Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
June 15, 1994
Volume 2, Number 12
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- MEAT LABELING GOES INTO EFFECT
- ESPY UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR TYSON TIES
- GERMANS AGREE TO BRITISH BEEF SLAUGHTER BAN
- USDA ISSUES MEAT HANDLING WARNING FOR 7 STATES
- CONSUMER FOOD PRICES GO UP SLIGHTLY
- DEAN TO ACQUIRE CURTICE-BURNS
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
The price of milk is likely to remain steady in the dairy case while it
drops for the nation's dairy farmers. A recent editorial in the
Minnesota newspaper AGRI NEWS says farmers are most likely to
pay for the current milk surplus of milk through assessments when
the government buys it up at below market prices. In addition,
taxpayers may contribute if some politicians are successful in
convincing the USDA to purchase supplies of milk and dairy products
now for use in school lunches and other nutrition programs. The
editorial criticizes retailers, who it says will gain from government
spending on the oversupply of milk. "The subsidies will ensure that
the milk keeps flowing, thus perpetuating the retail windfall," the
The National Farmers Organization (NFO) says the talk of oversupply
is purely fictitious and that milk prices should increase. '"What's
happening in the dairy industry is a classical case of a psychological
market overriding the real market," according to Al Scott of the NFO.
He said milk prices should go up for the following reasons: national
production is down 1%; cheese inventories are down 4.5% since
January; cheesemakers are using powder priced under the III-A
system to supplement inadequate milk supplies; and 84% of the
nation's dairy farmers qualified for an assessment refund in 1993 as
their farms produced less than the previous year. "If the dairy
industry insists on using non-existent milk to depress prices, then
dairy producers' best choice is to join together to resist those low
prices," said Scott. According to the National Agricultural Statistics
Service, April production was up 1% from last year. Per cow
production in the 21 main dairy states was 1,372 pounds, 31 pounds
more than last April.
A recent article in the Food Institute Report states that rBGH
provides a prime example of how consumer misunderstanding can
create a backlash against other genetically engineered products. It
says other developments of agricultural biotechnology have been
met with consumer skepticism and response to the genetically
engineered Flavr Savr tomato has been just mediocre. It says critics
who continue to push for labeling may keep consumers from buying
milk from cows treated with the drug.
The Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture has banned the use of
labels on milk derived from cows not treated with rBGH on the basis
that they could be "false and misleading." The department said the
labels could create a false impression and provide a marketing
advantage to those who use rBGH-free labels. Wegman's Food
Markets has been asked to stop selling its milk labeled "rBST-free."
Wegman's said it began selling the milk because customers wanted a
Nationally, legislation is expected to be introduced in Congress next
week. The bills will require the government to develop a test for
detecting the presence of rBGH in milk; impose an assessment on
farmers using the drug; and require mandatory labeling. An
omnibus version will include all of the above.
Lastly, Vermont's Governor Howard Dean is reportedly backing down
from legislation he signed this spring which requires all milk to be
labeled as either derived from cows treated with rBGH or rBGH-free.
Legislative budget negotiators said the Dean administration asked
them to include language in the budget bill which would protect the
state from the costs of dealing with lawsuits over the labeling bill.
They said they were also asked to consider repealing the law.
Administration Secretary William Sorrell said, "I've had some
discussions to see if there's any interest in avoiding the cost of BST
litigation. The discussions have been so preliminary ... The
administration has not made a decision to go forward with this." Tim
Atwater of the advocacy group Rural Vermont said, "I think it would
be a gross insult to the people of Vermont ... If the Dean
administration tries to use a back-door method to repeal our labeling
law, I think Vermonters will be rightly very angry."
Source: "Retailers Are Milking Dairy Farmer Misfortune," AGRI
NEWS, June 9, 1994; "Fictitious Milk Supplies Put Psychological
Burden on Prices," THUMB FARM NEWS, May 25, 1994;
"Biotechnology -- Unproven in the Eyes of the Consumer," FOOD
INSTITUTE REPORT, June 6, 1994; Margaret Scherf, "Farm Scene," AP,
June 6, 1994; "Pennsylvania Bans BST Labels," DAIRY PROFIT
WEEKLY, May 30, 1994; "Legislative Update," PURE FOOD CAMPAIGN,
June 1994; Ross Sneyd, "Administration is Seeking to Revise State
Law Requiring BGH Labeling," RUTLAND DAILY HERALD, June 8,
1994; Ross Sneyd, "Adjournment Draws Near as Negotiators Settle
Issues," TIMES ARGUS, June 9, 1994.
MEAT LABELING GOES INTO EFFECT
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy issued a directive on May 26
mandating that safe cooking and handling instructions appear on raw
ground meat packages May 27. Espy told meat and poultry
processors to apply the labels without delay. Calling the move a
"victory for consumers," Espy said "the safe cooking and handling
label will better educate the consumer that meat and poultry could
contain dangerous bacteria." Labels must appear on all other cuts of
raw and not-ready-to-eat meat by July 6.
Nutrition -- as opposed to safe cooking and handling -- labels must
appear on all meat packages by August 8. This deadline was
extended from July 6 to be consistent with the Food and Drug
Administration's (FDA) nutrition labeling deadline, according to the
A recent article by columnist Marian Burros said the FDA's new
labels have not managed to diminish consumer confusion about food
nutrition. She points to the Food Guide Pyramid developed by the
FDA as one source of confusion. According to the pyramid, grains,
including bread, cereal and pasta, appear at the top. This does not
prevent companies such as Keebler cookies from using the pyramid
in their packaging. "Using the pyramid may give the impression the
product is something that's good or better for you than it is," said
Stewart Greenblatt, Keebler spokesperson, adding that they only use
it on their low-fat cookie products. "Using the pyramid on a package
of food implies that the food is healthy. The company is using it as a
shield ... Does this mean that you should eat six to 11 servings of
Teddy Grahams a day?" asked Bonnie Liebman of the Center for
Science in the Public Interest. FDA Commissioner David Kessler
recommends that consumers ignore the "hype" about packages and
just follow the nutrition label. "You can't get fooled if you look at the
nutrition facts panel," he said.
Source: Robert H. Brown, "Espy Gives Meat Firms Short Notice of
Handling Labels," FEEDSTUFFS, May 30, 1994; "USDA Extends Label
Deadline on Some Meat, Poultry," REUTER, June 13, 1994; Marian
Burros, "Eating Well," NEW YORK TIMES, June 15, 1994.
ESPY UNDER INVESTIGATION FOR TYSON TIES
Last week, the New York Times reported that Secretary Espy is being
investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the
Justice Department for alleged impropriety involving the poultry
giant Tyson Foods. The allegations aginst Espy involve acceptance of
sporting event tickets and free air travel from Tyson, possibly in
exchange for applying less stringent inspection standards to poultry
processors. The 1907 Meat Inspection Act says USDA employees
cannot accept any "thing of value" from industry. The purpose of the
act was to prevent public officials from accepting gifts from
industries which might benefit from their decisions -- or bribery.
Justice Department attorneys confirmed that there was at least one
violation of the law, but it involved an amount less than $100. Espy's
office issued a statement which said he has "cooperated fully and he
believes there will be a positive outcome."
The Arkansas-based Tyson foods is owned by Don Tyson, a well-
known friend of the Clintons. For his part, Tyson released a two-
page statement which said the relationship between Espy and Tyson
amounted to "good business practice." He said Espy's trips to
Arkansas to speak with agriculture officials and trips to a Dallas
Cowboys football game and Chicago Bulls basketball game are "not
considered to be gifts."
The investigation also allegedly involves destroyed documents and
computer diskettes by the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).
The agency was considering extending the zero-tolerance rule, which
prohibits the presence of contaminated matter on meat, to poultry.
Elaine Dodge, director of the Government Accountability Project,
which represents whistleblowers, said, "They are still permitting
fecal contamination on poultry." Senator Thad Cochran (R-MS) said
he found the investigation ironic as he had been receiving complaints
from poultry processors that the USDA has been too tough. "It
doesn't sound like he's doing anyone any favors," he said.
Espy delayed filing a financial disclosure report required for people
serving in public positions. Espy has reportedly visited 64 cities in
12 months; 16 of those were to his hometown of Jackson, Mississippi.
The investigation is trying to determine if any of these were paid for
by companies which might benefit from USDA rulings. Espy has until
June 29 to file the papers.
Officials are also reportedly investigating acting assistant secretary
for marketing and inspection Patricia Jensen.
Source: Howard Schneider and Pierre Thomas, "Espy's Ties to Food
Firm Under Study; Criminal Case Unlikely," WASHINGTON POST, June
10, 1994; "Espy Delays Filing Financial Disclosure Report," REUTER,
June 13, 1994; "Reno Confirms Espy Probe," UPI, June 9, 1994; Bruce
Ingersoll and Viveca Novak, "Justice Department Won't Charge Espy
in Closing Probe of Possible Illegal Gifts," WALL STREET JOURNAL,
June 10, 1994; "Tyson Foods Responds to New York Times Article,"
BUSINESS WIRE, June 9, 1994.
GERMANS AGREE TO BRITISH BEEF SLAUGHTER BAN
Veterinarians in all 16 of Germany's states have agreed to a ban on
the slaughter of cattle from the U.K. which might be infected with
bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad
cow disease. Veterinary authorities agreed to a package of measures
intended to prevent the disease from spreading in to Germany. In
addition to a ban on slaughter, the other measures include routine
observation and checks on herds with suspect cattle and a
requirement that owners divulge information about potentially
exposed cattle. "The veterinary authorities of the states will
implement this decision immediately," said a spokesperson for the
German ministry of agriculture. Three cases of BSE have been
reported in Germany thus far. All cases have involved animals from
A recent article in the FINANCIAL TIMES characterized the German
move as "living in a glass house but still throwing stones" noting that
Germans are dealing with both BSE and a severe outbreak of swine
fever in domestic herds.
Source: "German States Agree on 'Mad Cow,'" FINANCIAL TIMES,
June 10, 1994; "German States Ban Slaughter of British Cattle,"
REUTER, June 9, 1994; "Bavaria Joins German Limits on British Beef,"
REUTER, June 8, 1994; "Two More German States Limit British Beef,"
REUTER, June 7, 1994; David Richardson, "Germany's Political Stone-
Throwing on BSE," FINANCIAL TIMES, June 7, 1994.
USDA ISSUES MEAT HANDLING WARNING FOR 7 STATES
The USDA recently issued a warning about a potential threat from
the bacteria E coli in seven states. Stores in the states of Indiana,
Michigan, Iowa, Pennsylvania, Virginia, West Virginia and Maryland
may have received meat from a packing plant in Nebraska, which
recently had an outbreak of E coli. The stores are the Jewel and
Giant chains. While no outbreaks of E coli have occurred in these
states, USDA official Terry Medley said 21 recent cases of E coli were
traced to the plant.
A recent editorial in FEEDSTUFFS criticized a mid-May speech by
Medley in which he states the USDA is developing a system to detect
food-borne pathogens from the farm to the table. The journal says
once the USDA takes steps to trace food-borne illness, they will find
the problem is not confined to a specific category or species of
animals but to producers. "The next policy questions must then be:
Should the government treat the food safety threat of naturally
occurring pathogens the same way it treats illegal drug residues and
take actions against the farmer?" It says the USDA simply will not
find entirely clean animals on the farm and questions spending
resources on going to the farm when many pathogens occur later
down the chain, like in packing, processing and even at the table.
"Government-operated traceback certainly appears to be a system to
place blame, and it will place that blame right on the producer."
Source: "USDA Warns About Meat Handling in Seven States," Farming
Today, UPI, June 13, 1994; "Tracing Pathogens to Farm is Perilous
USDA Policy," FEEDSTUFFS, June 4, 1994.
CONSUMER FOOD PRICES GO UP SLIGHTLY
According to a recent survey by the American Farm Bureau
Federation, consumers are paying only slightly more for food than
during the first quarter of 1994 and the second quarter of 1993. For
16 "popular" items, consumer paid an average of $30.21 -- 16 cents
more than last year and 10 cents more the first quarter of 1994.
Prices have remained relatively steady across the board. Slight
increases in the price of red meat and potatoes were sufficient to
offset decreases in the price of eggs and cheese.
Source: Michelle Groenke, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, June 8,
DEAN TO ACQUIRE CURTICE-BURNS
The food giant Dean Foods has announced its intention to acquire
Curtice-Burns Foods for $172.8 million. The deal involves five
different entities and both companies acknowledge it could take
months to sort the deal out. Dean, a big player in the vegetable
processing market, said the reason it wanted Curtice-Burns is to
enhance its recent acquisition of Bird's Eye frozen foods. Other
parties to the transaction could potentially include Hormel, Agway
and Pro-Fac Cooperative.
Source: Richard Gibson, "Dean Foods Plans to Buy Curtice-Burns in
complex Deal Involving Five Entities," WALL STREET JOURNAL, June
The State of Food and Agriculture 1993 is a publication of the Food
and Agriculture Organization. This edition examines water resources
and agriculture policies. Statistics on food production, food aid and
the environment are included. Country table data are also included
on an accompanying diskette. FAO Director General Edouard Saouma
concludes in his opening statement, "it is my hope the international
community will recognize that equitable and sustainable
development is the only way to avoid massive outlays for
peacemaking, peace-keeping and relief." The publication (F33609) is
available for $50.00 from UNIPUB, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham,
MD 20706, Tel: (301) 459-7666, Fax: (301) 459-0056.
The June 1994 issue of the USDA publication, Agricultural Outlook,
examines "Assessing the Earth's Food Production Capacity."
Subscriptions are $42/year. To order, contact ERS-NASS, 341 Victory
Drive, Herndon, VA 22070.
A new database on Food Safety and Risk Communication has been
developed by the USDA and Extension. The purpose of the database
is to reduce the risk associated with food-borne illness; improve
consumers' understanding of food-related risks from production to
consumption; and develop critical thinking abilities about food risks.
Materials covering pathogens, irradiation, pesticides and
biotechnology are included in the database. For information on
accessing the database, contact Cynthia Cook, Tel: (517) 353-9158,
Email: email@example.com. Information on the materials
can be obtained from Gloria Green, Tel: (608) 265-3323, Email:
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
HOUSE AGRICULTURE SUBCOMMITTEE ON DEPARTMENT OPERATIONS
AND NUTRITION HEARINGS ON CLINTON ADMINISTRATION
PESTICIDE BILL, June 14-15, 1994, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact:
Stan Ray, Subcommittee Staff, Tel: (202) 2125-1495.
CONSUMER FEDERATION OF AMERICA'S 24TH ANNUAL AWARDS
DINNER, June 21, 1994, Washington, D.C. FFI, contact: CFA, 1424
16th Street NW, Suite 604, Washington, D.C. 20036.
WOMEN, FOOD AND AGRICULTURE, June 24, 1994, Loveland, OH. FFI,
contact: Audrey Sorrento, 932 O'Bannonville Road, Loveland, OH
45140, Tel: (513) 683-2340.
TALK BY ALAN SAVORY, founder of Holistic Resource Management
center, June 24, 1994, LaCrescent, MN. FFI, contact Land
Stewardship Project, Tel: (507) 523-2204.
INTRODUCTION TO SUSTAINABLE AGRICULTURAL SYSTEMS, June 27-
August 18, 1994, Davis, CA. FFI, contact: Mark Van Horn, Student
Experimental Farm, Department of Agronomy, University of
California, Davis, CA 95616, Tel: (916) 752-7645.
BASICS OF FARMING AND MARKETING VEGETABLES, farm tour, June
29, 1994, Delano, MN. FFI, contact: Tel: (612) 972-2052, Fax: (42 2)
205878, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
NATIONAL GROWTH MANAGEMENT LEADERSHIP CONFERENCE,
September/October 1994, St. Paul, MN. FFI, contact: Land
Stewardship Project, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix,
MN 55047, Tel: (612) 433-2770.
DOWN TO EARTH: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF ECOLOGICAL
ECONOMICS, October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica. FFI, contact:
III International Conference of Ecological Economics, P.O. Box 555-
3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.
FARMING SYSTEMS RESEARCH, EXTENSION AND RURAL
DEVELOPMENT, November 21-25, 1994, Montpelier, France. FFI,
contact: Amon Z. Mattee or Thierry Lasalle, Department of
Agricultural Education and Extension, Skoine University of
Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania.
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. All bulletins may be
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as proper attribution is included. A copy of any publication in which
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