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Agriculture briefs

Recent salmonella outbreaks that sickened at least 523 people and sent dozens to the hospital underscore “serious weaknesses” in the USDA’s oversight of poultry plants, according to a study released last week by the Pew Charitable Trusts. The study criticized the government’s failure to push more aggressively for recalls of contaminated meat.

A separate investigation by Consumer Reports, with funding from Pew, independently tested more than 300 raw chicken breasts purchased from stores around the country and found that every major brand contained “worrisome amounts” of pathogens such as salmonella and E.coli, including some strains resistant to treatment with antibiotics.

“When more than 500 people get sick from a food-borne illness outbreak, that means the system we have in place wasn’t working to protect public health,” said Sandra Eskin, director of Pew’s Food Safety Campaign. “This many people should not be getting sick.”

Sen. Feinstein seeks GMO labeling

Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein has urged President Barack Obama to require labeling of foods with genetically modified organisms.

In a Dec. 19 letter, Feinstein maintained that consumers have the right to know whether their food contains GMOs.

“Your administration should re-evaluate the Food and Drug Administration’s outdated policy that genetically engineered food does not need to disclose this fact on required labels,” Feinstein wrote.

GMO opponents tried unsuccessfully in recent years to pass ballot measures requiring similar labeling in California and Washington. Both measures were defeated with stiff opposition from farm groups, the grocery store industry and companies that produce genetically modified seeds.

5 farming operations honored

Five North Coast farming operations have been recognized by the American Farmland Trust for adopting conservation practices that have improved the environment.

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