Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
June 23, 1994
Volume 2, Number 13
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- CHEERIOS WITH UNAPPROVED PESTICIDES
- USDA CRITICIZED AT CHICKEN HEARINGS
- AG MINISTER SAYS 31,000 CATTLE AFFECTED BY BSE
- FSIS INSPECTS GROCERY STORES FOR MEAT LABEL COMPLIANCE
- A GLASS OF WINE A DAY ...
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Representative Bernie Sanders (I-VT) introduced legislation in the
House yesterday that calls for the labeling of milk products derived
from cows treated with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH
or BST). Citing a growing milk surplus and falling prices caused by
increased production, the Sanders bill also calls for an assessment
against farmers who choose to use rBGH to offset surplus purchases
by the federal government. "If you want to look at the role of big
money in government, there is no better example than ... Monsanto,"
said Sanders. Monsanto spokesperson Tom McDermott responded
that Sanders' statement was "a bit of hyperbole."
Milk prices continue to fall for dairy farmers throughout the country.
Two weeks ago, the USDA announced that the Minnesota-Wisconsin
series price dropped $1.48 a hundredweight. The M-W price is a
benchmark for the rest of the nation. Industry and government
continue to deny the price drop is due to the use of rBGH. However, a
recent article in AGRI VIEW says that if Monsanto's claim that 15% of
the nation's milking cows are receiving the drug is true, then
increased production is at least partially attributable to rBGH use.
"I'll acknowledge that good weather out west has helped in making a
milk flood of a size not seen in several years. Yet it is difficult for
anyone to make a 'no effect' argument for [r]BGH even if you
discount any possible damage to commercial sales due to adverse
publicity. By the way, with the exception of butter, dairy product
sales have been pretty bad the past few months," writes Joel McNair.
The ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH compared farmers who are using
rBGH and those who aren't. "I wished it had never come out -- but
now it's here, I've got to use it," said John Hensley, who dairies near
Springfield, MO. Hensley said he considers rBGH another dairy
technology he has to embrace. He added that it's not as simple as
injecting your cows and sitting back and waiting for a miracle. He
said he needs to figure in the cows' health, additional feed
requirements, falling milk prices and the cost of the drug itself.
Using rBGH on 200 of his 300 cows, Hensley said per cow production
has increased 18% among the treated portion of his herd. Hensley
said that while he believes he has profited from the technology, it
doesn't necessarily mean he sleeps easier at night. "Down the road,
the milk supply will be in control of a few people. A way of life will
go down with it." Delano Calton, on the other hand, who also farms
near Springfield, said he will not use rBGH in his operation. "I'm
concerned about it. If this happens to go sour, it would be a disaster
for this industry." Though his herd is small, Calton uses
the latest in dairy technologies such as a national milk testing
service, artificial insemination and computerized feeding schemes.
However, he said he draws the line at rBGH because he feels it is
being shoved down farmers' and consumers' throats by the chemical
companies. "Monsanto has a choice to put it out there, the farmer
has a choice to use it. Does the consumer have a choice? The
consumer has been left out," he said. To users of rBGH, he added,
"You're not taking a chance in losing public confidence. You're not
shooting yourself in the foot. You're shooting yourself in the head."
Source: Office of Representative Bernie Sanders, Telephone
communication, June 22, 1994; Tom Hacker, "Sanders Plans BST
Labeling Bill," BURLINGTON FREE PRESS, June 21, 1994; Joel McNair,
"M-W Plunges, Cheese Steady," AGRI VIEW, June 10, 1994; Joel
McNair, "Impacts & Hypocrisy," AGRI VIEW, June 10, 1994; Robert
Steyer, "BST User sees Drug as Part of Progress," ST. LOUIS POST-
DISPATCH, June 13, 1994; Robert Steyer, "Dairy Farmers Part
Company Over BST Use," ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, June 13, 1994.
CHEERIOS WITH UNAPPROVED PESTICIDES
Last week, FDA Commissioner David Kessler announced his agency
will launch an investigation into the use of an unapproved pesticide
on oats used by General Mills in the production of its Cheerios
product. A spokesperson for the regional FDA in Minneapolis said
the agency is deciding whether or not stocks of Cheerios should even
be sold. FDA investigators searched the offices of Fumicon, Inc., the
independent company allegedly responsible for spraying the oats
with the unapproved pesticide chlorpyrifos-ethyl. Y. George Roggy,
president of Fumicon, maintains that the use of chlorpyrifos-ethyl
was a mistake. Though not approved for oats, it is used on wheat,
apples, cherries, beef, milk, peanuts and other crops. Chlorpyrifos-
methyl is the product approved for use on oats.
General Mills President Steve Sanger said that Fumicon used
chlorpyrifos-ethyl for "economic reasons" without advising General
Mills. He added he expects the company to get a waiver to sell the
products tainted with the pesticide. "They (FDA officials) are
deciding whether we should let them (General Mills) distribute it,"
said FDA spokesperson Jeff Spykerman of FDA officials. "It's all the
way to [Kessler's] office. He's aware of it. I'm sure the decision will
be made very high up."
The FDA said a preliminary review revealed that chlorpyrifos-ethyl
does not present a human health hazard. A General Mills
spokesperson said, "We are trying to put the consumers first here.
It's clear, and the FDA and the EPA have agreed, that this is not a
health and safety issue. Rather, it is a technical regulatory issue."
General Mills is the second largest cereal manufacturer in the U.S.
Source: Tony Kennedy, "FDA Probing Use of Pesticide on Oats for
Cheerios," MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE," June 17, 1994; "A Pesticide
Error Brings a Halt to Cheerios," NEW YORK TIMES, June 17, 1994;
Michelle Groenke, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, June 17, 1994.
USDA CRITICIZED AT CHICKEN HEARINGS
Last week, two House Government Operations subcommittees held a
hearing to try to determine the extent of the relationship between
the USDA and the chicken giant Tyson Foods. Deputy Secretary of
Agriculture Richard Rominger found he had to deflect chickens along
with accusations that the USDA is too cozy with Tyson. "USDA's meat
and poultry programs are obsolete, misleading and incapable of
protecting the public," said the chicken-wielding Representative
Edolphus Towns (D-NY). Filling in for vacationing Secretary Mike
Espy, Rominger said the agency is reviewing poultry industry
regulations and that the department plans to hold hearings on the
labeling of raw poultry products later this summer.
USDA Inspector Charles Gillum had declined to testify at the hearing,
saying it was inappropriate for him to comment on something that is
still under review by the Justice Department. Lawmakers criticized
USDA officials for being unprepared for their questions. "We need
answers, gentlemen [sic]," said Towns.
Meanwhile in the hallway, California lawmakers bowled with
chickens that were labeled fresh by the USDA. The federal labeling
regulation allows chicken that has been chilled to 20 degrees or less
to be labeled fresh until it reaches a temperature of zero degrees.
Last year, California enacted a law forbidding chicken that has been
chilled below 26 degrees to be labeled fresh. Industry groups sued,
arguing that California would then be closed to interstate shipments
of "fresh" birds from other broiler producing states as transportation
requires that the birds be chilled. A federal judge recently struck
down the California law, saying it conflicts with federal law.
Secretary Espy has promised that the law will be revisited. Kenneth
May of the National Broiler Council said, "Product freshness is a
condition in which a product exhibits various characteristics"
including "taste, aroma, bacterial quality and nutritional
characteristics." Los Angeles chef Wolfgang Puck, came into the
hearing room, threw down a chicken and pronounced, "I'm surprised
they let this through the security check. It is more like a weapon
than a chicken."
Finally, a Nebraska cattle feeder has filed a lawsuit against the
Secretary of Agriculture for $25 million in damages, alleging the
department gave unfair treatment to the poultry industry. Bob
Gottsch, president of Gottsch Feeding Corp., said Espy's policies have
favored the poultry industry at the expense of the beef industry.
"The secretary has knowingly permitted Tyson Foods to so insinuate
its corporate goals and interests with the formal policies of the
Secretary that the Tyson-dominated Department of Agriculture is
driving hundreds of cattle feeders out of business," the suit alleges.
Steve Kinsella, a spokesperson for Secretary Espy, said, "I
characterize his legal action as ridiculous. We obviously are going to
contest the lawsuit. It is not based on reality."
Source: Jenny Tomkins, "U.S. Agency Accused of bowing to Poultry
Industry," REUTER, June 16, 1994; "USDA Top Cop Says No To Poultry
Hearing Testimony," REUTER, June 15, 1994; Jenny Tomkins, "Poultry
Industry Accused of influencing Policy," REUTER, June 16, 1994;
Robert Greene, "Chilly Chickens," AP, June 17, 1994; "Leading
Nebraska Cattle Feeder Sues USDA's Espy," REUTER, June 15, 1994.
AG MINISTER SAYS 31,000 CATTLE AFFECTED BY BSE
Last month, British Agriculture Minister Gillian Shephard presented a
report to parliament about the extent to which bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), otherwise known as mad cow disease, has
affected cattle herds in the U.K. In response to a question about how
many cows were affected, she said 31,395 farms had at least one
confirmed case of BSE between November 1986 and May 1994. At
last count, nearly 129,000 cows were affected by the disease.
Source: "Mad Cow Disease Hits 31,000 British Farms," THE DAILY
CITIZEN, May 26, 1994.
FSIS INSPECTS GROCERY STORES FOR MEAT LABEL COMPLIANCE
The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has sent inspectors out
to six cities around the U.S. to ensure grocery stores are complying
with the new safe cooking and handling instructions required for
meat and poultry products. Espy issued a directive on May 26 which
required meat packages to begin carrying the labels on May 27.
Stores in the following cities are being inspected: Atlanta, GA,
Seattle, WA, Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN, Kansas City, MO and
Washington, D.C. No citations will be issued for non-compliance;
however, stores will be placed on a list for a future inspection.
Should the store fail a second time, management will be given a
"reasonable opportunity" to comply. If the outlet is still not in
compliance, unlabeled or mislabled meats will be seized.
Source: Robert H. Brown, "FSIS Inspectors Look for Handling in Six
Cities," FEEDSTUFFS, June 13, 1994.
A GLASS OF WINE A DAY ...
Once again, the recommended glass of wine a day by some experts is
coming under fire in the U.S. At a conference this week, food experts
from Harvard University and the World Health Organization (WHO)
will unveil a new food pyramid based on a Mediterranean diet.
Included in the pyramid is a lot of pasta, couscous, yogurt, bulgar,
olive oil and one or two glasses of wine a day. The goal of the panel
presenting the pyramid is to emulate "those parts of the
Mediterranean region that in the recent past enjoyed the lowest
recorded rates of chronic diseases and the highest adult life
Some studies have indicated wine can play a role in preventing heart
disease, but health officials have not gone so far as to recommend the
public partake on a daily basis. "For every seven people you
encourage to start drinking, you can bet that at least one of them us
going to get in trouble," said Herbert Kleber of Columbia University's
Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse. Andrew Ball, a substance
abuse specialist with WHO, expressed surprise at the WHO backing of
the pyramid. He said his work has taken him into many developing
countries where substance abuse is increasing. "In Europe, you're
talking about a culture which has a traditional use of alcohol over
centuries -- it's been incorporated into the normal lifestyle." He said
it is dangerous to assume the rest of the world can handle the
consumption of alcohol just as easily.
The project leaders say their intent is to inform people about a new
way of thinking about healthy diets. They are quick to point out
their pyramid contains footnotes that recommend pregnant women
not partake. And, it states "from a contemporary public health
perspective, wine should be considered optional." "The evidence is
very clear that the net effect [of wine] is beneficial," maintains
Harvard nutrition specialist Walter Willett. The Wine Institute, a
sponsor of the conference, is reportedly quite pleased with the
pyramid, particularly given the "sin tax" spirit affecting many federal
and state legislators this year.
Source: Michael Miller, "Call for A Daily Dose of Wine Ferments
Critics," WALL STREET JOURNAL, June 17, 1994.
FOOD SAFETY" RISK-BASED INSPECTION AND MICROBIAL
MONITORING NEEDED FOR MEAT AND POULTRY, testimony by John
Harman (GAO/T-RCED-94-189) is now available from the General
Accounting Office. For a copy, write GAO, Washington, D.C., 20548.
The Northwest Coalition for Alternatives to Pesticides has produced
an Action Alert on pesticides and food safety. For a copy, contact
NCAP, P.O. Box 1393, Eugene, OR 97440, Tel: (503) 344-5044.
The Citizens Clearinghouse for Hazardous Waste has a booklet on the
Delaney Clause. For a copy of "PROTECT OUR CHILDREN, SAVE
DELANEY," contact CCHW, P.O. Box 6806, Falls Church, VA 22040.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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.
LILLIAN FOUNTAIN SMITH CONFERENCE FOR NUTRITION EDUCATORS,
July 29-30, 1994, Fort Collins, CO. FFI, contact: Pat Kendall or
Jennifer Anderson, Colorado State University, Department of Food
Science and Human Nutrition, Fort Collins, CO 80526, Tel: (303) 491-
7743, Email: email@example.com.
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:
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