Latest Organic News Briefs
Contributed by the Organic Trade Association
U.S. shoppers can find additional organic products on store shelves and in restaurants.
* Del Monte Foods has launched a range of organic vegetable and meat products, including corn, green beans, peas, beef and chicken broth, sold nationwide.
* Kraft Foods in late January announced it would launch organic nut varieties, including an organic nut selection and organic cashews, under its Planters brand name.
* Schnuck Markets, Inc., is launching a new line of 120 privately labeled organic and all-natural products, including cereals, fruit preserves, canned vegetables, rice, milk, pastas, peanut butter, soymilk, coffee, and teas, under the chain's Full Circle label.
* Safeway, Inc., which introduced the "O Organic" line of products a year ago for adults, is expanding the line to baby food and foods for children ages 6 to 12, and introducing a product line called Eating Right for teens and adults.
* Organic items are growing in popularity at table-service restaurants, according to the National Restaurant Association's 2007 Restaurant Industry Forecast. Among those restaurants currently serving organic items, 52 percent of fine dining, 42 percent of casual dining and 27 percent of family dining restaurant operations expect higher sales in 2007. Locally produced food is also growing in popularity.
* Chef Michael Altenberg, owner of Crust, a new restaurant in Wicker Park, IL, is pursuing organic certification from the Midwest Organic Service Association in Wisconsin for the eatery, according to a report in the Chicago Sun Times.
* Chef Michel Nischan and Paul Newman have teamed up to establish the Dressing Room-A Homegrown Restaurant on the grounds of the Westport Country Playhouse in Westport, CT. The restaurant features organic food.
* Organic To Go, a fast-casual café certified as an organic retailer, surpassed $10 million in sales during 2006, finishing the year with 11 retail stores and 10 wholesale locations at office buildings, universities, hospitals and airports in Southern California and Western Washington state. In January, it was available in 13 new locations, including Cal State Northridge, the Jet Propulsion Labs in Pasadena, CA, seven new locations on the Microsoft campus in Redmond, WA, two new locations at UCLA, and two new Organic To Go stores in Seattle, WA, and Century City, CA.
Meanwhile, two schools and a hospital begin to add organic foods.
* Two schools in the Bolinas-Stinson Union School District in California are the first West Marin schools to sign up for the Marin Organic School Lunch Program.
* Swedish Covenant Hospital in Chicago, IL, is incorporating organic foods in the meals offered to patients.
Studies show organic acreage and sales continue to grow.
* Certified organic acreage in the United States grew by 1 million acres in 2005, according the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Economic Research Service (ERS). There were at least 8,445 certified organic farms in 2005, up from 8,035 certified organic farms in 2003, with slightly more than 4 million acres under organic management, up from 3 million acres in 2004.
* U.S. organic poultry and egg markets and domestic supply are expanding rapidly, with significant price premiums paid for both organic broilers and eggs, according to an ERS report, "Organic Poultry and Eggs Capture High Price Premiums and Growing Share of Specialty Markets."
* The nation's first organic research dairy at a land grant university in January began shipping organic milk. The operation at the University of New Hampshire has begun operations with 48 Jersey cows, with the goal of expanding to 80 cows on 200 certified organic acres in Lee, NH. The research dairy sells the milk through Organic Valley.
Research findings look at benefits linked to organic agriculture.
* Research during 2006 at The Rodale Institute showed that cornfields in which soil-building no-till organic methods were used had higher yields than tilled organic cornfields and tilled non-organic cornfields. The experiment used an improved version of The Rodale Institute's one-pass, no-till roller system and only a legume cover crop for fertility and weed management. The institute's no-till organic corn plots produced 160 bushes per acre, compared to 143 bushes per acre for tilled organic plots. Yields on comparable chisel-tilled non-organic plots were 113 bushels per acre.
* A research team at the University of California at Davis has found organic kiwi fruit had much higher levels of total polyphenol content than conventional kiwi fruit, resulting in higher antioxidant activity than their conventional counterparts. Study results, published online March 27 in the peer-reviewed Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, also showed that organic kiwi fruit had higher levels of vitamin C. The kiwis studied were from nearby vineyards on the same farm in Marysville, CA.
* The Michigan Apple Committee has received a $50,000 grant to determine whether organic apple growing is economically profitable for growers in Michigan. The Clarksville Horticultural Experimental Station, operated by Michigan State University, has a five-acre plot designated to study organic apple growing, according to a Capital News Service article published in November.
Organic purchases are among the hot trends noted by industry watchers.
* Results from a national survey released by the Food Marketing Institute and Prevention magazine showed 44 percent of respondents purchased organic fruits and vegetables in a six-month period, versus 38 percent a year earlier. In addition, 30 percent purchased organic milk or other dairy products (up from 23 percent), 29 percent purchased organic cereals, breads or pasta (up from 25 percent), 24 percent purchased organic meats or poultry (versus 17 percent) and organic packed goods (up from 21 percent), 21 percent purchased organic eggs (up from 18 percent), and 16 percent purchased organic soups and sauces (up from 12 percent). The chief motivation cited for buying organic foods was perceived nutritional value, followed by long-term health effects. Just over half of respondents listed the environmental impact of growing or producing these foods. The Shopping for Health 2006: Making Healthy Eating Easier telephone survey conducted in July 2006 included more than 1,000 adults.
* A Dec. 28, 2006, article by Marilynn Marter in the Philadelphia Inquirer listed organic foods among the top food trends and buzzwords for 2007.
Meanwhile, research findings continue to look at environmental concerns related to non-organic products.
* A study published in the September 2006 issue of Molecular Endocrinology (Vol. 20, No. 9) linked organotins, a class of environmental contaminants, with excess weight gain and fat cell aberrations. Organotins are ingredients in many household products, including pesticides, and are persistent compounds found in low concentrations in most humans and animals. In the study with mice and frogs in vitro and in vivo, U.S. and Japanese scientists examined organotins for their endocrine-disrupting effects, implicated in contributing to weight gain and obesity.
* In a review study published in the Dec. 16, 2006, print issue of The Lancet, researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health and the Mount Sinai School of Medicine examined publicly available data on chemical toxicity in order to identify industrial chemicals most likely to damage the developing brain. Finding that 202 industrial chemicals have the capacity to damage the human brain, researchers concluded that the toxic effects of industrial chemicals on children generally have been overlooked. To protect children against industrial chemicals that can injure the developing brain, researchers urged a precautionary approach for chemical testing and control, and noted that U.S. requirements for toxicity testing of chemicals are minimal.
* Research at the NOAA National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science has shown negative effects of the commonly used herbicide atrazine on phytoplankton, free-floating algae that form the base of the food chain for aquatic animals. Results, published in January 2007 in the journal Pesticide-Biochemistry and Physiology, showed protein levels in phytoplankton decreased as a result of exposure to atrazine.