June 30th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Right before Memorial Day, as Americans prepared for holiday barbecues, I informed you of a recall involving 96,000 pounds of ground beef potentially contaminated with E. coli.
Now, with Fourth of July barbecues only days away, we face another beef recall. JBS Swift Beef Co., based in Greeley, CO, has recalled approximately 380,000 pounds of assorted beef products that may be contaminated with E coli. Not surprisingly, its a huge factory farm.
Once again, this is a Class I recall, defined as “a health hazard situation where there is a reasonable probability that the use of the product will cause serious, adverse health consequences or death.”
The CDC is investigating 24 illnesses in multiple states; 18 appear to be associated with the recalled beef.
The beef products were produced on April 21 and were distributed both nationally and internationally. Click here for a PDF file that lists recalled products.
As noted yesterday, multiple recalls have eroded consumer confidence in the food industry.
From Our Organic Blog: DIY Ground Beef
Read More:New Beef Recall Announced
June 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Norovirus and salmonella were the leading causes of foodborne illness in 2006, according to a report issued Thursday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
That year, there were 1,270 reported foodborne disease outbreaks, which resulted in 27,634 illnesses and 11 deaths. Of the outbreaks, 621 had a confirmed single cause, with norovirus (54%) and salmonella (18%) responsible for most cases.
Norovirus infection usually occurs when infected food handlers fail to wash their hands adequately after using the toilet. Salmonella infection usually occurs when foods that have been contaminated with animal feces are eaten raw or insufficiently cooked.
The foods associated with most outbreaks were poultry (21%), leafy vegetables (17%) and fruits/nuts (16%).
“Determining the proportion of outbreak-associated cases of foodborne illness due to the various food commodities is an important step,” says Patricia M. Griffin, MD, chief of the CDC′s Enteric Diseases Epidemiology Branch. “Identification of particular food commodities that have caused outbreaks can help public health officials and the food industry to target control efforts from the farm to the table.”
But Dr. Griffin offers an important caveat: While this report is useful, some outbreaks are not detected, investigated or reported because many states lack the resources to handle testing.
Photo by James Gathany/CDC
Read More:CDC Releases Stats on Foodborne Illness
June 16th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Singer Paul McCartney yesterday launched a Meat-Free Monday campaign, which encourages consumers to help slow climate change by avoiding meat one day a week.
Celebrity supporters include Chris Martin, Alec Baldwin, Woody Harrelson, Sheryl Crow, Kevin Spacey, Kelly Osbourne, Gillian Anderson and Ricky Gervais.
Studies clearly show our food choices affect the environment. The UK’s Food Climate Research Network says food production is responsible for 20%–30% of global greenhouse gas emissions. Farm animals, which release gases like methane and nitrous oxide, account for 50% of food-related emissions.
In fact, livestock production is globally responsible for more climate-changing emissions (18%) than transportation (13%), according to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization. And Compassion in World Farming says UK families that slash meat consumption by 50% would release fewer emissions than if they drove their cars 50% less.
Nobel Peace Prize winner Rajendra Pachauri, PhD, chair of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, said last year:
“IPCC found that changes in lifestyle and behavior patterns can contribute to climate change mitigation across all sectors. One area where individuals can make a difference in this regard is by altering their diets through consuming less meat, say by giving up meat at least one day a week. Reducing meat consumption in this manner will make individuals healthier, as well as the planet.”
“I think many of us feel helpless in the face of environmental challenges, and it can be hard to know how to sort through the advice about what we can do to make a meaningful contribution to a cleaner, more sustainable, healthier world. Having one designated meat-free day a week is actually a meaningful change that everyone can make that goes to the heart of several important political, environmental and ethical issues all at once. For instance, it not only addresses pollution, but better health, the ethical treatment of animals, global hunger and community and political activism.”
Organic Meat-Free Monday Playlist
- Amoeba’s Secret
- Unplugged (Official Bootleg)
Read More:Paul McCartney Calls for Meat-Free Mondays
June 9th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
You may recognize Nicolette Hahn Niman’s last name.
Her husband, Bill, founded Niman Ranch years before they met, and it has become a leading supplier of natural, humanely raised beef, pork, lamb, and specialty products like bacon and hot dogs.
Mrs. Niman served for six years as an environmental attorney for Waterkeeper Alliance, the grassroots advocacy group chaired by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He asked her to take the reins of the organization’s hog campaign, which investigated inhumane treatment of animals at factory farms and the environmental pollutants these operations dump into our land, water and air.
In her new book, Righteous Porkchop, Niman compares the humane and inhumane practices she has witnessed at farms. She clearly demonstrates that sustainable meat can be produced cost-effectively and ethically.
The book delves beyond Big Pork, examining the importance of choosing sustainable seafood, beef, poultry, dairy and eggs.
“Many people assume industrial farming is the only realistic option for producing food these days,” Niman writes. “They are resigned to it as a necessary evil…But the inevitability of industrial animal production is a myth. It’s not inherently more economically efficient than traditional farming, and nothing is unavoidable about it.”
Read More:Righteous Porkchop
June 3rd, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As university researchers study the best ways to house America’s egg-producing hens, numerous organizations have signed on as coalition stakeholders, including the American Humane Association, American Veterinary Medical Association and U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research Service.
One prominent stakeholder may surprise you: fast-food behemoth McDonald’s, which reaps a nice share of profits each morning from scrambled eggs, Egg McMuffins and egg-based biscuit sandwiches.
It sure sounds good on paper: The eggs produced in the study are expected to be used in McDonald’s U.S. restaurants, as researchers strive to determine whether cage-free and free-range chickens fare better than those cooped up in factory farms.
Dan Gorsky, McDonald’s senior VP for North America supply chain management, says his company wants to consider “all of the sustainability impacts when it comes to buying eggs—not just animal welfare, but environmental, food safety and economic factors. It is our intention for eggs produced as part of this study, including cage-free eggs, to partially supply McDonald’s USA by 2011.”
Some critics, however, believe McDonald’s is dragging its feet in purchasing sustainable eggs. The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) notes that numerous national restaurant chains have already gone the cage-free route, including Burger King, Wendy’s, Quiznos, Denny’s, Hardees’s and Carl’s Jr.
“There is already an abundance of science demonstrating that battery-cage confinement of laying hens is detrimental to animal welfare, and McDonald’s shouldn’t use another long-term study as an excuse to delay implementing the same modest reforms so many of its competitors have already adopted,” says Paul Shapiro, senior director of HSUS’ factory farming campaign.
HSUS is encouraging mainstream and organic consumers to call (800) 244-6227 to urge McDonald’s to switch to cage-free eggs now.
Photo courtesy of McDonald’s
Read More:Chickening Out?
June 1st, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Researchers at Michigan State University and the University of California, Davis, are leading a national study of housing alternatives for egg-laying hens.
Scientists will analyze tens of thousands of hens to determine how different housing environments affect animal health and well-being, safe and affordable food, the environment and worker welfare.
Researchers will look at cage-free, free-range and “enriched” (nests and perches) housing. As organic consumers already know, any of these alternatives is preferable to factory farms.
“The coalition anticipates a multiyear study to factor in seasonal shifts, bird life cycles and other factors,” says Janice Swanson, PhD, a professor of animal behavior and welfare at Michigan State.
Read More:A Better Life for America’s Hens?
May 19th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
On April 29, the Pew Commission on Industrial Farm Animal Production released the results of a 2½-year study—and the news isn’t pretty.
Researchers found what many organic consumers already know: Industrial-scale farms often pose unacceptable risks to public health, the environment and the welfare of the animals themselves.
The report says the negative effects of industrial farms are too strong to ignore and that significant changes must be implemented soon.
Specific problems include:
- Public health threats caused by a large concentration of farm animals in close proximity, which can increase disease transmission among animals and humans
- Environmental hazards caused by huge quantities of animal waste, antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, heavy metals and other chemicals that find their way to waterways, lakes, groundwater, soils and airways
- An increase in greenhouse gas emissions from the microbial degradation of manure, which affects air quality
- Inhumane treatment of animals, including restrictive confinement
- A shift in economic power from family farmers to industrial livestock processors
Some of the commission’s recommendations include banning nontherapeutic use of antimicrobials in food animals, implementing a disease-monitoring program, employing new ways to deal with farm waste and phasing out inhumane production practices.
To read the full report, click here (PDF file).
Read More:Factory Farms Pose Unacceptable Risks
May 18th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The first wrongful-death lawsuit in the H1N1 flu outbreak has been filed by Texas paramedic Steven Trunnell on behalf of his late wife, the first U.S. resident to die of virus-related complications. Trunnell charges a Smithfield Foods’ factory farm in Mexico with spreading the disease. Click here for full details from TIME magazine.
On Thursday, Smithfield President and CEO C. Larry Pope issued a letter to his employees, stating tests by the Mexican government “have confirmed that no virus, including the human strain of A(H1N1) influenza, is present in the pig herd at Granjas Carroll de Mexico (GCM), our joint venture farm in Veracruz, Mexico.” But as the TIME article reveals, “It’s not clear what test Mexican authorities used; only blood tests for antibodies can confirm the virus.”
Smithfield’s PR campaign has put celebrity chef Paula Deen front and center. A spokesperson for the company, she is calling on Americans to bring home the bacon.
“You know, y’all, the Secretary of Agriculture has said it’s safe to eat pork,” Deen says in a Smithfield-issued statement. “You can eat all the pork you want. You are not going to catch the flu from eating pork.” She’s correct about virus transmission, but that folksy quote makes my eyes bleed.
As the New York Times reported in Goliath of the Hog World, Smithfield handles 19 million hogs per year. Reporter David Barboza called the company’s Tar Heel, NC, plant “an efficient killing machine,” where “squealing hogs funnel into an area where they are electrocuted, stabbed in the jugular, then tied, lifted and carried on a winding journey through the plant.”
Barboza’s article further explored Smithfield’s past health and safety violations, how the company (already the world’s largest pork producer) is attempting to dominate the marketplace through consolidation, and how small farmers are fighting to protect humanely raised, antibiotic-free and organic pork.
Read More:Pork Wars