Food Safety Week
Volume 2, Number 5
February 17, 1994
- DOCTOR CITES POTENTIAL LINKS BETWEEN rBGH AND
BREAST CANCER TO FDA
- USDA TO GET MORE MEAT INSPECTION MONEY IN 1994
- CONGRESS SEEMS TO SUPPORT LIFTING DELANEY
- BEEF INDUSTRY AWAITS ESPY APPROVAL OF IRRADIATION
- FOOD PACKAGERS OPPOSE ORIGIN LABELING
DOCTOR CITES POTENTIAL LINKS BETWEEN rBGH AND
BREAST CANCER TO FDA
In a recent letter to FDA Commissioner David Kessler, Dr. Samuel
Epstein, a professor at the University of Chicago's School of Public
Health, expressed his concerns about the potential links between the
consumption of milk derived from synthetic bovine growth hormone
(rBGH), also known as bovine somatotropin (BST), and breast cancer.
Epstein maintains that the administration of rBGH increases the level
of insulin growth factor (IGF-1) in milk and it is not destroyed by
pasteurization or digestion. He goes on to say that IGF-1 can induce
the malignant transformation of epithelial cells in the human breast
and that IGF-1 is a growth factor for breast cancer cells. He notes
that there is no specific antibody to contraindicate the absorption of
IGF-1 in epithelial cells. "On the basis of these data and women's
right to know, I urge that minimally you revoke FDA restrictions on
labeling BST-free milk," Epstein states in the letter.
In other rBGH news, the ice cream maker Ben & Jerry's released its
new label. The new label reads: All of our milk comes from family
farmers who agree not to use rBGH. rBGH is a synthetic hormone
recently approved for dairy cows by the FDA."
A recent article in IN THESE TIMES reports on industry and
university cover-ups in rBGH research. Former University of
Vermont veterinarian Marla Lyng was doing computer research in
1989 when she came across files on a University test herd. Lyng
said the data showed many of the cows did not have a heat cycle and
those that did either did not bear calves or bore calves that died.
She said some of the calves were born dead or deformed with holes
in their heads and multiple appendages. She said when other
University veterinarians found out she had autopsied one of the dead
calves, "They made a big stink about it. They were shouting at me ...
to return the fetus." Lyng said her pleas to the college dean and the
University president went unanswered. Consequently, her contract
was not renewed in 1991.
Apparently, Monsanto, the maker of the rBGH product Posilac, which
has just hit the market, made all researchers receiving their funding
promise not to reveal any of the details of their data. All scholarly
articles were censored by Monsanto executives. Thomas McDermott,
a Monsanto spokesperson, said this was necessary to protect the
company from its competitors, American Cyanamid, Eli Lilly and
Upjohn which have competing products in the pipeline. McDermott
maintains that his company has "almost never" prevented
researchers from publishing their results in scientific journals.
A 1988 abstract by University of Vermont researcher Alice Pell
indicated that there were no significant mastitis, or udder infection,
problems in her test herd. However, when the full results were
published four years later they indicated very serious problems with
mastitis in the Jersey herd. Pell and her assistant maintain they had
problems interpreting their data due to the small size of the herd.
David Kronfeld, a researcher currently at Virginia State, wrote in
1988 that "favorable responses to [rBGH] have been presented
promptly, loudly and repeatedly. Unfavorable responses have been
delayed, subdued and obscured." The author of the article said she
requested lists of all universities that received research funding from
all four of the companies involved in rBGH development. She was
turned down by all of them.
Monsanto filed a lawsuit in a Chicago federal court against the Swiss
Valley Farms dairy processor in Davenport, IA. Monsanto said Swiss
Valley, which has asked its producers not to treat their cows with
synthetic BGH, is implying that therefore its milk and dairy products
are safer than others. The suit requests the court to declare Swiss
Valley advertisements and promotions false and misleading and to
order the processor to take immediate corrective action. Company
spokesperson McDermott said an unspecified amount of damages are
also being sought in the suit.
Source: Samuel Epstein, LETTER TO FDA COMMISSIONER DAVID
KESSLER, February 14, 1994; BEN & JERRY'S LABEL, February 14,
1994; Amy Poe, "Unholy Cow," IN THESE TIMES, February 21, 1994;
"Monsanto Sues Iowa Dairy That Shuns Treated Cows' Milk,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, February 19, 1994.
USDA TO GET MORE MEAT INSPECTION MONEY IN 1994
Last week, President Clinton announced his proposed budget for
fiscal year 1994/95. Under the proposal, the USDA would get an
increase of $8 million to hire 200 additional inspectors and to
improve the nation's system of meat inspection. At a recent press
briefing, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy also said the USDA was
going to be undertaking inspections of some 1,000 meat packing
plants around the country, many of which have already been cited
for unsanitary or unsafe meat handling and packing practices.
Currently, the USDA has 7,400 inspectors in 7,000 plants. An
estimated seven billion turkeys and chickens and 31 million cows
and calves are inspected annually.
He also said that the USDA would begin pilot testing of tests that
detect bacteria in meat and poultry faster than previous tests. "We
must move our meat inspection system into the 21st century," he
said. Currently, a 50-minute test is under development and Espy
said a 20-minute test will be developed soon.
The cattle industry reports that zero-tolerance requirements for
fecal, ingesta and milk contaminant in cattle by the USDA continue to
be a problem for the packing industry. "Inconsistent application of
the standards by USDA inspectors continue to frustrate packers,"
states an article in CATTLE BUYERS WEEKLY. The Food Safety and
Inspection Service of the USDA has enacted a training program aimed
at achieving inspection uniformity nationwide. However, the
industry does not believe the effects of the training will be realized
until at least May.
Safe cooking and handling instructions for meat and poultry products
labels are set to appear in grocery stores this spring, according to
Espy. After a lawsuit by meat industry groups last year forced the
original labels to be placed on hold, Espy changed the requirements
and submitted a new labeling proposal. He said he will now call on
meat industry groups to cooperate with the new labeling
requirements to provide consumer assurance. The new rules are
expected to be made public soon.
In other news, Lucky Stores of Sacramento, California agreed to pay
$5 million to settle a lawsuit by the state after it was accused of
mixing low quality beef and pork products into high quality ground
beef. Attorney General Dan Lungren said an eight month
investigation revealed the company was mixing meats to cut costs.
The company would not admit any wrongdoing but agreed to pay the
$5 million and conduct random tests of its meat products. The
settlement came just months after the Safeway chain paid $6.35
million for mixing pork and chicken in ground beef.
The parents of two-year-old Michael Nole who died in the outbreak
of E coli last year settled with Foodmaker, the parent company of the
Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain. The family received $1.3 million.
Diana Nole, the boy's mother, said, "There is no amount of money that
could possibly make up for the nightmare we've gone through."
Source: Janet Reitman, "USDA to Add $8 Million to Meat Inspection
Budget," REUTER, January 26, 1994; "U.S. to Boost Sending to Combat
Meat Contamination," REUTER, January 26, 1994; Robert Brown,
"USDA's Safe Food Handling Rules Due Out Soon," FEEDSTUFFS,
January 24, 1994; "USDA 'On Track' With New Meat, Poultry Safe
Handling Rules," FOOD INSTITUTE REPORT, January 17, 1994; "Zero
Tolerance Remains Top Issue," CATTLE BUYERS WEEKLY, January 17,
1994; "Supermarts to Pay $5 Million Over Mislabeled Meat," Farming
Today, UPI, January 27, 1994; "Restaurant Chain Settles Suit in Boy's
Death," NEW YORK TIMES, February 18, 1994.
CONGRESS SEEMS TO SUPPORT LIFTING DELANEY
With 211 sponsors signed on to the Lehman-Bliley-Rowland bill, the
chemical industry could be ready to declare victory. The intent of
this particular legislation is to allow the potential benefits of a
pesticide to be considered along with its risks to food safety. Jay
Vroom of the National Agricultural Chemicals Association (NACA)
said he believes there is a 60-70% chance the bill will pass in the
House; however, only 19 sponsors have signed on in the Senate. Jay
Feldman of the National Coalition Against the Misuse of Pesticides
argued that public opinion alone would not allow the passage of
Source: Gordon Carlson, "Congress Supports Bill to Limit Delaney
Clause," FEEDSTUFFS, "Causes of Cancer," THE DAILY CITIZEN,
February 10, 1994
BEEF INDUSTRY AWAITS ESPY APPROVAL OF IRRADIATION
The beef industry is anxiously awaiting the green light from the
USDA to begin irradiating beef in an effort to eradicate "nearly 100%"
of the bacteria, such as E coli, responsible for possibly millions of
cases of food borne illness each year. However, many suspect politics
is playing a role in holding up the approval. Many in the industry
believe the government is worried that consumers will link
irradiation to the radiation experiments on human subjects
performed by the government in the 1950s. Recently, Steve Kinsella,
press secretary to Mike Espy, said the secretary "would have to be
proven it is safe and ... acceptable by consumers."
Others contend it is the influence of undersecretary for food and
consumer services Ellen Haas who is holding up the process. As the
former executive director of the organization Public Voice, Haas was
a vocal critic of irradiation. A spokesperson for Haas said she has not
even discussed the matter with Espy.
Senators Grassley (R-IA) and Gorton (R-WA) are also putting the
pressure on Espy. In addition, the American Medical Association has
recommended that irradiation be added to the "armamentarium of
technologies" in fighting foodborne illness. Maine's state
epidemiologist Kathleen Greisheimer said she hopes the state's ban
on irradiated foods will be lifted soon. "Food irradiation is an
example of technology not being put to good use."
The question of consumer acceptance remains unanswered. The
USDA is reportedly researching other ways of dealing with food
pathogens such as a vaccine for E coli. In addition, government
funded research is experimenting with inserting a mouse gene that
contains an E coli antibody into sheep, pigs and cattle.
In other meat industry news, the USDA reports that commercial red
meat production totaled a record 3.55 billion pounds during
December 1993. That is 3% higher than the previous year. The
figure breaks down as follows: 1.95 billion pounds of beef; 24
million pounds of veal; and 1.55 billion pounds of pork.
Source: Richard Gibson, "Beef Irradiation Meets Politics in
Washington," WALL STREET JOURNAL, February 4, 1994; Margaret
Scherf, "Farm Scene," AP, January 28, 1994.
FOOD PACKAGERS OPPOSE ORIGIN LABELING
The food packaging industry is upset about a recent Customs Service
ruling that says frozen foods containing fruits and vegetables must
be labeled with their country of origin. The deadline for the labeling
implementation is May 8 -- the same day processors must be in
compliance with the new FDA labeling requirements. The Customs
ruling states the country of origin must be displayed prominently on
the front panel, not the back, as is currently allowed. "We've already
got our labels printed up, ready to go, and it's going to be a
nightmare for the industry," said Steven Anderson of the American
Frozen Food Institute (AFFI). "This is like punishing the companies"
that have already made an effort to comply with the FDA. One
processor said it would cost the company $1 million to print up new
labels. Anderson said the food industry is meeting with the
Treasury, which Customs falls under, to push for a new rule. In
addition, AFFI is asking its members to send documentation of
hardship to Customs.
Source: Carol Emert, "Packagers Oppose Latest Label Rules,"
Supermarket News, February 14, 1994.
GET COOKING! is a project or the London-based National Food
Alliance. The group has put together a packet of information
designed to get people to cook and away from heavy reliance on
processed, packaged foods. For more information, contact National
Food Alliance, 3rd Floor, 5-11 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BH,
United Kingdom, Tel: (44) 071 628-2442, Fax: (44) 071 628-9329.
ORGANIC LIVESTOCK HEARINGS, February 10 in Chicago, IL,
February 24 in Denver, CO and March 22 in Sacramento, CA. FFI,
contact: Harold Ricker, National Organic Program, Tel: (202) 720-
NEW FEDERAL AND STATE CONSUMER INITIATIVES:
CONSUMER ASSEMBLY 1994, March 10-11, 1994, Washington, D.C.
FFI, contact: Consumer Federation of America, 1424 16th Street NW,
Suite 604, Washington, D.C. 20036, Tel: (202) 387-6121.
NATIONAL FOOD POLICY CONFERENCE, March 10-11, 1994,
Washington, D.C. FFI, contact: Public Voice for Food and Health
Policy, 1001 Connecticut Avenue NW, Suite 522, Washington, D.C.
20036, Tel: (202) 659-5930, Fax: (202) 659-3693.
UPPER MIDWEST ORGANIC FARMING CONFERENCE, March 4-5,
1994, Sparta, WI. FFI, contact: CROPP, P.O. Box 159, LaFarge, WI
54639, Tel: (608) 625-2602.
FREEDOM FROM PESTICIDES IS EVERY BODY'S RIGHT, March
11-14, 1994, Alexandria, VA. FFI, contact: National Coalition Against
the Misuse of Pesticides, 701 E Street SE, Washington, D.C. 20003, Tel:
(202) 543-5450, Fax: (202) 543-4791.
CONFERENCE FOR FOOD PROTECTION, March 12-17, 1994, San
Jose, CA. FFI, contact: Leon Townsend, Conference for Food
Protection, 110 Tecumseh Trail, Frankfort, KY 40601, Tel/Fax: (502)
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: email@example.com.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
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