January 21st, 2011 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
European health officials are now warning that the German dioxin outbreak may be worse than previously thought – extending beyond tainted eggs – and prompting some countries to take harsher action.
The dioxin scare surfaced after 3,000 tonnes (over 6,600 pounds) of an animal feed additive sold in Germany were discovered to contain trace amounts of dioxin, causing officials to ban many farms from selling eggs.
Read More:German Dioxin Scare Spreads: Countries Cracking Down
May 19th, 2010 - Barbara Feiner
Researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health have found that eating processed red meat—bacon, sausage or processed deli meats—was associated with a 42% higher risk of heart disease and 19% higher risk of type 2 diabetes.
The researchers did not find a higher risk of heart disease or diabetes among individuals who ate unprocessed red meat: beef, pork, or lamb.
“Although most dietary guidelines recommend reducing meat consumption, prior individual studies have shown mixed results for relationships between meat consumption and cardiovascular diseases and diabetes,” says Epidemiology Fellow Renata Micha, whose research was published Monday in the online edition of Circulation. “Most prior studies also did not separately consider the health effects of eating unprocessed red versus processed meats.”
The researchers defined unprocessed red meat as any unprocessed beef, lamb or pork; poultry was excluded. Processed meat was defined as any meat preserved by smoking, curing or salting, or with the addition of chemical preservatives. Examples include bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs or processed deli/luncheon meats. Vegetable or seafood protein sources were not evaluated.
The results showed that, on average, each 50-g (1.8-oz.) daily serving of processed meat (about 1–2 slices of deli meats or 1 hot dog) was associated with a 42% higher risk of developing heart disease and a 19% higher risk of developing diabetes.
“When we looked at average nutrients in unprocessed red and processed meats eaten in the United States, we found that they contained similar average amounts of saturated fat and cholesterol,” Micha says. “In contrast, processed meats contained, on average, 4 times more sodium and 50% more nitrate preservatives. This suggests that differences in salt and preservatives, rather than fats, might explain the higher risk of heart disease and diabetes seen with processed meats, but not with unprocessed red meats.”
Dietary sodium (salt) is known to increase blood pressure—a strong risk factor for heart disease. In animal experiments, nitrate preservatives can promote atherosclerosis and reduce glucose tolerance, effects that could increase heart disease and diabetes risks.
Looking Toward the Future
Given the differences in health risks seen with eating processed versus unprocessed red meats, the findings suggest these types of meats should be studied separately in future research for health effects, including cancer, the authors say. For example, higher intake of total meat and processed meat has been associated with a higher risk of colorectal cancer, but unprocessed red meat has not been separately evaluated. They also say more research is needed on which factors (especially salt and other preservatives) in meats are most important for health effects.
Current efforts to update the federal Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are often a reference for other countries around the world, make these findings particularly timely, the researchers say. They recommend that dietary and policy efforts should especially focus on reducing intake of processed meat.
“To lower risk of heart attacks and diabetes, people should consider which types of meats they are eating,” Micha says. “Processed meats such as bacon, salami, sausages, hot dogs and processed deli meats may be the most important to avoid. Based on our findings, eating one serving per week or less would be associated with relatively small risk.”
Read More:Processed Meats Linked to Higher Heart Disease, Diabetes Risks
October 19th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
As we reported on Saturday, pigs on display at the Minnesota State Fair were undergoing confirmatory tests to determine whether they were infected with H1N1 (swine flu).
Earlier today, Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack revealed the 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza virus was present in samples collected at the fair. Additional samples are being tested.
At press time, the USDA believes the Minnesota case “does not suggest infection of commercial herds because show pigs and commercially raised pigs are in separate segments of the swine industry that do not typically interchange personnel or animal stock.”
Vilsack once again is reassuring Americans that eating pork does not pose any infection dangers.
We’ll continue to monitor the story for you.
Read More:This Little Piggy Has Swine Flu
October 17th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is testing some Minnesota pigs to confirm whether they are infected with the H1N1 virus (swine flu).
If so, this would be the first U.S. case of H1N1 in a swine population.
According to Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack, pigs at the Minnesota State Fair were routinely tested between Aug. 26 and Sept. 1. Preliminary results revealed some of the pigs were infected, even though they showed no signs of illness and seemed healthy.
“Like people, swine routinely get sick or contract influenza viruses,” Vilsack says. “We currently are testing the Minnesota samples to determine if this is 2009 pandemic H1N1 influenza. We are working in partnership with CDC, as well as our animal and public health colleagues, and will continue to provide information as it becomes available.”
The results may be in within the next few days.
The pork industry is already freaking out about the PR implications, and Vilsack is working with them to remind Americans that “they cannot get this flu from eating pork or pork products.”
While there was an outbreak of H1N1 in a group of children housed in a state-fair dormitory—at the same time samples were collected from the pigs—the USDA says there’s no direct link. The children, however, may have infected the pigs.
Meanwhile, the USDA is reminding pig producers to heed hygiene standards to prevent the introduction and spread of flu. The agency also urges them to participate in its swine influenza virus surveillance program, which monitors pig populations in an effort to detect illness and develop new vaccines.
Read More:Swine Flu a Possibility in Minnesota Pigs
August 12th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
New Jersey seems to be the new hotbed for food-related litigation.
Yesterday, I wrote about the Denny’s excess-sodium lawsuit. Now, three Garden State residents are suing Nathan’s Famous, Kraft Foods/Oscar Mayer, Sara Lee, ConAgra Foods and Marathon Enterprises for failure to place warning labels on the hot dogs they produce.
As I reported in May 2008, American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) scientists found that consumption of processed meat (ham, sausage, bacon, cold cuts) raises one’s risk for colorectal cancer.
The class-action suit seeks to compel all five companies to place cancer-risk warning labels on hot dog packages sold in New Jersey. The labels would read: “Warning: Consuming hot dogs and other processed meats increases the risk of cancer.”
“Just as tobacco causes lung cancer, processed meats are linked to colon cancer,” says Neal Barnard, MD, president of the Cancer Project, which filed the suit on behalf of the plaintiffs. “Companies that sell hot dogs are well aware of the danger, and their customers deserve the same information.”
But the AICR and Cancer Project, an affiliate of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine, have a tense history—what the former has called a “furious PR battle between two conflicting interest groups.” As we reported last August, AICR believes PCRM is spinning the data to promote an anti-meat agenda.
According to the data, every 50-gram serving of processed meat (roughly one hot dog) eaten per day increases colorectal cancer risk by 21%. This means that people who eat a hot dog every day have a 21% higher risk of colorectal cancer than if they never eat hot dogs.
According to the AICR’s official statement, the research “does not suggest…that an occasional hot dog at a ballgame, or a slice of ham at Easter, will cause colon cancer. What the evidence does show is that making processed meats an everyday part of the diet, as many Americans do, poses clear and serious risks. That is why AICR now recommends avoiding hot dogs, sausages, bacon, ham, cold cuts and other processed meats.”
The AICR is not taking a position on the New Jersey lawsuit.
My take: Hot dogs are by no means a healthful food, but they can be done right. Just ask San Francisco and L.A. residents who flock to Let’s Be Frank, which serves hot dogs that are free of hormones, antibiotics, nitrates and nitrites. Uncured franks are made from 100% grass-fed beef and organic spices. Italian sausages and bratwurst are made from family-farmed, humanely raise pork. Enjoy in moderation, dawg.
Read More:Should Hot Dogs Carry Warning Labels?
June 10th, 2009 - Barbara Feiner
Hot dogs get a bad reputation, and deservedly so. They’re high in saturated fat, sodium, nitrates, cancer-causing compounds and pig parts I have no desire to eat.
But summer isn’t the same without a juicy, grilled frankfurter on a toasted bun. Fortunately, there are healthier, lower-fat natural, organic and vegetarian cures for your hot-dog cravings.
The Great Organic Uncured Hot Dog from Applegate Farms is made from organic grass-fed beef, as are Niman Ranch’s Fearless Franks and Organic Prairie’s Uncured Hot Dogs. Organic Prairie also offers chicken dogs and turkey dogs.
If you’re a vegetarian, check out the Lightlife line of Smart Dogs, Tofu Pups, Veggie Dogs and Pretzel Dogs. Another meatless option is the Yves line of Hot Dogs, Good Dogs, Tofu Dogs and Jumbo Hot Dogs.
Be sure to top your dog with organic condiments. I’ll show you some of my favorites tomorrow.
Read More:Hot Dog Stand
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
May 21st, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
I don’t eat meat and no, I don’t have any animal rights agenda, but I do think all animals should be treated humanely.
And that goes double for food animals. I can’t imagine eating sick or badly injured livestock is healthy or safe.
That’s why this makes me mad. In Tasmania, activists raided a local piggery and discovered a horror show.
The pig farm, which supplies meat to a major supermarket chain, kept pigs in squalid conditions, many with swollen legs, large abscesses and covered with flesh eating maggots crawling out of open drains.
Disgusting! The conditions are bad enough, but selling diseased meat to people is deplorable. Police have charged the owner with severe animal cruelty and the grocery store has launched an investigation.
Via ABC News.
Read More:Pig Farm Raid Finds Maggot-Eaten Pigs
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
May 12th, 2009 - Gerald "Gerry" Pugliese
Bacon is the Star Trek of the meat world. It’s cult following is second only to Comicon. Now, I don’t eat meat, but in my travels I’ve seen deep-fried bacon, canned bacon and even chocolate covered bacon. Eek
We all know bacon is unhealthy, but could your BLT and ham sandwich get a makeover? Maybe, pork specialists are trying to breed pigs with “healthier” fat.
Apparently, when it comes to eating pigs, there’s a difference between intramuscular fat and subcutaneous fat. Intramuscular is fat throughout the skeletal muscle, while subcutaneous fat is the stuff just beneath the skin. Muscle fat keeps meat tender and juicy and not enough makes meat dry.
A project by the Institute of Biosensing Technology and the Centre for Research in Biomedicine at the University of the West of England is aiming to produce healthier meat with less subcutaneous fat, but still maintain enough intramuscular fat.
Experts say the key is to identify genes that control both intramuscular and subcutaneous fat in different breeds of pigs.
Pork is one of the most consumed meats in Europe and I’m sure it’s up there in the United States too. Perhaps this helps explain the epidemic of heart disease and obesity in the Western world, and beyond.
I think bacon is gross. It scares me, but if it doesn’t scare you, maybe a bacon-wrapped Pinhead mutation of Mr. Potato Head will. Eek!
Via Science Daily.
Read More:Scientists Want to Breed Healthier Swine…