The organic foods industry is booming: by one estimate, the market for organic foods is worth $4 billion annually and is expected to grow at a rate of more than 24% per year. Faced with the threat of pesticide exposures and other food safety problems, many consumers are turning to organic foods in hopes of finding a healthy alternative, but there is currently no consistency in organic food labeling and no guarantee that foods labeled as organic are actually grown and processed in a purely organic fashion. There is also controversy about whether the label "organic" covers such new technologies as irradiation and genetic engineering. As part of the 1990 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to develop a proposed rule on organic foods. The rule would regulate the allowable methods, practices, and substances used in producing and handling crops and their processed products. The first draft of the proposed rule, released in December 1997, met with unprecedented opposition, which centered around the fact that the proposal appeared to virtually ignore the recommendations of a standards board formed to assist in the rule's development. Other criticism opposed three practices put forward for comment by the USDA: irradiation, genetic engineering, and the use of sewage sludge in farming. Due to the vehemence of the opposition to its original proposal, the USDA has decided to rewrite the proposed rule. In preparation for that proposal, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service released three issue papers in October 1998 for public comment. The 10,000-plus comments received in response to those papers will be incorporated into the second draft proposal, due out later this year. (+info)
Semen quality and sex hormones among organic and traditional Danish farmers. ASCLEPIOS Study Group.
OBJECTIVES: To confirm or refute the hypothesis that organic farmers have higher sperm concentrations than traditional farmers. METHODS: Traditional and organic farmers were selected randomly from central registers, and 171 traditional farmers and 85 organic farmers delivered one semen sample before the start of the spraying season. The participation rate was 28.8% among traditional farmers and 42.9% among organic farmers. RESULTS: The median sperm concentration for traditional and organic farmers was 58 million/ml and 64 million/ml, respectively. After adjustment for several confounders, sperm concentration, total count, proportion of non-vital spermatozoa, sperm chromatin structure, and motility variables did not differ significantly between the two groups. The traditional farmers had a significantly lower proportion of normal spermatozoa, but this result was not confirmed in a second sample. Organic farmers had slightly higher inhibin B concentration and testosterone/sex hormone binding globulin ratio. CONCLUSION: Despite slight differences in concentrations of reproductive hormones, no significant differences in conventional measures of semen quality were found between organic and traditional farmers. (+info)
Assessing potential health risks from microcystin toxins in blue-green algae dietary supplements.
The presence of blue-green algae (BGA) toxins in surface waters used for drinking water sources and recreation is receiving increasing attention around the world as a public health concern. However, potential risks from exposure to these toxins in contaminated health food products that contain BGA have been largely ignored. BGA products are commonly consumed in the United States, Canada, and Europe for their putative beneficial effects, including increased energy and elevated mood. Many of these products contain Aphanizomenon flos-aquae, a BGA that is harvested from Upper Klamath Lake (UKL) in southern Oregon, where the growth of a toxic BGA, Microcystis aeruginosa, is a regular occurrence. M. aeruginosa produces compounds called microcystins, which are potent hepatotoxins and probable tumor promoters. Because M. aeruginosa coexists with A. flos-aquae, it can be collected inadvertently during the harvesting process, resulting in microcystin contamination of BGA products. In fall 1996, the Oregon Health Division learned that UKL was experiencing an extensive M. aeruginosa bloom, and an advisory was issued recommending against water contact. The advisory prompted calls from consumers of BGA products, who expressed concern about possible contamination of these products with microcystins. In response, the Oregon Health Division and the Oregon Department of Agriculture established a regulatory limit of 1 microg/g for microcystins in BGA-containing products and tested BGA products for the presence of microcystins. Microcystins were detected in 85 of 87 samples tested, with 63 samples (72%) containing concentrations > 1 microg/g. HPLC and ELISA tentatively identified microcystin-LR, the most toxic microcystin variant, as the predominant congener. (+info)
Effects of on-farm diets for organic pig production on performance and carcass quality.
An experiment was conducted to evaluate the effects of a restriction to home-grown feedstuffs and abstinence from supplementation with synthetic amino acids (AA), as ideal objectives in organic pig production according to the IFOAM standards, on growth performance and carcass characteristics. One hundred individually housed pigs were allocated to four dietary treatments and fed from growing through finishing to compare three organic barley/wheat-based diets with an isocaloric conventional diet supplemented with synthetic AA. Protein sources in the organic treatments were either faba beans, supplemented with potato protein to the same AA level as the control diet, peas and lupines, or faba beans and lupines, both without further supplementation, leading to a lower level of limited AA. Supplementation of organic diets with potato protein resulted in the same performance as supplementing the conventional diet with synthetic AA, although crude protein levels differed markedly. Pigs fed the organic diets without AA supplementation grew more slowly (P < .05) and had a decreased feed intake in the grower period (P < .05) but nearly the same feed efficiency (P > .05) as pigs fed conventional or organic diets with AA supplementation. Carcass characteristics differed in percentage of lean meat and longissimus area, being lower in the treatments without AA supplementation (P < .05). However, the intramuscular fat was higher without AA supplementation (2.9% fat) than with supplementation (1.2% fat) (P < .01). The data show that the exclusion of AA supplementation resulted in a reduction in pig performance but in an increase in intramuscular fat content; the latter is an important aspect of eating quality characteristics. (+info)
Probiotics, prebiotics, and synbiotics--approaching a definition.
Definitions of different pro-, pre-, and synbiotics suggested by different investigators are critically discussed. On the basis of this analysis, the probiotic concept is confined to effects exerted by viable microorganisms but is applicable independent of the site of action and route of administration. It therefore may include sites such as the oral cavity, the intestine, the vagina, and the skin. (+info)
Probiotic bacteria in fermented foods: product characteristics and starter organisms.
Probiotic bacteria are sold mainly in fermented foods, and dairy products play a predominant role as carriers of probiotics. These foods are well suited to promoting the positive health image of probiotics for several reasons: 1) fermented foods, and dairy products in particular, already have a positive health image; 2) consumers are familiar with the fact that fermented foods contain living microorganisms (bacteria); and 3) probiotics used as starter organisms combine the positive images of fermentation and probiotic cultures. When probiotics are added to fermented foods, several factors must be considered that may influence the ability of the probiotics to survive in the product and become active when entering the consumer's gastrointestinal tract. These factors include 1) the physiologic state of the probiotic organisms added (whether the cells are from the logarithmic or the stationary growth phase), 2) the physical conditions of product storage (eg, temperature), 3) the chemical composition of the product to which the probiotics are added (eg, acidity, available carbohydrate content, nitrogen sources, mineral content, water activity, and oxygen content), and 4) possible interactions of the probiotics with the starter cultures (eg, bacteriocin production, antagonism, and synergism). The interactions of probiotics with either the food matrix or the starter culture may be even more intensive when probiotics are used as a component of the starter culture. Some of these aspects are discussed in this article, with an emphasis on dairy products such as milk, yogurt, and cheese. (+info)
In vitro selection criteria for probiotic bacteria of human origin: correlation with in vivo findings.
The enteric flora comprises approximately 95% of the total number of cells in the human body and can elicit immune responses while protecting against microbial pathogens. However, the resident bacterial flora of the gastrointestinal tract may also be implicated in the pathogenesis of diseases such as inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn disease). The objectives of the Probiotic Research Group based at University College Cork were to isolate and identify lactic acid bacteria exhibiting beneficial probiotic traits, such as bile tolerance in the absence of deconjugation activity, acid resistance, adherence to host epithelial tissue, and in vitro antagonism of pathogenic microorganisms or those suspected of promoting inflammation. To isolate potentially effective probiotic bacteria, we screened the microbial population adhering to surgically resected segments of the gastrointestinal tract (the environment in which they may subsequently be reintroduced and required to function). In total, 1500 bacterial strains from resected human terminal ilea were assessed. From among these organisms, Lactobacillus salivarius subsp. salivarius strain UCC118 was selected for further study. In mouse feeding trials, milk-borne L. salivarius strain UCC118 could successfully colonize the murine gastrointestinal tract. A human feeding study conducted in 80 healthy volunteers showed that yogurt can be used as a vehicle for delivery of strain UCC118 to the human gastrointestinal tract with considerable efficacy in influencing gut flora and colonization. In summary, we developed criteria for in vitro selection of probiotic bacteria that may reflect certain in vivo effects on the host such as modulation of gastrointestinal tract microflora. (+info)
Quality assurance criteria for probiotic bacteria.
Acid and bile stability and intestinal mucosal adhesion properties are among the criteria used to select probiotic microbes. The quality control of probiotic cultures in foods traditionally has relied solely on tests to ensure that an adequate number of viable bacteria are present in the products throughout their shelf lives. Viability is an important factor, but not the only criterion for quality assurance. To be effective, probiotic strains must retain the functional health characteristics for which they were originally selected. Such characteristics include the ability to survive transit through the stomach and small intestine and to colonize the human gastrointestinal tract. In vitro test protocols can be readily adopted to examine the maintenance of a strain's ability to tolerate acidic conditions, survive and grow in the presence of bile, and metabolize selective substrates. Molecular techniques are also available to examine strain stability. Adhesion characterization may be an important quality-control method for assessing gut barrier effects. Adhesion has been related to shortening the duration of diarrhea, immunogenic effects, competitive exclusion, and other health effects. Adhesion properties should be carefully monitored, including adhesion to intestinal cells (eg, Caco-2) and human intestinal mucus. This article outlines the types of in vitro testing that can be used to ensure quality control of functional probiotic strains. (+info)