Safety of Organic Foods from Non-Commercial Producers Questioned

Nov 21, 2014

The USDA Certified Organic Program lays down rules relating to non-GMO cultivars, preventing the use of insecticides and petroleum-based fertilizers and other requirements.  The numerous and frequently onerous restrictions on production and required segregation in the storage and distribution system results in foods costing at least double that of conventional counterparts.

A recent study from Academics Review representing scientists evaluating scientific claims determined that organic foods are four to eight times more likely to be recalled over safety issues than conventional foods. Most frequently this is due to microbial contamination. This is understandable given the small size of many production units and the use of animal waste as a “natural fertilizer”.  A number of smaller organic food processors manage to fly below the FDA radar. Compared to generic foods inspection of facilities is less stringent and frequently is ignored.

Organic certification is completely separate from any form of assurance of safety or superiority in nutritional content.  The USDA Certified Organic Program is based on evaluation of paperwork and does not involve any laboratory assays to demonstrate, freedom from antibiotics, “hormones” steroids, insecticides or other claims made by producers. 

 Organic foods produced by small-scale “family farms” beloved by the USDA-AMS and certain boutique food stores, are more likely to be contaminated than products from commercial operations which apply HACCP systems in plants operating with the advantages of high technology and scale. This is true of table eggs produced in accordance with the FDA Rule to prevent Salmonella applicable to farms with more than 3,000 hens. There has already been a reported trace-back associated with Salmonella Enteritidis from a free-range Certified Organic production unit in California. Unfortunately the small output of “family” or subsistence farms makes it difficult to identify a relatively mild foodborne infection among a small number of consumers. It is equally difficult to trace an infection to source especially with deficiencies in product identification and records associated with purchases at Farmer’s Markets. 


Egg Industry News


Egg Products Exported to the EU

Nov 26, 2014

The November 25th edition of the USDA International Egg and Poultry Review (vol. 17 # 47) tabulates the composition of the egg products comprising 2.58 million dozen egg-equivalents exported to the EU in 2014 to date.

The classification comprises:-

Dried egg yolk 43.5 %
Whole egg liquid/frozen 29.4 %
Dried egg albumen 16.0 %
Dried whole egg 8.1 %
Egg albument luqiud/frozen 3.0 %
Total 100.0 %

Exports to the EU have been in decline since the peak year of 2012 when the EU ban on conventional cages came into effect. In 2012 shipments amounted to 10.90 million dozen egg equivalents compared to 2013 with 4.73 million dozen and 2014 year-to-date, 2.588 million dozen. 


US Poultry and Egg Association Seminars

Nov 26, 2014

The US Poultry and Egg Association has listed the schedule of educational seminars for 2015.

Prospective attendees are advised to access the USPoultry website <www.poultryegg.org>


Kroger to Place More Employees in Ralph’s Stores

Nov 26, 2014

Ralph’s Grocery a division of The Kroger Company located in Southern California will offer 1,200 new permanent positions.  The decision was based on the perception that there was a need to improve customer service especially on checkout but also in the deli, bakery and gourmet sections of their stores.  Donna Giordano, President of the chain which comprises 208 stores stated “we are working to provide greater customer service in our stores with these additional associates”.


Gluten-Is this Another Diet Bubble?

Nov 26, 2014

The gluten-free food segment is growing at a double digit pace from 2012 with an estimated sales value of $8.8 billion in 2014 according to market research organization Mintel.  Consumers with gluten intolerance require a diet free of the allergen.  For the remainder of the potential market there is no demonstrable advantage from gluten-free foods.  The perception that gluten-free is “healthier” has no scientific foundation and as such cannot be expected to support a differential in price over the long term.  The susceptibility of consumers to dietary fads is exemplified by a 163 percent increase of “gluten-free in the snacks category including a 456 percent increase for potato chips.  If consumers are seriously concerned about health, replacing the salt, caloric and fat content of potato chips with an allegedly gluten-free equivalent will not benefit their weight gain or cardiovascular status.  


Recall of Organic Rice

Nov 26, 2014

Lundberg Family Farms, a third-generation enterprise in Richvale, CA. has recalled organic brown rice flour potentially contaminated with Salmonella. Despite the fact that no “serious cases of disease” have been attributed to consumption of the products, product withdrawal involving a number of Western states and Hawaii has been implemented.  This report confirms that organic status has no relationship to microbiological safety.

The Company mounted a recall of Sea-salt Rice Chips in late October due to the presence of an undeclared allergen which was disclosed following an adverse reaction experienced by a consumer.


New CFSAN Center Director Appointed

Nov 26, 2014

Dr. Margaret A. Hamburg Commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration has announced that Dr. Susan T. Mayne has been appointed as the Director of the Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition effective January 1, 2015.

Dr. Mayne has an international reputation, currently serving as the Winslow Professor of Epidemiology and the Chair of the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology at the Yale School of Public Health.  She also serves as the Associate Director of the Yale Cancer Center.  With an extensive record of accomplishment, Dr. Mayne is experienced in epidemiology, nutrition and toxicology, all of which will be critical to her success in the new position. FDA and the Commissioner are to be commended on this appointment to a critical position.


New Inactivated AI Vaccine for the EU?

Nov 26, 2014

According to a report in an EU poultry magazine, Dr. Eric Frijlink of Groningen University in the Netherlands announced the availability of an inactivated vaccine which can be administered by distributing the product as a fine dust by the aerosol route. No data was provided on evaluation for efficacy, strain specificity or safety so it is not possible to comment on the possible application of what must be regarded as a radical departure from conventional influenza vaccinology. Inactivated vaccines against viral and bacterial infections are used extensively in poultry although administered by injection. There is no current commercial inactivated vaccine applied by mass administration.


Federal Court Supports EPA on CAFO Emissions

Nov 26, 2014

A U.S. District Court recently supported the action of the EPA in rejecting a petition submitted by environmentalist in Iowa to regulate air emissions from concentrated animal feeding operations.  At issue was the potential release of critical pollutants including ammonia and hydrogen sulfide which the environmental associations consider to be deleterious to health.  The petitioners have now advanced to the U.S. Court of Appeals in DC contesting the decision of the lower court to deny their petition.


USDA Crop Progress Report

Nov 26, 2014


The November 24th USDA- National Agricultural Statistical Service, Crop Progress Report reflecting the week ending November 23rd documented the harvest of both corn and soybeans. Approximately 94 percent of the corn crop has been harvested compared to 89 percent last week and an average of 92 percent over five years.

Approximately 97 percent of the soybean crop has been harvested compared with 94 percent last week and a five-year average of 98 percent.

Consistent with the advanced state of harvesting there was no report on crop condition. This is the last Crop Progress Report for the 2014 harvest.


Weekly USDA Prices and Inventory

Nov 25, 2014


The unprecedented run-up in prices was evident this past week in Jumbo, Extra Large and Large sizes. Surging demand attributed to cold weather and high prices of competing proteins is responsible for increased prices and declining inventory. Supply has not kept pace since there has been only moderate new expansion and in some cases a reduction in hen numbers to comply with California regulations.

The USDA Egg Market News Report for Monday November 24th 2014, (Vol. 61: #94) reflected a 30 percent increase for Extra Large and 40 percent for Large sizes compared to the previous week. Mediums and breaking stock prices were higher by 5% unchanged. Urner-Barry on Monday 24th reported a record for Midwest Large at $2.15 per dozen

There were declines of 12 percent and 6 percent in inventory of generic and specialty eggs respectively. The following table lists the “most frequent” range of Midwest values as delivered to warehouses:-

  Cents per Dozen
  Current Week   Previous Week
Extra Large   194 –  197          147  –  150
Large 192 –  195   145 –  158
Medium 131 –  134   103 –  106
Certified Organic EL 275 –  310   275 –  310
Central States Breaking Stock 104 –  106   97 –  99
Checks 87 –  93   80  –  86

AEB Award to Jim Nield

Nov 24, 2014

The 2014 AEB Good Egg Award was presented to Jim Nield.  Jim has a long and distinguished career in the egg industry, principally involved with Diamond Systems from 1966 to 2008. 

During his tenure as a manager and then the owner of the Company, improvements in design and innovations increased grade accuracy, shell quality and speed of packing.  Jim is now associated with Sanovo and was responsible for introduction of a new Staalkat grading system in 2011.

Jim has served as a member of the UEP Allied Industry Group and has participated in the activities of the International Egg Commission, PEPA and various state organizations.  He has also contributed as a member of the International Poultry Expo Exhibitor Committee.


From left to right Paul Sauder, Jim Nield,
Martha Nield and Joanne Ivy on the occasion
of Jim receiving the Good Egg Award



Response to UK HPAI

Nov 21, 2014

It is understood that the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), equivalent to the USDA, has completed depletion of the 6,000-bird duck breeding farm near Drifield in East Yorkshire.  In accordance with EU directives, a 10 km surveillance zone has been established around the index farm.  It is clearly stated that all poultry within the zone must be housed and movement of all poultry and waste within the 3km exclusion zone is prohibited.

The director of the British Free Range Egg Producer’s Association, Robert Gouch has urged his membership to “ensure they are maintaining the highest standards of biosecurity to minimize the risk of cross contamination.”  It is difficult to see how operators of free-range flocks can maintain any acceptable level of biosecurity with their birds allowed access to pasture.  Given that the same H5N8 strain is responsible for virtually simultaneous outbreaks in Germany, Holland and the UK separate wild bird reservoirs must be suspected. In the absence of any obvious movement of personnel, equipment or live birds involving respectively a turkeys,  commercial laying hens and ducks in the three nations affected, a series of as yet identified biological connections must exist between wild bird reservoirs and housed poultry in the three cases.


Private Label Displaying Innovations

Nov 21, 2014

According to a report on Baking Business.com, the Private Label Manufactures Association Trade Show held during mid-November in Chicago demonstrated a number of trends which are evident in the egg industry.  The significant focus areas are:-

  • Placing health claims on snack foods, meal replacements such as ALDI Simply Nature and Target’s Simply Balanced lines.
  • Upgrading the image of private label products with unique flavors and up-market attributes
  • Improving  packaging, making use of eye-catching graphics including presentations from Wegmans and Meijer
  • Stressing convenience – Trader Joe’s offers Dining-For-One options and ALDI is promoting variety in snacks.

It is estimated that total U.S. sales of private label food items in 2014 will exceed $110 billion.


Second and Third Cases of AI in Holland.

Nov 21, 2014

News reports issued on November 20th at 15H00 CET and subsequently on November 21st confirm  second and third cases of avian influenza. The second was on a farm comprising 43,000 chickens (type not specified) in the village of Ter Aar. This location is situated on the Western aspect of Holland near den Hague and approximately 15 miles from the index case in Hekendorp reported on November 15th. This outbreak involved an H5N8 highly pathogenic strain similar to the pathogens responsible for earlier cases in Germany affecting turkeys and in ducks in England. The new case involves an H5 strain but complete characterization is in progress.

The third and most recent case involves a parent multiplier farm located in the Province of Overijssel in the East Central region of Holland about 60 miles from the index case. The virus from this outbreak has not been characterized as of Friday midday CET.

Dutch authorities have re-imposed a statutory 72-hour restriction on all movements of poultry and products in Holland which will cause additional disruption among the industry which supplies Germany and other EU nations with breeding chicks, table eggs and broiler meat. The previous restrictions were just lifted following depletion of the flock of 150,000 laying hens and the initial reports of no cases within the 10km surveillance zone.


Shane Commentary


When is GM Not GM?

Nov 26, 2014

Cibus Global has developed a strain of canola which is tolerant to sulfonylurea herbicide.  The cultivar was produced by silencing genes and does not incorporate insertion of genes from other species (transgenesis). SU Canola™ is positioned as a rotation crop for GM soybeans in fields with weeds resistant to glyphosate herbicide.

This distinction will not satisfy those opposed to GM technology.  Even if SU Canola™ is regarded as non-GM, it will be subject to the complication of segregation through the chain of distribution extending from harvest through storage, transport and processing which adds to the cost to producers of either canola oil or canola meal.


American Humane Heartland™ Farm Animal Survey

Nov 21, 2014

Dr. Robin Ganzert, president and CEO of the American Humane Association recently announced results of the second American Humane Association Humane Heartland™ Farm Animal Survey.  involving 5,900 consumers.  The survey indicated that 95 percent of the respondents were concerned over “farm animal welfare” and 75 percent said they were willing to pay more for humanely produced eggs, meat and dairy products.

The “Humanely Raised” designation scored highest among a series of food labels indicating attributes including “Antibiotic-Free” “Organic” and “Natural”.  More than half of the respondents indicated that their favored “Humanely Raised”  products were either unavailable (36 percent) or too expensive (20 percent).

It must be remembered that the results of surveys depend on the way in which questions are asked. Many attitudinal and preference surveys include questions analogous to asking 8-year olds if they are in favor of free ice cream. The secondary consideration is whether surveys are conducted by an independent professional market research organization or a sponsor with an interest in the outcome.


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Dr. Simon M. Shane
Simon M. Shane
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Industry Prices: Thu Nov 27
 Corn3.78 $/bu
 Soybeans10.47 $/bu
 Soybean Meal401.60 $/ton
 Eggs, Producer187  ¢/doz
 Eggs, Warehouse 192-195 ¢/doz