Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Lapses in FDA's inspections for fresh spinach safety

The U.S. House of Representatives’ Oversight and Government Reform Committee has released a report from finding significant lapses in the FDA’s current inspection regime for packaged fresh spinach:

Monday, March 10, 2008

"Humane Society Sues USDA over mad-cow safety rules"

“Humane Society Sues USDA over mad-cow safety rules”

Ilan Brat et al., Wall Street Journal (Feb. 28, 2008) (subscription required)

The Humane Society filed suit last week against the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) over a purported loophole in regulations meant to prevent bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE). Under USDA regulations, “downer cattle” that cannot stand or walk on their own are generally prohibited from entering the human food supply because inability to walk is a symptom of BSE. But in July 2007, USDA issued a regulatory exception to that rule, allowing federal veterinarians to determine case-by-case whether to permit non-ambulatory cattle that become injured following an initial inspection.

“It’s an inconsistent policy in the sense that the timing of the animal going down is irrelevant in terms of the food-safety or animal-health issues,” said Wayne Pacelle, president of the Humane Society. USDA declined comment on the pending litigation. According to Ron DeHaven, chief executive of the American Veterinary Medical Association and former administrator of animal testing at USDA, three main safeguards protect humans from eating BSE-infected meat, which can lead to a fatal brain affliction. First, hundreds of thousands of high risk cattle have been tested by USDA since 2003 (with only one in a million diagnosed with BSE); second, USDA generally prohibits downer cattle; third, USDA prohibits feed containing brain, spinal-cord tissue and other parts that could contain BSE. Immediately prior to filing suit, the Humane Society released a video showing workers at a meat plant in California processing downer cattle for human consumption; the video prompted the recall of 143 million pounds of beef.

[The complaint by the Humane Society filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia is available at:]

Thursday, March 06, 2008

Cloned Food - Son of Frankenfood?

From an interesting article in The Economist, Son of Frankenfood?:

IT IS beyond our imagination to even find a theory that would cause the food to be unsafe.” With that ringing endorsement, Stephen Sundlof, the chief food-safety expert at America's Food and Drug Administration (FDA), this week declared food derived from the offspring of cloned cows, pigs and goats to be safe for human consumption. The decision came just days after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) publicly reached the same conclusion. . . . [Emphasis added.]

Nonetheless, there seem to be lingering innuendo that cloned food may be unsafe. For example, take the untrue statement from the (inappropriately named) Center for Food Safety, “In January 2008, the FDA essentially told the public that the meat and milk from cloned livestock are safe for human consumption. FDA's action flies in the face of widespread scientific concern about the risks of food from clones . . .”

Can anyone think of a remotely plausible theory or scenario that would cause the food to be unsafe?