Monday, May 11, 2015


In recent years, the growing amount of genetic modification in our food has increased drastically. More and more consumers express the desire to know exactly what is going into their food, and now legislation is underway to force companies to label food produced with GMO's.

The main argument against labeling GMO foods comes from the companies themselves, who fear that these labels will scare consumers away, but it stems from a fear that if consumers know what companies are hiding in their food, they would move to other brands.

GMO crops are new enough that long-term health effects of their consumption cannot be fully known yet, that being said however, there are plenty of arguments on either side about possible effects they may have, and with the large possibilities of adverse health problems stemming from GMO crops, it seems absolutely necessary that our foods be labelled accordingly if they contain GMO's.

The US is one of few nations that doesn't label GMO products in food. Much of Europe and Asia either label GMO's, impose harsh restrictions on them, or outright ban them. Labels in the US would be an important first step in providing consumers with proper information and legislation is being proposed that would sign this into law. While the effects of GMO food is unknown as positive or negative, consumers have the right to know exactly what they are eating.


Monday, May 4, 2015

The Food Safety Modernization Act

            In this blog post, I would like to talk about the Food Safety Modernization Act of 2010 which supposedly revamped the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. To start off, I want to share a story with you. In 2012, 6 year old Owen Carrignan complained about a stomachache after getting home from a friend’s house. Less than a week later, Owen was dead from E. coli. To make matters worse, State Health officials could never find out what contaminated food killed Owen and another person, and eventually closed the investigation.
            I understand that we cannot make the system perfect, but we can always do better. What makes this story truly tragic is that it happened after the Food Safety Modernization Act was passed which supposedly gave the FDA more powers in order to better protect us, and we still have more deaths than any other developed country. The CDC estimates that 1 in 6 Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3000 die of food borne diseases. When compared the France, The United Kingdom, and Australia, which have less than 500 deaths, it seems a little high.
            For example, in 2011 a Listeria outbreak, caused by infected Cantaloupes grown in Colorado, killed 33 people and sickened approximately 150 people. Now around four years later, after the changes have been implemented, another Listeria outbreak has occurred, caused by infected Blue Bell products. As of April 21, 2015 ten people have been infected and 3 deaths have occurred. The FDA is not able to follow through on all the new procedures laid out in the Act implemented in 2010, because it has to procure its funding through Congress. And, Congress is lobbied by the Food industry, which has some motivation for keeping the FDA weaker than it should be.
            Congress has provided less than half of the estimated 580 million dollars needed for the FDA to implement the Food Safety Modernization Act. The FDA has requested $263 million in their last budget request, with $229 million coming from user fees on food companies. The FDA uses user fees to fund a number of its other programs. Congress, though, has rejected the proposed budget, because of food industry lobbying. Though funding is not the only problem the FDA is facing. The FDA suffers from a condition of under staffing and under training, but those problems could be fixed if the FDA had more money to spend.
            And, to add a nice confusing bureaucratic layer to our food system, the Food Safety Modernization Act, even if the FDA gets funding from Congress, does not apply to 20% of our food supply. Most meats and poultry products are regulated and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture. Slaughterhouses are required to have a USDA inspector, but those inspectors do not have the power to shut down a slaughterhouse or issue a recall if there is a threat.

            In conclusion, the Food Safety Modernization Act has the potential to enact sweeping changes within our food industry, prevent many future deaths, and saves us billions of dollars, but that might be jeopardized because of lack of funding in the present and food industry lobbying. The Act has already provided many benefits. For example, the FDA now has the power to issue recalls on contaminated foods, which is a power it did not have before 2010. All it would take to make the complete adoption of all the changes to the FDA in the Food Safety Modernization Act would be for the Food industry to start paying user fees, and I think $230 million split across several food corporations is a small price for them to pay in order to protect their consumers. 

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Food Regulation and its Ranging Effects

The FDA has been under a lot of scrutiny throughout this blog and by many health experts for their haphazard food regulation methods; but if one looks closely, he or she will find that it does contribute helpfully to the health of individuals throughout the United States. Now, this is not to say that the FDA is a perfect institution by any means, for it does have errors. One of which errors is the effects is has on farmers along with consumers. Because of this, the FDA is a controversial organization, contributing to many beneficial, but also detrimental consequences for society.

The FDA recently implemented new regulations in the Food Safety Modernization Act in early 2011, the first big legislation concerning the FDA since 1938. This is a very good thing for consumers, but to farmers, it isn't. Many large farming companies have to change their food production methods, leading to losses. And many small farmers are now required to abandon methods which they had grown accustomed to using for a long time, leading to bankruptcy in occasional circumstances. This is the case for farmers who air cure meats and produce artisan cheeses. Also, because of lack of funding, farmers and companies have to pay the government for its services, which could also lead to more losses and bankruptcy.

Some farmers also exist who have found government organizations', like the US department of Agriculture, regulations to be too overbearing, believing that natural methods are better for the consumer and the environment. For instance, because of the unnatural farming methods developed through increasing regulation, various chemicals have landed in the environment and in our mouths. Also, E. coli, Listeria, and salmonella have become ever more present. Many of these chemicals and diseases stem from unnatural treatment of animals, thus the argument has been made that we should just raise the animals cleanly and naturally. Not to mention, many of the farmers that refuse to adhere to unnatural farming rules have difficulty selling their products to markets and local companies because paperwork and the overall process is too demanding for these companies and farmers to engage. According to Joel Salatin, a small, natural farmer, many of these issues can be combated through finding a local farmer and through looking for packages WITHOUT governmental approval in order to assure its naturalness, a very different action from what we have previously discussed.

Despite the heat given to the FDA throughout this blog, one can find some positive effects of the FDA's regulation upon the food industry. For instance, in the past decade the amount of food-borne illnesses has dropped drastically and the rates of a myriad of diseases due to food have lowered greatly. The FDA can be attributed as a contributor to these drops in illness. The FDA has also become slightly more productive when investigating, but many things still slide by it. An instance that shows the FDA's proper investigatory skills is when there was a large outbreak of Salmonella enterica serotype Saintpaul in the US. It was traced back to Mexico, with no sign of it originating in the United States. For investigations like this and others, one could easily support giving money to the FDA to make the nation be healthier and feel safer.

The FDA is and continues to be a large corporation controlling food in our country, drawing many different opinions from the public. But, overall, one can find that the FDA and other government food regulation organizations like the USDA have many ranging results: from being helpful to hurtful, to bringing about necessary and unnecessary change, and to under regulating and over regulating food at different times. 


Salatin, Joel. "Sterile Poop." Folks, This Ain't Normal: A Farmer's Advice for Happier Hens, Healthier People, and a Better World. New York: Center Street, 2011. 278-292. Print.

"Abstract & Commentary: The FDA and Food Safety Regulation." Infectious Disease Alert 1 June 2011.Student Resources in Context. Web. 2 May 2015.

Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Complexity of the Food Industry

As we discuss the multitude of flaws within our current food industry, we must realize that a dramatic and sudden change within the food industry could disrupt many other sectors of modern day life. In 2006, 1.5 million American jobs were in the food industry alone. These jobs range from agricultural activities, such as raising livestock and growing crops, food processors, researchers, developers, manufacturers, regulators of food production, financial managers, and marketers. They all play key roles in allowing the food industry to run efficiently and generate massive profit for the global economy. Thus, when considering taking down major corporations that do not uphold a moral code of conduct, such as inhumane treatment of animals, think able these thousands of workers who depend on these jobs to feed their own families. Understandably, change is necessary for the well-being of future generations, but the complexity of the food industry proves that change is difficult to bring about when so many are involved and play key roles.

In 2008, food industries generated a total revenue of $126 billion dollars. I researched one major industry in particular, General Mills. Not only does General Mills distribute products across the United States, its products are marketed in over 100 countries. Their 2014 net sales was $19.2 billion dollars. Here's a breakdown of their core business segments.

Source for chart:

As one of the largest food companies in the United States, General Mills may have may some serious flaws they need to fix overtime. Unfortunately, if drastic change is implemented, the entire economy would be disrupted by a massive change within the General Mills corporation. Even though they have some unhealthy brands, such as Pillsbury and Haagen-Dazs, they have healthy, organic brands such as Annie's and Cascadian Farm.

Aware of growing concern over health and environmental issues, General Mills has taken initiative to combat these concerns and find a solution. In 2005, General Mills instituted a Health Metric "to quantify and encourage the company’s progress on nutrition and health improvements". Here's more detail about their efforts to increase improvement guidelines.

Source for image:
U.S. health metric


Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What is The Food and Drug Administration

         The Food and Drug Administration or FDA is a government program, which attempts to protect the American public from many different fields. The FDA is responsible for protecting us by checking the safety of drugs, biological products, medical devices, food, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation for both humans and animals. That’s a lot of responsibility for a single government program. On top of all these regulation responsibilities, the FDA is in charge of manufacturing, marketing, and distribution of tobacco, and protecting the public from health risk resulting from tobacco. Also the FDA takes part in our counter-terrorism system as they are in charge of protecting the security of our food, and to help encourage the development of drugs to protect public health. So to summarize, the FDA regulates and protects.

            First regulation, what does the FDA regulate and what powers do they have to do this? The FDA regulates the areas of food, drugs, biologics, medical devices, electronic products, cosmetics, veterinary products, and tobacco products. To make matter more confusing in Government regulation and inspection of our food, not all our food is regulated and inspected by one agency. The Department of the Treasury’s Alcohol and Tobacco Tax and Trade Bureau regulates alcohol. The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service regulates meat and poultry products. And while vaccines for humans are regulated by the FDA, animal vaccines are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service which at the same time does not regulate veterinary drugs. And in another confusing turn of regulation, drinking water is regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency while bottled water is regulated by the FDA. In the food category, the FDA regulates dietary supplements, bottle water, food additives, infant formulas, and food products. In the drugs category, the FDA regulates prescription and non-prescription drugs. In the biological category, the FDA regulates vaccines, blood, cellular and gene therapy products, tissue and tissue products, and allergenics. In the medical devices category, the FDA regulates everything from tongue depressors to pacemakers. In the electronic products category, the FDA regulates anything that gives off radiation such as microwave ovens and x-ray machines. In the cosmetics category, the FDA regulates nail polish, perfume, skin cleansers, and color additives in makeup. In the veterinary products category, the FDA regulates livestock feeds, pet foods, and veterinary drugs. 

            The FDA has been accused in recent years of many things. They have been accused of being too lax with inspections and regulations, allowing sub-par products to go through their system un-touched. They have also been accused of being bias toward corporations and companies. Since the FDA is government program, they are subject to Congress, and congressmen can be bought. Many claims have come from people including the former Commissioner of the FDA, Herbert L. Ley, Jr that the FDA gets corrupted by drug lobbyists and politicians in the pockets of companies.

             In conclusion, while doing my research I found the website of the FDA very hard to navigate with many links crashing the page or not loading at all. I believe that the Food and Drug Administration has the potential to be a great government agency, but where they are currently will not continue to work. They need leaders that are not influenced by the companies, whose products are subject to review by the FDA.

Monday, April 27, 2015


Many companies market themselves as green, but are they really? A recent study by the company As You Sow shows that many of our favorite companies are not as environmentally friendly as they want us to believe. By looking at the recycling options various  companies offer, chains get divided into 3 categories:

"Better Practices" included companies such as Starbucks and McDonald's

"Needs Improvements" included Chipolte and Chick-fil-A

"Poor" included Dairy Queen and Red Bull.

Next time you go to one of these chains or purchase on these items you might want to think about the environmental ethnicity of the company or even make sure you take your trash home to dispose of it properly.

read more here: 

picture source: 

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Where Is the Money Coming From?


The FDA is a multi-billion dollar agency which claims to be "responsible for protecting the public health by assuring the safety, efficacy, and security of human and veterinary drugs, biological products, medical devices, our nation's food supply, cosmetics, and products that emit radiation". Yet, how can this be so if drug companies have such major leverage and influence over the FDA? In fact, 94% of the FDA's funding comes from drug companies. Yes, that's right, 94%! Thus, drug companies use their control over the FDA to make sure their products are reviewed and approved quickly. 

Isn't it ironic how a federal agency that is in charge of monitoring drug safety and regulations is largely funded by the same companies that administer these drugs? Thus, the FDA is working to serve the industry funding it, not the general public. This sad fact leads to tampered data, records, and studies in order to get a product approved to make big bucks, yet this can cause major health risks across the nation.

It seems to me that the FDA is more concerned with maintaining/expanding their budget and profit rather than protecting the public's health and well-being. This sickening truth exposes the influence money has on the world. If a product makes a major profit, whether it is safe and healthy or tampered with and dangerous, businesses, agencies, and industries will continue to administer it to the general public. 

Source for website: