Wicked Cool World of Organics - Edition 52

This week's dose of organic headlines, updates, resources, goodies, and recipes courtesy of dsnodgrass...


Edition 52, which means this column has been here for a year now. Thanks for being part of it, let's start year 2. 

Outrage in San Francisco: City Gives Residents 'Organic' Compost Containing Toxic Sewage Sludge

When San Francisco, one of the greenest cities in America, offered its residents free compost, many were excited to take it. After all, purchasing enough compost for even a small 10 x 10-foot garden can cost over $50, and generating one's own compost in high enough quantities for such a garden takes a long time.

Few of the gardeners who lined up to receive the free compost at events like last September's Big Blue Bucket Eco-Fair suspected that the 20 tons of free bags labeled "organic biosolids compost" actually contained sewage sludge from nine California counties. On Thursday, March 4, angry San Franciscans returned the toxic sludge to the city, dumping it at Mayor Gavin Newsom's office in protest.

Sewage sludge is the end product of the treatment process for any human waste, hospital waste, industrial waste and -- in San Francisco -- stormwater that goes down the drain. The end goal is treated water (called effluent), which San Francisco dumps into the Pacific Ocean and San Francisco Bay. But the impurities and toxins removed from the water do not go away. With the water removed, the remaining byproduct is a highly concentrated toxic sludge containing anything that went down the drain but did not break down during the treatment process. That usually includes a number of heavy metals, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, pharmaceuticals, steroids, flame-retardants, bacteria (including antibiotic-resistant bacteria), fungi, parasites and viruses.

On its Web site, San Francisco's Public Utilities Commission describes a "green" process, in which its own sludge is treated until it qualifies as "Class B Biosolids" and is then applied to farmlands in Solano and Sonoma counties. A small percentage undergoes further treatment to qualify as "Class A Biosolids" -- that's the stuff San Francisco's gardeners have been receiving as free "compost" since 2007. (The major difference between Class A and Class B is the amount of fecal coliforms present in the sludge. While it's lower in Class A, studies show it regrows in the compost after the treatment process is over.)

Along with San Francisco's sludge, the "compost" contains sludge from eight other California counties (Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Mateo, Santa Rosa, Solano and Sonoma) and equal parts yard waste and wood chips. But the fact that the sludge qualifies by law as safe to spread on farms and gardens does not make it so.



Meanwhile, in England...

Conman jailed for selling millions of battery eggs as organic

Consumers bought free-range and organic eggs from Britain’s biggest supermarkets, believing they were the best quality and that hens enjoyed the highest of standards.

But, for an 18-month period from June 2004, over 100 million of these supposedly “premium” eggs on sale in supermarkets, such as Tesco and Sainsbury, and corner shops were from chickens reared in battery cages.

The scale of the racket was described at Worcester Crown Court yesterday when Keith Owen, mastermind of the scam, former managing director of Heart of England Eggs of Bromsgrove, was jailed for three years and ordered to pay £3 million in confiscation of his assets after admitting three charges of false accounting.


But John Kelsey-Fry QC, Owen’s barrister, in mitigation in court, suggested that others in the industry may have been implicated in the fraud. He said: “It is not the case that all those to whom Mr Owen supplied eggs were concerned to ensure the provenance of egg supplies.” He said it was inappropriate to name names.

It is the biggest food fraud case to have been brought by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs and is estimated to have cost about £1 million.



I'm wired in a way that I first tend to take things literally when I read them, which would put the following headline in a really weird context. 

Consumer groups hit organic product labels

Anyway, that's my issue, but the article is a serious matter.

Consumer groups want action on what they consider “rampant labeling fraud” on organic personal care products and cosmetics.

A complaint to be filed today with the Federal Trade Commission calls for companies that label products “organic” to follow the same strict U.S. Department of Agriculture standards set for food products. This means soaps, cosmetics and other items with organic claims must be made of natural, plant-based ingredients grown without the use of chemicals or preservatives.

“Organic is a very important term that consumers rely on. It has a very real legal meaning, but people are using it to deceive consumers,” said Ronnie Cummins, director of the Organic Consumers Association, which is filing the complaint with Consumers Union, publisher of Consumer Reports.

Debra Stark, owner of Debra’s Natural Gourmet in Concord, has pulled countless products from her shelves over the last two decades, taking a hit in order to provide customers with body care she believes is organic.



Organic Butternut Squash Pancakes


1 small organic butternut squash
1 organic egg
1 organic egg white
1/2 cup of organic milk
2 cups organic whole wheat pastry flour
2 teaspoons of baking powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Go to the source to find what you do with the ingredients.


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  • Posted on March 12, 2010. Listed in:

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