Wednesday, May 16, 2007

What is the FDA Hiding?

What if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) proposed a rule that would intentionally hide information you rely on to make decisions about what to feed yourself and your family?

Or if FDA proposed changing food labeling information to something the agency knows to be misleading to consumers?

Well, FDA has announced just such a rule to weaken labeling of irradiated foods.

Currently, irradiated food must be labeled as “Treated with irradiation” or “Treated by radiation” and have on them the irradiated symbol. But now, in yet another attempt to appease industry at the expense of the public, the FDA has proposed a new rule that would allow irradiated food to be marketed in some cases without any labeling at all. In other cases, the rule would allow the terms “electronically pasteurized” or “cold pasteurized” to replace the use of “irradiated” on labels. These terms are not used by scientists, but rather are designed to fool consumers about what’s been done to their food.

Pasteurization involves heating liquids for the purpose of destroying harmful bacteria and other pathogens, and has been used safely for decades. Irradiation is a completely different process, using high-energy gamma rays, electron beams, or X-rays on meat, grains, and other foods.

Labeling irradiated foods as “pasteurized” is simply untruthful and misleading. Allowing the marketing of irradiated food without any labeling is equally misleading. Consumers have demanded irradiation labeling because they know that irradiation can create potentially dangerous chemical byproducts and reduce their foods' nutritional value.

In fact, FDA’s own research found that the proposed change would confuse consumers, stating "Research indicates that many consumers regard substitute terms for irradiation to be misleading."

What is the FDA hiding? A lot.

Consumers have a right to truthful labeling in order to make informed choices for themselves and their families. A public comment period is open until July 3, 2007.
Protect Your Right to Know: Tell the FDA Not to Weaken the Rules for Labeling Irradiated Food!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Consumers Flood FDA With Over 145,000 Comments Opposing Food From Cloned Animals

Americans urge agency to adopt a mandatory ban on untested, cloned food

(May 3, 2007) A coalition of consumer, environmental and animal welfare organizations today announced the submission of more than 145,000 comments to the Food and Drug Administration from consumers who oppose the Agency’s proposed plan to introduce food from cloned animals into the U.S. food supply.

The Center for Food Safety, Consumers Union, Food and Water Watch, The Humane Society of the United States, the American Anti-Vivisection Society, Citizens for Health, the Consumer Federation of America and the Organic Consumers Association joined together to send a strong, unified message to the FDA that the public opposes the introduction of cloned animals in food. Today is the last day of a public comment period that began in January in response to FDA’s proposal to allow products from cloned animals in the food supply unlabeled. Members of the meat and dairy industries, and several nonprofit organizations urged the Agency to take time to consider comments from the widest possible sample of Americans in consideration of the untested nature of cloning technology.

Recent public opinion polls show the majority of the American public does not want milk or meat from cloned animals in their food. A December 2006 poll by the Pew Initiative on Food and Biotechnology found that nearly two-thirds of U.S. consumers were uncomfortable with animal cloning. The comments submitted today strongly reinforce this national sentiment.

“Food from cloned animals has no place on our supermarket shelves or on our dinner tables,” said Andrew Kimbrell, Executive Director of the Center for Food Safety. “FDA needs to heed consumer concerns and ban animal clones in food.”

Another controversial aspect of FDA’s plan is that labeling of any kind on meat or milk products from clones or their offspring would not be required. This would rob Americans of their right to choose what they eat and feed their families.

“More than 145,000 people have said ‘No’ to unlabeled food from clones,” said Ronnie Cummins of the Organic Consumers Association. “People are tired of the biotech industry meddling in the food system, tired of government rubber-stamping approvals, and tired of not having the right to choose what they eat and feed to their families.”

"This flood of public comments should send a strong signal to FDA that the public is not ready for food from animal clones, and if such food is put on the market they want it labeled" said Michael Hanson of Consumers Union, the nonprofit publisher of Consumer Reports, and author of CU's scientific critique of FDA's risk assessment. "We hope the agency will listen and rethink their proposal in light of public sentiment and the many unanswered questions about the science of animal cloning."

“The FDA’s potential approval of meat and milk from cloned animals, and their belief that labeling of such food would be unnecessary if it were approved, flies directly in the face of the fact that a strong majority of the American public is concerned about the potential dangers that such food represents,” said Frank Herd Jr., Executive Director of Citizens for Health. “The FDA already has a questionable record with regard to its approval process; why should we believe that food from clones is safe when the ‘studies’ the FDA cites to support their position were conducted by some of the same biotech firms that would profit from the approval?” Herd added, “We at Citizens for Health advocate for the freedom to make health choices. In the event that the FDA does approve food from clones, it must require such food to be clearly labeled in order for consumers to make a truly informed choice about what they put in their bodies.”

Citing animal welfare concerns, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) and the American Anti-Vivisection Society (AAVS) have also asked the FDA to block sales of products from cloned farm animals and their offspring.

“Animals who go through the cloning process suffer terribly. Death and deformities in cloned animals is the norm, not the exception" said Tracie Letterman, Executive Director of AAVS. “Just because we can clone animals for food, doesn’t mean we should.”

“American consumers are increasingly concerned about the treatment of animals raised and slaughtered for food,” said Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of The Humane Society of the United States. “Considering the numerous studies that have shown that animals in cloning research can and do suffer, the FDA must disallow cloned animals and their progeny and surrogate mothers in food production industries.”

In its risk assessment of cloned food, the FDA claims to have evaluated extensive peer reviewed studies on the safety of food from clones to support its conclusion, yet a recent report issued by the Center for Food Safety, Not Ready for Prime Time, shows the assessment only references three peer-reviewed food safety studies, all of which focus on the narrow issue of milk from cloned cows. What is even more disturbing is that these studies were partially funded by the same biotech firms that produce clones for profit. None of the studies focus on the safety of meat from cloned cows or pigs, or milk or meat from the offspring of cloned animals, and there was absolutely no data on milk or meat from cloned goats - all major issues critical to determining the safety of the proposal.

“FDA’s willingness to allow the sale of meat and milk from cloned animals is yet another example of the Agency’s disregard for safety in the face of industry pressure,” said Wenonah Hauter, Executive Director of Food & Water Watch. “The FDA should not be allowed to use a skimpy body of evidence to allow this controversial product onto consumers’ dinner tables.”

Proponents of animal cloning have asserted that the technology will lead to better and less expensive dairy and meat products, but Chris Waldrop, Director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America says this simply isn’t true, “Consumers don’t want or need cloned animals for food. Cloning will not produce safer or cheaper milk and meat. Having cloned cows produce more milk won’t reduce milk prices. U.S. farmers already produce more milk than we drink and the government is required to buy the surplus. Since 1999, dairy support programs have cost taxpayers over $5 billion.”

The FDA has said it will review all the public comments, and will likely make a decision on food from cloned animals by the end of the year.