Friday, August 5, 2011

Ground Turkey recall

It's happening right now... again.  There are people who are sick due to bacteria contaminated food- ground turkey.  And not just any old bacteria- the ground turkey is contaminated with Salmonella Heidelberg which is a drug-resistant strain of salmonella.  Drug-resistant as in "super-bug," exactly what I had mentioned in the posts earlier this week.  The Center for Science in the Public Interest, one of the organizations that brought suit on May 25th of this year against the FDA for allowing the use of antibiotics in healthy feedlot animals, made a request of the USDA two months ago to inspect turkey for the presence of this drug-resistant strain of bacteria.  The USDA has not acted on that recommendation.

On July 21 the Center for Disease Control and the USDA connected the outbreak to the Cargill  turkey grinding plant in Springvale, Arkansas, but did not call Cargill's lawyers until July 29.  Why the delay?    They say they had to determine the concentration of the salmonella contamination- because a lot of ground turkey is contaminated with salmonella- that is a fact, so they wanted to be sure that there was a LOT of salmonella in this batch.  And there was, because Cargill recalled 36 millions pounds of the stuff.

Dr. Elizabeth Hagan, under secretary for food safety at the American Farm Bureau said that "public health must be at the heart of all lawmakers."  Too bad the reporter who jotted down that comment didn't ask Dr. Hagan why the American Farm Bureau vehemently opposes any restriction on feeding antibiotics to farm animals. Apparently public health is not at the heart of the American Farm Bureau.

Representative Louise Slaughter (D-NY), the only microbiologist in the U. S. House, has re-introduced legislation limiting the use of antibiotics in healthy feedlot animals.  Hopefully it will meet with a better fate than last time, when the American Farm Bureau and the fat cats running the big factory farms and the pharmaceutical industry joined forces to defeat it through the influence they hold over our representatives in Washington.. (The legislation Rep. Slaughter introduced is referred to as PAMTA- Preservation of Antibiotics for Medical Treatment Act).

Not to worry, fat cats.  An economist who used to work for ConAgra foods described the American consumer as having a relatively short-term memory.  They'll stop buying ground turkey for awhile, he said, then when the shelves are restocked they'll buy again.  So glad we don't disappoint them.... dependable that's what we are!  Too bad we can't depend on them!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

The Food Police- The Movie!

Our right to purchase safe, unadulterated food from farmers is being abridged by these agencies- the FDA and the USDA.  More and more folks give up the struggle to maintain the family farm every year- between high taxes, weather- drought and flooding, crop disease, low prices, and being hassled by state and federal agencies.  Eighty-eight percent of dairy farmers alone have left dairy farming since 1970.  Factory farms seemingly flourish while our food is awash in hormones and antibiotics.  The pollution from giant manure pits taints wells and fouls streams.  Small family farms are increasingly put out of business because they just can’t compete with the big guys.

Rather than keep our food safe from additives and genetic manipulation, instead of guarding the wholesomeness and purity of food, these agencies allow huge mega-corporations to manipulate the system, dictate policy, pollute the environment and degrade our food supply while these government agencies single out small struggling family farms as targets for their selective enforcement of ridiculous, outdated laws. 

The allegiance of these government agencies  is to big-agribusiness, not to your well-being.  I personally do not have problems with a government agency keeping me safe.  I have huge problems with agencies that purport to maintain the safety of the food we eat but take orders from the exact people they should be watching.  (Check out my post from July 13- The FDA protects big biotechs, not you!)

If you would like to see a film that deals with these issues, check out Farmageddon: The unseen war on American family farms .  There you can view the trailer of the new, independent movie Farmaggedon and check to see if/when the film will be playing in your area.  No, this movie will definitely NOT be released  in lots of theaters across this country!  This is truly a subject that lots of people do NOT want us to see. 

Monday, August 1, 2011

The Food Police- THEY decide what you will eat!

If you’ve caught any old re-runs of Seinfeld you are undoubtedly familiar with the "library police".  That episode really made me chuckle.  The contrast of the super serious "library cop" with the pettiness of the "crime" was hilarious.  What a scary contrast with "the food police"- not so funny now! 

The USDA and the FDA are two federal agencies which make choices about what foods we eat.  It seems to me that the original intent here was to safeguard the public health, but more and more frequently they are making and enforcing laws that not only run contrary to the best interests of the public, but that promote the interests of big agribusiness and big biotechs.  Sometimes this selective enforcement is made with real police, and fines and imprisonment are imposed on the folks who run counter to the system.  These agencies are deciding more and more what we can and cannot eat; they are deciding which animals farmers can and cannot raise.  Are they keeping us from illness?  NO!   Are they promoting good sustainable farming practices?  NO!  Are they protecting the food supply?  NO!   

Huge agribusinesses (factory farms) run humongous feedlots where they feed tons of antibiotics to thousands of animals destined for our tables.  The use of those antibiotics has huge consequences for all of us.  Since those are the same antibiotics developed for use in human beings, this indiscriminate use has resulted in drugs which are no longer working to get us well. Superbugs are here!  They’ve triumphed over our drug arsenal, and so far there’s no new magic bullet.  Have you heard of MRSA? C-Diff?  Have you heard of people having portions of their intestines removed because there’s no other way to get rid of the infection other than cutting it out?  Have you heard of “flesh-eating disease”? These diseases are so scary because they are resistant to antibiotics.

Instead of the FDA and USDA keeping the public safe from the dangers of the overuse of antibiotics which they could accomplish by pursuing the matter through the courts or requesting legislation to PROHIBIT feeding ANTIBIOTICS to these animals, the FDA targets instead the little guy- the folks on the family farm (who are NOT dosing their animals with drugs, who are NOT polluting, etc) but whom they are very successful at bullying.  They confiscate computers, equipment, records, farm animals and crops.  Amish farmers- and others- are taken away in handcuffs.  Hundreds of gallons of milk and other products are destroyed or confiscated.  Some raids are conducted on farm families in the middle of the night at gunpoint.  Their crime?  They're targets of selective enforcement of stupid and arcane laws.  Continued on the next blog:  The Food Police- The Movie!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Farmers' Market

This past weekend I took in a farmers’ market in the Midwest, not far from Chicago.  It was a fun experience despite the fact that that part of the country (like just about every other section of the country) has been experiencing some radical weather.  It was hot, humid and overcast- hardly conducive to a fun outing- but we enjoyed the experience never the less.  It was surprising to see so many people there who could have chosen to hide indoors in some cool air conditioning but instead strolled amongst the many booths displaying all sorts of merchandise.  The beauty of the thing- and there is much to be extolled about farmers’ markets- is that the folks in attendance and the folks displaying their wares are from the community or at least the “extended community”- maybe as far away as fifty miles, but no one is schlepping stuff across the continent to hawk it there. 

There were wonderful vegetables- gorgeous zucchini and yellow squash, fresh green beans, plump tomatoes, deep red beets, freshly picked spinach, fresh turnip greens, ripe cantaloupe, fat blueberries and fresh garlic for sale.  Michigan was represented by the juicy peaches which have begun to come in as well as the last of the cherries, and plump blueberries, to be sure.  Flower bouquets were available for purchase- I found the Queen Ann’s lace bouquets spiked with pink snapdragons and blue cornflowers especially attractive.  The local apiary had a wonderful array of honey available in so many sizes- and honeycombs also.  I’m a regular purchaser of local honey.  I’ve found it’s headed off many a sore throat for me-  just a teaspoonful when I feel the scratchiness of a sore throat coming on.  (And if you buy your honey in pint jars with metal screw-on lids, I found that a dab of olive oil around the jar lip where it meets the metal will keep the lid from getting stuck and hard to open.)  There were wonderful cheeses on display, with obliging salespeople cutting off just the exact amount you ordered… creamy mild cheeses, piquant hard cheeses and tastes in between to satisfy every cheese lover’s palate.  And the grass-fed beef and pork farmer was there with his meats.  They use sustainable farming methods and sell meat from animals which are not fed antibiotics, nor hormones.  There were bakers of artisanal breads and rolls-  and some wonderfully crispy things with savory rosemary baked into the dough! 

Do yourself a favor- if you haven’t been out to a farmers’ market yet, get out there!  There’s an abundance of produce coming in now, and it’ll continue through the end of the summer and well into the fall.  Avail yourself of some of these products; try a new vegetable; get to know your local farmers.  It’s fun, interesting, and nourishes not only your body but your spirit as well.

Friday, July 22, 2011

The FDA outlaws a dangerous food

With all my harping that the FDA doesn’t protect us from harmful additives, carcinogens, hormones and drugs, not to mention genetically altered organisms (GMOs), I have to confess that I have come across an instance where the FDA protects us – unequivocally.  The FDA along with the USCBP, the United States Customs and Border Patrol, a division of the Office of Homeland Security, are ever vigilant and most protective of our best interests here.  The food in question?  Chocolate candy eggs with a toy in the center!  Those babies are dangerous!!!!  Apparently in 1938 when Congress established the FDA a law was passed outlawing the sale of food which contains a non-nutritive item.  (And how, pray tell, has the wily and elusive Cracker Jack escaped notice?) Well the FDA has embraced its responsibilities here and has run with it!  Why, you ask, are the Office of Homeland Security and the CBP involved?  To protect us from ourselves, of course!  Aside from the possibility that the “toy” in the center of this purported candy could possibly be assembled into a ‘weapon of mass destruction’, American children and their parents are potentially subjected to all the dangers accompanying something so vile of its very nature. 

Yes, the FDA bans these products, prohibits possession of the candies, and denies Americans the privilege of buying these dangers and transporting them across the borders of the United States and into this country.   The Italian candy company Ferrero manufactures the candies in various plants throughout the world and incredibly sells them worldwide.  The egg is about the size of a large chicken egg.  It is purchased foil-wrapped.  Upon unwrapping the egg, a chocolate shell is revealed.  When the chocolate shell has been consumed one finds a plastic container with the toy within.  According to reports, the plastic shell with the toy inside is not easily opened.  The toy is sometimes made up of small parts that must be assembled into the actual “prize”, if you will.  Apparently this is way too dangerous for Americans and the FDA is saving us from ourselves…. Except that there is a Chinese-made copycat product which is much more readily available on American store shelves.  Gee, I hope THOSE toys don’t contain lead!

So while giant animal feedlots feed millions of tons of antibiotics to animals that wind up on our tables for consumption, and the big biotechs screw around with the very basic composition of our food down to its genetic make-up, and dairy farmers shoot-up their milk cows with hormones and feed ‘em antibiotics, the FDA outlaws the sale of chocolate eggs.  Would somebody please explain this to me?????   Wait- I've got it!  Ferrero, the chocolate egg manufacturer, isn’t funneling tons of cash into the grimy, greedy hands of Congress and the MonsanFDAto!

Wednesday, July 20, 2011


What is Bisphenol-A?  a plastics additive; a synthetic form of the estrogen hormone; a ubiquitous industrial chemical in use for over 50 years

Where is it found? in beverage containers, infant feeding bottles, plastic dinnerware and plastic storage containers, in the epoxy resin lining of food and beverage cans; in the cord blood of newborns; in the urine of people who ingest it

What’s the concern?  BPA leaches into the contents of these baby bottles, plastic containers, and cans- into the consumable contents even at cool temps.  In laboratory tests the chemical has been linked to breast and testicular cancers, diabetes, hyperactivity, obesity, lower sperm count, miscarriage reproductive problems, and heart disease. 

What does the FDA say about BPA?  The FDA has no problem with BPA.  After two studies were done on BPA indicating it was harmless, the FDA approved it for use in the US.  After it was revealed that the labs that had conducted those two tests were linked to the chemical industry trade group, studies were done by scientific and university labs.  Those two hundred studies indicated that there were possible problems with BPA.  However the FDA never “pulled” it. 

Has anyone outlawed it? Ten of the fifty United States, the European Union, Canada, China, and a US municipality and various counties (Chicago, some NY counties) have restricted its use.  Manufacturers of most baby bottles have discontinued its use, however the cheaper brands found at some discount stores still carry baby and toddler products that contain BPA. 

Why does the debate still continue?  Babies and children have fewer defenses against irritants and pollutants, plus they have (hopefully) long lives ahead of them during which time they face ingestion of large quantities of possibly harmful “stuff”- like drugs, poisons, additives, pesticides, toxins, and carcinogens.  Therefore some activists and organizations which are watchdogs are crusading against the use of BPA in items that come into contact with food and drink.  The industry is fighting back by casting doubt on the scientific findings.

My take on the situation: Better safe than sorry.  I wonder why we need a synthetic hormone in our food at all.  One more unknown in the giant equation… why take the risk?  Other countries take the approach of banning a chemical until it’s proven safe.  We allow a chemical until it’s proven harmful.  Why?        

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's that doing in my bread?

Did you ever wonder why there is such a long list of ingredients on your food labels?  Take bread, for instance.  Bread and the human race have a long history together.  In its “manna” form it gave nourishment to the Israelites; along with “a jug of wine and thou” it makes for a great intimate lunch.  It exists in many cultures, under various forms, and it’s even got great symbolic meaning.  Bread has historically been made of flour, yeast, water and salt.  You can add sugar, eggs, oatmeal, cinnamon, raisins…. well, I could go on.  So if all it takes is just four ingredients, why do we see a list of fifteen or more on our bread wrappers?  And by the way, what is all that stuff?  If it has that many syllables, I don’t think it belongs in my food!  Take for instance Azodicarbonamide, or Azodicarboxamide as the FDA likes to call it.  (Let’s call it ADA here so I don’t get cramps in my fingers.)  It’s a bleaching agent and a flour-maturing agent.  Is that ADA’s principal use… conditioning the flour in our bread?  No, as a matter of fact its principal use is to make gaskets for use around door- and window-frames, shoe soles, and padded floor mats.  (That’s floor not flour!)  In other words it’s used in the manufacture of foam plastics- food not so much-- at least not in other countries.  The UK, Australia and Europe don’t allow it.  Singapore goes a little further:  you face a fine of $450,000 and a jail term for using it… those Singaporeans apparently take their bread seriously.  Some of the caveats for folks handling it are downright scary!  Inhalation of ADA may cause asthma or trigger asthma; it must not come in contact with skin; it’s to be kept out of the reach of children; one must wear suitable gloves, eye and face protection when using it.  (Do bakers get hazard pay?  Maybe they should.)  Anyway the FDA allows it in our food, although according to the FDA it’s NOT used in any of our food, but it would be OK with them if it were.  Well, FDA, check your bread wrappers!   I found it listed on the labels of most of the brands in my supermarket.  (I couldn’t read them all, I was drawing a crowd.)  Additionally, McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, Panera and Dunkin’ Donuts use it in their breads and rolls, too.  What’s the answer?  Make your own, buy a bread machine, buy and bake frozen bread (it’s not listed on the frozen bread wrapper in my freezer), buy a brand that doesn’t use it, or move to the UK, Australia, Europe or Singapore- although it would be easier to just check labels. Oh, and let’s not tell the FDA.  I want to see the expression on their faces when they find out it’s in our bread already!!