Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
June 29, 1994
Volume 2, Number 14
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- ESPY CONFIDENT HE WILL BE CLEARED
- BETTER DIET COULD HELP HEALTH CARE BILL
- HOT DOGS AND CANCER
- CAIRO CONFERENCE WILL FOCUS ON FOOD SECURITY
- USTR SAYS FOOD STANDARDS NOT COMPROMISED BY GATT
- GERMANY TAKES LEGISLATIVE STEPS TO BAN BRITISH BEEF
- GROUPS ASK FDA TO HOLD MOVEMENT ON TRANS FATTY ACIDS
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
A spokesperson for Monsanto said last week that Wisconsin has been
the toughest state to sell on rBGH. Thomas McDermott said Wisconsin
consumers and farmers have been most reluctant to embrace
recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). He told a
meeting of the Wisconsin Biotechnology Association last week that no
other state can match Wisconsin in terms of the uproar or the
number retailers selling rBGH-free milk. "We weren't able to hold
the line here," he said. "They scared the hell out of retailers."
Among those he blamed was the dairy industry itself. "It is a
contentious industry and we have become a lightening rod for all of
the concerns in the dairy industry." Nationally, he said the company
is happy with sales figures for its Posilac product, but he declined to
be specific. He said the hardest argument to beat is the one that says
small farmers will not benefit from using the drug.
H.R. 4618 was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives last
week. Introduced by Representative Bernie Sanders, the bill has
three key points: the development of a test to detect the presence of
rBGH in milk; an assessment on farmers using the drug; and
mandatory labeling of products derived from cows injected with
rBGH. In a press statement, Sanders said rBGH has already caused
milk prices to drop for America's farmers. He added that the Office
of Management and Budget expects the government to spend about
$500 million over the next five years buying the surplus.
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy said he is concerned about falling
milk prices around the nation. He told Jim Barr of the National Milk
Producers Federation (NMPF) that while he is concerned, he cannot
revitalize dairy export programs because of State Department
opposition. After milk prices dropped about $1.50 a hundredweight
last month, NMPF, dairy farmers and members of congress asked the
USDA to alleviate some of the burden by purchasing surplus milk
early for the school lunch and other nutrition programs. The USDA
has issued a request for 3 million pounds of cheese.
Last week, Minnesota Safe Food Link, a coalition of farmer and
consumer groups, made an appearance at a Minnesota Twins game.
The occasion was American Dairy Association (ADA) night at the
game. The ADA has been a supporter of rBGH and was on hand to
pass out free cheese graters. Minnesota Safe Food Link handed out
flyers and stickers prior to game time. Jon Youngdahl, one of the
event's coordinators, said the night was successful in terms of
response from attendees. "People are still concerned about this
issue," he said. "Milk is as American as baseball. Consumers
continue to ask for rBGH-free, labeled milk."
Source: "Lawmakers Introduce Milk and Dairy Labeling Bill,"
REUTER, June 21, 1994; "State's Consumers Sour on BGH Milk,"
WISCONSIN STATE JOURNAL, June 24, 1994; "Espy Concerned About
Falling Dairy Prices," AGWEEK, June 20, 1994; Jon Youngdahl,
Telephone communication, June 27, 1994.
ESPY CONFIDENT HE WILL BE CLEARED
Secretary of Agriculture Mike Espy said he expects to be cleared by a
probe into whether he accepted gifts from Tyson Foods in exchange
for lenient poultry inspection policies. At a recent speech before a
meeting of the Institute of Food Technologists in Atlanta, Espy said
he is fully cooperating with the Justice Department investigation and
that he expects to be cleared soon. At issue is whether Espy violated
the 1907 Meat Inspection Act, which prohibits USDA employees from
accepting gifts from anyone in the meat industry who might benefit
from the agency's policies. "Anyone within the USDA can, on an
anonymous basis, allege anything. And since the allegations come
against a senior Cabinet official, the FBI has an obligation to
investigate. That's simply what happened and I respect that
process," said Espy. If found in violation, the secretary could receive
a one-year mandatory prison sentence.
Source: "Agriculture Secretary Says Probe Will Clear Him," REUTER,
June 25, 1994.
BETTER DIET COULD HELP HEALTH CARE BILL
Late last month, the American Cancer Society, the American Public
Health Association and the Center for Science in the Public Interest
(CSPI) released a report that said by improving nutrition, Americans
could save billions in health care costs. "An ounce of prevention
equals billions of dollars in health care savings," said Margo Wooten
of the CSPI. For example, if Americans reduce their daily intake of
saturated fat by 8 grams -- just half a cup of Haagan Dazs ice cream
-- health care costs could be reduced by as much as $17 billion a
Poor diet coupled with a lack of exercise rivals smoking as the
number one cause of preventable death in the U.S., the report says.
Poor diet also contributes to the three leading causes of death
overall: heart disease, cancer and stroke. Prevention is the key, the
report says. "Health care reform should not just change the way we
pay for engine failure. It should ensure that the care and
information Americans need to make the wisest dietary choices are
available and reimbursable." It cites initiatives such as the Special
Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC),
which helps to prevent low birth weight, as exemplary.
Wooten said despite the findings, five of the nine major health care
reform bills currently before Congress ignore nutrition altogether.
The report recommends that any health care reform strengthen
education attempts at improving diet and nutrition, provide
insurance coverage for preventive and therapeutic nutrition, expand
community nutrition programs, and increase research on nutrition
and diet. "The best way to cut costs is to help people stay healthy in
the first place," said Wooten.
Source: "Improved Nutrition Could Save Billion in Health Care Costs,"
THE DAILY CITIZEN, May 31, 1994.
HOT DOGS AND CANCER
Scientists at the University of Southern California (USC) released the
results of a 10-year study which concluded children who consume
more than 12 hot dogs a month and whose fathers had similar
patterns of consumption have a higher risk of developing childhood
leukemia. "The findings, if correct, suggests that reduced
consumption of hot dogs could reduce leukemia risks, especially in
those consuming the most," the report states.
The researchers studied 232 Los Angeles children, ages ten and
under, with childhood leukemia and 232 who did not have the
disease. Possible causes looked at included parents' occupations,
environmental factors, food and exposure to electro-magnetic fields.
Attention was given to processed meats that are treated with
nitrates for preservation, including bologna, bacon, salami, ham and
pastrami. Only the hot dogs showed an increased risk of leukemia.
While the link between hot dogs and leukemia was clear, researchers
said the risks did not become large until hot dog consumption
reached 12 or more per month for both fathers and their children.
The study appears in the journal CANCER CAUSES AND CONTROL,
published by the Harvard School of Public Health. Researchers
caution that their findings are preliminary, but said "we believe it is
important to pursue this finding with other human studies."
Source: Michael Miller, "Hot Dogs Seen As Risk Factor in Childhood
Cancer," THE DAILY CITIZEN, June 3, 1994.
CAIRO CONFERENCE WILL FOCUS ON FOOD SECURITY
Food security and Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development
(SARD) will be the focus of the International Conference on
Population and Development to be held in Cairo, Egypt September 5-
13, 1994. Representatives from 160 nations and 1,000
nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) are expected to gather for the
conference. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said it
based its participation on the inclusion of these two topics. Fatih
Botros of the FAO said his organization is concerned with laying the
foundations for 21st century development and proactive strategies to
avoid catastrophe. "The reality is that not only will the actual
existing population have to be nourished and fed but so too will
millions of extra people in the coming decades," Botros said. Jacques
du Guerney, FAO coordinator for the conference, said technical know-
how for feeding the world is not lacking. "But food security lies at
the heart of the problem. The constraints are economic, social and
cultural. Because of this, solutions are not so much concerned with
production but relate more to difficulties with distribution and, of
course, to the geographic, economic and social conditions." In
addition to food security, the conference will also focus on gender
equality and empowerment of women, international migration,
population and education, technology, research and development.
Source: Miriam Bianco, "U.N. Experts to Focus on Food Security in
Cairo," INTERPRESS SERVICE, June 13, 1994.
USTR SAYS FOOD STANDARDS NOT COMPROMISED BY GATT
Shortly after Public Citizen released a report critical of what could
happen to U.S. food safety standards under the General Agreement
on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), the U.S. Trade Representative's (USTR)
office released its own report denying the group's allegations. The
USTR report says misinformation, misinterpretation and
misrepresentation governed the message being put forth by groups
like Public Citizen in their report entitled TRADING AWAY FOOD
SAFETY. According to the USTR, the GATT "specifically states ... that
each country is free to choose the level of food safety that it
considers desirable." To ensure "phony" health concerns are avoided,
the USTR's office said negotiators sought to "ensure that new trade
rules would not hinder U.S. agencies ... from maintaining and
enforcing food safety standards designed to protect the health and
safety of the American people." For consumers who do not want
cancer-causing chemicals in their food, even though some scientists
believe such amounts do not pose a health risk, the GATT protects
that "value-judgement," the report says. The GATT will not require
the U.S. to lower its standards; will permit the U.S. to take action
against other countries where a scientific uncertainty exists; will still
permit the U.S. to reject foods that do not meet our standards; and
will allow states to set their own standards even if those standards
are stricter than those set by the federal government.
Meanwhile, the Sierra Club placed a full-page ad in the June 20 NEW
YORK TIMES. The ad outlines seven U.S. laws which could face a
challenge under GATT. Those include the Marine Mammal Protection
Act, the Nuclear Nonproliferation Act, the Corporate Average Fuel
Economy (CAFE) Standards, California's Proposition 65 and, yes, food
safety laws. With higher standards, the ad says, other countries with
lower standards can challenge U.S. laws as technical barriers to trade.
GATT panels set up to resolve disputes may ask the U.S. to lower its
standards on the basis that they are not "based on sound science.
After GATT rules, we may find DDT back on our tomatoes," the ad
Source: Gordon S. Carlson, "U.S. Report Says GATT Won't Reduce
Safety Levels of Food," FEEDSTUFFS, June 20, 1994; "Don't Let
Congress Trade Away Our Rights," NEW YORK TIMES, June 20, 1994.
GERMANY TAKES LEGISLATIVE STEPS TO BAN BRITISH BEEF
The German government has begun taking steps to ban imports of
British beef out of fear over the spread of bovine spongiform
encephalopathy (BSE), also known as mad cow disease. Beef
consumption has dropped during the past three months, and German
officials blame it on fears about beef from the U.K. The drop in
consumption has prompted German farmers and retailers to demand
that the government take action. German Health Minister Horst
Seehofer asked the upper house of the German Parliament, the
Bundesrat, to approve a six month ban on British beef. He was joined
by German Agriculture Minister Jochen Borchert. In response,
British Agriculture Minister Gillian Shephard asked the European
Commission to follow through on its threat to take Germany to the
European Court for violating European Union (EU) laws. In a letter to
EU Agriculture Minister Rene Steichen, Shephard said Germany is
"ignoring the community's scientific evidence and the community's
legal system. I expect you to take the necessary legal action
immediately," she added.
Source: Michael Lindemann, Alison Maitland and David Owen,
"Germany Takes Steps Towards Banning Imports of U.K. Beef,"
FINANCIAL TIMES, June 29, 1994.
GROUPS ASK FDA TO HOLD MOVEMENT ON TRANS FATTY ACIDS
Four food industry groups are asking the Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) to hold off on proposing a ban or requiring
labels for foods containing trans fatty acids. Trans fatty acids occur
naturally in the fat of foods like beef, butter, milk and lamb. Some
nutritionists say the trans fatty acids are bad because they may
increase "bad cholesterol," or LDL, and reduce "good cholesterol," or
HDL. The American Dietetic Association, the American Institute of
Nutrition, the American Society for Clinical Nutrition and the
Institute of Food Technologists say there is insufficient data to make
such a judgement against trans fatty acids. The groups are asking
the FDA to call for more research before following through on
requests by some public interest groups to ban or label trans fatty
Source: Cris Carmody, "Midwest Farming Today," UPI, June 22, 1994.
FOOD OUTLOOK is a publication of the Food and Agriculture
Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. The publication is
produced on a monthly basis and looks at food consumption and
production throughout the world. Heavy on statistics, the June 1994
edition looks at emerging food crises in Africa and an anticipated
stabilization in world milk production for 1994. For more
information, contact FAO, Via delle Terme di Caracalle, 00100 Rome,
The New York-based group Mothers & Others for a Livable Planet
has source sheets available for organic foods and rBGH-free dairy
products. The group also has other information available on the
nutrition and food safety campaigns it is involved in. For copies of
the source sheets or more information, contact Mothers & Others, 40
West 20th Street, 11th Floor, New York, NY 10011, Tel: (212) 242-
0010, Fax: (212) 242-0545.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
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: firstname.lastname@example.org.
INTERNATIONAL FOOD INFORMATION COUNCIL CALIFORNIA FOOD
ROUNDTABLE, August 4, 1994, San Francisco, CA. FFI, contact: Libby
Mikesell, IFIC, Tel: (202) 296-6540.
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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