Cedar Plank Chili & Rosemary Salmon

This delicious cedar-planked salmon recipe is perfect for summer grilling.

Cook up some fresh asparagus, add fresh-squeezed lemon, a sprinkling of olive oil, and a sprig of rosemary, and voila! You’ll have yourself a bistro-worthy creation to enjoy al fresco!

Quick note: be sure to budget enough time beforehand to thoroughly soak the planks…otherwise, you’ll have a fish flambé on your hands!

Scroll down for instructions and enjoy 🙂

Want to dig deeper into this recipe to learn how foods like these are a part of our bigger food system? We’ve got something for everyone!

Cedar Plank Chili & Rosemary Salmon Recipe


  • 2 lb. salmon filet
  • 1 tbsp. chili powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 2 tsp. brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. dried rosemary
  • 1/2 tsp. grated lemon peel
  • Salt to taste


  • Soak cedar plank according to instructions
  • Combine dry ingredients and rub on top of filet
  • Place filet on plank and let rest for 30 mins
  • Heat grill to 400F and place plank on indirect heat
  • Close grill and let cook for 15-18 mins., until internal temperature reaches 165F
  • Garnish with rosemary sprigs and lemon slices

Hungry for more knowledge? Click on the posts below to sate your curiosity about where our food comes from. And click here for more of our tried-and-true recipes. Bon appetit!

Oakridge Dairy Overcomes Industry Challenges

Oakridge cow

This fall, I visited 2,700 Olympic ladies. It wasn’t at the Tokyo Olympics, but here in New England. Oakridge Dairy is a fifth-generation farm located in Ellington, Connecticut. Established in 1890, the Adolph-Bahler family started growing tobacco, potatoes, and dairy cows. Now, they have a powerhouse of 2,700 Holsteins that produce over 21 thousand gallons of milk per day – an Olympic-sized feat, for sure!

While other dairy farms in the nearby area closed over the years, Oakridge expanded by adhering to the motto:

Quality does not happen by chance; it’s done on purpose.

Through the generations, this family has endured and responded to changing consumer preferences, new technology, increased regulation, and a host or other challenges. They currently have three family members who actively maintain their families’ passion for all things dairy.

Challenges in the Dairy Industry 

We wondered how they, and the dairy industry overall, are faring in today’s tough environment. Dairy has been mistakenly blamed for causing cardiovascular disease, cancer, and lactose intolerance, pushing consumers over to nut ‘milks’ such as almond, coconut, and cashew. And climate change has turned the spotlight on agriculture, specifically methane-producing cattle and dairy cows. In addition, the regulatory environment is much stricter on manure run-off and smell pollution in the surrounding neighborhoods.

But the truth about dairy farms and their products is not all doom-and-gloom. In fact, it’s the opposite. Let’s start with what these bovine athletes give us. Many of the necessary nutrients our bodies need to stay healthy are found in just one 8-ounce glass of milk. It helps us make muscle, blood, bone, skin, hair, and hemoglobin which carries oxygen throughout our blood. It regulates the nerves, muscles, and heart while also being a building block of our genes.

Milk nutrients help protect against cell damage and infection. It helps with brain functions of memory and thinking, as well as food for our microbiome. Finally, there is research that shows dairy can protect from both heart disease and colorectal cancer.

To combat the demand for alternative products, the dairy industry is becoming more creative in addressing consumer concerns. A recent McKinsey study on consumer behavior toward dairy shows that 42% of consumers perceived alternative milks as health and wellness solutions, a 14% increase from 2019.

Dairy farmers around the world are using data-driven insights to create new varieties of dairy to meet customer needs and preferences. Some choices are flavored milk, lactose-free milk, reduced sugar milk, and high-protein yogurt, milks and other products.

Some cheeses such as Swiss, provolone, gouda, cheddar, Edam, Greyere, and cottage cheese have been shown to be beneficial for our gut microbiome. And don’t forget Kefir as a fermented source of about 30 species of probiotics that aid gut health.

So, how is Oakridge handling these challenges?

The Milkman is Back

The Adolph-Bahler family is conscious that not everyone understands how a dairy farm operates. They have a delivery service called The Modern Milkman that delivers fresh milk, local eggs, butter, yogurt, and cheese within a 50-mile radius of their farm.

To further this community offering, Oakridge Dairy want their neighbors to see where milk comes from. They host field trips, educational events, and farm fairs over the course of the year to enhance transparency for all customers. Quite literally inviting them in to see exactly where the milk comes from and how it ends up in their carton or cheese.

Oakridge Dairy strives to be the farm of the future in a world where people know their farmer.

Feeding People with the Environment in Mind

There is no denying the environmental impact of feeding 7.9 billion people, 1.7 billion cattle and pigs, and 34 billion chickens around the world. However, each year, sustainability across the ag sector improves. Farmers around the world, particularly in the U.S. and Europe, are giving humans, animals, and birds the nutrition needed while minimizing the impact on land, water, and air.

This is also true of dairy, where farmers have made significant strides over the decades to produce more milk using less land and fewer cows emitting less methane. The average cow in the U.S. produces about 7.8 gallons of milk per day, an increase from 5.7 gallons in 1999.

For the cows to produce that much volume, they eat about 100 pounds of food and drink 50 gallons of water each day, equating to an acre to feed one cow and calf for a year!

While the number of dairy herds has dropped from approximately 46,000 in 2013 to 36,000 in 2023, the number of dairy cows has remained the same due to dairy farm consolidation.

Yet milk production has increased by an extra two gallons a day per cow than more than 20 years ago. This is due to the science around animal feed.

Animal feed science for dairy has increased cow digestibility and decreased methane. Cows eat plants for their diet, but they lack the ability to efficiently digest their food. Hence the methane burps we’ve heard about in the news the last few years.

To digest the food most efficiently, the cows need a strong set of microflorae such as bacteria, protozoa, fungi, archaea, and bacteriophages. Data science has allowed feed companies to match the perfect microbiome and feed combination for a specific farm to enhance yield production.

Oakridge Dairy’s ‘Cow Power’

Methane, or anaerobic digesters are an environmental solution for all that manure and urine. Each day, the waste is cleaned out of the barn and placed in a big lagoon covered with a rubber dome.

The gases, which otherwise would go into the atmosphere, are captured inside the dome and used for a variety of purposes. The farm can use the gas to generate their own electricity, thus eliminating the need traditional coal-powered electricity. If the farm generates excess energy, it can be sold back onto the grid as an alternative energy source for the surrounding area.

Additionally, the captured gas can be injected into natural gas pipelines and used to power renewable natural gas vehicles. It is fun to think that the electricity used to charge electric vehicles could be run on cow power. These digesters are not cheap and can be cost prohibitive for farms with dairy herds of less than 500 cows. Another reason for dairy consolidation.

Oakridge Dairy implemented a digester at its farm. Not only does the digester give them enough energy to power the electricity needed on their farm but depending on the time of year and energy prices, they also can sell it back on the grid.

Another great benefit is that Oakridge Dairy uses the solid waste for the cow’s bedding. It sounds a little unsanitary, but when we visited the farm, we saw that the digestor heats up the manure and kills all the bacteria.

The heated manure goes through another heating and drying process which makes it fluffy and clean for the cows to use when they lay down.

Cows lay down for about 14 hours a day, so it is critical that their bedding is clean and bacteria free.

Artificial Intelligence & Dairy

Data management and artificial intelligence definitely have its place on a dairy farm. It gives predictive dairy and cow information to the herd manager to monitor cow health and milk production.

At D2D, we have talked about sensors that dairy cows wear – like collecting your data on your Apple Watch. The herd manager can look at the data on any cow and see if she is eating enough, has a fever, milk production is consistent, and if she is socializing with her friends. The data is endless. This has helped reduce sick cows by at least 15% because it lets the herd manager see and treat a cow before she is in distress. This has a tremendous impact on animal welfare.

Furthermore, dairy farmers can now put all this information together and find trends. What does the overall fertility rate look like for the herd? Is the animal feed just the right balance for the cows’ health? How well are they chewing their cud? Should the beds be changed more often? Do the cows like classical music or rock and roll when they milk? The farm can then adjust feed rations, milking schedules, and labor for optimal financial results.

A contented cow is a productive cow.

Farmers do everything to ensure their cows are comfortable, well fed and stress free.

At Oakridge Dairy, automated milking uses the Internet of Things and artificial intelligence as an on-going innovation in the milking parlor. The data can show the best time of day to milk, optimizing cow traffic which affects milk quality. The cows are automatically sorted into a moving carousel which helps reduce lameness and decreases costs.

Each cow’s udder needs to be cleaned before the milking apparatus is placed on the teats. Otherwise, bacteria would get into the milk. Generally, this is done manually by one or two farm laborers. However, this is time consuming and always fraught with human error.

Oakridge Dairy invested in two robots that go underneath the cow and prep them for milking. The fascinating part is that even though most cows are Holsteins and should have a similar teat anatomy, all cows are unique, just like us. The robot goes underneath the cow and because of AI, it remembers each teat placement of each cow.


After the milking, there is another robot that also has the same AI-type memory bank that sprays the teats, so they are clean before entering the barn.

Recycle and Reuse

If it were not for cows, a lot of food byproducts would just go to landfills.

For instance, the world eats a lot of almonds. The United States alone produced the most at 1.3 million tons of almonds. Did you know that almonds grow in a shell? What happens to those shells? As the almonds are processed, the shells get crunched up and sent to use as animal feed for dairy farms, like the hulls that are fed to the cows.

The world also drinks a lot of beer. The United States is 20th, with each of us drinking about 73 liters a year. FYI, Czech Republic is the global winner, drinking 140 liters a year. Beer comes from barley malt or other grains. After fermentation, there is something called brewers’ grains which is used for animal feed. If cows didn’t eat it, it would end up in a landfill.

Bread has been a staple in the human diet for over 30,000 years. So, it is no surprise that the left-over product of making wheat is used for animal feed. Wheat middlings are a great source of protein, fiber, phosphorus and other nutrients for animals.

Visiting Oakridge Dairy to witness reusing & recycling, AI, and biodigesters in action was an insightful experience into the future of ag, where technology helps to meet the needs of the cows and our global health.

The farm’s concern for their ‘Olympic ladies’ is self-serving because cow comfort means more milk for their customers. And as seen first-hand, these cows are clean, comfortable, and very happy, indeed.


5 Ways Cattle & Dairy Cows Can Help the Environment

dairy cows

Dairy cow and cattle farms have been mistakenly blamed for a disproportionate amount of climate change given its production of methane and manure run-off. But let’s challenge this assumption by examining a few ways farmers manage their farms and ranches…

Did you know cattle can play a positive role in climate change, and farmers and ranchers are proactively working to reduce methane output? Here’s how!

1. Livestock is one of the best tools for land management

Ranchers whose cattle roam the land utilize regenerative agriculture. These animals graze on the grass – grass-fed – and while doing so, contribute to the nutrients in the soil. Livestock is used by ranchers to better manage the land, which then benefits not only the soil, but also native plants and wildlife. Healthy soil also absorbs the rainfall better and prevents water run-off into roads, streams, and wetlands.

2. Dairy cows & cattle can cut emissions

The Nature Conservancy highlighted a metanalysis titled, “Reducing Climate Impacts of Beef Production,” which showed that ranchers who own both grasslands and beef could cut emissions by 50%. This is especially true in the U.S. and Brazil.

How does this work? Well, when cattle graze, their hooves dig up the soil, where seeds then drop in from neighboring plants. Cow manure acts as the fertilizer, and the grasslands thrive because they’re a carbon sink. In Texas, one cattle rancher, Meredith Ellis, is sequestering 2,500 tons of carbon (after enteric emissions) a year. This is equal to taking 551 cars off the road.

On a global scale, the map below taken from Cusack et al’s study, Reducing Climate Impacts of Beef Production, exemplifies some of the many emission-reducing tools in the farmers and ranchers toolbelt being executed across the world. This includes production and transportation of fertilizers and feed, water use, animal maintenance, soil management, and machinery use.

3. Grass-fed vs. Feedlot

95% of all cattle start their lives on grass, then finish them in the feedlot. Many argue that feedlot cattle contribute to atmospheric methane more than grass-fed. However, it’s just the opposite. Grass-fed cattle emit approximately 20% more methane because it takes them about a year longer to reach market weight.

In addition, animal nutrition companies are researching ways to further reduce the release of methane anywhere from 3% to 50% through animal feed. Cows burp more when they eat roughage in grass versus a highly nutritious and tailored feedlot diet. When the roughage breaks down, methane is produced.

4. Dairy Digesters

The dairy industry has benefited from anaerobic methane digestors for quite some time now. How?

Dairy farms collect the manure and plow it into domed, rubber-lined ponds next to the barns. Each of these helps capture methane. The methane is then used as electricity for the farm or sold back onto the grid.

Farms that do this are GHG-negative because they use methane instead of fossil fuels to provide their electricity. California has committed to a 40% reduction of dairy methane emissions by 2030 just by using digesters.

5. Cows are actually carbon neutral

Contrary to popular belief, cows are carbon-neutral emitters.

This is because, over time, they do not emit more carbon than they eat. When cows eat plants, they consume carbohydrates, which contain carbon.

After the plant enters their stomach, they bring it back up to chew some more; then it goes back down into their stomach to be digested by the microbes, called methanogens.

This is when a portion is belched as methane and is released into the air. This methane is to blame because it’s 28 times more potent as a GHG than CO2. However, the good news is that it only lasts in the air for about eight to ten years. Then, it converts into one part CO2 and two parts H2O via hydroxyl oxidation.

Food as Protection from Air Pollution

Foods to combat pollution's health effects

Two weeks ago, approximately 2,300 fires began burning in nine of Canada’s thirteen territories. These fires have destroyed nearly 9.5 million acres of forest causing widespread haze and air pollution throughout the U.S.

This rapid smoke onset turning our skies shades of yellow and orange caused panic across the eastern seaboard as some people reached deep in their drawers and opted to re-mask when outside, and avoid outdoors when at all possible.

What many may forget is that air pollution is a major health concern for people around the world, not just when fires are raging.

Pollution as a Global Crisis

Air pollution poses significant risks to both environmental and human health. The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that air pollution causes the death of seven million people per year globally. Living in urban areas with high levels of pollution can exacerbate health issues, such as asthma, bronchial diseases, and heart disease.

With the challenges of air pollution becoming increasingly prevalent such as in instances of the Canadian fires, scientific research provides new insights into how our diet can protect us from the harmful effects of air pollution and the ways that we can reduce the impact through various foods.

The Role of Antioxidants in Combating Air Pollution

Oxidative stress and inflammation are two major biological responses to air pollution.

Fine particles, smaller than 2.5 microns, can penetrate deep into the lungs and potentially enter the bloodstream, causing low-grade inflammation and oxidative stress. These processes are thought to aggravate or even drive chronic diseases.

Antioxidants are substances that neutralize harmful free radicals produced in the body as a result of exposure to toxic air particles. Free radicals are unstable molecules that can cause inflammation, leading to a range of health issues, from diseases to premature aging.

By ensuring that our diet is rich in antioxidants, we can help our bodies protect themselves from the damaging effects of air pollution.

The existing literature on the subject suggests that some harmful effects of air pollution may be modified by the intake of essential micronutrients (such as B vitamins, and vitamins C, and E), omega-3 fatty acids, Mediterranean diet guidelines and cruciferous and apiaceous vegetables.

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean diet emphasizes consumption of plant-based foods, olive oil, fatty fish with omega 3s and moderate intake of alcohol, providing a diet highly enriched in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory compounds.

A large cohort study with detailed diet information at the individual level assessed whether a Mediterranean diet modified the association between long-term exposure to ambient air pollution and cardiovascular disease mortality risk. The study found that those with a higher adherence to a Mediterranean-style diet had significantly lower rates of air pollution-related mortality.

This suggests that increased consumption of foods rich in antioxidant compounds may aid in reducing the considerable disease burden associated with ambient air pollution.

Cruciferous Vegetables

Broccoli and other cruciferous vegetables can dramatically boost the detox enzymes in our liver and help decrease the level of inflammation within our bodies. This may explain why eating more than two cups of cruciferous veggies a day is associated with a 20% reduced risk of dying, compared to eating a third of a cup a day or less.

The cruciferous compound sulforaphane is a powerful inducer of our detox enzymes and has been extensively researched for its cancer-fighting abilities. Recent studies have also looked at its ability to fight the inflammatory impact of pollutants.

In one study, participants who consumed a regular broccoli sprout extract (equivalent to one to two cups of broccoli a day) experienced a decreased level of inflammation in their airways from pollutants compared to those who did not consume the extract.

Foods like arugula, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, cauliflower, kale, radish, and turnips, are a way to combat the long-term health risks of air pollution.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acids, commonly found in fatty fish like salmon and tuna, as well as in fish oil supplements, have been shown to offer protection against the cardiovascular effects of air pollution.

A study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) revealed that individuals with higher levels of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood experienced less adverse effects from short-term exposure to outdoor air pollution.

It found that individuals with higher levels of these fatty acids experienced improved lung and vascular function following short-term exposure to NO2.

Regular intake of foods such as chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts, can mitigate these effects of nitrogen dioxide.

Apiaceous Vegetables

Apiaceous vegetables, such as celery, carrots, parsnips, and parsley, have been found to protect the body from the accumulation of acrolein, a lung and skin irritant present in cigarette smoke and automobile exhaust.

A study by the University of Delaware discovered that these vegetables support detoxification by increasing antioxidant enzyme activity in the liver.

Vitamin C-rich Foods

Vitamin C is a potent antioxidant that can help the body eliminate free radicals and reduce the impact of air pollution. Vitamin C is also a water-soluble vitamin and potent antioxidant that should be prioritized in a diet designed to combat the effects of pollution. The human body cannot produce or store vitamin C, so it’s crucial to include it in our diet daily.

Vitamin C works to recycle vitamin E, as well as being essential for collagen synthesis. Collagen synthesis helps make our muscles and tissues resilient. Foods rich in vitamin C, such as oranges, broccoli, kiwi, cabbage, and turnip greens, can help maintain healthy levels of vitamin C in the lungs.

Vitamin B-rich Foods

Columbia University conducted a study that concluded that B vitamins could prevent particulate pollution from affecting heart rate variability and provoking inflammation.

According the lead scientist Jia Zhong, a huge consideration is the expression of genes, stating that pollution can activate normally quiet “bad genes,” and that B vitamins may keep those potentially dangerous genes silent.

For more on epigenetics and how genes are expressed, check out our article on epigenetics.

Vitamin E-rich Foods

Vitamin E is another powerful antioxidant that can help protect against the harmful effects of air pollution. According to studies, there exists an association between the amount of vitamin E in our bodies, and exposure to particulate pollution and how well our lungs function.

Plant-based cooking oils like rice bran oil, sunflower oil, olive oil, and canola oil, as well as almonds and sunflower seeds, are excellent sources of vitamin E.

Other Factors to Build Resistance to Air Pollution

In addition to consuming the foods listed above, it’s essential to maintain a healthy, balanced diet to build resistance against air pollution.

This means focusing on consuming whole foods and avoiding processed or fast foods that may contribute to inflammation and oxidative stress.

A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats can provide the body with the necessary nutrients to combat the harmful effects of air pollution.

Along with a healthy diet, adopting certain lifestyle habits can further reduce the impact of air pollution on your health.


Some of these habits include:

  • Regular exercise to increase lung capacity and improve respiratory function
  • Quitting smoking, as it can cause premature aging of the lungs and increase the risk of lung diseases
  • Adopting good hygiene practices, such as washing hands regularly and avoiding crowded areas during flu season, to prevent lung infections
  • Using air purifiers and maintaining good indoor air quality to minimize exposure to pollutants in the home

Scientific evidence supports the notion that diet plays a crucial role in mitigating the adverse effects of air pollution on human health. Adopting specific dietary patterns, such as the Mediterranean diet or increasing the intake of the above-mentioned nutrients, can help reduce pollution-related health risks.

Digging in with Dr. Jim Joachim, Internist & Clinical Nutritionist

Dr Joachim podcast

Dr. Joachim is a primary care internist and a medical and clinical nutritionist at his practice in San Diego, California. Dr. Joachim is a Fellow of the American College of Nutrition and has given hundreds of clinical nutrition presentations to doctors, nurses, students, and patients for over 35 years.

And to keep things interesting, Dr. Joachim was a tactical physician in the Wilmington, NC Police Department’s SWAT Team, undergoing rigorous training to graduate from the Police Academy to serve those wounded in the field.

Listen in to extract the varied pieces of wisdom Dr. Joachim has accumulated, both with his practice and in real-life experiences. His insights will provide confidence in your dietary decision-making and quiet the noise from supplement companies that seem to promise the world in one little pill or scoop of powder.

Dirty Tactics from EWG’s Dirty Dozen

Dirty Dozen's Dirty Tricks

Full disclosure: I buy organic fruits & veggies. I also buy conventional fruits & veggies. For me, it depends on the time of year, the way the produce looks, which grocer or market I’m visiting, and price (those two-for-one berry deals are no joke!). At D2D, we also believe that feeding a growing population requires all kinds of safe, sustainable growing methods. We should have a choice and not be unnecessarily fearful of the food at the grocery store.

What’s at Stake?

If I told you that I only buy organic produce, you’d probably assume that I had the Environmental Working Group’s (EWG) list of contaminated produce memorized for when I go shopping, right? And probably expound on the “horrors” of conventional farming, too. Some of you may not know what EWG is, but you’re probably familiar with their annual “Dirty Dozen” list showing which conventionally-farmed fruits & veggies have the most pesticide residue based on data from the USDA Pesticide Data Program.

But should you really be afraid of these “Dirty Dozen” items?

EWG would give a big ‘yes’ to that one. But wouldn’t you do this, too, if your corporate donations came from Organic Valley, Earthbound Farms, Applegate Farms, and Stonyfield Farms?

Hey, I kinda get it – they’d infuriate their stakeholders if they published information discouraging their products. But their report hurts our health and frankly, our sanity. And at a time when we need it most with rising rates of obesity and chronic illness sufferers in the U.S.

Sad State of Health

Did you know that only 10% of us eat the recommended amounts of fruits & veggies each day? I’m literally sneaking riced cauliflower and diced sweet potatoes into my oatmeal each morning and am barely scraping by in that department. There is no doubt about it: washing, chopping, and preparing five to nine servings of veggies for each family member every day takes a lot of time.

But what about those who can’t even shop for fresh produce? The USDA’s food desert map examines lower-income and lower-access locations where people live far from a supermarket.

You’re Only as Good as Your Data

Though we’ve previously posted on how the USDA and EPA monitor and manage pesticide residues on produce, here are a few points about the margin of safety the EPA applies to our produce, the data gathered by the USDA that shows where produce falls within that spectrum, and how the EWG misrepresents the data to scare the daylights out of us.

Let’s first take a look at data collection and what it shows:

Organic and conventional crops: It’s not a level playing field

“The EPA requires synthetic pesticide manufacturers to conduct a whole battery of tests for initial and ongoing registration. The extensive and costly testing is conducted to determine toxicity on human health from dermal exposure, inhalation, and ingestion, and assesses human health outcomes related to reproduction, cancer, and organ systems.

On the other hand, “natural” organic pesticides are not required to be tested for toxicity and have never received this level of assessment.” 

– Susan Leaman, Toxicology Consultant, Vice President at IDS Decision Sciences

  • Have you heard of copper sulfate? It’s considered an organic pesticide and is frequently used on crops prone to fungus. It’s also one of the most toxic pesticides. Yes, even among synthetic ones.

Toxicity Levels of Various Substances

Sources: National Science Teachers Association, CamiRyan.com

Yes, there is pesticide residue on most produce – both conventional and organic. It’s also in our air. And water. And, our bodies can handle it.

Despite what you may hear on the interwebs, the USDA conducts very rigorous testing on thousands of produce samples for its Pesticide Data Program (EWG’s data source). The USDA then works with the EPA to develop tolerances for acceptable pesticide residue on produce.

  • This is how the EPA determines pesticide tolerance: they identify an allowable level of residue for no health risks based on exhaustive toxicological evaluations. If a residue is at or below the tolerated amount, it is safe by a factor of 100, which means the residue present is 100 times smaller than the smallest amount that would have a negative health effect. That’s a pretty plentiful safety cushion there.

“In reality, exposure to toxins like pesticides is not as simple as ‘this is good, that is bad’. Whether or not something is toxic depends on numerous factors, such as the substance’s form, the amount you are exposed to, how you are exposed, and your genetic make-up.”

– Susan Leaman, Toxicology Consultant, Vice President at IDS Decision Sciences

  • Still scared? Check out this page from Alliance for Food and Farming, which represents organic and conventional produce farmers, to see how much produce you’d need to eat to incur some ill effect from the residue, based on our gender and age range. As much as I love strawberries, I don’t think I can eat 453 berries in one day ????

EWG’s Dirty Data Habits

Let’s take a quick look at how EWG takes advantage of omissions and manipulates data in favor of their stakeholders:

EWG’s desperate search for data to substantiate their position

EWG recycles practically all the same data as previous years and slaps the “2023” on Food Shoppers Guide to make it look meaningful

  • The USDA analyzes pesticide residues with dozens of rotating crops, so each year only select crops are re-analyzed. For instance, this year it was just three crops analyzed that fall under EWG’s coverage: asparagus, cabbages, and sweet peas. Yet they make a big stink about releasing a whole new report, instead of just giving an update on the 6% of data that may or may not have changed since last year!
  • To that end, we don’t know the current pesticide levels of pineapples and eggplants, which were last analyzed in 2002 and 2006, respectively. But both show up on EWG’s “Clean Fifteen” list, without really knowing levels within the last 14+ years.
  • As for raspberries, another delicately-skinned fruit like strawberries (notoriously #1 in the “Dirty Dozen”), they haven’t been analyzed since 2013 – a long time for those overly-concerned with these things.

…When it’s convenient for them

  • Suddenly they’re reporting on shelf-stable goods? Their report vilifies conventional raisins during a time when some of us don’t have access to fresh fruit. What kind of timing is that?
  • And as unemployment skyrockets, they send an email blast asking for money ☹ Sounds kinda culty, too, right? And, I don’t know, maybe directing at least SOME of those funds to a COVID relief fund would make this email seem a little less crude and more helpful at keeping people alive and healthy, perhaps?

EWG Actually Knows Better

The most disheartening part about the EWG’s Dirty Dozen report? They know they’re causing unnecessary panic. Perhaps in light of the current pandemic, they stated in their press release that “…consumers should continue eating plenty of healthy fruits and vegetables, whether they are conventional or organic. Doesn’t this seem contradictory to their entire report? So why cause more panic when we’re all already freaking out???

There’s no question that the benefits of eating fresh fruits and vegetables FAR outweigh any ill effects from pesticides – the vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, fiber, and other nutrients keep our bodies healthy. How else are we to build up our immune systems to help combat this virus?

Uniting for Health

Despite the mixed messages of the EWG report, there’s one common theme that unifies us all in our plight for overall and immune health: to eat more fruits and veggies, no matter the source. Whether explicitly said by nutritionists and doctors, or hidden between the lines in a press release, we all agree that eating more produce can positively affect our immunity against COVID, and beyond.

And if you are still concerned about pesticide residues and pathogens, just rigorously wash and prepare your produce.

Make sure to wash your produce thoroughly under cool running water BEFORE eating or preparing. It is important to rinse…to avoid transferring dirt or bacteria onto your knife, the flesh of the produce or your work surface. The FDA does not recommend washing your fruits and vegetables with soap…however, you may want to use a clean produce brush to scrub firm crops.”

– Maki Yazawa, RealSimple

My last point is for those who are still skeptical…

If you question the USDA and EPA data, just remember that between two stories may lie the truth. So, if you recall that the EPA’s pesticide residue tolerance scale for produce must be “100” at a bare minimum, and “1” is a serving of produce that has enough pesticide residue to cause an immediate ill health effect (as the EWG would like us to believe), that halfway point brings us to “50”. Even at a factor of 50, I would still encourage my family and friends to eat lots and lots of produce. Even then, 226 strawberries are still too many for me to eat at once 😉

Grilling Season: Food Safety Best Practices

chicken and vegetables on skewers

Before you fire up the grill, let’s review safe food storage, handling, and preparation to help you protect yourself, your families, and your guests from foodborne illnesses.

Clean, Separate, Cook, and Chill

The Be Food Safe campaign was created by the U.S. Department of Agriculture with the Partnership for Food Safety Education, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to raise awareness of the importance of safe food handling in American households. The campaign recommends just four simple steps: clean, separate, cook and chill.

Wash Your Hands, Wash Your Utensils

  • Wash your hands with water and soap for at least 20 seconds before and after handling food. Wash between your fingers and fingernails as well.
  • Use gloves to handle food if you have a cut or infection.
  • Wash your cutting boards, dishes, utensils, and countertops with hot soapy water after preparing each food item, especially after using them for cutting raw meat, poultry, and seafood.
  • Consider using paper towels to clean up kitchen surfaces. If you use cloth towels, launder them often in the hot cycle. Put sponges in the microwave for sixty seconds or more to kill bacteria

Maintaining cutting boards: If not properly maintained, cutting boards can harbor harmful bacteria. Cutting boards with nonporous surfaces, such as plastic, marble, glass, or pyro-ceramic, are easier to clean and can hold on to fewer bacteria. The USDA Meat and Poultry Hotline recommends consumers use wood or a nonporous surface for cutting raw meat and poultry.

Which foods should you clean before eating?

Washing raw poultry, beef, pork, lamb, or veal before cooking it is NOT recommended by the FDA, USDA, and food safety experts. When meat is washed, water may splash harmful bacteria present on the raw meat spreading them to surrounding surfaces, including the clothes of the person washing the meat. Since cooking meat to the appropriate temperature kills disease-causing bacteria, washing meats prior to cooking is not necessary.

Eggs contain a natural coating that prevents bacteria from permeating the shell.  And during commercial egg production, eggs are washed and sprayed with edible mineral oil to protect them from bacterial contamination. Washing eggs at home will remove these protective coatings and makes the eggs more susceptible to contamination.

Raw fruits and vegetables can carry harmful bacteria, be sure to wash them under running tap water to remove any lingering dirt. When preparing fruits and vegetables, remove any damaged or bruised areas. These are prime spots for bacteria to thrive. In some cases, like with berries, it is best to not wash the produce until you are ready to eat them so they so they stay fresh.

Cook: Use a thermometer— even on your hamburger on the grill! Cooking food to a high enough temperature destroys harmful bacteria. To make sure food is heated to the appropriate internal temperature, the use of a food thermometer is highly recommended. You cannot see, smell, or taste bacteria that cause foodborne illness so it is imperative that you use a thermometer to determine when food is safe to eat.

Chill: Refrigeration is essential. The “danger zone,” where bacteria grow most rapidly, is the range of temperatures between 40 °F and 140°F.  Within this temperature range, bacteria can double in number in as little as 20 minutes. Keeping your food out of the “danger zone” is imperative to food safety in the kitchen.

Storage: USDA has developed guidelines recommending safe time limits for keeping refrigerated foods from becoming dangerous to eat. (Maximum freezing times are recommended for quality purposes only.)

For additional information on safely shopping for food, transporting food and serving food, check out the USDA’s Kitchen Companion: Your Safe Food Handbook.

Food Safety at Farmers’ Markets

farmers market sign in front of vegetables

Who doesn’t enjoy visiting a farmers’ market and buying recently harvested fruits, veggies, jams, honey, and meats from local farms? Many times you can shake the farmer’s hand, ask questions about how they grow their food, and discuss what crops to expect this summer. This sentiment is enjoyed by many and as a result, U.S. farmers’ markets have become increasingly popular.

Popularity of U.S. farmers’ markets

Consumers love these seasonal markets – and so do our farmers. By selling at farmers’ markets, farmers can get a better profit margin on their goods as they bypass their traditional vendor (like your local grocery store who takes a cut of their profits) to sell their freshly harvested produce and other products directly to consumers. An additional benefit of these direct-to-consumer venues is when consumers gain a better understanding of where their food comes from, and farmers can meet the people that are purchasing and enjoying the fruits of their labor.

But what about food safety? As consumers, how do you know that these farmers have followed best food safety practices in the growing, harvesting, and processing of their harvests?

It is safe to say that no farmer will deliberately grow and harvest food he/she knows is contaminated with human pathogens (i.e., microorganisms that can make people sick). However, some farmers are more aware than others of the risk factors from water, soil, humans, wildlife, domestic animals, etc., that could contaminate produce crops.

You can read more about in-field food safety programs in our previous blog post, “How Safe Is Our Food?”

How safe is the product you just bought from the local farmers’ market?

The primary food safety concerns are foodborne pathogenic bacteria, such as ListeriaSalmonella, pathogenic E. coli as well as Norovirus that, at the least, cause gastrointestinal symptoms but, in some cases, can also cause other more serious health effects.

A farmer’s level of food safety awareness certainly affects the steps he/she takes to prevent contamination from occurring i.e., implementing food safety practices and procedures to reduce the contamination risk. In some cases, such as with wildlife or birds moving through or over a field, it is impossible to prevent potential contamination sources from contacting crops. So, in this case, farmers monitor these potential sources to minimize the possibility of pathogens being transferred to their crops. For example, one method they may use is to look for feces on produce or the surrounding soil during harvest and not harvest crops that are within a specified radius of the fecal material.

In researching this topic, we found several studies that tested specific produce from both farmers’ markets and grocery stores for bacteria that can serve as indicators of pathogens that could cause illness. The study results indicated that produce from farmers’ markets typically had significantly more bacterial counts in general than produce from grocery stores, but this is not necessarily bad since many bacteria are not harmful to humans and may even be beneficial for maintaining product quality and human health when consumed.

Do federal food safety regulations apply to locally grown products sold directly to consumers?

It depends, but most farmers selling their products at farmers’ markets qualify for some exemptions to the level of food safety regulations practiced by larger producers.

According to the Food Safety Modernization Act (FSMA) passed by U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Obama in 2011, food safety requirements depend on a farm’s income.

  1. Farming operations with less than $25,000 in food sales are completely exempt from food safety rules.
  2. Farms that gross between $25,000 and $500,000 annually and sell most of their food products (greater than 50%) directly to consumers, restaurants, or stores in their state or within 275 miles of their farm are exempt from the more rigorous and costly FSMA requirements (i.e., detailed record-keeping and technical reporting requirements).
  3. Farms grossing more than $500,000 annually to follow all applicable regulations and to undergo food safety inspections.

The bulk of farmers who sell their products at farmers’ markets qualify for one of these exemptions. FSMA requires farms grossing more than $500,000 annually to follow all applicable regulations and to undergo food safety inspections.

What do experts say about food safety and small producers?

Industry leaders have weighed in…

At the end of the day, we want our food to be safe regardless of where it comes from. However, there seem to be differences of opinion on whether small producers need to follow the same rules as large producers.

“There is no scientific evidence to support reduced requirements or exemptions for small farms due to lower food safety risks.”  — David Plunkett, Center for Science in Public Interest.

“Scientific evidence is not conclusive either way regarding the safety of local food. We don’t really know if larger operations are safer than smaller operations. Right now we can’t say farmers markets are riskier or safer.” — Dr. Francisco Diez-Gonzales, University of Minnesota

“Small scale growers can be sued for producing and selling food that makes people sick.” — Bill Marler, Food safety attorney

“Collectively, this data indicates small farms would be spending about 60% of their profits complying with the new FSMA rules if they were not exempt.”  — National Farmers Market Coalition

Those in favor of small farm exemptions and reduced requirements emphasize the cost of complying with FSMA’s rules, as it could put many small farms out of business. However, both sides agree that food safety at the small farm level needs to be a priority for the health and safety of our communities throughout the United States.

Critics of reduced requirements and exemptions warn small farmers and consumers: pathogens do not discriminate between small and large farms and local does not mean microbiologically safer.

Farmer’s markets make their own policies

State and local governments oversee farmers’ markets. For the most part,  research indicates that states rely on county health departments to regulate food safety at farmers’ markets and the health departments rely on market managers to enforce food safety practices at the market. Many state and local governments do not have adequate staffing to visit each local farmers’ market leaving food safety rule development and enforcement to the market manager.

In her job as liaison between the King County/Seattle (WA) Public Health Department and farmers’ markets, Jill Trohimovich, an environmental health specialist, told Food Safety News her department does “a quick walk-by” when inspecting farmers’ markets. Public health officials from other states have made similar statements about their inspections of farmers’ markets. Dave Stockdale, a past executive director of the nonprofit Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture, describes market managers as having “a general understanding” of agriculture and food safety guidelines, but no specific training.

Stacy Miller, a former executive director of the Farmers Market Coalition, explained how the process of vetting potential farmers’ market vendors differs from one market to the next. One market may require potential vendors to fill out an application, present proof of insurance, and have an onsite inspection while others may only require proof of insurance.

An example of a more rigorous set of requirements is the Ferry Plaza Farmers’ Market in San Francisco, California. Due to limited space and enormous popularity with shoppers, this San Franciscan market requires farmers who want to sell their products to complete a 17-page application and pass an on-farm food safety and sustainability inspection by market managers.

On the contrary, vendors who wish to join the Phoenix (AZ) Public Market run by Community Food Connections, complete a one-page application before being allowed to sell their products. Cindy Gentry, the Community Food Connections’ founder and former executive, said that someone from the organization tries to visit each farm, but sometimes that does not happen until after the farmers have already started selling their products at the market.

Have there ever been foodborne illness outbreaks linked to food sold at farmers’ markets?

Since 2008, there have been seven major foodborne illness outbreaks and two recalls associated with food products from farmers’ markets causing 80 known reported illnesses and one death. Additionally, while some foodborne illnesses have been reported from farmer’s markets, it is hard to discern all of them. Hospitals, doctors, and the CDC share as much information as they can, but consumers often do not report a sickness— and when they do it can easily be mistaken for a “stomach bug.”

What are farmers’ markets doing to improve food safety?

Small farmers realize that food safety is crucial for business and protecting consumers. Amy Annable, manager of sprout operations at Edrich Farms in Randallstown, MD, knows that if anyone gets sick from her sprouts it would ruin her livelihood. A foodborne illness outbreak is her “worst nightmare”—sprouts are known for being susceptible to microorganisms that cause food-borne illnesses.

So, Edrich Farms established its own food safety plan, and Amy spends extra time during the week on paperwork and testing to ensure their sprouts are safe. Many other small farmers are also starting their own food safety programs and implementing practices to keep produce safe.

Many food safety specialists in the USDA’s cooperative extension system work closely with their state’s farmers’ markets to provide food safety information to their market vendors. These programs provide workshops and online materials for both farmers and market managers.

How to be a proactive food safety shopper at your local farmers’ market

When shopping at your local farmers’ market, it is valuable to proactively ask the right questions and follow certain practices to reduce your risk of getting sick from foodborne pathogens. One researcher who investigated the correlation between foodborne illness and farmers’ markets suggested that the data may indicate that people “erroneously believe that food bought at farmers’ markets needn’t be washed because it is ‘natural’.” It is always a good idea to follow certain food safety practice when preparing and consuming food in your home. Here are some recommendations provided by SafeFruitsandVeggies.com and Eat Right, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

References for farmers’ market microbial surveys

Bohaychuk VM, Bradbury RW, Dimock R, Fehr M, Gensler GE, King RK, Rieve R, Romero Barrios P. 2009.A microbiological survey of selected Alberta-grown fresh produce from farmers’ markets in Alberta, Canada. Journal of Food Protection, 72(2):415-20. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19350990

Levy DJ, Beck NK, Kossik AL, Patti T, Meschke JS, Calicchia M, Hellberg RS. 2015. Microbial safety and quality of fresh herbs from Los Angeles, Orange County and Seattle farmers’ markets. Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, 95(13):2641-5. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25382560

Park CE, Sanders GW. 1992. Occurrence of thermotolerant campylobacters in fresh vegetables sold at farmers’ outdoor markets and supermarkets. Canadian Journal of Microbiology, 38(4):313-6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1611556

Scheinberg JA, Dudley EG, Campbell J, Roberts B, DiMarzio M, DebRoy C, Cutter CN. 2017. Prevalence and phylogenetic characterization of Escherichia coli and hygiene indicator bacteria isolated from leafy green produce, beef, and pork obtained from farmers’ markets in Pennsylvania. Journal of Food Protection, 80(2):237-244. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28221988

Sirsat SA, Neal JA. 2013. Microbial profile of soil-free versus in-soil grown lettuce and intervention methodologies to combat pathogen surrogates and spoilage microorganisms on lettuce. Foods, 2(4):488-498. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5302277/

Soendjojo E. 2012. Is local produce safe? Journal of Purdue Undergraduate Research, 2:55-62. https://docs.lib.purdue.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1022&context=jpur

Su Y, Hsu W, Simonee A, Huang T. 2014. Prevalence of SalmonellaEscherichia coli O157:H7 and Shigella in selected fresh produce from supermarkets, local markets and farmers’ markets. https://iafp.confex.com/iafp/2014/webprogram/Paper6353.html

Wood JL, Chen JC, Friesen E, Delaquis P, Allen KJ. 2015. Microbiological survey of locally grown lettuce sold at farmers’ markets in Vancouver, British Columbia. Journal of Food Protection, 78(1):203-8.  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25581197