Michelle Thom, IATP
Food Safety Week
Produced by the Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy
September 29, 1994
Volume 2, Number 19
- rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
- ESPY CONTINUES TO BE EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSY
- CITIZENS GATHER TO URGE MEAT INDUSTRY TO CLEAN UP ITS ACT
- EPA STUDY: MEAT, MILK SOURCES OF DIOXIN
- USDA MOVES TO OVERHAUL INSPECTION SYSTEM
rBGH NEWS OF THE WEEK
Monsanto is claiming success with its recombinant bovine growth
hormone (rBGH or rBST) product Posilac. According to a company
statement, more than 10,000 producers are treating 800,000 cows
with 6.8 million doses of the drug. "We are ahead of our expectations
significantly," said Monsanto spokesperson Tom McDermott. A
survey conducted by Westgate Research showed that 97% of Posilac
users had seen an increase in production at an average of about 10
pounds per day per treated cow. "More than 90% of producers said
they were satisfied with the use of the product," the statement said.
Monsanto did not relase state-by-state sales figures. "There is no
one region of the country that is outpacing others," McDermott said.
The company also said it had received complaints from 95 farmers.
Mark Kastel of the Wisconsin Farmers Union (WFU) said his
organization had also received several complaints about the drug
from farmers. WFU has established a hotline (800-272-5531) to
take calls from farmers who are having problems with the drug.
This week, the CBS evening news featured New York farmer John
Shumway, who said he lost a quarter of his dairy herd after using
Posilac. Monsanto has a two-year tracking system in place to
"further reinforce" the Food and Drug Administration's (FDA)
concusion that the product is safe for human and animal health.
Monsanto is also ending its discount pricing program for Posilac
purchasers. The company discounted the dose price to $5.00 when
osilac went on the market in February. Now, the per dose price will
increase to $5.80, although the list price for the drug remains at
$6.60. "We need tomeet our financial commitments to our
corporation," said Monsanto executive Robert Deakin. Deakin said the
price increase would amount to about six cents er cow. "We're
trying to make sure the price is attractive to existing customers and
to new customers," he adde. If Monsanto's recently released sales
figures are correct, the company earned approximately $32 million in
sales since February 3.
Farmers are finding the decision to use or not to use rBGH a difficult
one to make. Chris Nellis of Fort Plain, New York said he eagerly
accepted the new technology while Harvey Skeele said the drug is
too problematic. "I think when they introduced BST, it opened a can
of worms," he said. David Page, who farms in Leroy, New York, said
he has decided not to use Posilac for the time being but would
consider it if more studies were done on the side effects. For every
negative comment, he said he hears a positive one.
The National Milk Producers Federation (NMPF) continues to insist
that the introduction of rBGH has not led to a drop in milk
consumption. The group says year-to-date average fluid milk sales
in July were only .1% below the average for July 1993. "Consumers
have recognized that there is no reason to stop drinking milk," said
NMPF President Jim Barr. He added that the public awareness of
rBGH in the milk supply had declined to 52% in Juy, down from a
high of 71% in April.
The campaign against the approval of rBGH in the European Union
(EU) is stepping up. The campaign is awaiting the end of the year
when te current moratorium on rBGH expires. Participants are asking that the EU Council of Ministers ban rBGH altogether. In
addition, the groups are asking that imports from countries whee
the hormone is in use be banned.
The Economic and Social Committee (ESC) of the European
Communities has concluded that the EU should evote more time to
developing a test to detect the presence of rBGH in milk. Such
improved detection represents " a genuine choice in matters of
labeling in accordance with European cultural tradition and with
Community legislation and labeling." On September 2, the ESC's
Section for Agriculture and Fisheries adopted by a large majority a
report concluding that rBGH should be banned in Europe. "If BST
were to be used, it would not constitute a positive input for either
the primary sector or secondary sectors."
A recent article in THE GUARDIAN questions the value of rBGH. "The
real absurdity about BST milk in Europe," the article states, "is that
we have a milk lake which already adds up to 92,000 tons of
skimmed milk powder. If Europe legalizes BST, the taxpayer will end
up paying for Monsanto's billion dollar investment." The article also
says that during the last EU discussion on rBGH, only Britain and
Belgium were pushing for approval.
New Hampshire-based Stonyfield Farm has launched a public
awareness campaign designed to educate consumers about rBGH.
The "Just Say Moo" campaign will use billboards, radio spots and
involve a consumer education component. Stonyfield is the first
company in the nation to pay its farmers not to us rBGH.
The National Dairy Board (NDB) and the United Dairy Industry
Association (UDIA) have jointly launched a campaign aimed at
getting children and young people interested in consuming milk. The
$48 million project will function under the banner "Milk. Help
Yourself." The campaign "represents a shift in direction for the
entire milk industry," according to Tom Gallagher, CEO of Dairy
Management, the cooperative effort of the NDB and UDIA. "People
already know the nutritional benefits of milk. Now we want to
remind them of the occasion when nothing but milk will do." The ad
campaign will run through 1995 and feature 15- and 30-second
television commercials and radio ads.
Source: Joel McNair, "Monsanto Claims Posilac a Big Success," AGRI
VIEW, September 23, 1994; Gordon S. Carlson, "Monsanto Releases
Figures on BST Sales in First Six Months," FEEDSTUFFS, September 19,
194; Robert Steyer, "Discount Ending; Monsanto to Adjust Pricing on
its BST," ST. LOUIS POST-DISPATCH, September 20, 1994; "Farmers
Have Mixed Feelings About BST," AGWEEK, September 12, 1994;
"Controversial Hormone Hasn't Decreased Sales," AGWEEK, September
26, 1994; "Hormones: Move to Strengthen Controls Amist New
Anti-BST Campaign," EUROPEAN REPORT, September 21, 1994;
"Hormones: ESC Urges More Research Into BST As Opposition Grows,"
EUROPE ENVIRONMENT, September 27, 1994; Colin Spencer, "Designer
Genes," THE GUARDIAN, September 24, 1994; "Stonyfield Launches
'Just Say Moo' Campaign," REUTER, September 15, 1994; "New Ad
Campaign for Milk," Farming Today, UPI, September 27, 1994.
ESPY CONTINUES TO BE EMBROILED IN CONTROVERSY
Rumors coming out of Washington indicate that Secretary of
Agriculture Mike Espy may not last much longer after it was
revealed earlier this year that he had accepted gifts from chicken
giant Don Tyson, a leader in an industry regulated by the USDA. The
latest reports are thatthe secretary is paying back thousands of
dollars to correct his alleged improprieties. "Espy is dead. He has
lost any moral credibility," said one official. Among the most recent
reimbursements issued by Espy are $450 to the American Crop
Protection Association for a one-night stay at a resort and $6,200 in
lease payments on a Jeep Cherokee that he kept at the Jackson,
Mississippi airport for use while at home. Donald Smaltz, the
independent investigator looking into the Espy case, said reimbursing
the government will not exempt Espy fom possible criminal charges
under the 1907 Meat Inspection Act, which bars government
employees from accepting gifts from industries which they regulate.
Espy continues to maintain his inncence and President Clinton
stands by him, according to Press Secretary DeeDee Myers.
Source: Magie McNeil, "Support for Embattled U.S. Agriculture Chief
Eroding," REUTER, September 21, 1994; "White House Says Clinton
Won't Judge Espy Yet," REUTER, September 21, 1994; Bruce Ingersoll,
"Espy's Repayment Isn't a Defense, Counsel Asserts," WALL STREET
JOURNAL, September 27, 1994; "Agriculture Secretary Espy Says He
Will Be Cleared," REUTER, September 22, 1994; Susan Schmidt and
Sharon LaFraniere, "Espy Reimburses USDA for Lease Payments on
Jeep," WASHINGTON POST, September 20, 1994; Sharon LaFraniere,
"Espy Repaid Expenses to Trade Association," WASHINGTON POST,
September 21, 1994.
CITIZENS GATHER TO URGE MEAT INDUSTRY TO CLEAN UP ITS ACT
Today in San Francisco, an E. coli victims' advocate and the Vermont-
based Food & Water will gather to raise awareness about the growing
problem of E. coli contamination in the nation's meat supply. Kathi
Allen began working with families in the Pacific Northwest after the
outbreak of E. coli poisoning in late 1992 linked to hamburgers from
the Jack-in-the-Box fast food chain. "The meat industry must accept
its responsibility for the real work of controlling the E. coli threat,"
she said. Allen's nephew was one of more than 600 children -- at
least three of whom died -- who became ill during the outbreak.
"Having been in intensive care wards watching children
hemorrhaging, seeing them hooked up to life support ... and some
dying, I can tell you that the consumer end of the food chain cannot
mop-up what should have been prevented at the industry's end," she
said. In addition to rasing awareness about E. coli, participants will
also demand that the industry not turn o irradiation as a way of
cleaning up the nation's meat supply. "Exposing dirty meat to
radiation the equivalent of 30 million chest X-rays will not make it
safe," said Food & Water executive dector Michael Colby.
"Consumers want real solutions to the meat contamination problem,
not dangerous gimmicks like irradiation that leave carcinogenic
residues, deplete nutritional quality and threaten the environment."
The news conference will take place at the nnual meeting of the
American Meat Institute, where former housing secretary Jack Kemp
will be the featured speaker. For more information contct Food &
Water, Depot Hill Road, RR 1 Box 11, Marshfield, VT 05658, Tel:
The event is timely in light of a recent outbreak of E. coli poisoning in
New York state. The illnesses of at least nine people have been
traced back to contaminated meat at an Oktoberfest in Rochester,
New York earlier this month. Twenty other cases are being
investigated by the state health department. Gerald Moore, a
spokesperson for the state Department of Agriculture and Markets,
was quick to point out that "the experts at this point are inclined to
think it's probably the result f improper handling of food at the
Reports out of Florida indicate that the nation's only irradiation plant
is struggling tosurvive. The Food Technology Service, formerly
known as Vindicator, blames its lack of activity on the USDA's slow
progress in approving irradiation and standard packaging for meat.
The company was recently told that it could not package its
irradiated poultry in polystyrene trays, but instead must use
polystyrene film, which costs several cents more. The company
reportedly has but one customer for its irradiated products -- he
Carrot Top store in the Chicago suburb of Glenview.
Source: "E Coli Victims' Advocate and Food Safety Group Urge Meat
Industry to Clean Up Its Act," FOOD & WATER PRESS RELEASE,
September 29, 1994; "E. Coli Outbreak," AP, September 23, 1994;
"Food Irradiation Plant is Struggling," AGRI NEWS, September 8,
EPA STUDY: MEAT, MILK SOURCES OF DIOXIN
According to a draft dioxin reassessment document released by the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) earlier this month, meat an
dairy products constitute a source of low-level dioxin exposure,
which has been linked to cancer in humans. The 2,000-page report
does not go so far as to label dioxin as a known crcinogen; owever,
it makes the recommendation that more studies are needed. Dioxin
has heretofore been mainly associated with Agent Orange,
incineration and other by-products of chlorine chemistry. For the
first time, the EPA study concludes that dioxins have the ability to
invade fish, meat and dairy products. For example, people living
near the Great Lakes, where concentrations of dioxin have been high
in lake fish, have experienced changes in hormone levels and other
adverse health effects. Assistant EPA Administrator Lynn Goldman
said exposure to low levels of dioxin "is primarily via airborne
dioxins tat settle on plants and that are passed on through the food
chain associated particularly with fat." However, the "benefits from a
balanced diet far outweigh any theoretical risks from dioxin
Source: "EPA Study Links Dioxin in Meat to Cancer in Humans,"
MINNEAPOLIS STAR TRIBUNE, September 12, 1994; "EPA Affirms
Health Dangers From Dioxin," NEW YORK TIMES, September 13, 1994;
H. Josef Hebert, "Dioxin-Food," AP, September 13, 1993.
USDA MOVES TO OVERHAUL INSPECTION SYSTEM
The Agriculture Department unveiled plans to overhaul the nation's
meat and poultry inspection system. The new proposal will require
the testing of meat and poultry for harmful bacteria. "The inspection
system established in the 1930s is no longer adequate and must be
changed," said Agriculture Secretary Mike Espy. Espy said the new
plan will take a two-track approach to inspection. The first will
involve legislation aimed at requiring the department to mandate
microbial testing in two years. The second track will set levels for
dangerous pathogens "to the extent possible." The new proposal will
mean an end to a system that has relied on a see-touch-smell
method for detecting dangerous bactea. "Step by step, we are
aiming to overhaul the meat and poultry inspection systems so that
they utilize the most advanced science and make a safe food supply
even safer," said Espy.
Last month, the USDA said it has perfected a five-minute test for
microbes to be used in meat processing plants. Michael Taylor, new
head of the Food Safety and Inspection Service expressed
reservations about finding an application for the test. However, he
said his agency is anxious to work with meat inspectors, scientists
and he meat industry.
Source: Laurie McGinley, "Agriculture Agency Unveils System to
Improve Food Testing for Bacteria," WALL STREET JOURNAL,
September 15, 1994; "New Test Quickly Detects Bacteria Levels in
Meat," IOWA FARMER TODAY, September 3, 1994; "Espy Seeks New
Inspection Authority," UPI, September 14, 194.
Now available from the General Accounting Office: RISK-BASED
INSPECTIONS AND MICROBIAL MONITORING NEEDED FOR MEAT AND
POULTRY (GAO/RCED-94-110). For a copy, write GAO, Washington,
The Animal Health Institute has produced a FOOD SAFETY NETWORK
CATALOG, which contains the contact information for a variety of
industry and private organizations working on animal health and
food safety issues. For a copy, contact AHI, P.O. Box 1417-D50,
Alexandria, VA 22313, Tel: (703) 684-0011.
CALENDAR OF EVENTS
MODERN AGRICULTURE AND THE ENVIRONMENT, October 2-6, 1994,
Rehovet, Israel. FFI, contact: Agriculture and Environment
Conference, Peltours-Te'um, P.O. Box 8388, Jerusalem 91082, Israel,
Tel: (972) 261-7402, Fax: (972) 263-7572.
BUILDING BRIDGES, October 14,1994, St. Paul, MN. FFI, contact: Land
Stewardship Project, 14758 Ostlund Trail North, Marine on St. Croix,
MN 55047, el: (612) 433-2770.
SHARING WATER: FARMS, CITIES AND ECOSYSTEMS, 11th Annual
World Food Day Teleconference, October 14, 1994, Washington, D.C.
FFI, contact: Patricia Young, U.S. National Committee for World Food
Day, 1001 22nd Street NW, Washington, D.C. 20437.
RECOMBINANT DNA BIOTECHNOLOGY III, October 16-21, 1994,
Deauville, France. FFI, contact: Engineering Foundation, Room 303,
245 East 47th Street, New Yrk, NY 10017, Tel: (212) 705-7837, Fax:
FERMENTATION BIOTECHNOLOGY, October 17-21, 1994, East
Brunswick, NJ. FFI, contact: The Center for Professional
Advancement, P.O. Box 964, East Brunswick, NJ 08816, Tel: (908)
613-4500, Fax: (908) 238-9113.
DOWN TO EARTH: PRACTICAL APPLICATIONS OF ECOLOGICAL
ECONOMICS, October 24-28, 1994, San Jose, Costa Rica. FI, contact:
III International Conference of Ecological Economics,P.O. Box 555-
3000, Heredia, Costa Rica.
Produced by: Michelle Thom, Institute for Agricultre and Trade
Policy, 1313 5th Street SE Suite 303 Minneapolis, MN 55414, Tel:
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