Food Safety Week
Volume 1, Number 9
November 24, 1993
- BST WATCHERS AWAIT OMB STUDY
- RESEARCHERS CREATE POTATO THAT ABSORBS LESS OIL
- INVESTIGATION FINDS TAINTED PRODUCE ENTERING U.S.
- WARBLE FLY, BRUCELLOSIS SHOW UP IN UNITED KINGDOM
- USDA PROPOSES NEW MEAT LABELING RULES
- FOOD PROFESSOR URGES RETAILERS TO EMBRACE IRRADIATION
- DDT CONTAMINATED MEAT FOUND IN AUSTRALIAN MEAT PLANT
BST WATCHERS AWAIT OMB STUDY
With the approval of synthetic bovine growth hormone (BGH), or
bovine somatotropin (BST) as it is also known, on November 5, both
sides of the issue are anxiously awaiting a study on the socio-
economic impacts of the drug as required by the 1993-94 budget
reconciliation package. The study will be conducted by the Office of
Management and Budget (OMB) over the next 45 days. OMB Director
Leon Panetta has not yet said whether he will contact dairy
producers for their input.
Senators Russ Feingold (D-WI), Herb Kohl (D-WI) and Patrick Leahy
(D-VT) wrote to Panetta to remind him of the terms of the study as
agreed to in the budget act. Their letter urged the OMB to "take into
account the views of dairy farmers who have the advantage of direct
experience in dairying." The letter went on to say, "We also expect
the administration to ... ensure the intent of the law is not
circumvented through marketing efforts undertaken by Monsanto."
The letter was also signed by Representatives David Obey (D-WI) and
Bernie Sanders (I-VT). Feingold said he will seek to pass legislation
designed to protect small dairy producers in the next couple of
Source: "Washington Report," DAIRY PROFIT WEEKLY, November
RESEARCHERS CREATE POTATO THAT ABSORBS LESS OIL
At a meeting earlier this month sponsored by the International Food
Information Council, participants were given a first-hand look at a
new potato which has been genetically engineered with a high starch
content and will absorb less oil. The Council estimated that 30
products of genetic engineering are waiting to go on the market.
Among them are the Flavr Savr tomato, the synthetic bovine growth
hormone, a virus-resistant squash, herbicide-resistant cotton and a
canola variety which has a lower saturated fat content.
Reaction to genetically engineered products has been met with
concern and skepticism by many consumer and environmental
groups. "Manipulating plants and animals is best left to nature. We
don't have the maturity to play God," said Andrew Kimbrell of the
Foundation on Economic Trends. In addition, the possibility of
unknown allergic reactions and the spreading of engineered traits in
the natural environmental have also prompted concern. The
biotechnology industry acknowledged that the trick now is to get
consumers used to the idea of eating genetically engineered foods.
The USDA said that while primary responsibility for food safety lies
with the producer, the department will continue to monitor events
taking place in the food biotechnology industry.
Source: Anastasia Benshoff, "Food Biotechnology," AP, November 18,
1993; "Food Biotechnology Box," AP, November 18, 1993.
INVESTIGATION FINDS TAINTED PRODUCE ENTERING U.S.
Late last month, the ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH released the results
of an investigation which concluded that tainted produce has been
entering U.S. markets from Mexico. Tests performed on a shipment
of peppers from Mexico contained two forms of DDT, a pesticide that
was banned in the U.S. in 1972, two other prohibited insecticides,
another banned pesticide and a sixth chemical that could have been
hydrochloric acid. "We don't know whether these chemicals occur on
one percent, five percent or 20 percent of the food coming in. The
federal government needs to get those kinds of data," said Dr. Philip
Landrigan of the Mount Sinai School of Medicine.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) inspects only 1% of the 1.2
million food shipments that enter the U.S. annually. In addition, FDA
inspection systems contain loopholes that allow tainted produce to
slip out of inspection stations undetected while widespread
poisonings by chemicals that have been banned in the U.S. routinely
occur throughout Central America. Thus, the agency responsible for
inspections of fruit and vegetables entering the U.S. has been
ineffectual in preventing the entrance of tainted products and their
response has been that there is no problem. "We do not see any
public health problem now with produce coming into this country
and we don't anticipate anything changing," said Gary Dykstra,
deputy commissioner of the FDA.
This summer, FDA Commissioner David Kessler announced a series of
pesticide reforms after the release of a study by the National
Academy of Science which showed children are more susceptible to
the dangers of pesticide residues due to their diet. No action has yet
been taken on the reform promises made in June. Dr. Richard
Jackson of the NAS panel that produced the study, said, "Placing your
trust in the FDA's monitoring of residues is a lot like standing in a
downpour holding a tea cup over your head; you have no way of
capturing all that's coming at you."
Source: Bill Lambrecht, "Tainted Produce Slips Into U.S. Markets; FDA
Short on Workers, Clout," ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, October 31,
WARBLE FLY, BRUCELLOSIS SHOW UP IN UNITED KINGDOM
The farming community in the U.K. is calling for tighter restrictions
on cattle imports after recent outbreaks of brucellosis and warble fly
for the first time in three years. Brucellosis causes a severe fever
and birthing problems in cows and can be transmitted to humans.
Warble flies burrow along the spine of a cow, causing discomfort,
decreased milk flows, hide damage and death if undetected. Many
farmers blamed the outbreaks on the formation of the single
European market which went into effect January 1 and ended all
border checks on live animals for European Union countries. David
Naish, president of the National Farmers Union, said the outbreak
was more due to "a small minority of irresponsible dealers" than the
In addition, the European Commission announced that it still intends
to extend a proposed seven-year ban on synthetic BGH despite its
approval in the U.S. This summer the Commission concluded that the
drug would increase milk production thereby negating the reforms of
the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) which seek to reduce
Source: Alison Maitland, "Call for Tighter Health Checks on Cattle,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, November 9, 1993; Alison Maitland, "EC Stands
Firm on Cow Hormone Ban," FINANCIAL TIMES, November 9, 1993.
USDA PROPOSES NEW MEAT LABELING RULES
The USDA proposed new meat labeling rules in the Federal Register
on November 4. The new proposal calls for labels identical to the
ones the department wanted to have on all meat and poultry
products by October 15 which was blocked by a court order filed by
the cattle industry. The proposal calls for all meat and poultry
products to carry a label containing safe cooking and handling
instructions by April 15, 1994. Incidentally, the USDA said most
meat packers and many retailers have gone ahead and applied the
labels to their products already. Many industry groups are still
calling for a science-based meat and poultry inspection system.
Source: "It's Label Number 5 Coming Up," CATTLE BUYERS WEEKLY,
November 8, 1993.
FOOD PROFESSOR URGES RETAILERS TO EMBRACE
At a recent Supermarket Food Service Conference, University of
Houston food science professor Darrell Gerdes encouraged retailers to
accept and embrace the practice of irradiation. "Irradiation of food
has widespread European acceptance, and the process is used on the
meals that our astronauts eat and yet the U.S. is still hesitant about
it," said Gerdes. He urged food companies to accept the technology
and showed pictures of a two-year-old potato which still looked
fresh. "We need to tell consumers why products are irradiated. That
the process is used to kill microorganisms that cause spoilage of the
product and cause human disease," he said, referring to the outbreak
of E coli bacterial poisonings that occurred on the West Coast early
Suppliers and retailers said they are reluctant to use it due to
negative consumer reaction. "I wouldn't say we're against it or for it.
It's just not an issue because consumers haven't been asking for
irradiated products and suppliers haven't come to us with any," said
Patrick Key of Randall's Food Market. The decision not to use
irradiation has "nothing to do with safety," said Patrick Farrell of
Kraft General Foods. "It's just that the process is not regarded right
now by consumers as a positive. And, right now, there's no demand
for irradiated food."
Source: Roseanne Harper, "Retailers Urged to Accept Irradiation,"
SUPERMARKET NEWS, October 18, 1993.
DDT CONTAMINATED MEAT FOUND IN AUSTRALIAN MEAT
Late last month, an Australian feedlot was placed under quarantine
when fat samples from a carcass at Warwick Bacon meat plant were
shown to contain high levels of DDT. Rick Webster, a veterinary
officer with the Queensland Department of Primary Industries (QDPI)
speculated that the carcass may have come from a pen contaminated
by dip fluid discharges many years ago. He acknowledged that many
small operations remain under quarantine for DDT and dieldrin
contamination, neither of which can be used any longer in Australia.
Robert Hart, the managing director of Warwick Bacon, refused to
comment on the action.
Meanwhile, the Public Sector Union said that meat supplies
contaminated with DDT had hit the retail market in southern
Queensland. "The allowable DDT unit is five parts per million (ppm)
and the meat has been confirmed as DDT-contaminated with 60 ppm.
The meat was boned and cartoned for export to Japan, Taiwan, Korea
and the United States, as well as being released on the local market
around October 4," said Union official Don Ford. Ford criticized the
Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service (AQIS) which recently
ended residue testing on the basis of cost-effectiveness. "Not only
have export markets been put at risk, but Australian consumers may
have bought meat laced with a highly dangerous chemical. The
management of AQIS should be called to account, to explain the
situation," Ford said.
Source: "DDT Contaminated Meat on Local Market," PUBLIC SECTOR
UNION PRESS RELEASE, October 22, 1993; "DDT Residue Puts Feedlot
in Quarantine," QUEENSLAND COUNTRY LIFE, October 14, 1993.
The General Accounting has two reports that address the topic of
inspecting meat coming through Canada: FOOD SAFETY AND
QUALITY: USDA IMPROVES INSPECTION PROGRAM FOR
CANADIAN MEAT, BUT SOME CONCERNS REMAIN (GAO/RCED-
92-250) and FOOD SAFETY: ISSUES USDA SHOULD ADDRESS
BEFORE ENDING CANADIAN MEAT INSPECTIONS (GAO/RCED-
90-176). For copies, contact GAO, Washington, D.C. 20548.
WELLSTART INTERNATIONAL produced a factsheet on
breastfeeding for World Food Day in October. For a copy of the
factsheet, contact Wellstart International, 3333 K Street NW, Suite
101, Washington, D.C. 20007, Tel: (202) 298-7979, Fax: (202) 298-
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:
(612) 379-5980 Fax: (612) 379-5982 EMail: email@example.com or
firstname.lastname@example.org. In addition to this news bulletin, the
Institute publishes a variety of news bulletins on agriculture, the
environment and international trade. These include: Biotechnology
Bulletin (weekly news bulletins on biotechnology); Trade News (daily
news bulletins on international trade issues); Sustainable Agriculture
News Bulletin (weekly news bulletin on sustainable agriculture); and
Farm Policy News (weekly news bulletin on farm policy). The
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services on the EcoNet computer network. Contact the Institute for