Food Safety Week
Volume 2, Number 7
March 30, 1994
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- USDA STUDY LINKS E COLI TO HERD MANAGEMENT
- USDA RECOMMENDS ZERO-TOLERANCE FOR POULTRY
- GERMANY THREATENS TO BAN BRITISH BEEF OVER BSE
- RESEARCHERS SAY MSG NOT A CULPRIT
- WYNDMERE CREAMERY OWNER TO RE-OPEN IN MEXICO
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Senator Bill Bradley (D-NJ) has written a letter to Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) Commissioner David Kessler asking the agency
to require that all milk derived from cows treated with recombinant
bovine growth hormone (rBGH), otherwise known as bovine
somatotropin (BST), be labeled as such. "I am greatly disturbed that
the unidentified and wide scale use of BGH will drive families away
from dairy products," Bradley's letter states. "For most of us, milk
represents a pure wholesome product. It is an essential part of a
healthy diet and is relied on by parents and children. However,
while milk is essential, BGH is not." Bradley cites the possible risks
associated with elevated levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-
1) and antibiotic residues as his two main concerns. "I urge you to
require clear labeling of dairy products as to the usage of this
hormone and do so as soon as possible," the letter states. It is not
known if Bradley has received any kind of reply from the
Last month, a letter from Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of
Chicago's School of Public Health raised concerns about increased
levels of IGF-1 and a potential link to breast cancer. A response to
Epstein's letter by Dr. Richard Teske, acting director of the FDA's
Center for Veterinary Medicine (CVM) refuted all of Epstein's claims.
"Claims that IGF-1 in milk could result in premature development of
breasts in young children and breast cancer in adults are not only
unsubstantiated in the scientific literature, but, in fact, have no basis
in science," Teske said. He also said that IGF-1 levels are not
substantially increased in milk and cannot be digested by humans
anyway. Teske went on to say that IGF-1 is responsible for normal
cell growth and optimal development in human beings.
A University of Missouri food scientist said he believes the rBGH
issue will soon die out as "the anti-biotechnology forces will soon run
out of resources and give up on this non-issue." Bob Marshall said he
also believes labeling milk and dairy products as rBGH-free or
otherwise would also be misleading and that the systems needed to
guarantee such claims would be too expensive to administrate. "The
records that will need to be kept are significant and would add to the
cost of producing milk," he said. Marshall made the comments in a
recent edition of AGWEEK.
The writer of a recent letter to the editor of AGRI VIEW states that at
a meeting of her school board, a county Extension agent was
"extolling the virtues" of rBGH. Lisa Elsner of Seymour, Wisconsin
said that because only one rBGH product is on the market currently
-- Monsanto's Posilac -- what it amounted to was promotion of the
product. Elsner says that she has heard that promotion of rBGH use
by Extension agents is common throughout the state of Wisconsin. "I
have heard UW has invested heavily in the future of biotechnology.
This makes me wonder if university officials, who are supposed to be
working for the public, are instead trying to impress the Monsantos
of the world by ordering Extension agents to present only one side of
the case, that of the drug companies."
Earlier this month, Margaret Mason, special to the WASHINGTON
POST, wrote an article entitled "Milk? It May Not Do a Body Good,"
which was skeptical of rBGH. After reports that rBGH proponents
met with the Post's editorial board, Mason did a follow up article in
the March 25 edition of the POST. In this particular article, Mason
states she has spoken with many people on both sides of the issue.
"I've heard from businessmen who accuse me of being one-sided.
I've talked with a New York farmer who considered using rBGH
'because I was fascinated with the technology and then I changed my
mind because I wasn't sure it was good for us,'" Mason writes. She
goes on to state that she heard from one California researcher who
said, "You should see the battle on the Internet ... Every move, blow
by blow, I come away from my computer charged." Mason concludes
her article with a list of resources and contacts, which range from the
book THE DAIRY DEBATE to the FDA and the American Dietetic
Association (ADA) to the Vermont-based group Food & Water.
For those who ask why we need rBGH, a recent editorial in
FEEDSTUFFS declares we can look to the European Union (EU) for the
answer. A study by Elanco Animal Health, a division of Eli Lilly,
which currently has an rBGH product in the FDA pipeline, says that
European dairy operations lag far behind the U.S. in terms of per cow
production and environmental protection. In 1978, the study says
annual per cow production in Europe averaged around 2,200 pounds
of milk whereas U.S. operations had their cows producing at around
4,400 pounds annually. At the same time, the EU took steps to
reduce its herd from 26 million in 1978 to 19 million in 1992. "The
result of Europe's messing about in farm policy to halt technical
innovation such as BST has been a substantial reduction in milk
output with less-efficient cows consuming more feed and creating
more manure per hundredweight of milk produced than in the U.S.,"
the editorial says. The Elanco study concludes that the EU should
emphasize improved productivity from fewer animals. "BST,
obviously, would fit the EU's need to boost the efficiency of its dairy
herd." The Elanco study apparently does not address the issue of the
current EU surplus. A recent REUTER article said the EU is taking
drastic steps to reduce the 15 million tons of milk, 225,000 tons of
butter and 50,000 tons of milk powder that are currently sitting in
The Canadian House of Commons is supposed to release a
recommendation before March 31 as to whether or not the Canadian
government should approve rBGH. The conclusion of the Uruguay
Round of the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT) and
the recently approved North Aoval of
rBGH occurred last November. A Canadian ban could possibly be
challenged as a barrier to trade under these agreements.
Hearings were held in Canada two weeks ago. Manufacturers said
the hormone is safe and should be licensed. The Canadian Animal
Health Institute showed a study by U.S. grocers that found "the usage
of BST in milk production will have no real impact on future
consumption of milk." The Dairy Farmers of Canada called for a six-
month moratorium on licensing rBGH. "There has been no
comprehensive discussion with consumers, no education or even
information programs, nor has there been an examination of
consumer attitudes that has been shared with DFC," said DFC
President Peter Oosterhoff.
The Canadian Consumers Association (CAC) testified that it would
favor a moratorium with an indefinite end date. Mark Haney, CAC
director, said, "Unfortunately, the federal government's regulatory
system for biotechnology is not in place. We strongly believe BST
should be subject to the same regulatory controls as will other
novelty food processes when this system is in place."
Among the Americans testifying were Dr. Richard Burroughs, a
veterinarian formerly with the FDA, and Dr. Michael Hansen of the
Consumers Union. Said Burroughs, "The history of BST investigations
is one of poor scientific methodology. Some of this is the result of
ignorance and some is deliberate. The scientific data that I have
seen do not justify the approval of bovine growth hormone." Hansen
called on the Canadian government not to license the product.
Source: "Bradley Urges FDA to Protect Consumers Against Hormone
Injected into Milk Cows," U.S. SENATOR BILL BRADLEY'S OFFICE
PRESS RELEASE, March 21, 1994; LETTER TO FDA COMMISSIONER
KESSLER FROM SENATOR BILL BRADLEY, March 17, 1994; "CVM
Response on IGF-1 Says Problem Was Discounted," FEEDSTUFFS,
March 21, 1994; "Ag Scientist Refutes Concerns Over BST," AGWEEK,
March 14, 1994; Margaret Mason, "Beyond the rBGH Debate,"
WASHINGTON POST, March 25, 1994; "Europe Slips Farm Behind BST
Adopters," FEEDSTUFFS, March 7, 1994; "Commission Seeks to Drain
Milk Surplus," REUTER, March 2, 1994; Ian Elliott, "BST Future
Remains Unclear in Canada," FEEDSTUFFS, March 21, 1994; Lisa
Elsner, "Agents Promoting Posilac," AGRI VIEW, March 25, 1994.
USDA STUDY LINKS E COLI TO HERD MANAGEMENT
A one-year study by the USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection
Service (APHIS) concluded that herd management practices may
have an impact on the presence of the bacteria E coli in dairy herds.
Cow fecal matter contains the E coli bacteria, which causes serious
illness in humans.
The APHIS study included 1,811 dairy operations in 28 states. Fecal
samples were collected from 7,000 pre-weaned heifer calves and
tested for E coli. Twenty-five samples from 19 herds in 16 states
tested positive for the bacteria. This translates to an incidence of 3.6
E coli cases per every 1,000 calves. No regional correlation could be
determined. Next, a follow up study on 64 of the herds was
undertaken to determine if there were links between shedding the
bacteria and herd management practices. An increase in the
incidence of E coli was detected at eight weeks -- the age at which
most calves are weaned. In addition, weaned calves were more
likely to test positive for E coli than calves still nursing. If the calves
were grouped together before weaning, the herd was nine times
more likely to test positive for E coli than if they were grouped after
weaning. From this, APHIS concluded that grouping calves prior to
weaning may increase the rate of transmission from calf to calf or it
can precipitate shedding by calves already carrying E coli in their
system. "This finding is valuable and could point to ways to lower
the levels of E coli 9157:H7 in cattle and thus reduce the incidence of
food poisoning and related diseases in humans," said Patricia Jensen,
acting assistant secretary for marketing and inspection services.
The National Cattlemen's Association (NCA) disputed the APHIS
findings. Gary Wilson, director of animal health, inspection and
research for NCA, said the USDA failed to point out that the study
was conducted two years ago and that therefore the agency cannot
make any recommendations based on the study. He said the study
also indicated that calves that tested positive for the bacteria one
week could test negative for it a few weeks later. This indicates that
animals naturally shed the organism.
In other beef news, an Australian paper reports that contaminated
beef, rejected for sale in Asia, was returned to Australia and is now
being sold to consumers. Workers at a Melbourne meat packing
plant were said to be trimming bad meat from the last batch of 452
contaminated beef quarters after the meat had been stamped
"rejected for human consumption" by the Australian Quarantine and
Inspection Service (AQIS) and the McPhee Export Meats company
tried to export it. The spoiled trimmings went for use in fertilizer
while the cuts were sent to butcher shops, restaurants, grocery stores
and hotels. Workers said the meat in the first batches was so
discolored it appeared "almost black." The most recent cuts were
reportedly not as bad yet they were rejected by South Korea, Japan,
Europe and the U.S. Even Russia, which one AQIS official said for
sure would accept the meat because "the poor bastards are so
desperate they'll take anything," would not accept the meat. AQIS
inspectors subjected the contaminated meat only to visual inspection
before passing the meat for sale to Australian consumers. The article
said in the past two years, Australians have eaten 50 tons of tainted
meat returned from South Korea.
Source: "USDA E Coli Dairy Calf Study Points to Need for Changes in
Herd Management," USDA NEWS RELEASES, March 8, 1994; "NCA
Disputes E Coli Herd Recommendation," CATTLE BUYERS WEEKLY,
March 14, 1994; Philip Cornford, "Spoiled Export Meat on Sale in
Australia," AUSTRALIAN FINANCIAL REVIEW, March 24, 1994.
USDA RECOMMENDS ZERO-TOLERANCE FOR POULTRY
Earlier this month, Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy said the USDA
intends to prohibit the presence of fecal matter on poultry. This
marks a move away from current regulatory procedures, which allow
processors to remove birds contaminated with fecal matter from the
lines to be "reprocessed," or washed. In addition to zero-tolerance
for fecal matter, a number of other new initiatives affecting the
poultry industry were also announced, including: a requirement for
anti-bacterial rinses; testing carcass samples for bacteria; and
inspection of carcasses after innard removal, rather than before.
Some consumer groups say the announcement was another stalling
tactic by the administration. "There's no legal excuse for not just
outlawing feces on poultry. It's another example of Tyson's clout,"
said Tom Devine of the Government Accountability Project (GAP),
referring to Don Tyson, a close friend of the Clinton's.
An article in the WALL STREET JOURNAL examines how cozy the
Tyson empire has been with the Clinton administration. In addition
to flying then Governor Clinton around in his jet, Don Tyson made
large contributions to Clinton's gubernatorial and presidential
election funds and to the Democratic party. In exchange, many labor
and consumer groups in Arkansas say Tyson was given breaks in the
form of lax environmental and labor standards in Arkansas. Rumors
have floated that Ellen Haas would have become undersecretary of
inspection services under an original USDA reorganization proposal.
Haas is the former executive director of Public Voice, a consumer
advocacy group. Many say Tyson pressured Espy not to make the
appointment because of Haas' interest in consumer issues.
Ultimately, the reorganization plan that would have put Haas in the
position was scrapped. Espy maintains the plan was opposed by
industry because of certain particulars. "Ellen had nothing to do with
"I had the feeling of being looked over. Very definitely," said Pat
Jensen who recently attended an Arkansas-Vanderbilt basketball
game with Tyson. Jensen is supposedly in line for the
undersecretary of inspection services position, recently vacated by
Eugene Branstool. Even Secretary Espy admits to be lobbied by
Tyson employees "all the time." But he insists that his agency has
not and will not give the chicken company any undue breaks.
In addition, the USDA has been out and about making surprise
inspections at beef and pork processing plants in recent months.
However, the poultry industry has been exempt from the surprise
inspections despite the fact that salmonella, campylobacter and other
food-borne illness associated with poultry cause millions of deaths
every year. Espy's aides are quick to point out that USDA did do a
surprise inspection at a turkey plant. Tyson, however, does not do
Archie Schaffer, a Tyson spokesperson, denied his company has
received any breaks from the USDA. "Rumors of Tyson's influence
are greatly exaggerated. We talk to people at the USDA; we have
USDA people come [here] to visit us. [But] that hasn't translated into
any favors," he said. Espy maintains he is willing to talk to anyone
and everyone about food issues. "I'm very open," he said.
Lastly, the USDA approved the use of trisodium phosphate (TSP) in
pre-chill treatments for poultry. The approval was requested by the
French chemical company Rhone-Poulenc. The process will be used
to combat human pathogens that occur in poultry. The company said
the TSP pre-chill rinse will dramatically reduce salmonella, E coli,
campylobacter and other pathogens. "Approval of the pre-chill
approach gives poultry processors greater flexibility in how they
may apply TSP rinse. Extensive, in-plant commercial-sale testing has
shown that using this process virtually eliminates the presence of
microorganisms in fresh poultry which can help processors alleviate
consumers' concerns about health and safety," said Richard Kennedy
of Rhone-Poulenc. The company said it is also testing the rinse on
beef and pork applications. Approval is preliminary and will be
followed by a formal rulemaking procedure.
Source: "USDA Floats Zero Fecal Standard for Poultry," NUTRITION
WEEK, March 11, 1994; Robert Brown, "Rhone-Poulenc Wins
Approval for TSP on Pre-Chill Poultry," FEEDSTUFFS, March 7, 1994;
Bruce Ingersoll, "Tyson Foods, With a Friend in the White House, Gets
Gentle Treatment From Agriculture Agency," WALL STREET
JOURNAL, March 17, 1994.
GERMANY THREATENS TO BAN BRITISH BEEF OVER BSE
Germany is threatening to ban imports of beef from the U.K. over
concerns about bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise
known as mad cow disease. German health Minister Horst Seehofer
said his country would ban imports of beef if the U.K. did not
introduce tighter measures to control the disease, which essentially
eats away the brain of the cow, causing it to stumble and fall until it
eventually dies. Cows with the disease recently surfaced in
Germany, prompting Bonn to call for an all out ban on beef imports
from the U.K. The human form of the disease is known as
Creutzfeldt Jakob Disease (CJD). No link between the consumption of
BSE contaminated beef and the contraction of CJD has been
After the announcement by Germany, EU officials moved promptly to
tell Germany that such a ban would be illegal under EU law. British
Agriculture Minister Gillian Shephard said U.K. processing companies
have suffered since the German threat was issued. "It is having a
disastrous effect on [one] company's trade with Germany and
affecting inquiries from elsewhere. I'm not having it," she said. The
EU is expected to issue a warning today that a ban would be illegal.
In the meantime, seven German universities said they will have their
top scientists research BSE. The focus of the government-funded
research will be to examine potential links between consumption of
BSE and CJD. "The danger that BSE can be transmitted to humans is
minuscule or non-existent. However, we do not know that it is non-
existent. I personally think [British beef] should not be imported,"
said Professor Hans Kretzschmar of Gottingen University.
Source: Gillian Tett, "German Ban on U.K. Beef 'Would Be Illegal,'"
FINANCIAL TIMES, March 9, 1994; Deborah Hargreaves, "Minister
Scorns German Threat Over 'BSE' Beef," FINANCIAL TIMES, March 10,
1994; Michael Lindemann, "Germany Sets Scientist to Work on BSE
Threat, FINANCIAL TIMES, March 24, 1994; David Gardner,
"Commission to Back Britain on 'Mad Cow Disease,'" FINANCIAL
TIMES, March 29, 1994.
RESEARCHERS SAY MSG NOT A CULPRIT
Two researchers at the University of Western Sydney said they have
determined that monosodium glutamate -- MSG -- is not responsible
for what is commonly known as the Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.
Sufferers experience headaches, nausea and numbness, often thought
to be linked to ingestion of MSG. Len Tasdroff and Michael Kelly say
that in controlled experiments in which some subjects received MSG
and other did not, 15% experienced the headaches and nausea.
Administration of a placebo elicited the same response on 14% of
subjects. The researchers say the symptoms may be caused by
combinations of other additives in Chinese foods such as dyes,
preservatives, allergenic proteins and salt.
Source: "A Clean Bill for MSG," WORLD PRESS REVIEW, April 1994.
WYNDMERE CREAMERY OWNER TO RE-OPEN IN MEXICO
The owner of the Wyndmere Creamery, which was shut down last
month by the North Dakota Department of Agriculture for reportedly
importing raw cream illegally from Mexico, did not show up to his
hearing. Instead, Clayton Rawhouser said he spent the time opening
up his new business at an undisclosed location in Mexico. "I felt they
(the charges) were frivolous and of no benefit because Mexican
cream didn't happen in the first place," Rawhouser said. The origin
of the raw cream seized from the Wyndmere plant is still in dispute.
Rawhouser said he obtained the supplies from 368 small dairy
farmers in 17 states. Robert Dykshoorn, North Dakota dairy
commissioner, said there was no way the farmers could have
supplied Rawhouser with the large volume seized by the department.
Many of the operations Rawhouser listed said they had not been in
contact with Rawhouser for over a year. Rawhouser maintains the
cream was tested for and found to be free of pesticides and other
chemical residues by the FDA.
Source: "Wyndmere Creamery Owner to Head South," AGWEEK,
March 14, 1994.
The Haworth Press has a catalogue available which describes the
publications from their Food Products Press division. All address
food, agriculture and related subjects. Titles in the latest edition
include: MARKETING LIVESTOCK AND MEAT; POULTRY PRODUCTS
AND TECHNOLOGY; and JOURNAL OF VEGETABLE CROP PRODUCTION.
For a copy of the catalogue, contact the Haworth Press, 10 Alice
Street, Binghamton, NY 13094, Tel: (800) 342-9678, Fax: (607) 722-
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.
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND FOOD WORKSHOP, April 10-23, 1994,
Awka, Nigeria. FFI, contact: Dr. N. Okafor, FADIB, P.O. Box 1457,
Enugu, Nigeria, Tel: +234-42-339360, Fax: +234- 42-332059.
BIOTECHNOLOGY AND FOOD: A PUBLIC ISSUE FOR EXTENSION
EDUCATION (nationwide video conference), May 12, 1994. FFI,
contact: Gene Schriefer, University of Wisconsin-Madison, Tel: (608)
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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