Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
July 13, 1994
Volume 2, Number 16
- AG DEPARTMENT TO PROPOSE NEW POULTRY INSPECTION RULES
- GENERAL MILLS WON'T SELL CONTAMINATED CHEERIOS
- HOT DOG, CANCER LINK DISPUTED
- O.D.'d ON FAT-FREE
- RSPCA LAUNCHES CRUELTY-FREE LABEL
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
AG DEPARTMENT TO PROPOSE NEW POULTRY INSPECTION RULES
This week, the USDA is expected to propose new poultry inspection
rules, which will include a zero-tolerance clause. Zero-tolerance
means that no contaminated matter, including fecal matter, will be
allowed on the birds as they go through processing. The proposal
will also require that birds found with fecal contamination be
reinspected and rinsed in an antibacterial wash.
Critics have argued that the government needs to move away from
an inspection system based on visual examinations to one that
includes testing samples for bacteria. Mary Dixon, a spokesperson
for the department said the new proposal will include a call for
microbial sampling. Carol Tucker Foreman, former assistant
secretary for food safety and inspection under President Carter, said
such a program is at least three to five years away. Elaine Dodge of
the Government Accountability Project (GAP) agreed with Foreman,
saying, "If there's going to be any legitimacy for improving consumer
confidence in poultry, there has to be some kind of microbial testing."
In addition, company personnel would play a greater role in
inspections under the proposal. An inspector would be added at
certain points in the slaughterhouse where contamination is most
likely to occur; however, the proposal reduces the overall number of
federal inspectors on the premises. "The new regulations prove how
archaic the system is," Foreman said. She added that the new
proposal actually reduces the number of federal inspectors in
packing houses. "The new proposal has the effect of reducing federal
presence in the plant without doing microbial testing, so on balance,
it is very disappointing."
Dixon defended the proposal, calling it a dramatic improvement over
the present system. She said moving federal inspectors around the
plant is only an attempt to gain maximum efficiency. "We are not
decreasing the number of inspectors in the plants. We are putting
the inspectors in more critical places."
The USDA has a zero-tolerance standard for beef but not for chicken.
Sources say zero-tolerance for beef has only been enforced since
three children died in an outbreak of E. coli poisoning linked to a
Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain nearly two years ago.
The public will have 120 days to comment once the proposal appears
in the Federal Register.
Source: Marian Burros, "U.S. Seeks Tighter Controls on Poultry," NEW
YORK TIMES, July 7, 1994; "USDA Tries to Tighten Poultry Safety
Rules," CHICAGO TRIBUNE, July 7, 1994; Robert Greene, "USDA To
Introduce New Poultry Regulations," AP, July 7, 1994.
GENERAL MILLS WON'T SELL CONTAMINATED CHEERIOS
General Mills announced last week that it will not sell 50 million
boxes of breakfast cereals which contain traces of an unapproved
pesticide. Instead, the company will take a 63 million charge in this
fiscal year, which just ended. The decision came shortly after Food
and Drug Administration (FDA) revealed that 11 popular oat-based
cereals made by the General Mills contained traces of chlorpyrifos-
ethyl, a pesticide that is not approved for use on oats. While the FDA
and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) said the pesticide posed
no human health threat, the boxes were still held in lieu. General
Mills said the Edina, Minnesota-based Fumicon company had sprayed
their oats with the wrong fumigant and "deliberately concealed" the
action. The company had initially approached EPA to secure a
waiver, which would allow them to sell the tainted cereal supplies,
but decided against it as the process would take longer than the shelf
life of some of the products. The company is pursuing permission to
dispose of nearly 15 million bushels of oats sprayed with
chlorpyrifos-ethyl as animal feed.
The announcement came after General Mills revealed the cereal
tainted with the pesticide had been on the shelves in grocery stores
for a year. The FDA said misuse of the pesticide in this case dates as
far back as May 1993.
Fumicon owner Y. George Roggy reportedly paid the Minnesota
Department of Agriculture a $750 fine in 1990 for a fumigant leak.
Paul Liemandt, head of compliance and enforcement at the
department, said phosphine gas applied by Fumicon at the Kurth
Malting Company grain elevator in Minneapolis leaked into an
adjacent area and exposed a nearby worker. Liemandt said state
officials are reviewing Roggy's record after the General Mills case and
are considering revoking his pesticide license. While Roggy did not
admit wrongdoing in the 1990 case, he agreed to pay the fine.
Source: Richard Gibson, "General Mills Ends Bid to Sell Tainted
Cereals," WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 8, 1994; Tony Kennedy,
"General Mills Won't Try to Sell Cereal With Pesticide," MINNEAPOLIS
STAR TRIBUNE, July 8, 1994; Richard Gibson, "Cereals With Pesticide
Were in Stores for A Year," WALL STREET JOURNAL, July 7, 1994;
Tony Kennedy, "Contractor in Pesticide Case Had Problem Before,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, July 11, 1994.
HOT DOG, CANCER LINK DISPUTED
A recent issue of FOOD SAFETY WEEK reported on a California study
which concluded high hot dog consumption by children was
potentially linked to childhood leukemia. Now, the American Meat
Institute (AMI) is calling the accusations false. Dr. James Marsden of
the AMI Foundation blamed the media for failing to explain that the
authors of the report stressed that their results were preliminary
and did not imply a change in dietary habits was in order. AMI
maintains that the studies were epidemiological and did not
demonstrate a cause and effect relationship between hot dog
consumption and leukemia. "The studies that were published are
preliminary and do not establish any conclusive links. The studies'
authors have said that the findings warrant more research and
should not prompt major dietary changes. That sentiment has been
echoed by experts from major universities and by the American
Cancer Society," Marsden said.
In response, the institute has developed materials to educate people
about the use of nitrates and the study's weaknesses. Marsden
criticized the researchers for using what he called faulty
methodologies in the study. He said you can't expect children to
remember what they consumed 5 to 10 years ago. He alleges that
many researchers used their friends as subjects in the study. "This
certainly makes me wonder about the validity of the results," he
said. He defended nitrite as the agent that not only gives meat its
color and flavor, but also as that which prevents the growth of
Clostridium botulinum -- the cause of botulism. He said nitrites
prevent spoilage and pointed to studies done on bacon in the 1970s,
which confirmed the safety of nitrates.
In other hot dog news, an Oklahoma company is recalling 114 tons of
possibly undercooked hot dogs across the country. The suspect dogs
are Wilson and Corn King Jumbo Franks in one and three-pound
packages. Shoppers are encouraged to return them to the stores
where they were purchased. Symptoms linked to consumption of
undercooked hot dogs include fever, chills, headaches, backache and
sometimes abdominal pain and diarrhea. Additional information can
be obtained from Wilson Food hotline, (800) 868-9158 or the USDA's
Meat and Poultry hotline at (800) 535-4555.
Source: Robert H. Brown, "AMI Disputes Hot Dog, Cancer Link,"
FEEDSTUFFS, July 4, 1994; "Hot Dogs," ST. PETERSBURG TIMES, July 7,
O.D.'d ON FAT-FREE
Health experts report seeing a disturbing trend in these health
conscious times -- people over-dosing on fat-free foods. While these
same health experts have cautioned for years that we must control
our intake of fat, they now say they are concerned about consumer
interpretations of the fat-free message. The problem is low-fat and
no-fat do not mean no calories. "We kept the fat message simple and
the food industry did what was asked," said Nancy Ernst of the
National Cholesterol Education Program. "But we said nothing about
calories. So what we have is high-sugar, no-fat products that don't
help weight maintenance, and in some cases may translate into
The latest government figures show 34% of the American population
is classified as obese. People on diets think they are doing
themselves a favor by giving up meats and cheese in exchange for
pasta, bread, low-free dairy products and fat-free crackers, cookies,
etc. A medium size apple is 75 calories whereas a bowl of fat-free
frozen yogurt could contain as much as 250 to 300 calories.
Food experts advise reading the labels. "These foods, like all foods,
have to be considered in the context of overall diet. They are a much
better choice than their high-fat counterpoints, but they cannot be
eaten with gay abandon or all their benefits will be lost," said Dr.
Norman Lasser of the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New
Source: Carole Sugarman, "Weighty Matters: When No Fat Makes No
Sense," THE RECORD, July 6, 1994.
RSPCA LAUNCHES CRUELTY-FREE LABEL
Britain's Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
(RSPCA) launched a new food label last week, which it hopes will
encourage farmers to raise animals in more humane methods. The
"Freedom Food" label will be applied to eggs and pork that come
from farms that have raised the animals according to RSPCA cruelty
prevention guidelines. However, the standards were criticized by
some animal protection groups for not going far enough. They cite
the requirement for eggs, for example, which must come from barns
that are "acceptable" and do not need to be free-range. Mike Sharpe,
who is heading up the Freedom Food label campaign, said the
guidelines were implemented because five years of study showed
farmers would stick with them. "It's the beginning of a revolution in
farming practice by linking the good, caring farmer directly to the
consumer," said Sharpe. Thus far, 200 producers are participating.
Grocery chains like Tesco and Co-op have agreed to stock the foods.
Enforcement will reply on yearly and random inspections. RSPCA
said it hopes to extend the scheme to beef, lamb and dairy products
later this year.
Source: Deborah Hargreaves, "RSPCA Puts Its Mark on Humanely-
Produced Food," FINANCIAL TIMES, July 7, 1994.
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
H-E-B, one of the largest grocery store chains in Texas, has
announced its intention to stock milk derived from cows not treated
with recombinant bovine growth hormone (rBGH or rBST). A
spokesperson for the company said they have been seeking
alternative sources of milk since their supplier could not guarantee
them rBGH-free milk. "In recent months, as the growth hormone
issue has gotten into the headlines ... we've reiterated our position
that we do not wish to accept milk from herds treated with this
growth hormone," said Kristy Ozmun. H-E-B said it will purchase 45%
of its milk from Select Producers, a New Mexican dairy cooperative
that does not use rBGH. It does not plan to label its packaging any
differently. The company has been purchasing its milk from the
Associated Milk Producers (AMPI). "Since 1989, we have stated our
intention to refuse to purchase any milk from cows treated with
artificial growth hormone. AMPI has confirmed that it cannot
provide a guarantee regarding the source of the milk it sells, so we
were forced to seek alternative sources for our consumers across
Texas," Ozmun said.
In response to an Oregon Department of Agriculture directive that
states all processors wishing to label their milk as rBGH-Free must
have a third party certification system in place, the Farmers
Cooperative Creamery (FCC) said it is asking its processors not to
label. "An independent third party certification is impossible to
obtain," states a letter by FCC General Manager Merle Peters.
"Individual producer certification is not acceptable. Therefore
Farmers Cooperative Creamery is asking and requesting of all
handlers that purchase milk from FCC to not do any rBST labeling or
New York's Commissioner of Agriculture and Markets recently
announced that a system for ensuring labeling claims about rBGH-
free milk is now in place. "The only way the industry can assure
consumers that claims made for milk produced without rBST are
valid is to inspect dairies and then segregate the milk, process it
separately and label it as having come from untreated cows," said
Richard McGuire. He said seven dairies in the state are currently
participating in the program. These include Byrne Dairy, Crowley
Foods, Hillcrest Dairy, Meadowbrook Dairy and Upstate Milk
One aspect of the rBGH issue which has concerned citizens is the use
of antibiotics to treat mastitis, which results from increased milk
production. The public has worried that the increased use of
antibiotics as the result of rBGH use could mean antibiotic residues in
the milk supply. In an attempt to discount some of these fears, Dr.
Martin Terry told a meeting of the Animal Health Institute (AHI)
that no scientific evidence conclusively links antibiotics used on
livestock to resistance in people. He said antibiotics are necessary in
livestock production and are used therapeutically or sub-
therapeutically. As for antibiotic resistance, he said, some bacteria
are simply unresponsive to certain antibiotics. He said resistance is
caused by use in people through the inappropriate use of medicines,
the failure of patients to follow and finish prescriptions and the
increased clustering of sick people undergoing antibiotic treatment.
He added that FDA review is adequate for antibiotic approval and
veterinarians keep records to avoid over-use of any single product.
Terry is the vice president of scientific and international affairs for
California Secretary of Food and Agriculture Henry Voss announced
last week that California dairy farmers would receive 10% less for
their milk during the months of August and September. Voss
attributed the impending price drops to increased production around
the nation. "Even with the tight milk supply nationwide earlier this
year and the higher production costs our dairy farmers have
experienced, we were able to hold increases in the minimum farm
price in California to 3.3 cents per gallon for the past seven months,
and now we're seeing a decrease," Voss said. The minimum farm
level price, established by the state, is expected to drop an average
of 12.1 cents per gallon of milk in August and September.
And finally, Michael Taylor, the FDA's deputy commissioner for
policy, is reportedly the top choice to take over as head of the Food
Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the USDA. Taylor is currently
under investigation by the General Accounting Office (GAO) over
conflict of interest charges. A former attorney with the law firm
King & Spaulding, which lists Monsanto as one of its clients, Taylor
was responsible for writing the FDA's voluntary labeling guidelines
for rBGH-free milk. The USDA has not had an administrator for FSIS
since Dr. Russell Cross left the post earlier this year.
Source: Steven H. Lee, "Chain to Sell Some Milk That's Free of
Hormone," DALLAS MORNING NEWS, July 7, 1994; "H-E-B To Add
Milk Supplier," H-E-B NEWS RELEASE, July 6, 1994; Merle A. Peters,
FCC LETTER TO MILK HANDLERS, July 1, 1994; JAMES A. BLACK,
Oregon Department of Agriculture letter to the dairy industry, JUNE
29, 1994; "Agriculture Commissioner Announces Procedure to Insure
Milk Label Accuracy on rBST Use," DEPARTMENT OF AGRICULTURE
PRESS RELEASE, July 7, 1994; "Industry Spokesman Discusses Use of
Antibiotics on Farm, Resistance Issues," ANIMAL HEALTH INSTITUTE
MEETING SUMMARY, June 23, 1994; "CDFA: Plentiful Milk Supply
Results in Lower California Milk Prices Beginning in August," PR
NEWSWIRE, July 7, 1994; "FDA's Taylor Top Choice for U.S. Food
Safety Post," REUTER, July 7, 1994.
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.
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-
7334, Email: foodnutr@ shep.agsci.colostate.edu.
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.
FOOD SCIENCE & TECHNOLOGY: CHALLENGES FOR AFRICA, September
12-16, 1994, Victoria Falls, Zimbabwe. FFI, contact: Senior Assistant
Registrar, Institute of Food Nutrition and Family Sciences, University
of Zimbabwe, P.O. Box 167, Mount Pleasant, Harare, Zimbabwe.
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.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agriculture and Trade
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