Posts Tagged Lean Finely Textured Beef

Giant Food Corporations Work Hand-In-Glove With Corrupt Government Agencies To Dish Up Cheap, Unhealthy Food

Big Food Is Making Us Sick

FDA corrupt factory food legislation

Factory Food

The Independent reports that small farmers are being challenged by food companies are becoming insanely concentrated:
Increasingly, a handful of multinationals are tightening their grip on the commodity markets, with potentially dramatic effects for consumers and food producers alike.
Three companies now account for more than 40 per cent of global coffee sales, eight companies control the supply of cocoa and chocolate, seven control 85 per cent of tea production, five account for 75 per cent of the world banana trade, and the largest six sugar traders account for about two-thirds of world trade, according to the new publication from the Fairtrade Foundation.

This is the year “to put the politics of food on the public agenda and find better solutions to the insanity of our broken food system”.

More people may be shopping ethically – sales of Fairtrade cocoa grew by more than 20 per cent last year to £153m – but, according to the report, the world’s food system is “dangerously out of control”.
How is that effecting the safety of our food supply? Reuters notes:
Multinational food, drink and alcohol companies are using strategies similar to those employed by the tobacco industry to undermine public health policies, health experts said on Tuesday.

In an international analysis of involvement by so-called “unhealthy commodity” companies in health policy-making, researchers from Australia, Britain, Brazil and elsewhere said … that through the aggressive marketing of ultra-processed food and drink, multinational companies were now major drivers of the world’s growing epidemic of chronic diseases such as heart disease, cancer and diabetes.

Writing in The Lancet medical journal, the researchers cited industry documents they said revealed how companies seek to shape health legislation and avoid regulation.

This is done by “building financial and institutional relations” with health professionals, non-governmental organizations and health agencies, distorting research findings, and lobbying politicians to oppose health reforms, they said.

They cited analysis of published research which found systematic bias from industry funding: articles sponsored exclusively by food and drinks companies were between four and eight times more likely to have conclusions that favored the companies than those not sponsored by them.
How are giant food manufacturers trying to influence legislation?

As Waking Times reports, they’re trying to gag all reporting:
States are adopting laws meant to keep consumers in the dark about where their food comes from.

Do you have a right to know where that steak on your plate came from?

Should it be legal to photograph chicken farms and dairy cows?

Big Agriculture says you don’t and it shouldn’t. Armies of Big Ag lobbyists are pushing for new state-level laws across the country to keep us all in the dark. Less restrictive versions have been law in some states since the 1980s, but the meat industry has ratcheted up a radical new campaign.

This wave of “ag-gag” bills would criminalize whistleblowers, investigators, and journalists who expose animal welfare abuses at factory farms and slaughterhouses. Ten states considered “ag-gag” bills last year, and Iowa, Missouri, and Utah approved them. Even more are soon to follow.

Had these laws been in force, the Humane Society might have been prosecuted for documenting repeated animal welfare and food safety violations at Hallmark/Westland, formerly the second-largest supplier of beef to the National School Lunch Program. Cows too sick to walk were being slaughtered and that meat was shipped to our schools, endangering our kids. The investigation led to the largest meat recall in U.S. history.

Big Ag wants to silence whistleblowers rather than clean up its act. Ag-gag bills are now pending in Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Indiana, Nebraska, and New Hampshire. Similar legislation may crop up in North Carolina and Minnesota.

The bills aren’t identical, but they share common language — sometimes even word-for-word. Some criminalize anyone who even “records an image or sound” from a factory farm. Others mandate that witnesses report abuses within a few hours, which would make it impossible for whistleblowers to secure advice and protection, or for them to document a pattern of abuses.

Indiana’s version of this cookie-cutter legislation ominously begins with the statement that farmers have the right to “engage in agricultural operations free from the threat of terrorism and interference from unauthorized third persons.” [The Feds are treating people who expose abuse in factory farms as potential terrorists … and the states want the same power.]

Yet these bills aren’t about violence or terrorism. They’re about truth-telling that’s bad for branding. For these corporations, a “terrorist” is anyone who threatens their profits by exposing inhumane practices that jeopardize consumer health.

Ag-gag bills aren’t about silencing journalists and whistleblowers. They’re about curbing consumer access to information at a time when more and more Americans want to know where our food comes from and how it’s produced.

The problem for corporations is that when people have information, they act on it. During a recent ag-gag hearing in Indiana, one of the nation’s largest egg producers told lawmakers about a recent investigation. After an undercover video was posted online, 50 customers quickly called and stopped buying their eggs. An informed public is the biggest threat to business as usual.

An informed public is also the biggest threat to these ag-gag bills. In Wyoming, one of the bills has already failed. According to sponsors, it was abandoned in part because of negative publicity. By shining a light on these attempts, we can make sure that the rest fail as well, while protecting the right of consumers to know what they’re buying.

So what – exactly – are the giant food corporations trying to hide?

They are fraudulently substituting cheaper – less healthy – food for high-quality. food.   And see this.

Indeed, the dairy industry wants to add sweeteners – such as aspartame – to milk without any labeling.

Food fraud is rampant .. including huge proportions of fish.

The bottom line is that collusion between government and big business is dishing up cheap, unhealthy food … just like collusion between D.C. and giant corporations caused the financial crisis, the Fukushima nuclear meltdown, the Gulf oil spill and other major disasters (and see this; and take a peek at number 9).

For example, the FDA:

  • Declared fish from Fukushima a-okay after radiation spewed into the ocean

The Department of Agriculture:

An official U.S. government report finds that Americans ‘are sicker and die younger’ than people in other wealthy nations.  There are a number of factors for this sickness … but unhealthy, cheap food is part of it.

Read more:

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The “Pink Slime” in Your Kid’s School Lunch

By Tom Philpott
Like a horror-film villain, “pink slime”—the cheeky nickname for scraps of slaughtered cow that have been pulverized, defatted, subjected to ammonia steam to kill pathogens, and congealed into a filler for ground beef—takes a pounding but keeps coming back.

Last month, McDonald’s announced it would stop using the stuff. But just this week, pink slime got a de facto endorsement from none other than the USDA, which—the online journal The Daily reported—plans to keep buying millions of pounds of it for use in the National School Lunch Program.

These developments are just the latest installments of a long-playing drama. The product first entered my consciousness in the 2008 documentary Food, Inc., when the product’s maker, Beef Products International, was proud enough of its now-infamous burger extender to do what no other meat company would: invite filmmaker Robert Kenner into its factory to film its shop floor in action.

The scene, video below, features a Beef Products executive talking over a milieu straight out of Chaplin’s Modern Times: a vast network of steaming tubes, with people in protective gear and face masks wandering about fussing with dials. Pale chunks of fat and sinew are whisked up on a conveyor belt into a machine, from which they emerge as a coarse paste before entering more machines. “From the food safety standpoint, we’re ahead of everybody,” the exec says, touting his firm’s ammonia process. “We think we can lessen the incidence of E. coli O157:H7” (a deadly strain). The clip ends with those heavily protected workers carefully shutting the finished product—uniform, flesh-colored blocks—into boxes. Over that image, the exec claims that the product ends up in 70 percent of hamburgers served in the US. “In five years we’ll be in 100 percent,” he predicts.

Before the exec’s prophesy could be tested, the product received a devastating blow in the form of an investigative report from the New York Times’ Michael Moss. This article brought the phrase “pink slime” into public view. The nickname emerged, Moss reports, from an internal 2002 email by a USDA microbiologist, who declared he found the practice of labeling the stuff as ground beef to be “fraudulent.” But the real scandal uncovered by Moss was that “Lean Finely Textured Beef”—the USDA’s preferred phrase for you-know-what—wasn’t performing as advertised.

You see, Beef Products International was marketing the stuff to beef processors, fast-food chains, and school cafeteria directors as a solution to the problem of ground beef riddled with pathogens, many of which have evolved resistance to antibiotics. The idea was that pink slime contained enough ammonia that, when you mixed it with ground beef, it would effectively sterilize the resulting blend. And the USDA and FDA had taken that promise at face value, Moss reports. One “top official” of the USDA’s division that oversees the meat supply assured Moss, “It eliminates E. coli to the same degree as if you cooked the product.”

Yet that premise was false. Rather than eliminating pathogens from burger mixes, pink slime was often actually adding pathogens, Moss revealed. Beef Product International’s raw material, fatty trimmings that come mainly from the outside of the carcass, tend to be loaded with E. coli and salmonella. The company had been lowering its ammonia dose based on complaints about flavor. Possibly as a result, in tests conducted by the National School Lunch Program between 2005 and 2009, pink slime tested positive for salmonella at a rate four times higher than the conventional burger mix it was supposed to sterilize, Moss revealed.

The USDA had kept purchasing huge amounts of pink slime for schoolchildren despite the positive tests, Moss noted, precisely because it was cheaper than pure ground meat. “School lunch officials said they ultimately agreed to use the treated meat because it shaved about 3 cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef,” Moss reported.

His report generated outrage in some circles. “Three cents off the cost of making a pound of ground beef,” a certain blogger for Grist magazine groaned. “Under the severe fiscal austerity that school cafeteria administrators operate under, pinching those three pennies is a rational decision, even if it means subjecting children to ammonia-ridden slime that may contain pathogens.” But the company shook off such high-profile derision, and the School Lunch Program and the company’s fast-food customers remained loyal buyers.

That is, until Jamie Oliver took up the cause on his Food Revolution show last spring. He endeavored to make pink slime from butcher scraps in front of a live audience, theatrically brandishing a jug of ammonia and pouring a huge dash into a bowl of ground scraps. “Imagine how happy an accountant is, you just turned dog food into what can potentially be your kids’ food,” Oliver declared.

McDonald’s denies any connection to the uproar caused by Oliver’s nationally televised show, but the fast-food giant recently joined Taco Bell and Burger King in announcing an end to its use.

And that leads us back to the National School Lunch Program, which, the The Daily reports, plans to buy 7 million pounds of pink slime over the next several months. Last year, The Daily adds, the stuff made up 6.5 percent of the beef purchased by USDA for the school lunch program. A USDA spokesperson speaking to me on background could not confirm the 7 million pounds number but did confirm that 6.5 percent of last year’s purchases were LFTB (Lean Finely Textured Beef). He insisted that it’s a high-quality, safe product and claimed that it had showed no food-safety problems since the 2009 Times article. Nor, he added, does price play a role in the department’s decision to buy it.

The Daily interviewed two former USDA microbiologists who take a different view. One, Gerald Zirnstein, the man who originally dubbed the product “pink slime,” said, “I have a two-year-old son…And you better believe I don’t want him eating pink slime when he starts going to school.” The other, Carl Custer, added, “We originally called it soylent pink…We looked at the product and we objected to it because it used connective tissues instead of muscle. It was simply not nutritionally equivalent [to ground beef]. My main objection was that it was not meat.”

Both men say the product was approved as safe by the USDA over their objections.

Meanwhile, the problem pink slime was originally intended to solve, pathogens in meat, continues apace. Wired’s Maryn McKenna recently broke down the FDA’s annual report on the bacteria it finds on the retail meat it tests each year. “Almost 29 percent of ground-beef samples carried Salmonella strains that were resistant to six [antibiotics],” McKenna reports.

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