Food Safety Week
Volume 2, Number 6
February 25, 1994
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- USDA PROPOSES INSPECTION FEE INCREASE FOR FRUITS AND
- ESPY ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO PURSUE BEEF IRRADIATION
- ONLY MAD COW DOZEN REMAIN
- ISU AUTHOR EXPLORES DES IN NEW BOOK
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Kemp's Marigold, one of the largest dairy processors in the upper
Midwest, announced last week that it is asking producers it
purchases its fluid milk from to refrain from using recombinant
bovine growth hormone (rBGH), otherwise known as bovine
somatotropin (BST), to increase milk production. The company
maintains that the product is safe; however, consumer concerns were
cited as the reason behind the request. "Marigold Foods has formally
requested all of our cooperatives and independent dairy producers
which supply the company with raw milk to refrain from using
supplemental BST," states a generic letter put out by the company.
The company also said it does not intend to label products rBGH-free,
or some accepted variation thereof, at this time.
Dairymen (sic) around the United States "now have bovine
somatotropin, BST, as another tool to improve the efficiency of milk
production," states a recent article in HOARD'S DAIRYMEN by two
rBGH researchers. The authors emphasize good management
practices as the key to successful use of the synthetic drug.
Particularly useful strategies might include: a production monitoring
system for the herd and individual cows receiving injections; forage
analysis and more frequent ration balancing; changing rations to
meet changes in the cows' body condition and milk production;
preventative health programs; and careful, hygienic milking
procedures and use of equipment. The two recommend that the
above are done in close consultation with nutrition and herd health
On the question of cow health, the authors state, ""Based on our
extensive review of many research trials, we have no reason to
believe that BST will cause any more mastitis, other health problems
or poorer reproductive performance than higher production without
BST." They go on to say that while "we expect higher-producing cows
to have more problems, there has been no scientific documentation
of catastrophic health problems associated with BST use." The
Monsanto label on its Posilac product, they maintain, is typical of
labels on other Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-regulated
products and mention of potential side effects does "not ... suggest
that they will occur."
A letter to the editor in the same issue of HOARD'S asks why farmers
are helping the likes of Jeremy Rifkin and Senator
Russell Feingold tell consumers that milk from rBGH-treated cows is
unsafe. "What kind of double standards do we have and why are
some of you dairy farmers unduly confusing the consumers about
who to believe and when?" writes Darlene Arneson of Wisconsin. "I
would suggest that dairy farmers start standing up and defending
the products we produce, the technology that will help make us more
productive and the management practices that we use," she writes.
In response to Monsanto's recent announcement that it has filed a
lawsuit against Swiss Valley Farms for "false and misleading" labels,
the Davenport, Iowa processor said it will fight the suit on the
grounds of commercial free speech. "We don't believe there is any
merit in the suit. We are looking for a court determination as to our
right for free speech on this subject," said a company statement.
Thomas McDermott, a spokesperson for Monsanto, said, "We believe
that what Swiss Valley is doing in here is impugning the safety and
wholesomeness of the majority of milk sold to the consumer. If it
(Swiss Valley's labeling) is allowed to continue, it will cause
irreparable injury to Monsanto." The company recently filed a
similar lawsuit against Pure Milk and Ice Cream Company in Waco,
In the wake of the lawsuits, Senator Russ Feingold (D-WI) and
Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT) are accusing Monsanto of
intimidating dairy processors around the country. In an interview
last week, Feingold stated, "When a big corporation comes after a
small dairy, the cost of litigation can destroy that small dairy. If
Monsanto can use bogus lawsuits to prevent dairies from voluntary
labeling, that result will be a denial of the consumer's right to know."
Sanders added that the company "want[s] to intimidate. They want
to frighten." McDermott said his company had no intention of
stopping processors from voluntarily labeling products. "We don't
believe they've been truthful," he said of the two processors. "We
don't believe they've lived up to their obligations to give consumers
all the information."
Since the moratorium on the commercial sale of rBGH was lifted on
February 3, Monsanto has reportedly sent an estimated 2,000 letters
to dairy processors and retailers around the country warning them to
follow FDA labeling guidelines, which incidentally, have not yet gone
into effect. A "Dear Retail Grocer" letter sent out by the company
talks about the close scrutiny by the FDA during the approval
process. It goes on to say that the FDA is warning processors to be
very careful when labeling as that label cannot indicate that the milk
is in any way different when coming from cows not treated with the
synthetic drug. Signs and labels that are misleading are unlawful.
"We are proud to have been the first company to gain FDA approval
for bovine somatotropin. Monsanto employees have worked for over
a decade to demonstrate that Posilac is safe and effective. Already
thousands of dairy farmers are using Posilac and are enjoying the
financial benefits of doing so. We firmly believe that this product,
and future products from Monsanto, will be beneficial to consumers,
the food industry and agriculture." The letter, signed by Walter P.
Hobgood of Monsanto's agriculture group, invites retailers to contact
him for further information about the product.
A natural foods co-op in Missouri caught the company's attention
when the owner, Karen Buckey, began a series of advertisements
expressing her willingness to sell rBGH-free products. A letter to
Buckey from James Miller, Monsanto's attorney at the King &
Spaulding law firm, said her series of advertisements "are likely to
mislead consumers into believing that milk from cows supplemented
with Posilac is less safe or less nutritious, or otherwise inferior to
milk from other cows." Miller requests Buckey have her attorney
contact him as soon as possible as to her decision about whether or
not to cease the advertisements.
Finally, the acting director of the National Agriculture Library posted
a public apology on the Internet last week for the actions of a
graduate student, which some believed questioned the wisdom of the
rBGH product. Pamela Andre said the NAL stands by the position of
the USDA on the safety of rBGH and that the student's alleged
questioning of that stance reflected "a lack of objectivity and failed to
recognize the full breadth of published material which has assessed
the safety of this product."
Andre's statement came despite the fact that the Library Bill of
Rights espoused by the American Library Association contains the
following statements: "libraries should provide materials and
information presenting all points of view on current and historical
issues;" and "libraries should challenge censorship in the fulfillment
of their responsibility to provide information and enlightenment."
Source: MARIGOLD FOODS COMPANY CORRESPONDENCE, February 16,
1994; Brian A. Crooker and Dale E. Bauman, "BST: When, Why and
How," HOARD'S DAIRYMEN, February 10, 1994; Darlene Arneson,
"Don't Discredit Sources," HOARD'S DAIRYMEN, February 10, 1994;
Steven P. Rosenfeld, "Monsanto Sues Dairy Co-Op That Won't Accept
BGH Milk," WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, February 19, 1994; Patrick
Jasperse, "Monsanto Accused of Coercion in Fighting 'BGH-Free'
Labels," MILWAUKEE JOURNAL, February 25, 1994; "Dairies to Fight
Suit By Maker of Growth Hormone," SALT LAKE TRIBUNE, February
22, 1994; Walter P. Hobgood, MONSANTO COMPANY
CORRESPONDENCE, February 18, 1994; James Miller, KING &
SPAULDING CORRESPONDENCE, February 18, 1994; "Library Bill of
Rights," ALA WORLD ENCYCLOPEDIA OF LIBRARY AND INFORMATION
SERVICES, 1986; Pamela Andre, "Comments on BST/BGH Postings,"
Email communication, February 23, 1994.
USDA PROPOSES INSPECTION FEE INCREASE FOR FRUITS AND
The USDA recently proposed inspection fee increases for certifying
and grading fresh fruits and vegetables. The current inspection
service provided at terminal markets is not mandatory and is
typically used by large-scale buyers. Under law, the USDA must
come up with a structure that results in the recovery of costs for
system users. Rates vary by type of commodity and size of
shipment. Details can be obtained from Bill High (202/720-8998) or
Larry Mark (202/720-3310) at the USDA.
Source: "USDA Plans Inspection Fee Increase," Farming Today, UPI,
February 24, 1994.
ESPY ANNOUNCES INTENTION TO PURSUE BEEF IRRADIATION
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy announced his intention last
week to pursue the use of irradiation in destroying pathogens in
beef. A petition is reportedly being circulated by private industry
groups and Espy said he would support the petition. Who or what
organization is responsible for the petition is not yet clear. "We
would rather this be presented as a public health initiative. Our
reasons for petitioning will be second-guessed by our opponents,"
said James Marsden of the American Meat Institute, who said his
organization is not behind the initiative.
Consumer groups have reacted negatively to the Espy announcement.
"We're disappointed that Espy is calling for a quick fix that doesn't
solve the problem of sick cows and filthy packing houses," said
Michael Jacobson of the Center for Science in the Public Interest.
Espy also said his department is close to completing the development
of a rapid test for bacteria in meat products. "I have been in close
communication with our ... researchers and I am very enthused we
are on the verge of being able to announce a rapid test for pathogens,
for the E coli pathogen and for this particular strain of E coli," said
Espy, referring to the strain that is responsible for the deaths of at
least three children and thousands of illnesses linked to the Jack-in-
the-Box food chain in the Pacific Northwest last year.
In one of his last speeches as a government official, Russell Cross,
former head of the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service,
criticized the poultry industry for backing off from irradiation as a
method of preventing foodborne illness. The poultry industry, he
said, has "paid too much attention to critics of irradiation" and
criticism by a "small group" of activists is not a good excuse to avoid
"the use of preventative systems, such as irradiation."
The Clinton administration is reportedly giving serious consideration
to the appointment of a food czar who will concentrate strictly on
food safety issues. The food safety commissioner will work directly
under Secretary Espy and work specifically on activities related to
the food and agricultural industry.
Source: "USDA to Back Beef Irradiation, Near on Taint Test," REUTER,
February 24, 1994; "Beef Irradiation Plan to Get Farm-Agency
Backing," REUTER, February 24, 1994; Robert Greene, "Beef
Irradiation," AP, February 25, 1994; "Time for Ignoring Irradiation
Nearly Over," FEEDSTUFFS, February 7, 1994; Robert H. Brown, "USDA
May Seek Appointment of Food Safety Official," FEEDSTUFFS,
February 5, 1994.
ONLY MAD COW DOZEN REMAIN
Only 12 of the cows linked to a recent outbreak of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), or "mad cow" disease, in Alberta, Canada
remain, according to officials with the government agriculture office,
Agriculture Canada. Dr. George Luterbach of Agriculture Canada's
Winnipeg office said they are still deliberating whether to "destroy
or export" domestic cattle that came into contact with the imported
infected animals. Owners of the 12 remaining animals are awaiting a
court decision regarding the worth of their animals before they will
Source: "Ag Canada Wipes Out All But 'Mad Dozen' Cattle," Farming
Today, UPI, February 18, 1994.
ISU AUTHOR EXPLORES DES IN NEW BOOK
Author and history professor Alan Marcus of Iowa State University
explores the issue of diethylstilbestrol (DES) in a new book entitled
CANCER FROM BEEF: THE DES CONTROVERSY, FEDERAL FOOD
REGULATIONS AND CONSUMER CONFIDENCE IN MODERN AMERICA.
DES, developed by ISU scientist Wise Burroughs and patented by ISU,
was the world's first inexpensive artificial sex hormone. Because it
was cheap, DES was used for everything from a pill for bringing
problem pregnancies to term, to a spontaneous abortion pill to
bulking up the meat produced by chickens and cattle. The compound
was also a known carcinogen, prompting one of the biggest battles in
food regulatory history.
DES was used in an estimated 95% of all cattle during the 1960s. In
addition, seven cases of young women with a rare type of vaginal
cancer -- all of whom had mothers who took DES during their
pregnancies -- came forth. Marcus maintains that the resulting
battle was then fought on emotional, not scientific, battle lines. "To
this day, no one knows if DES beef caused a single case of cancer," he
In his book, Marcus maintains that DES can be used as a model to
base consumer distrust toward the government and science on.
"Much of today's food regulation can be traced back to, or has been
impacted by, the DES controversy," Marcus said. The case marks the
point at which scientists were no longer considered to be on a quest
for truth and knowledge but as employees of different industries or
as representatives of the views of those industries. Government,
then, was not seen as the protector of the people, but as the vehicle
for furthering those interests. "It's still a model from which
everything else is judged," Marcus said.
Source: Skip Derra, "Beef Over DES Changes Public's Image of
Science," IOWA STATER, February 1994.
CRACKING THE CODEX is a recent publication by the National Food
Alliance in London, England. The book examines the workings of the
Codex Alimentarius, the independent body which will set
international food safety standards as dictated by the conclusion of
the Uruguay Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade.
For more information, contact National Food Alliance, 5-11 Worship
Street, 3rd Floor, London EC2A 2BH, England, Tel: (44) 071 628-
The Australian FOOD POLICY ALLIANCE has recently published its
February 1994 newsletter. Articles include an update on the group's
attempt to develop a national food policy, establishing a national food
inspection system and "made in Australia" labeling. For more
information, contact Food Policy Alliance, Level 7, 191-199 Thomas
Street, Haymarket NSW 2000, Australia, Tel: (02) 334-9242, Fax:
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 LIVESTOCK HEARINGS, March 22, 1994, Sacramento,
CA. FFI, contact: Harold Ricker, National Organic Program, Tel: (202)
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.
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