyard chickens, if you have what it takes.

Eliminating cruel chicken cages is a matter of human health as well as animal welfare. The farther you take chickens away from their natural behaviors, the worse the quality of their eggs or meat.

“When you put four or five chickens in tiny cages, they can’t engage in normal chicken behavior—pecking in the dirt, dusting. If they’re in a cage, they can’t do any of these things,” explains chicken expert Gail Damerow, author of the classic Storey’s Guide to Raising Chickens (Storey, 2010). (She hasn’t purchased a store-bought egg since 1982.) “The pressure of the wire cages against their feet causes infections, their feathers rub off on the side of the cages. Basically, they’re just totally frustrated. They’ve got nothing to do. They can’t run around and eat flies and take dust baths. They just sit and lay eggs—what kind of life is that?” One result of all that stress and cruelty is that confined birds’ eggs contain less nutrition than eggs from hens with room to roam.

Why organic eggs are worth the cost

What the labels on the egg carton really mean:

“Cage-Free” “Cage-free is certainly not like Old McDonald’s farm,” explains Paul Shapiro, spokesperson for the Humane Society of the United States. But it’s a lot better than battery cages, where most eggs are produced. “Cage-free” means that animals are not kept in cages, but generally they are kept inside in an enclosed building. While this is less than ideal, at least this setup gives animals a chance to spread their wings and lay eggs in nest boxes, which is closer to their natural behavior. Cage-free does not imply antibiotics were not used on hens.

“Free-Range” or “Free-Roaming” Usually these types of operations allow chickens outside of cages in barns or warehouses, but they aren’t required to provide the animals any specific amount of time outside—or even exposure to sunlight indoors. There’s no third-party inspection required for free-range claims, and the chickens can be debeaked or forced into molting through starvation, according to the Humane Society of the United States.

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“Organic” A USDA-certified organic label means the eggs came from hens that were not enclosed in battery cages, and that must be offered access to the outdoors. However, this doesn’t guarantee that the animals ever go outside. Organic eggs come from hens that were fed certified-organic feed, free of antibiotics, pesticides, and other animal products. Forced molting and debeaking are permitted in certified-organic production. Annual inspections are required.

“Natural” This means that the finished product hasn’t undergone certain unnatural processes; in this case, that product is the egg. However, just because eggs are labeled natural doesn’t mean a hen wasn’t pumped up with antibiotics or other unnatural substances. And it certainly doesn’t mean the chickens were raised in clean, humane conditions. For all intents and purposes, natural means nothing.

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“Pastured” Pastured chickens should be housed on grassland in portable shelters that are periodically moved to give the chickens fresh pasture, but there’s no third-party inspection required to ensure that’s what’s really happening. Your best bet is to buy eggs from pastured hens at a local farm that raises the hens organically, ensuring they’re not exposed to pesticides, animal by-products, or antibiotics.

“Omega-3-Enriched” This means hens were fed feed with an increased amount of omega-3-rich flaxseeds. However, pasture-raised hens are already higher in beneficial omega-3s, and they get to be outside. Technically, caged hens could also be fed flax feed, so don’t equate this label with better living standards.

“Certified Humane” This means birds are not kept in cages, but they can be kept indoors. They at least have the space to perform natural behaviors. The program of Human Farm Animal Care sets limits on the number of birds that can be contained in the same area, and outside inspectors perform audits. The program does not, however, require that the animals eat organic feed.

“United Egg Producers Certified” Shapiro says this, along with “natural,” is one of the most misleading claims made on an egg carton. While forced molting is prohibited under this certification, debeaking is allowed, along with other cruel and inhumane practices, such as the use of battery cages.

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Aug 242010
 

CLICK HERE to see more information on the egg recall. 

The egg recall is spreading every single day, putting more and more people at risk for salmonella poisoning. 

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WASHINGTON | Mon Aug 23, 2010 6:44pm EDT

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Food and Drug Administration commissioner on Monday said there may be more recalls of eggs in the salmonella outbreak and the agency did not yet know how the eggs and chickens were contaminated.

“We don’t know exactly how the contamination got into the chicken population, into the egg population, and we’re not yet fully sure the extent of the recall that will be necessary to protect consumers,” FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg said on ABC’s “Good Morning America.”

“We are in the midst of probably the largest egg recall that has happened in recent history,” she said.

Her comments came after federal regulators on Friday said a second Iowa egg farm, Hillandale Farms of Iowa, voluntarily recalled eggs as part of a U.S. salmonella outbreak that is linked to almost 300 illnesses across the United States.

The Hillandale recall involves 170 million eggs, said Julie DeYoung, a company spokeswoman.

The other potential source is Iowa egg producer Wright County Egg, which recalled 380 million eggs last week.

That brings the total recall to 550 million eggs that were distributed in 22 states.

“We’re continuing to investigate aggressively to determine the exact source of the contamination,” Hamburg said on NBC’s “Today” show.

“As we move forward with the recall, we may see some additional sub-recalls over the next couple of days, maybe even weeks as we better understand the sort of network of distribution of these eggs that are potentially contaminated,” she said.

Salmonella can cause fever, diarrhea, vomiting and abdominal pain and sometimes more serious illness or death.

Hamburg’s advice for consumers was to prepare food properly, keep the eggs refrigerated, wash hands before and after handling eggs and cook the egg thoroughly.

“No more runny egg yolks for mopping up with toast,” she said.

The Hillandale Farms eggs were sold under various brand names including Hillandale Farms, Sunny Farms, Sunny Meadow, Wholesome Farms and West Creek.

The Wright County eggs were sold under the brand names Lucerne, Albertson, Mountain Dairy, Ralph’s, Boomsma’s, Sunshine, Hillandale, Trafficanda, Farm Fresh, Shoreland, Lund, Dutch Farms, Kemps, James Farms, Glenview, Pacific Coast, Alta Dena Dairy, Driftwood Dairy, Hidden Villa Ranch, Challenge Dairy, and Country Eggs.

(Reporting by Tabassum Zakaria and Alina Selyukh; Editing by Bill Trott and Marguerita Choy)

CLICK HERE for more information

Aug 242010
 

Last update: August 24, 2010 – 2:47 PM

A subsidiary of Arden Hills-based Land O’Lakes Inc. said it’s voluntarily recalling about 292,000 eggs that originated at one of two Iowa egg producers involved in a massive nationwide recall.

Fontana, Calif.-based Moark LLC, which is Land O’Lakes’ egg operation, said it’s pulling eggs produced at Hillandale Farms because they have the potential to be contaminated with salmonella. The effected eggs were repackaged by Moark and sold to wholesale and retail customers in southern California and Nevada.

Hundreds of people nationwide, including 14 in Minnesota, have been sickened with salmonella connected to egg recalls at Hillandale Farms and Wright County Egg. On Friday, Hillandale announced the recall of 170 million eggs under a variety of brands. The eggs involved in Moark’s recall are part of the 170 million recalled by Hillandale, said Jeanne Forbis, a Land O’Lakes spokeswoman.

Beginning on Aug. 13, Wright County Egg recalled 380 million eggs, which by itself is the largest egg recall in recent history, according to the FDA. The FDA believes the two recalls are linked.

MIKE HUGHLETT

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