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Food & agriculture - April 1

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Bolivia's illegal coca becomes compost rather than cocaine

Mattia Cabitza, Guardian
... authorities in Bolivia are experimenting with turning illegal coca harvests into organic fertiliser, and they say the results look promising.

Every year Bolivia confiscates almost 700 tonnes of illegal coca from drug traffickers. The government's coca director, Luis Cutipa, believes that turning this excess into fertiliser will deprive criminals of their raw material for making cocaine, much of which goes to Brazil and on to Europe. He is optimistic that compost made from coca can be made on an industrial scale.
(30 March 2011)



Insects will be important part of UK diet by 2020, says scientist

Rebecca Smithers, Guardian
Western diners should get used to the idea of eating insects because by 2020 it is "inevitable" they will form an important part of our diet, according to the entomologist who heads up the world's first university centre focusing on insects as a food source.

He argues that consumers who have traditionally turned their noses up at six-legged food may have to change their minds as conventional meat becomes more expensive and scarce.

In an interview with Wired magazine, Prof Marcel Dicke of Wageningen University said: "The most important thing is getting people prepared, getting used to the idea. Because from 2020 onwards, there won't be much of a choice for us."
(31 March 2011)



Legislation would open Illinois to sale of more homemade goods

Alejandra Cancino, Chicago Tribune
The aroma of freshly baked banana bread lingered in Susan Wachter's home in Lincoln, Ill., as a half-dozen loaves cooled on her kitchen table.

"God blessed me with the ability to bake things and grow things. These are my talents," Wachter said.

About two years ago, she turned that love into a business. She'd bake cookies, sweetbreads and Texas sheet cakes and sell them at farmers markets.

But in May the Illinois Department of Public Health told people like Wachter to hang up their spatulas and put away their pans and cookie sheets unless their kitchens passed an inspection. To do so, Wachter said, she would have had to build a separate kitchen at a cost of about $100,000.

"That's a lot of cookies," she said.

The crackdown stifled dozens of people across the state who supplemented their income by selling home-baked goods at farmers markets, fairs and other outdoor events.

As for Wachter, she is now cranking out peanut butter, cheese and chicken biscuits for dogs. She can sell them as long as she labels them "not for human consumption."

A state senator is trying to change the law to promote the consumption of locally produced baked goods and give people a way to make extra cash.

"We looked at legislation from other states, in particular, Minnesota, where they have, in a sense, deregulated some of the requirements that small vendors have to go through to be able to make their jams and jellies and baked goods … for farmers markets sales," said Sen. David Koehler, D-Peoria, chief sponsor of Senate Bill 137.

But the Illinois Department of Public Health, local health departments and various health associations aren't so keen on that idea because they believe such a loophole would lead to more people getting sick.

"We are very concerned," said Sean McDermott, director of policy development at the Cook County Department of Public Health.

McDermott said that allowing people to prepare food in an unregulated environment could lead to an increase in foodborne-illness outbreaks. For instance, he said, parents and pet owners might contaminate food if they don't wash their hands after changing diapers or cleaning up after their pets.

In 2008, there were 23 confirmed foodborne outbreaks in Illinois affecting nearly 2,900 people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of those, only four, in which a total of 41 people got sick, involved food prepared at private homes. In one case, cheese was the culprit; ground turkey was cited in another. Investigators failed to pinpoint a source for the two other outbreaks.

Koehler's bill would allow people to sell "non-potentially hazardous food," items usually not associated with foodborne illnesses such as cookies, jam and dried herbs, at farmers markets and community events. To do so, they would have to obtain a sanitation management certificate and label the food with the name and address of the maker, the product's name, its ingredients and the date it was processed. The label would also include a warning stating that the product is "homemade and not subject to state inspection."
(22 March 2011)
Video at original. -BA

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