Consumer groups and food inspectors represented by the American Federation of Government Employees will join forces Monday in a rally to protest proposed changes to the way poultry is inspected.
The protesters are scheduled to gather outside the Agriculture Department headquarters at Jefferson Drive in Southwest Washington at 11:30 a.m. Monday.
The Agriculture Department’s Food Safety and Inspection Service has proposed a new inspection system for young chicken and turkey slaughter establishments that is designed to improve the system’s effectiveness. The shift would focus resources on areas of the poultry production system that pose the greatest risk to food safety, relying less on armies of inspectors to eyeball animal carcasses in search of bruising, tumors or visible signs of contamination.
The new rules would reduce the number of inspectors on slaughter lines, and assign more inspectors to focus on testing poultry for pathogens and other high-risk contaminants. Some regulatory requirements the government considers outdated would be removed and replaced with more “flexible and effective testing,” according to the proposed changes.
Opponents, including the unions that represent inspectors, claim the changes would reduce the overall number of inspectors and increase the number of birds each inspector must examine, potentially putting consumers at risk.
You might have missed this while you were busy taking the kids to school and preparing for the holidays, but last fall, two U.S. food labeling programs suffered serious legal setbacks that threaten to confuse consumers and thwart the intentions of the “dolphin-safe” tuna and “country-of-origin” labels.
The details are complicated, but in September and November, two dispute panels for the World Trade Organization in Switzerland sided in part with Mexico and Canada on complaints against the voluntary dolphin-safe label and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s mandatory country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Mexico argued that U.S. dolphin-safe standards are misleading and discriminate against the controversial fishing techniques that Mexico employs to catch tuna. Canada argued that the COOL program discriminates against imported cattle and hogs.
Reactions to the WTO rulings have ranged from tranquil to concerned to downright outraged. Major U.S. tuna producers say they won’t change their dolphin-safe sourcing standards even if they have to change their labels. Pork and beef producers worry that Mexico and Canada might apply tariffs to U.S. meat imports if the U.S. government doesn’t comply with the WTO rulings on COOL, a regulation the meat industry has had mixed feelings about since its implementation in early 2009.
And some nonprofit groups are frustrated that the United States finds itself in this position at all. They’ve long predicted that America’s binding membership in the WTO could lead to this: sacrificing important U.S. environmental and public-safety laws in the name of free international trade.
“There has been widespread concern,” wrote the nonpartisan advocacy group Public Citizen after the dolphin-safe ruling in September, that the WTO could “second guess the U.S. Congress, courts or public by elevating the goal of maximizing trade flows over consumer and environmental protection.”
The Maui County Farm Bureau (MCFB) will present the second annual Maui Ag Day with a focus on “Understanding Food Safety Certification” on Friday, Aug. 26, from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. at Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Company located at 872 Hāli‘imaile Road.
The trade show, panel discussion, tour and parking are free and open to the general public.
The day opens with the trade show and continental breakfast. At 9 a.m., the event will feature a Food Safety Certification Panel Presentation by three Maui farmers who have completed the Food Safety Certification process: Heidi Watanabe of Watanabe Processing, Geoff Haines of Pacific Produce and Brian Igersheim of Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Co. At 10:30 a.m., tour of Hāli‘imaile Pineapple Company facilities and pineapple fields. A Grown on Maui lunch will be provided to MCFB members at 11:45 a.m.; non-members may purchase lunch.
HALIIMAILE – The Maui County Farm Bureau will host the second annual Maui Ag Day with a focus on understanding food safety certification from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Friday at Haliimaile Pineapple Co.
The trade show, a panel presentation on food safety, tour and parking are free. That event will be held at 872 Haliimaile Road.
A “Grown on Maui” lunch is free for Maui County Farm Bureau members. There is a fee for nonmembers.
Those planning to attend should RSVP by Wednesday. For more information, send email to warrenmcfb@hot mail.com or call 243-2290.
By Keith B. Richburg,
BEIJING — “Bodybuilder” pigs given illegal growth hormones in their feed. Harmful additives to make pork taste like beef. Outdated steamed buns painted with coloring to look new. Formaldehyde in a popular Sichuan dish. Exploding watermelons treated with plant growth chemicals.
These are just some of the many food scares in China in recent days and weeks that have made local newspaper headlines and caused growing public anxiety — and anger — among Chinese consumers about the quality of what they eat and drink.
“I’m really worried about food safety,” said Li Suhua, 57, who is retired and was shopping for her family recently at a fruit and vegetable market. She said she now comes to the market two or three hours before cooking, to give herself time to soak leafy green vegetables free of pesticides. As for meat, she said, “I’m even more worried. We haven’t eaten chicken for a long time, because I heard they gave hormones to chickens.”
“It’s really horrifying,” she said.
BEIJING – CHINA must adopt a holistic approach to addressing food safety challenges connected to the risk of contracting infectious diseases from contact with animals, the World Health Organisation (WHO) has said.
Peter Ben Embarek, food safety officer at WHO’s China office, said the country faces risks connected to the need to produce more meat, eggs and milk to feed its growing population. He said the increased production will ramp up the risk of people being infected by food-borne diseases because of poor slaughtering oversight and the absence of proper surveillance and inspection systems.
About 50 per cent of pigs in China are slaughtered outside of formal facilities without the inspection of veterinarians or food safety officers. He said poorly trained producers have little or no awareness of food safety or the risk of animal diseases being passed on to humans.
Such an environment could lead to the emergence of a new pandemic of influenza.
TU.S. farmers, processors not required to test for deadly E. coli strain
By Lyndsey Layton, Thursday, June 2, 8:28 AM
The bacterium that has killed more than a dozen Europeans, sickened nearly 2,000 more and raised international alarms would be legal if it were found on meat or poultry in the United States.
If the bacterium were to contaminate fruits or vegetables grown here, there would be no way to prevent an outbreak, because farmers and processors are not required to test for the pathogen before the food heads to supermarkets.
“If somehow this strain got into that same environment and spread rapidly, it would represent a major disaster in terms of the U.S. food industry and risk to humans,” said J. Glenn Morris, a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture who directs the Emerging Pathogens Institute at the University of Florida. “The regulatory framework is a couple of steps behind.”
The strain that has emerged in Europe is a particularly virulent version of E. coli 0104 and, in the outbreak that began in early May, has been linked to more than 1,600 illnesses and 18 deaths. About 500 people — an unusually large percentage of those who have been sickened — have developed a life-threatening kidney complication known as hemolytic uremic syndrome, for which there is no treatment.
PRAGUE, Czech Republic — Spanish vegetables suspected of contamination with a potentially deadly bacteria are being recalled from stores in Austria and the Czech Republic to prevent the spread of a deadly outbreak, officials said Sunday.
The death toll from the bacteria rose to at least 10 people, and hundreds across Europe have been sickened.