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CASH Courier > 1997 Fall Issue

Selected Articles from our newsletter

The C.A.S.H. Courier
From the Fall 1997 Issue

Department of Health Approves of Canada Goose Flesh with High Lead Levels for the Elderly and Poor

by Anne Muller

Wildlife Watch held a demonstration at the NY State Dept of Health (DOH) to reveal to the public some important facts about the bizarre approval of the goose flesh for the elderly poor. As a backdrop, the Dept of Health did no independent testing of the flesh. They relied on reports from two labs: the NYS Agriculture and Markets, and the IL Dept. of Agriculture.

Strangely, the NYS Agriculture & Markets found no lead at all (?!), but IL found that the average was .36 ppm (parts per million)! The DOH commented on the disparity but then ignored it! They obviously chose to go with the NYS Agriculture & Markets findings!

Substantially the same lead content that was found a year ago was found again this year (.368 and .36); The DOH disallowed it for human consumption last year but allowed it this year. The only difference between the two years was a closed meeting between the DEC and the health department this year, leading (no pun intended) us to conclude that the approval of food is now negotiable.

If you call the Dept. of Health in NY and speak to a lead spokesperson, you will hear that the optimum lead intake level should be zero or as close to zero as possible. The lead levels for chicken and other meats found in supermarkets are between .01 and .09. Occasionally it will go as high as .15 for some canned foods. (The only standard for lead is set by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and it's .25 for canned foods. The Canada goose flesh is higher than that permissible for canned foods. If it were canned it would be unacceptable, but it wasn't and so it was approved!) Some Canada goose flesh tested as high as 1.0 - and Ward Stone, the DEC pathologist said some samples were as high as 5.0, although no lab reports were released to us showing that amount!

The fact that each sample showed a different amount of lead indicates that they are playing Russian roulette with seniors. One person can get a high amount and another lower amount. The theory behind grinding up the goose flesh into burgers was to avoid having to test each breast separately. They claimed that toxins would be spread homogeneously throughout the sample. Yet each sample yielded different amounts of lead with the average at .36!

The Health Dept. said that lead's not okay for young children but okay for adults and seniors. Consider though that seniors have far more lead in their system because lead accumulates and either never leaves the body or leaves the body very slowly. Experts say that even a small amount of additional lead can cause acute problems in the elderly. The insidious part of approving lead for seniors, and for poor seniors in particular, is that changes that occur may not be attributed to lead but to old age instead, and never treated properly.

Wildlife Watch believes that the NYS Health Department should not have approved the flesh in complicity with the DEC. They were merely helping to whitewash the unpopular slaughter and exploiting the poor to do it. One spokesman for the Health Dept. said, "It's worse for a child's brain to be affected because children have to go to school." It seems that seniors are expendable!

According to Industrial Toxicology, a book published by Publishing Sciences Group, Inc. in 1974, it says, "There is literature on the biological effects of lead too vast to condense for this text." Lead affects the gastrointestinal tract, the kidneys, the liver, and the brain, causing confusion and nervousness.

The question we ask is why did the NYS Dept. of Health involve itself in the approval of "food" that comes from wildlife that has been observed floating in waters near a nuclear power plant and feeding on grasses sprayed with pesticides. Canada geese carry leadshot in their flesh because they have been shot illegally with lead here and legally with lead in Canada. They also graze in areas where lead is legal. The DOH should not have involved itself, or should have suggested that seniors have their blood lead level tested prior to ingesting the flesh that had higher than usual lead levels.

Following our demonstration we went to the legal section of the health department and presented them with a Notice of Dangerous Condition of Action. That document strengthens any lawsuit brought against them.

The foodbank would not have distributed the flesh if not for the findings of the DOH. The "approval" of the DOH is a betrayal of public confidence. The public didn't realize that the approval was based on negotiations with the people who wanted the geese used as food to whitewash a wildlife slaughter. Wildlife Watch put an ad into the Daily Star, one of the main newspapers in Delaware County, NY. It was a warning to seniors about the risk of ingesting goose flesh served at these centers. We were thrilled to learn that at one center all 60 seniors voted not to accept the goose flesh! Later it was reported in the Rockland paper that the taste test was a failure, but they would serve the goose flesh anyway. They would cook it differently next time, the food director said. We responded that taste should not be a criterion for whether the flesh should be served or not. After all, rat poison tastes sweet to a rat.

Return to Fall 1997 Issue

 
 

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