Safe Food News Bulletin
Volume 1, Number 6
October 6, 1993
- MONSANTO CAUGHT IN ETHICS SCANDAL
- U.K. RELEASES SUPPLIES OF SIX-YEAR-OLD BEEF
- IRRADIATION EXPECTED TO POSE PROBLEM IN GATT DEBATE
- JACK-IN-THE-BOX PARENT COMPANY STILL IN FINANCIAL
- AHI HOLDS MEETING ON FOOD SAFETY ATTITUDES
- FORMER YUGOSLAVIA FACES SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGE
MONSANTO CAUGHT IN ETHICS SCANDAL
The Monsanto chemical company, one of the manufacturers of bovine
growth hormone (BGH), or bovine somatotropin (BST) as it is also
known, was caught in a compromising position last week after an
internal memo was circulated to the press. The memo, written by
Monsanto's Vice President of Public Policy Virginia Weldon, outlined
talking points for former House Majority Whip Tony Coelho prior to a
dinner he had scheduled with Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy.
"One request should be to ask Secretary Espy to talk personally with
Mr. Panetta (Director of the Office of Management and Budget) to
persuade him to duck the request to study social impact," Weldon
wrote. The study she is referring to is the one the administration
must perform during the 90-day moratorium, secured by Senator
Russell Feingold (D-WI), which would go into effect once BGH is
approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). An attached
Monsanto document states, "The administration should not conduct
another evaluation of the economic effects of supplemental BST on
the dairy industry." It goes on to recommend "the administration
should strongly oppose any effort by Senator Feingold to extend the
current moratorium beyond the 90-day period;" "USDA should
develop a game plan to ensure consumers of the safety of milk and
dairy products that have been produced with supplemental BST" in
coordination with the National Dairy Board and the International
Dairy Foods Association; and "let Secretary Espy know that
companies like Monsanto will likely pull out of the agriculture
biotech area if the administration will not stand up to persons like
Coelho, a former California congressman who quit in 1989 amidst an
ethics and financial impropriety investigation, denied any
wrongdoing. He said he never saw the memo and he has dealt with
Monsanto over the years as an epileptic who is interested in what
sort of cure the biotechnology industry might produce for his disease.
"Would I advocate Monsanto's case with Mike (Espy)? No. Would I
advocate my concerns about biotechnology if the circumstances were
right? Yes," said Coelho. Steve Kinsella, a spokesperson for Secretary
Espy, said the dinner had been canceled and his boss had no
knowledge that it might include a pitch for BGH. Thomas
McDermott, a Monsanto spokesperson, admitted the company dealt
with Coelho, saying, "Do people here know Tony Coelho? Yes. But
there's no other relationship." Feingold called the situation "classic
Monsanto behavior of trying to undo the process that the Congress
and the president set forth."
A recent National Farmers Organization (NFO) newsletter relates the
story of dairy producer John Kurtz whose herd participated in BGH
tests with American Cyanamid. Kurtz said that while production did
indeed increase substantially, it did so at the expense of herd health.
"The problem was poor body condition," he said. "These cows were
triggered to perform and to produce more milk. But it took 5 1/2
weeks for them to make any significant response in dry matter
intake to make up for that increased production." In addition, Kurtz
said that of his 40 cows receiving injections, 14 conceived going into
the second lactation. Of those 14, three had triplets and 11 had
twins; there were no single births. During the second lactation, none
of the cows conceived, 19% died and 15% became "downer cows."
"These cows had taken so much calcium out of their skeletons, even
their shoulder blades had a ripple effect like a ripple potato chip
where they had pulled the calcium out of their skeleton to produce
milk," he said. Kurtz said he was under contract to not speak about
the tests until April of this year. When asked if the hormone
administered to his cows was the same as the hormone the chemical
companies are currently pushing the FDA to approve, Kurtz replied,
"We were on a daily injection, but the product, the hormone, is
exactly the same."
Source: Patrick Jasperse, "Memos Show BGH Battle Rages On,"
MILWAUKEE JOURNAL, September 30, 1993; David Judson, "Lobbying
Plan Leaked," BURLINGTON FREE PRESS, October 2, 1993; "Coelho
Talking Points for Espy Dinner," MONSANTO MEMORANDUM,
September 21, 1993; "BST -- the Real Truth," NFO NEWSLETTER,
U.K. RELEASES SUPPLIES OF SIX-YEAR-OLD BEEF
Last month, government officials in the U.K. released 100 tons of
frozen beef that was six years old, prompting outcries from many
consumers. "We must have assurances that the product is safe --
and one must have major doubts as to whether it is safe and
wholesome," said Derek Prentice of the Consumer Association. Many
of the daily papers stirred old fears about outbreaks of bovine
spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), the so-called mad cow disease.
The agriculture ministry maintains the beef is "perfectly safe for
Also last month, British scientists confirmed reports that a second
farmer, whose herd was infected with BSE, died from the human
form of the disease, Creutzfeldt-Jacob Disease (CJD). Neurologist Paul
Davies cautioned that it could be a coincidence. "The second case we
report still does not associate CJD and BSE on statistical grounds, but
it does emphasize the continuing importance of accurate diagnosis
and reporting of all cases of CJD, especially those from 'at risk'
occupations," he said.
Source: "Consumers, Papers Stir Old British Beef Row," REUTER,
September 6, 1993; "Fears About Old Beef Dismissed," FINANCIAL
TIMES, September 7, 1993; "Second Farmers Dies Human 'Mad Cow
Disease,'" REUTER, September 9, 1993.
IRRADIATION EXPECTED TO POSE PROBLEM IN GATT DEBATE
In the debate over lifting trade barriers on an international basis as
proposed in the Dunkel Draft text of the General Agreement on
Tariffs and Trade (GATT), irradiation is expected to pose a big
problem. Irradiation involves the use of radiation to kill bacteria
and other microorganisms on food products. If the GATT is passed,
new rules for defining when a treated food can be banned from
import and which provide "a firm scientific basis for the protection of
consumer health" will be implemented. The situation in the
European Community (EC) and its attempts at harmonizing the food
standards of member nations serves as a good example of the
potential fight that could take place. Germany has banned the
technology while the Netherlands holds the title of "irradiation
capital of the world." In addition, the U.K. will allow irradiation only
on herbs and spices while France allows it on camembert cheeses.
Thus, it is illegal to import camembert in the U.K. The standards of
other counties also pose a problem. Australia has imposed a
moratorium on irradiated foods since 1989. In the U.S., only
chickens can be irradiated.
Proponents of the technology insist it is safe. " More research has
gone into irradiation than any other food process," said David Kilcast
of the U.K. Leatherhead Food Research Association. But "the public
perception is that irradiation is only there to cover up defects in
food," said Tony Webb of the Australian Food Policy Alliance.
"People don't want food to hang about on shelves. They want shorter
shelf lives rather than longer ones." GATT officials have confirmed
that if countries ban foods for which there is an established
international standard, they may be called upon to scientifically
justify their ban under the GATT.
Vermont-based Food & Water announced that they have discovered
two stores that plan to sell irradiated chicken. The stores are Carrot
Top in Chicago, IL and Laurenzo's in North Miami Beach, FL. The
organization says these are the same two stores that tried to sell
irradiated strawberries last summer. Their press release cites an
editorial in MEAT AND POULTRY magazine which calls irradiation
"the wrong hope" for dealing with food borne illness. Food & Water
is launching a mass mailing campaign to executives of meat and
poultry companies around the county in the hopes it will reinforce
their decision not to irradiate their products.
Source: Della Bradshaw, "Meaty Questions on the Menu," FINANCIAL
TIMES, September 14, 1993; "Urgent Update and Appeal," FOOD &
WATER, September 1993.
JACK-IN-THE-BOX PARENT COMPANY STILL IN FINANCIAL
Foodmaker, Inc., the parent company of the Jack-in-the-Box fast food
chain, is still reportedly in financial trouble after an outbreak of food
poisoning linked to the chain earlier this year which killed at least
two children. The BLOOMBURG BUSINESS NEWS reports that third
quarter sales are expected to be down at least $20,500 per
restaurant. At a recent investment conference, Foodmaker CEO Jack
Goodall said stocks fell 35% after the outbreak and are still down 8%.
He said he expects the chain to bounce back based on two new food
items: the Teriyaki Bowl and the Colossus, a new cheeseburger
Source: "Jack-in-the-Box Still in Trouble From Food Poisoning
Deaths," GANNETT NEWS SERVICE, October 1, 1993.
AHI HOLDS MEETING ON FOOD SAFETY ATTITUDES
The Animal Health Institute (AHI), an association of animal health
product manufacturers, sponsored a forum on consumer concerns
last month. Panelists agreed that the issue of food safety is a very
hot one because food is a basic need. Dale Sawaya of a market
research firm said that much of the issue is media-driven and the
"public is more apt to believe the negative." Susan Conley, who
manages the USDA's meat and poultry hotline, said "People were
unaware of bacteria eight years ago. But now, salmonella is a
household word and E. coli is getting there." Biotechnology, animal
rights, BGH and irradiation are other popular consumer concerns, said
panelist Martha Waugh of the FDA.
Source: "Experts Reveal What Consumers are Really Asking About
Food Safety," ANIMAL HEALTH INSTITUTE BULLETIN, September 29,
FORMER YUGOSLAVIA FACES SEVERE FOOD SHORTAGE
The World Food Program (WFP) of the United Nations announced last
week over 4.2 million people in the republics of the former
Yugoslavia face severe food shortages this winter. In the northern
Bosnian areas of Tesanj and Maglaj, many segments of the Muslim
population are trapped in towns by Serb forces which have refused
to allow emergency food supplies to enter. The U.N. High Commission
on Refugees estimates that 2.8 million people will require food aid
over the next six months. Unless deliveries of supplies are made
before the first of the year, the situation could become critical, the
Source: Gillian Tett, "UN Says Over 4m Face Food Shortages,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, September 28, 1993.
The American Council on Science & Health has a 36-page
booklet entitled EATING SAFELY, AVOIDING FOODBORNE
ILLNESS. It is available for $3.85 (includes postage/handling) from
ACSH, 1995 Broadway, 2nd Floor, New York, NY 10023.
WORLD FOOD DAY, October 16, 1993. FFI, contact: World Food Day,
1001 22nd Street NW, Washington D.C. 20437, Tel: (202) 653-2404.
ALLIANCE CO-OP CONFERENCE, October 22-24, 1993, Spencer,
WV. FFI, contact: Co-Op News Network, Box 583, Spencer, WV
25276, Tel: (304) 927-5173.
COMMUNITY-SUPPORTED AGRICULTURE: A NEW MARKETING
OPPORTUNITY, December 6, 1993, Davis, CA. FFI, contact: Gail
Feenstra, UC SAREP, Tel: (916) 752-8408.
ORGANIC COFFEE PRODUCTION, April 11-16, 1994, Chiapas,
Mexico. FFI, contact: AMAE c/o Jose Dardon Hernandez, Calle Central
Pontiente No. 14-A, Tapachula, Chiapas, Mexico, CP 30700, Tel: (52)
962-51682, Fax: (52) 962-60455.
CUISINE, AGRICULTURE AND SOCIAL CHANGE, June 9-12, 1994,
Tucson, AZ. FFI, contact: Gerry Walter, 59 Mumford, 1301 West
Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801, Tel: (217) 333-9429, Fax: (217)
244-7503, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
Policy, 1313 5th Street SE Suite 303, Minneapolis, MN 55414, Tel:
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