Meat from pigs infected with the new H1N1 virus shouldn’t be used for human consumption, the World Health Organisation cautioned on Wednesday, adding it was drawing up guidelines to protect workers handling pigs.

The WHO comments appear more cautious than those from the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Organisation for Animal Health (OIE), which said import bans are not required to safeguard public health because the disease is not food-borne and has not been identified in dead animal tissue.

The WHO however said it was possible for flu viruses to survive the freezing process and be present in thawed meat, as well as in blood.

“Meat from sick pigs or pigs found dead should not be processed or used for human consumption under any circumstances,” Jorgen Schlundt, director of WHO’s Department of Food Safety, Zoonoses and Foodborne Diseases.

“While it is possible for influenza viruses to survive the freezing process and be present on thawed meat, there are no data available on the survival of Influenza A/H1N1 on meat nor any data on the infectious dose for people,” he wrote in an email reply to questions from Reuters concerning the safety of pork, respiratory secretions and blood of H1N1-infected pigs.

Schlundt warned people to be cautious with blood and meat-juices from H1N1-infected pigs.

“The likelihood of influenza viruses to be in the blood of an infected animal depends on the specific virus. Blood (and meat-juice) from influenza H1N1-infected pigs may potentially contain virus, but at present, this has not been established,” Schlundt said.

“Nonetheless, in general, we recommend that persons involved in activities where they could come in contact with large amounts of blood and secretions, such as those slaughtering/eviscerating pigs, wear appropriate protective equipment,” he said.

While acknowledging technical questions remain about the conditions in which the virus may be present, Mr Schlundt stressed that the WHO had not changed its basic guidance that pork is safe to eat.

20 countries worldwide had banned imports of pork as of Monday in response to the discovery of the H1N1 flu strain in a herd of pigs on a central Alberta hog farm.

Global trade in pork meat is worth about $26 billion a year.

As an average American, you will consume five pounds of food today. Over your lifetime, that’s around 70 tons of food that pass through your intestinal tract and are assimilated by your body. This is the equaivalent of about 40 mid-sized cars!

Source: Eat This and Live by Don Colbert MD

In a recent poll, 53% of Americans said that they would not eat GM foods – a significant disparity between what consumers in the US want from their food system and what that food system is actually delivering. It also demonstrates a lack of consumer knowledge about the proportion of food in America that contains GM. The majority of this 53% will already be unwittingly consuming GM food every day against their wishes, because GM food is currently not labelled in the US, despite the fact that 87% of Americans believe that it should be.

The US Government’s opposition to telling American consumers that some of their food is GM stems from the greatest coup by the GM companies, which was to ensure no GM food had to be tested for safety. The concept of “substantial equivalence” means that if a GM crop looks like its non-GM equivalent and grows like it, then it is assumed to be the same, and no safety testing is needed before people eat it. GM maize may have added virus and antibiotic resistance genes, and a gene that makes it express an insecticide in every leaf, stem and root – but to the US government it looks and grows like maize, so it is safe to eat.

This has meant that GM foods don’t have to be labelled, and has resulted in widespread ignorance among consumers about the presence of GM in their food. Keeping consumers in the dark has prevented them from making real choices about the food they eat. Without labels the principles of supply and demand are no longer in effect as consumers can’t send a message to farmers and manufacturers about what they do, and don’t, want to eat. Read the rest of this entry »

By Michael Pollan, The New York Times. Posted October 14, 2008

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face; if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around. For one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. This brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: Unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain. Read the rest of this entry »

It’s Sunday, a day of rest, a day when I traditionally try to stay away from posting anything too depressing. It hasn’t been easy lately. When it comes to our government and our food supply there is a far greater stream of not-so-good news. It often makes me wonder just what God (or Mother Nature) must be thinking. But today I give thanks for people like Don Bustos.

Don lives and farms in northern New Mexico’s Espanola Valley. His land has been passed down from his Spanish ancestors who tilled the same soil centuries before. He went organic 15 years ago when he realized the traditional farming techniques he was using could harm his children’s health. But now, Bustos has found an even safer method — vegan organic farming without any animal fertilizers or byproducts. Read the rest of this entry »

The long holiday weekend may be over but summer is just getting started. Most Americans either attended a BBQ or will be sometime in the next few months. And while certain foods are standard fare, there is hardly a thought as to where they all came from. Here’s some info that may give you a little more perspective:

More than 1 in 4
The chance that the hot dogs and pork sausages consumed at your BBQ originated in Iowa. The Hawkeye State was home to 17.6 million market hogs and pigs on March 1, 2008. This represents more than one-fourth of the nation’s total. North Carolina (9 million) and Minnesota (6.7 million) were the runners-up.

6.8 billion pounds
Total production of cattle and calves in Texas in 2007. Chances are good that the beef hot dogs, steaks and burgers on your backyard grill came from the Lone Star State, which accounted for about one-sixth of the nation’s total production. And if the beef did not come from Texas, it very well may have come from Nebraska (4.7 billion pounds) or Kansas (4.1 billion pounds). Read the rest of this entry »


A passion fruit extract can cut down severe wheezing and coughing among asthma patients and help reduce blood pressure, a new study has found. In a placebo-controlled, double-blind trial, only about a fifth of the people receiving purple passion fruit skin extracts had wheeze as a symptom, compared to nearly 80 percent of the placebo group.

In another trial, passion fruit treatment significantly decreased blood pressure. Earlier, scientists had established the fruit’s bioactive properties. “There are a lot of dietary supplements and natural products that are sold without much, or any, evidence of efficacy”, said Ronald Watson, who led the study.

“We now have two scientific publications indicating passion fruit has a beneficial effect on two very common but very different human diseases, hypertension and asthma, and that’s very exciting.” “Many natural products like fruit and vegetables are known to have properties that have been shown to work just as well as pharmaceuticals, and that is appealing to people who don’t like the unpleasant side effects of pharmaceuticals”, said Watson. Findings of the study have been published in the journal Nutrition Research and have caused quite a stir in the international medical and scientific communities.


US food wasteland

May 22, 2008

A thought provoking editorial from today’s Dallas Morning News:

What’s for dinner tonight? Your answer to that question depends in part on how people in India and China answer that question. Growing appetites from the rising middle classes of China and India are helping drive demand past what the world food market can supply.

This wasn’t such a problem for American consumers when the Chinese and Indians were too poor to eat like us. But that’s changing. Frankly, the Indians are tired of hearing us complain. Read the rest of this entry »

From both a nutritional and environmental impact perspective, farmed fish are far inferior to their wild counterparts:

  • Despite being much fattier, farmed fish provide less usable beneficial omega 3 fats than wild fish.
  • Due to the feedlot conditions of aquafarming, farm-raised fish are doused with antibiotics and exposed to more concentrated pesticides than their wild kin. Farmed salmon, in addition, are given a salmon-colored dye in their feed, without which, their flesh would be an unappetizing grey color.
  • Aquafarming also raises a number of environmental concerns, the most important of which may be its negative impact on wild salmon. It has now been established that sea lice from farms kill up to 95% of juvenile wild salmon that migrate past them. Read the rest of this entry »