From organic fish to synthetic growth hormones in dairy production, Americans have some big concerns about our food supply, according to a November 2008 Consumer Reports food-labeling poll. Here's a snapshot of what consumers said, plus a look at the realities of each issue.
• 93 percent of consumers polled agree that fish labeled organic should be produced from 100 percent organic feed like all other organic food animals.
• 90 percent of consumers polled agree that organic fish farms should be required to recover all waste so they can't pollute the environment.
• 57 percent of consumers polled are concerned about ocean pollution caused by fish farms advertised as organic.
The reality: Despite Americans' concerns, the National Organic Standards Board passed a recommendation in November 2008 that would allow fish to be fed non-organic fishmeal, which can be contaminated with mercury and PCBs. The recommendation would also allow open-net cages to be used, which can flush pollution, disease, and parasites directly into the ocean.
Synthetic Growth Hormones in Dairy
• 93 percent of consumers polled agree that dairies that produce milk and milk products without artificial growth hormones should be allowed to label their products as being free of these hormones.
• 70 percent of consumers polled are concerned about dairy cows being given synthetic growth hormones.
The reality: While several states have proposed banning the phrase "no artificial growth hormones" in dairy products, for now, you can easily find dairy products produced without the hormones, which are often labeled as "rbGH-free" or "rbST-free", at your local grocer or farmers' market. Safety-wise, the Food and Drug Administration has ruled that use of bovine growth hormones is safe. But most industrialized nations, including Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan and all 25 members of the European Union, have not approved its use.
Genetic Engineering and Cloning
• 95 percent of consumers polled agree that food products made from genetically engineered animals should be labeled as such.
• 94 percent of consumers polled agree that meat and dairy products from cloned animals should be labeled as such.
• 58 percent of consumers polled are concerned about eating meat or milk products from cloned or genetically engineered animals.
The reality: Currently, there is no requirement to label genetically engineered or cloned animal products in the U.S.
Mad Cow Disease and Irradiation
• 96 percent of consumers polled agree that meat companies should be allowed to test and label meat products as "tested for mad cow disease."
• 92 percent of consumers polled agree meat that contains any irradiated components should be labeled as such.
The reality: Currently, meat products sold in the U.S. cannot be labeled as "tested for mad cow disease." All irradiated foods must display the radura logo and contain the words "Treated with Radiation" or "Treated by Irradiation."
FDA Inspection of Domestic and Foreign Food Supply
• 66 percent of Americans want the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to inspect domestic food-processing facilities once a month.
• 69 percent of Americans want the FDA to inspect foreign food-processing facilities once a month.
The reality: Currently, the FDA inspects domestic food production facilities once every 5 to 10 years, and inspects foreign facilities even less frequently.
Source: Consumer Reports