A Project of Animal Place
July 18, 2002
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1. Women Warned About Hormones
2. USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service Criticized For HACCP/HIMP
3. Food Poisoning Outbreak Prompts FSIS Policy Change
4. Genetically-Induced Chicken Welfare Problems
5. Single Building to Hold 2.4 Million Hens
6. Australia Bans Some Cattle Shipments After 900 Die
7. UK Live Animal Exports Denounced
1. WOMEN WARNED ABOUT HORMONES
Government scientists called to an early halt the nation's largest study of
estrogen/progestin replacement after it was determined that the risks of
long-term administration of the hormones, in terms of potentially deadly
diseases, were greater than the benefits. (See back issues #25 & 66.)
Extended use was found to increase otherwise healthy women's risk of stroke
by 41%, heart attack by 29% and breast cancer by 24%. While the risk of
colon cancer and hip fractures were lessened by a third, these conditions
can be warded off in other ways. A New York Times (NYT) article notes: "It
was a powerful scientific counterattack to years of strong promotion of
hormone replacement." Last year, 45 million prescriptions for Premarin and
22 million for Prempro ("the same drug with a progestin chaser") were filled
in the U.S.
Estrogen replacement began in the early 1900's with extracts from pigs'
ovaries. By the `40's, estrogen was being mass produced from pregnant mares'
urine (see back issues #29 & 66). The drug's early proponent, Robert Wilson,
and the effects it had on his family, are discussed in the NYT article and a
New Jersey Online article. In "Feminine Forever" (1966), Dr. Wilson deemed
menopause to be a "living decay" whereby women would descend into a "vapid,
cow-like state." According to Time Magazine, he professed that with
estrogen, "She would not only feel better but also make those around her
feel better–especially, it was implied, her partner in bed." Wilson was
funded by the drug's maker, Wyeth-Ayerst. The NYT article concludes with an
explanation of the interests beyond women's health that are at stake over
the recent news, such as grants and careers. Information on alternatives can
be found in the Time article and at:
"Hormone Replacement Study a Shock to the Medical System," The New York
Times, Gina Kolata and Melody Petersen, July 10, 2002.
"Advocate's son feared dangers of hormones," New Jersey Online, Rebecca
"The End of the Age of Estrogen," Newsweek, Geoffrey Cowley/Karen Springen,
July 22, 2002.
"The Truth about Hormones," Time Magazine, Christine Gorman and Alice Park,
July 22, 2002.
2. USDA'S FOOD SAFETY INSPECTION SERVICE CRITICIZED FOR HACCP/HIMP
Contaminated meat is being distributed for public consumption despite HACCP,
the government meat inspection system. This is one of the findings of a
report on the system by the General Accounting Office (GAO), the
investigative agency of Congress. The Hazard Analysis Critical Control
Points (HACCP) program, instituted by the USDA's Food Safety Inspection
Service (FSIS) went into effect in 1996, after the meat industry petitioned
for it. It was intended to transfer some food safety responsibilities from
government inspectors to slaughterplant employees. Instead of inspecting the
killing and processing of each individual animal, inspectors are to monitor
how well a plant implements its own HACCP program. The GAO investigation
found poorly designed inspection plans, faulty testing for bacteria,
inadequate supervision by poorly trained inspectors, recordkeeping
deficiencies, and an overall lack of enforcement.
Though it is estimated that it will take years before FSIS can even
initially review the plan of every company, under HACCP the vast majority of
USDA inspection activities in these plants are based on these plans. Of the
47 plants GAO audited, 94% failed to meet regulatory requirements. Touted as
a "science-based system," FSIS will not review the scientific validity of a
company's plans unless there is evidence of hazard, such as repeat food
safety law violations or a meat recall. Notes Carol Tucker Foreman, director
of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America, "The
tradition at USDA is you do everything possible to avoid closing a plant
because the USDA's mandate from Congress is to promote consumption and
production of agricultural products." The GAO report is the second
independent audit critical of the HACCP system. A newer, pilot program, the
HACCP-based inspection models project (HIMP), which is designed to transfer
yet more inspection responsibilities to industry, has also been the subject
of recent criticism, despite rave reviews about it by the USDA. Meanwhile,
the incidence of certain types of food-borne bacteria is showing a general
"Federal Audit Faults Department's Meat and Poultry Inspection System," The
New York Times, Marian Burros, July 10, 2002.
"GAO Report Sharply Critical of Government's Science-Based, In Disarray,
Food Inspection System," Cox News Service, Elliot Jaspin, July 10, 2002.
"GAO Report Confirms Criticisms of Meat Inspection System," Government
Accountability Project/Public Citizen press release, July 16, 2002.
"New HIMP data shows previously unrevealed problems," Food Chemical News,
Allison Beers, June 10, 2002.
3. FOOD POISONING OUTBREAK PROMPTS FSIS POLICY CHANGE
Federal inspectors are to now notify a meat processor immediately when they
suspect beef from it may be contaminated. The change in policy was
instituted after 18 people were sickened by ground beef containing
potentially lethal E. coli bacteria. The Food Safety Inspection Service
(FSIS) inspectors waited 2 weeks to tell ConAgra they suspected meat from
its Denver plant was contaminated with E. coli O157:H7. In the meantime, the
inspectors did follow-up testing to be certain of the source. FSIS then
asked ConAgra to conduct a recall of 354,000 pounds of beef, which ConAgra
did the next day (June 29th). The meat had been processed a month earlier,
and by then was being sold and consumed in 20 states across the country.
Four of the 18 poisoned victims were hospitalized, including a boy who was
airlifted to a hospital and a 2-year old girl who was put on dialysis
treatment. "This is not just a disservice to the public, but it's gambling
with the public health to ensure the USDA is not harming a company," said
Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in
the Public Interest. A Denver Post editorial calls for mandatory in-house
testing by all meat processors and more frequent random testing by FSIS.
"USDA Inspectors Slow to Reveal Suspicions about Possibly Contaminated
Beef," The Denver Post, July 14, 2002.
"USDA Speeds Contamination Policy," Associated Press, Robert Gehrke, July
"Improve meat testing, " Denver Post, July 16, 2002.
4. GENETICALLY-INDUCED CHICKEN WELFARE PROBLEMS
Scientists are constantly manipulating chicken genetics. Intensively
selecting for production traits, such as fast-growth or high egg-laying
ability, causes serious welfare problems. Hens used for egg production
develop weak and deformed bones if they do not ingest enough calcium [which
is difficult for them to do]. University of Alberta poultry specialist Frank
Robinson considers it "one of our biggest animal welfare violations." If a
hen cannot obtain enough calcium from feed, it is derived from her bones.
This process becomes increasingly difficult, resulting in a weakened bird
and soft-shelled eggs. "They will lay themselves out of calcium," Robinson
"Genetics blamed for broken bones in chickens," Western Producer, Barbara
5. SINGLE BUILDING TO HOLD 2.4 MILLION HENS
A native American community and the head of a family egg empire are
collaborating on what will be one of the country's largest hen houses. When
completed, the $20 million building will be able to hold 2.4 million birds
and turn out over 1 million eggs a day. The Ak-Chin, an Arizona tribe, are
financing the Mobile, Az. operation with proceeds from their casino. They
will be leasing it to the Hickmans, owners of Hickman's Egg Ranch Inc. The
family is currently collaborating with another entity to build a 2
million-hen facility in South Dakota. All told the Hickmans will have about
6 million hens who will supply about 2% of U.S. eggs. They are betting that
a long-depressed egg market is about to turn around. Regarding the size of
the operation, Glenn Hickman notes, "We used to have one person for 10,000
chickens. Now we have one for every 150,000."
"Egg ranchers move to Mobile, plan 1 million eggs a day," Arizona Republic,
Max Jarman, July 15, 2002.
6. AUSTRALIA BANS SOME CATTLE SHIPMENTS AFTER 900 DIE
Australia has banned the export of certain breeds of cattle from southern
ports to the Arabian Gulf after the recent death of nearly 900 animals. Most
of the fatalities occurred aboard a brand new, "state-of-the-art" farmed
animal transport ship on a trip from Australia to the Middle East earlier
this month. A vet was on board but the cattle, being of European ancestry,
were unable to tolerate the extreme temperature and humidity differences
after having recently resided in the southern Australian winter. The ship
was carrying 2,000 cattle and 63,000 sheep. Nervous about disease, Saudi
Arabian authorities refused to let any of the animals off, live or dead. It
was also not permissible to cast the dead animals into the water. Animals
continued to died before and after reaching the next port, the United Arab
Emirates, 6 days later. An investigation was automatically conducted as is
the case when the death rate is greater than 1%. The same company was banned
in 1999 from exporting live cattle to the region after more than 400 animals
died of inadequate ventilation and other reasons in 1998. Breeds such as
Angus and Herefords can no longer be sent, and others are limited to 500 per
The Australian live cattle export trade has increased 9-fold in the past
decade to about 822,000 per year. Sheep are even more lucrative with about
6.8 million exported live last year. The Middle East and Southeast Asia are
the primary markets, where fresh-killed meat is a cultural (rather than
religious) demand. Animal protection advocates are also concerned that
animals are not stunned prior to being killed in the importing countries.
"State-of-the-art transport is no cruise in cattle class," The Australian,
Sian Powell, July 12, 2002
"Australia Bans Cattle Shipments After 900 Die on Ship to Middle East,"
Agence France Press (AnimalNet), July 16, 2002.
7. UK LIVE ANIMAL EXPORTS DENOUNCED
UK Animal Welfare Minister Elliot Morley is urging an end to the long
distance transport of animals for slaughter. "It can't be right that sheep
are taken from the UK all the way to southern Europe for slaughter; even
with the intervening rest periods I am not happy that the welfare of the
animals concerned can be guaranteed," he stated. Mr. Morley noted that the
trade also hurts the British meat industry and labor market. He said he will
be scrutinizing route plans and exporters. The trade is allowed under EU
rules, which are currently under review. Morley will be pressing the
Commission for better enforcement of the rules, and ease in identifying and
acting against those in violation of them.
"‘End long distance live exports' - Morley," National Pig Association (UK),
July 15, 2002.