Researchers Developed Method to Authenticate Between Organic and Conventional milk

In the current climate, food fraud is becoming a substantial issue.

Sometimes, food fraud can be dangerous, such as the recent reports of chilli powder being adulterated with red brick powder, or reports of milk being mixed with detergent, paint and oil and being sold as milk in India. However, a lot of the time it does not pose a health risk to consumers. If an expensive cut of meat is changed for a cheaper version at a restaurant, or if food labelled ‘organic’, isn’t really organic, it won’t affect the health of people. This type of food fraud lies with companies being honest in their advertising.

A study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, details how researchers have used isotope analysis to discriminate between organic and conventional milk.

Isotopes are variants of particular chemical element. For example, carbon is present in a number of forms. Carbon-12 is the most common form, and has 6 neutrons. Carbon-13 and carbon-14 also exist, but are less common, with 7 and 8 neutrons respectively.

Despite being chemically identical, chemists are able to tell the difference between isotopes in the laboratory. The main challenge that the scientists faced was determining a unique chemical that would differentiate between organic and conventional milk.

As isotope ratios do not generally fluctuate, the research team focused on these over levels of individual nutrients, which do change.

The researchers realised that cows raised using conventional means, or ones fed organic diets would have different isotope ratios in their milk. Despite having a limited sample in their analysis, the researchers found that linoleic acid and myristic acid, two types of fatty acids, had discernibly different isotopic signatures.

Due to the limited sample size, the researchers mentioned that this study should be thought of as a proof-of-concept. To investigate this further, samples from all over the world should be analysed for these differences in isotopic ratios.

The research team published the study in the journal Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry.

Source: New Food magazine

New Study Finds that Eating More Organic Food May Lower the Risk of Cancer

Sally Wadyka wrote . . . . . . . . .

A French study, published in JAMA Internal Medicine, has found that people who eat a mostly organic diet reduce their overall cancer risk by 25 percent.

Working with the assumption that eating more organic food means consuming fewer pesticides, the researchers followed almost 70,000 people for an average of 4½ years. In their analysis, they accounted for many cancer risk factors, such as age, gender, lifestyle, diet, and education.

Although there was an overall reduction in cancer risk for those eating a mostly organic diet, the reduced risk was even greater for two specific forms of the disease: lymphoma (a 76 percent reduced risk) and postmenopausal breast cancer (a 34 percent reduced risk).

“The most surprising finding was the extent of the reduction, which is far from the usual risk observed for nutritional factors,” says Julia Baudry, of the Center of Research in Epidemiology and Statistics at the Sorbonne, Paris, and lead author of the study.

“There are lots of benefits to eating organic foods, and limiting exposure to pesticides is one of the biggest,” says Charlotte Vallaeys, a senior policy analyst and sustainability expert in the food safety and testing department at Consumer Reports. “This study adds to the current body of evidence supporting the health benefits of eating more organic foods.”

Examining the Cancer Connection

One of the requirements for a food to be labeled organic in Europe and the U.S. is that it must be produced without the use of most synthetic pesticides. About 40 pesticides currently approved by the Environmental Protection Agency for use in conventional (non-organic) food production are classified as possible or probable carcinogens by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an estimated 90 percent of us have detectable levels of pesticides in our blood and urine.

Previous research has found a link between eating more organic food and a reduced risk of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, but not breast cancer. “One hypothesis explaining the inverse association between organic food intake and breast cancer [in the current study] may be the endocrine [hormone] disrupting effects of some pesticides,” Baudry says.

There are several limitations to this current study, which the researchers fully acknowledge. Though the number of people involved in the study was quite large, the group consists of volunteers who are mostly female, well-educated, and very health-conscious. In addition, study subjects were 44 years old on average at the start of the study, and they were followed for only 4½ years.

“This is a very difficult area to study, and it’s very hard to accurately assess habitual consumption of organic food,” says Frank B. Hu, M.D., Ph.D., chair of the department of nutrition, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and author of an independent commentary that accompanies the study.

“Overall, these are interesting results, but they are very preliminary,” says Hu. “And it would be premature to make organic food consumption recommendations based just on this study.”

Should You Eat Only Organic?

The No. 1 thing to focus on is following an overall healthy diet, Baudry says. “These findings should not prevent people from eating fruit and vegetables, whatever the farming system (organic or not), as they are important protective factors against cancer risk,” she explains.

Other lifestyle factors that play an important role in cancer prevention include maintaining a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating a diet that’s rich in whole grains, while avoiding or limiting alcohol, added sugars, refined grains, and red and processed meat.

Still, if organic options are available and fit into your budget, “Consumer Reports recommends opting for organic foods whenever possible, in part because they are produced without most synthetic pesticides,” Vallaeys says. In a 2015 analysis of government data on pesticide residues, CR’s experts found that some conventional fruits and vegetables pose a higher risk from pesticides than others. These include carrots, cranberries, green beans, hot peppers, nectarines, peaches.

Source: Consumer Reports


Today’s Comic

Why You Should Buy an Organic Turkey

from Consumer Reports . . . . . . .

Still deciding whether to buy an organic turkey or a conventionally raised bird for Thanksgiving this year?

Here’s one reason to consider going organic: Turkeys that carry the USDA organic seal are not given antibiotics.

About 80 percent of the antibiotics sold in the U.S. are used in industrially produced livestock. Producers generally administer the drugs to healthy animals to keep them from getting sick on crowded factory farms.

But this kind of inappropriate use of antibiotics in food animals is a major factor in the widespread problem of antibiotic resistance. Resistant bacteria cause infection and illnesses that no longer respond to the drugs meant to destroy them.

How Antibiotic Use on the Farm Affects You

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has made reducing inappropriate antibiotic use in people and animals a top priority because of the effect of antibiotic resistance on human health. And the World Health Organization recently issued guidelines that recommend against the routine use of antibiotics in food animals.

When used in cattle, hogs, and poultry, the drugs can kill off weaker bacteria in the animals’ digestive tracts, leaving a few hardy survivors to multiply. Those bacteria, as well as certain antibiotic residues, are excreted in manure, which is the perfect medium for antibiotic-resistant bacteria to grow.

Those bacteria get on the animals’ hides and skin, and can contaminate the meat we eat when the animals are slaughtered.

And the bacteria continue to reproduce and spread resistance to other bacteria in the animal waste and can get into our environment via airborne dust blowing off of farms and water and soil polluted with contaminated feces.

Drug-resistant bacteria can also spread from farms to humans through farmworkers who handle animals or their wastes.

The problem doesn’t just lie with the bacteria that cause foodborne illness. Once resistant bacteria are in the environment, they can mingle with other bacteria and share genetic material, which could contribute to additional antibiotic-resistant infections in hospitals and communities.

Consumer Reports testing has found that no-antibiotic and organic meats and poultry tend to carry fewer antibiotic resistant bacteria.

But these meats are not necessarily free of bacteria that can cause illness, so it is still important to take steps to protect yourself from food poisoning, such as keeping raw meat and poultry separate from other foods and cooking any turkey to 165° F.

How to Find a Better Turkey

If you want to avoid a turkey raised with antibiotics, you need to read labels carefully. Here’s what to look for:

  • USDA Organic. This is one of the best guarantees a bird didn’t receive antibiotics routinely. (Note that under current rules poultry that is labeled USDA Organic may have been given antibiotic injections before it hatched and until its second day of life.)
  • Raised Without Antibiotics; No Antibiotics Administered; No Antibiotics Ever. A “no antibiotics” or “raised without antibiotics” claim should be reliable but verification isn’t required. Ideally, this label would be accompanied by a USDA Processed Verified label, which means the agency has confirmed that the producer is doing what it says it is.

Three labels to be leery of: “antibiotic-free,” “no antibiotic residues,” and “no antibiotic growth promotants.”

“Antibiotic-free” is not a USDA approved claim, so its meaning is unclear. “No antibiotic residues” doesn’t say anything about whether the animals were fed antibiotics as they grew. (Animals who were given antibiotics must go through a federal government mandated withdrawal period, so there shouldn’t be any antibiotic residues anyway.) There could still well be antibiotic-resistant bacteria that could make you sick on the poultry, even if there aren‘t any antibiotic residues left on the meat at the time of sale.

“No growth promoting antibiotics” is another claim to ignore. Though technically true, it has little practical meaning. Under guidelines from the Food and Drug Administration, antibiotics used in food animals are no longer labeled for use for production purposes (i.e. animal growth). This means that any producer using antibiotics solely for growth promotion would be in violation of the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act.

But birds carrying this claim may have still been given antibiotics for disease prevention. And if the drugs continue to be widely used to prevent disease, we’ll still be likely to have a problem with antibiotic-resistant bacteria.

Source: Consumer Report

4 Science-Backed Health Benefits of Eating Organic

Amanda MacMillan and Julia Naftulin wrote . . . . . . .

The organic food industry is a booming business, and with the recent sale of natural-foods giant Whole Foods to Amazon, it’s expected to grow even larger in the near future. While some consumers buy organic because they believe it’s better for the environment, even more do so for health-related reasons, according to one 2016 survey.

What, exactly, are the health benefits of going organic? That depends on who you ask and which studies you consult. But if you do choose to buy organic foods, here are some science-backed bonuses you’re likely to get in return.

Fewer pesticides and heavy metals

Fruits, vegetables and grains labeled organic are grown without the use of most synthetic pesticides or artificial fertilizers. (The National Organic Standard Board does allow some synthetic substances to be used.) While such chemicals have been deemed safe in the quantities used for conventional farming, health experts still warn about the potential harms of repeated exposure.

For example, the commonly used herbicide Roundup has been classified as a “probable human carcinogen,” and the insecticide chlorpyrifos has been associated with developmental delays in infants. Studies have also suggested that pesticide residues—at levels commonly found in the urine of kids in the U.S.—may contribute to ADHD prevalence; they’ve also been linked to reduced sperm quality in men.

A 2014 meta-analysis in the British Journal of Nutrition found that organically grown crops were not only less likely to contain detectable levels of pesticides, but because of differences in fertilization techniques, they were also 48% less likely to test positive for cadmium, a toxic heavy metal that accumulates in the liver and kidneys.

More healthy fats

When it comes to meat and milk, organic products can have about 50% more omega-3 fatty acids, a type of unsaturated healthy fat, than conventionally produced products, according to a 2016 study in the British Journal of Nutrition. Organic milk tested in the study also had less saturated fat than non-organic.

These differences may come from the way organic livestock is raised, with a grass-fed diet and more time spent outdoors, say the study’s authors. They believe that switching from conventional to organic products would raise consumers’ omega-3 intake without increasing overall calories or saturated fat.

No antibiotics or synthetic hormones

Conventional livestock can be fed antibiotics to protect against illness, making it easier for farmers to raise animals in crowded or unsanitary conditions. The FDA limited the use of certain antibiotics for livestock earlier this year, but loopholes in the legislation still exist. And with the exception of poultry, conventionally raised animals can also be injected with synthetic growth hormones, so they’ll gain weight faster or produce more milk.

But traces of these substances can make their way to consumers, says Rolf Halden, professor and director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. Drug residue is believed to contribute to widespread antibiotic resistance, he says, and organic foods—which are produced without antibiotics—“are intrinsically safer in this respect.” Organic meat and dairy also cannot contain synthetic hormones, which have been linked to an increased risk of cancer.

More antioxidants, in some cases

In a recent six-year study in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, researchers found that organic onions had about a 20% higher antioxidant content than conventionally grown onions. They also theorized that previous analyses—several of which have found no difference in conventional versus organic antioxidant levels—may have been thwarted by too-short study periods and confounding variables like weather.

The research was “very well done,” says Guy Crosby, adjunct associate professor of Nutrition at the Harvard Chan School of Public Health. But he points out that this specific study “takes just one aspect of phytochemicals and shows they can be improved under organic conditions.” The question of whether organic foods are truly more nutritious is still debatable, he adds. “Had the researchers chosen to measure a different vitamin or mineral, they may have found a different result.”

The bottom line

Organic products are more expensive than conventional ones, and whether they’re really worth the extra cost is certainly a matter of choice. “If you can afford all organic, that’s fantastic, but it’s not feasible for most people,” says registered dietitian Cynthia Sass. “If it’s not, the most important groups to buy organic, in my opinion, include foods you eat daily and produce on the Dirty Dozen list—those with the highest pesticide residues.” If people eat eggs, dairy and meat, she also recommends buying those organic.

Halden says that vulnerable groups—including pregnant women, young children, the elderly and people suffering from allergies—may benefit the most from choosing organically produced foods. He also points out that a strictly organic diet can still be plenty unhealthy: “Eating too much sugar and meat and too few vegetables is risky, regardless of whether the shopper picks from the conventional or organic grocery selection,” he says.It’s also important for consumers to make educated decisions about why they choose to buy organic, says Crosby—and not to get hung up on individual studies that haven’t been supported by additional research. If you’re trying to reduce exposure to pesticide residues, organic is a good choice, he says. “On the other hand, if you’re buying them because they’re more nutritious, the evidence doesn’t broadly support that,” he says.

Source: Time

Local vs. Organic: How to Know What You’re Getting at the Farmers Market

Sally Wadyka wrote . . . . .

Faster than you can say “kale salad” it seems like yet another farmers market pops up. In fact, there are currently more than 8,600 farmers markets registered in the USDA’s Farmers Market Directory. It’s easy to understand why they’re popular—fresh, local produce, plus a chance to meet the farmers who grow your food, all wrapped up in a fun, festive atmosphere. But you may also be a bit confused by what’s on offer at the market. What does all the hype about local really mean? Is it organic? And should you care?

First off, “local” is definitely not synonymous with “organic.” “In order to call your produce organic, you have to be certified by the USDA,” explains Joe Masabni, Ph.D., extension small-acreage vegetable specialist, Texas A & M Research & Extension Center, in Overton, Texas. “There is paperwork to fill out, processes to follow, and you have to be approved.”

When you buy certified organic produce you know that the growers have followed these best practices, avoided synthetic pesticides, and that their farming methods are sustainable and better for the environment.

But while not every farmer at your local market will bother with the formalities of certification, that doesn’t mean their produce is necessarily slathered in pesticides. They may follow some or all of the same guidelines that the USDA requires without taking the extra steps to make it official. “I’ve seen farmers who post signs saying ‘as organic as I can be’ or ‘following organic practices,’” says Masabni. And since the person selling the food is often the same one who grew it, you can also ask them directly about their farming methods.

But even if local produce isn’t organic, there are many advantages to buying what’s grown in your area. “On average, produce travels about 1,500 miles from farm to store, and because of that, it’s picked still unripe,” says Lauri Wright, Ph.D., R.D., assistant professor of nutrition, University of South Florida, College of Public Health. “The produce at the farmers market is more often picked ripe and sold within a day.”

That translates into fresher, better tasting food that’s also more nutritious since the vitamins and other nutrients have not had time to break down. And if you’re worried about the environmental impact, local produce has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than fruit and veggies that have been trucked hundreds of miles to the supermarket.

More and more supermarkets are now also selling produce that’s advertised as “local,” sometimes at prices that are lower than the farmers market. That can sound like a good deal, but it’s worth asking just how “local” it really is. “Local can be a relative term—for instance, it may be trucked in from a farm 10 hours away,” Masabni says. “But it would be rare for a farmer to drive that far to bring his own produce to a farmers market.”

And while most farmers markets are strict about people selling only what they’ve grown, there are reports of some markets that allow vendors to sell produce they’ve purchased from a wholesaler. To find out, talk to the people selling the food, ask where their farm is, how they grow their food, and did they, in fact, grow it all themselves. And look for obvious tip-offs, like produce being sold way out of season or that’s not indigenous to your area.

Farmers markets often get a bad rap for being too expensive, but Wright says that’s not always the case. “They’re selling what’s in season and plentiful, so often they’re able to sell it a great prices,” she says. “Plus, that fresh produce that hasn’t been sitting in a truck for days will last longer, and that can save you money by reducing food waste.”

Source: Consumer Reports