2.The Biggest Beef Recall Ever
NOTE: To see the Humane Society's video:
EXTRACTS from New York Times editorial (item 2): Americans [are] increasingly ”” and legitimately ”” mistrustful of the food they eat...
Instead of strengthening the government's regulatory systems, the Bush administration has spent years cutting budgets and filling top jobs with industry favorites. The evidence of their failures keep mounting...
Officials have been busy assuring consumers that this massive recall is an 'aberration.' 'Whistling in the dark' - that is how Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest describes such assurances. 'The fact that they have failed here so miserably makes you start to question what else is going on that we don't know about.'
1.Beef recall reminder to resist biotech foods and hormones
By Dean Hulse The Forum, February 20 2008
Coincidentally, an announcement concerning the nation's largest beef recall occurred on the same day that Bruce Freitag's letter to the editor ('No time to roll dice on crops') ran in The Forum. What's the connection? In a word: food. More specifically, food made possible via biotechnology.
Westland/Hallmark Meat Co., based in Chino, Calif., recalled 143 million pounds of ground beef, some of which went to school lunch programs. This recall is part of an animal-abuse scandal that started after the Humane Society of the United States made public a video showing workers kicking sick cows and using forklifts to force the animals to walk.
The animals in the Humane Society video were dairy cows, so-called downer cows that could not walk and are therefore banned from the U.S. food supply.
While I can't know for certain how old those sick animals were, there;s a fair chance those cows were about 5 years old. That's young for dairy cows, only a year or so after the animals have acquired a full set of adult teeth. Dairy cows typically can live between 10 and 20 years.
So what might have happened in California?
Many factory-style dairies inject cows with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH), which is a genetically engineered copy of a naturally occurring hormone produced by cows. While I don’t claim to know why the animals in the Humane Society video got sick, animals injected with rBGH can suffer from increased udder infections (mastitis), severe reproductive problems, digestive disorders, foot and leg ailments, and persistent sores and lacerations which can add up to an early death.
The manufacturer of rBGH is Monsanto Co., which markets this product under the brand name Posilac. On its Web site, Monsanto offers the following: 'Of the nearly nine million dairy cows in the United States, approximately one-third are in herds supplemented with Posilac.' (www.monsantodairy.com/about/general_info/index.html )
While rBGH is banned in Europe and Canada, the three U.S. agencies charged with regulating genetically engineered foods the Food and Drug Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Agriculture continue to license the product, despite concerns regarding adequate independent, peer-reviewed food safety tests.
There are similar concerns about the lack of long-term food safety tests for the crops Freitag is convinced will feed the world.
Furthermore, the lack of regulatory oversight is as problematic for genetically engineered crops as it is for animals injected with rBGH.
Meanwhile, Freitag's argument ignores this critical fact: Countries that are net exporters of food including the U.S. still haven't eliminated hunger at home, even with the 'tools' of biotechnology.
Why? Because poverty is the primary cause of worldwide hunger.
Rolling the dice on biotech food is the gamble, and under this scenario, the 'house' is represented by the agribusiness corporations.
For those interested in viewing the Humane Society's video or in listening to an account of how rBGH came to market, check out the following:
Hulse lives in Fargo.
2.The Biggest Beef Recall Ever
The New York Times, February 21 2008
A nauseating video of cows stumbling on their way to a California slaughterhouse has finally prompted action: the largest recall of meat in American history. Westland/Hallmark Meat Company has issued a full recall of more than 143 million pounds of beef produced over the last two years, including 37 million pounds that went to school-lunch programs.
A lot of that beef has already been eaten, and so far, thankfully, there have been no reports of illness. But the question Congress needs to ask is how many people need to get sick or die before it starts repairing and modernizing the nation’s food safety system?
Instead of strengthening the government's regulatory systems, the Bush administration has spent years cutting budgets and filling top jobs with industry favorites. The evidence of their failures keep mounting: contaminated spinach, poisoned pet food, tainted fish.
At Westland/Hallmark, the latest horrors were secretly videotaped by the Humane Society of the United States, which said it had chosen the plant at random. The video showed workers kicking and using forklifts to force so-called 'downer' cows to walk. The government has banned the sale of meat from most of these cows.
Officials have been busy assuring consumers that this massive recall is an 'aberration.' 'Whistling in the dark' - that is how Caroline Smith DeWaal of the Center for Science in the Public Interest describes such assurances. 'The fact that they have failed here so miserably makes you start to question what else is going on that we don’t know about.'
The Westland/Hallmark plant had five federal inspectors on hand, including at least one veterinarian whose job was to make sure that diseased cows did not make it into the meat supply. But where were these inspectors when workers were abusing these poor animals in order to get them to the slaughterhouse? Investigations have already begun in California and Washington.
Whatever the outcome with this particular plant, the larger point is that Congress needs to overhaul the entire food inspection program. That includes giving the Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration more power to demand mandatory recalls. Food producers should be able to track their supplies in order to more quickly root out problems. And foreign suppliers would have to create and implement a workable food safety plan that can be monitored better by federal inspectors.
The present patchwork of modest fines and penalities must also be stiffened.
Senator Richard Durbin and Representative Rosa DeLauro have a more ambitious idea: creating a single, powerful agency to oversee all food safety, instead of the current bureaucratic tangle of inspectors, some for vegetables, some for beef and some for imports. Right now the Agriculture Department oversees the safety of the home-grown beef supply (while also promoting the cattle industry) and the Food and Drug Administration monitors the safety of cattle feed. With Americans increasingly ”” and legitimately ”” mistrustful of the food they eat, their proposal is worth serious consideration.