A Project of Animal Place
October 16, 2002
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1. AWI Founder/President Christine Stevens Has Passed Away
2. Largest Meat Recall Ever
3. "The Root Cause of the Problem"
4. The Government's "Inexcusable Dereliction of Duty"
5. Producer Groups Fight Mandatory Animal Identification
6. Upcoming Events: "Veal 101," "Food Animal Veterinarians" Conference
1. AWI FOUNDER/PRESIDENT CHRISTINE STEVENS HAS PASSED AWAY
Christine Stevens, founder and president of the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), passed away on October 10th. Mrs. Stevens founded AWI in 1951, guided by her father, Dr. Robert Gesell, then-head of the physiology department of the U. of Michigan. In 1955, she founded the Society for Animal Protective Legislation (SAPL), the institute's lobbying arm. Over the years, SAPL has had a hand in writing the Humane Slaughter Act, the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act and the Endangered Species Act, among other laws. During her 5 decades of activism, Mrs. Stevens was an advocate for animals used in agriculture and research, wildlife and companion animals.
2. LARGEST MEAT RECALL EVER
Last week, 27.4 million pounds of cooked turkey and chicken meat were recalled by Pilgrim's Pride, making it the largest meat recall in history. Listeria contamination was found during an investigation of an outbreak that sickened at least 120 people and killed 20 in 8 Northeastern states. The recalled meat had been processed between May 1st and October 11th and distributed nationally. Pilgrim's Pride is the 2nd largest poultry company in the U.S. (Tyson Foods being the largest).
"US Food Safety Efforts Struggle Amid Death, Illness," Reuters, Carey Gillam, October 7 2002
3. "THE ROOT CAUSE OF THE PROBLEM"
Common animal production practices, whereby large numbers of animals are kept crowded together in manure, incubate a variety of hazardous pathogens. Manure can also contaminate water used to irrigate crops. Consumer and environmental groups contend that food contamination risks have risen sharply with the industrialization of animal production, slaughter and processing. Notes a Sierra Club spokesperson, "When these animals arrive at the slaughterhouses, their hides are already filthy with manure from being raised in such confined spaces and they are more likely to be stressed, which helps create more pathogens." Pilgrim's Pride counters that animals are raised in pens within huge plants to ensure total control over their environment.
"Consumer Groups Accuse U.S. of Negligence on Food Safety," The New York Times, Elizabeth Becker, October 15, 2002.
"SPECIAL REPORT: NAMP expert targets Top Ten food-safety challenges," Daily News, The Meating Place, Dan Murphy, October 9, 2002.
"Operating Committee Approves 2003 Plan of Work, CBB press release, September 27, 2002.
4. THE GOVERNMENT'S "INEXCUSABLE DERELICTION OF DUTY"
Consumer and environmental groups are blaming the government for failing to set adequate safety standards for the meat industry. Carol Tucker Foreman of the Consumer Federation of America declared, "The illnesses are the result of inexcusable dereliction of duty by the government agency charged with assuring meat safety." Other consumer advocates share her view that USDA's Food Safety Inspection Service's "attitude problem" is due to its "think[ing] in terms of industry." This is perceptible in the agency's recently issued "Guidance on Risk Reduction during Animal Production." The document repeatedly stresses the need for cost effective measures. It alerts industry to be aware of the practices being examined so they can have input on the process and raise concerns about, among other things, the economic impact of implementing new practices. The document claims "Currently, no clear association has been found between management factors and the presence of E coli or Salmonella spp." The only specific comment it makes concerning housing is: "Separating calves from adults shows some effect in reducing prevalence/shedding of E. coli O157:H7 in calves." It also notes that "Cattle should be prevented from standing in or defecating in [water] troughs." Other management practices the agency may potentially recommend are such technological measures as vaccines, transgenic feeds, and drugs. The document can be accessed at: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/OPPDE/rdad/FRPubs/00-022N/RiskReductionGuidance.htm
"ConAgra, meat safety dominates closed USDA meeting with consumer groups," Food Chemical News, August 5, 2002.
"Commentary: Memo to Murano – History beckons the bold in food-safety fight," Daily News, The Meating Place, Dan Murphy, October 4, 2002.
5. PRODUCER GROUPS FIGHT MANDATORY ANIMAL IDENTIFICATION
Efforts to develop a national system to trace food to its source are being blocked by farm groups fearing lawsuits if consumers become sick. Nationwide, an estimated 79 million illnesses, 300,000 hospitalizations, and 5,000 deaths are blamed on food-borne disease. Advocates say such a national identification system is needed to help control potentially disastrous diseases and to serve as a deterrent to unscrupulous operators. Producers say they fear being blamed for contamination that occurs in feedlots or in processing plants.
"Farms Fight Food Tracing," Des Moines Register, Philip Brasher, September 22, 2002.
"Can Industry Make ‘ID' Happen?" National Hog Farmer, Joe Vansickle, September 15, 2002.
"Partnerships, verification seen critical for meat production," Feedstuffs, Rod Smith, 09/09/02.
6 UPCOMING EVENTS "VEAL 101," "FOOD ANIMAL VETERINARIANS" CONFERENCE
The Sixth Annual Veal 101 short course will be held at Penn State University on October 20-22nd. The course "is an intensive, hands-on training" for anyone involved in the production and marketing of veal and for those who work to promote veal. A farm tour is included with the $300 course. According to the brochure, there are about 1,000 "special fed veal growers" in the U.S. The primary veal production states are Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, and Wisconsin. For more information, contact the Pennsylvania Beef Council at: (717) 939-7000.