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Sunday, 24 November 2013 19:58

California's craft brew expansion is on a roll

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A long-time player in California's craft beer industry is stepping up it its game to become one of the state's largest producers. Humboldt County's Lost Coast Brewery is set to quadruple its annual output with the addition of a new 600,000 barrel facility in Eureka next year.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 02:09

Better start defrosting those frozen turkeys

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You are running out of time to thaw your frozen turkey, if you haven’t already placed it in the refrigerator to slowly defrost for the big feast on Thursday.

Sunday, 24 November 2013 01:52

Scientists hope to recreate ancient wine flavor

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Scientists say they’re hoping to recreate the flavor of wine made thousands of years ago by studying the residue of ingredients found inside clay vessels discovered recently at an archeological site in Israel.


A mysterious disease is killing a large number of Starfish along the California coast… and local scientists are just beginning to understand what’s happening. Professor Pete Raimondi—Chair of the UC Santa Cruz Department of Ecology—heads up the Long Marine Lab… and tells us the problem started this past summer and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. It’s likely a bacteria that’s causing the sea stars to waste away… turning into a gelatin-like blob within a matter of days from first infection. This is not the first time a die-off like this has happened to the sea star population… but according to the Santa Cruz Sentinel… it’s never happened during a cold water cycle… nor at this large of a scale. Currently the wasting disease is affecting sea stars along the coast between Southern California and Alaska… but likely stretches into Mexico too… where sampling has yet to be done.

In the state of Hawaii, leaders are taking on GMOs and pesticides at the local level. The Kauai County Council voted 5 to 2 yesterday to override the veto of Bill 24-91... requiring mandatory disclosure of pesticide use and the farming of genetically modified crops. Mayor Bernard Carvalho Jr. said he vetoed the bill because the county does not have the authority to regulate beyond state and federal rules regarding these controversial ag practices. He does however support voluntary disclosure of GMO and pesticide use. Companies that could be affected by today's vote include seed and pesticide maker Syngenta, chemical giant DuPont, Dow AgroSciences, and Kauai Coffee—the largest coffee grower in the United States, according to the company's website.

Outdoor clothing company Patagonia… based down the road in Ventura County… is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year… with the launch of its very own craft brew. The limited-edition California Route Organic Lager is brewed by Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company… makers of the popular Fat Tire Amber Ale… and Ranger IPA. The name of the beer pays homage to a climbing route used by the clothing-company’s founder back in 1968… to scale one of Patagonia’s most challenging peaks. The idea to brew a beer for the 40th anniversary came from the Claire Chouinard (SHOE-NAR)… daughter of the company’s founder. California Route is canned, instead of bottled, a current trend among ecology-minded microbreweries. The company says on its Facebook page that the beer is quote “canned for adventure”... as cans are much easier to pack when hiking… and can be easily compacted for packing back out. The brew should start arriving at retail stores, bars, and restaurants any day now.

Tourists hitting up Hearst Castle in the hills above San Simeon now have a smartphone app to help navigate the sprawling grounds of the historic residence. The multimedia tool designed by a group of recent Cal Poly graduates… guides users using GPS technology… and uses videos and instructional audio to further explain the park’s various highlights… including never before seen images, stories, audio recordings and video curated by Hearst Castle’s own historians. It costs a buck-99… with proceeds supporting the Friends of Hearst Castle… and is currently only available for iPhones… and coming soon for Google Play. You can find more information online at

A mysterious disease is killing a large number of starfish along the California coast, and local scientists are just beginning to understand what’s happening.

In the state of Hawaii, leaders are taking on the use of GMOs and pesticides at the local level. The Kauai County Council voted 5 to 2 Saturday morning to override the veto of Bill No. 2491, requiring mandatory disclosure of pesticide use and the farming of genetically modified crops.

Saturday, 16 November 2013 21:36

Clothing maker branches out with organic beer brand

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Outdoor clothing company Patagonia, based in Ventura, Calif., is celebrating its 40th anniversary this year with the launch of its very own craft brew.

When President Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) back in January of 2011, it was amidst growing concern over several widespread outbreaks of foodborne illness. After all, the federal laws surrounding the safety of the nation's food supply hadn't been overhauled in more than 70 years.

Once passed, it then became the responsibility of the FDA to implement these new FSMA laws, including an effort to develop "science-based standards" for growing, harvesting, packing and holding produce on both domestic and foreign farms.

"The concern here is that in the rush to roll out these new rules, FDA runs the risk of making sustainable agriculture collateral damage in that push," said Sarah Hackney with the National Sustainable Agriculture Coalition

For example, organic farmers are worried about these new FDA guidelines that directly conflict with federal organic standards surrounding the addition of manure and compost to a farm's soil composition. 

"That puts organic farmers in a real tight place where there are two conflicting federal rules on a practice that they need to use on their farm every day," said Hackney. "We also don't want to see folks pushed away from using those natural amendments like compost, and towards more chemical inputs."

However, Congress mandated that FDA not conflict with existing rules when rolling out FSMA.

Hackney said the good news is these rules are not yet final law and are being considered alongside public comment, which will expire this Friday, Nov. 15. 

According to Food Safety News, the government website handling all of the FSMA comments has had its share of down time thsi month. Visitors to received "planned system maintenance" messages on Nov. 4-6 and Nov. 11. Wisconsin based Cornucopia Institute is pushing for a 30-day extension for the comment period. The deadline for this period has already been extended twice.

The FDA has not yet announced whether a final law will be announced following this initial comment period, or whether a "second draft" version of the proposed rules will be distributed and opened up to public comment once again.

For more information on the provisions being considered—and to register your comment with FDA:

Wednesday, 13 November 2013 17:23

The skinny on trans fat

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The FDA announced in early November that it plans to ban trans fat in processed foods starting in 2014, based on mounting scientific evidence showing the substance can no longer be "generally known as safe." 

Consumers had already been moving away from trans fat for the past decade, following studies showing consumption of these trans fatty acids is related to increased levels of LDL cholesterol (the bad kind). And, according to the College of Ag Sciences at Penn State, consumption of trans fatty acids at relatively high levels can also lower HDL cholesterol (the good kind) levels.

Yet, despite this and the 2006 FDA requirement that food producers list trans fat on their product's nutritional labels, the ingredient can still be found in many processed foods, including:

  • those containing hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated oils
  • fried foods like french fries and donuts (Calif. banned this in 2010) 
  • baked goods like crackers, cookies, cakes, and pies
  • snack foods, including microwave popcorn
  • frozen pizza
  • vegetable shortenings, stick margarines
  • coffee creamers
  • refrigerated dough product
  • ready-to-use frostings

Keep in mind, the nutritional information on a food product's packaging can list the amount of trans fat as zero, while still containing up to a half gram per serving.

For the time being, some manufacturers still choose to use the ingredient to increase a product's shelf life because trans fatty acids do not break down as quickly as other fats. This prevents products, like crackers, cookies, and cakes, from developing off flavors as they sit on store shelves or in your kitchen's pantry.

Trans fat is created when polyunsaturated vegetable oils are artificially hydrogenated. This is done by injecting hydrogen atoms into the fatty acid chains in order to reduce the number of carbon-carbon double bonds. In general terms, it makes the oils more chemically stable (and solid) at room temperature.

While these hydrogenated—or partially hydrogenated—oils may help a food product stay fresh, they can also wreak havoc on your cardiovascular system. 

"They're actually increasing injury to the arteries," explains Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Jocelyn Dubin of Nourish in Santa Cruz, Calif. "Essentially it's like potholes in a freeway, and so blood can not travel safely and smoothly from one organ or one vessel to another when the trans fats are inside of those arteries."

The damage that is being created is what's increasing risk for heart attack and risk for cardiovascular-related death, says Dubin.

Small amounts of trans fats occur naturally in some meat and dairy products, according to the American Heart Association. These are most commonly found in beef, lamb, and butterfat. There is not enough research yet to determine whether these naturally occurring trans fatty acid chains have the same disruptive effects on our LDL cholesterol levels as those made in a lab.

While the FDA continues its move toward banning trans fats from manufactured food products, consumers can take the matter into their own hands by avoiding the products listed above.

"There are some health practitioners that claim that up to 20,000 heart attacks a year and 7,000 deaths a year could be prevented by decreasing our trans fat intake or completely removing trans fat from the food chain entirely," said Dubin.

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Our Pick Book:

Back in the Swing Cookbook


The grassroots, non-profit, national organization Back in the Swing USA is out with the Back in the Swing Everyday Lifestyle Cookbook.

This 300-page, full-color, hard-bound book is co-authored by Barbara C. Unell, founder of Back in the Swing USA and cookbook author, Judith Fertig.