The USDA's Office of the Inspector General (OIG) recently issued a shocking report (http://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/246...) about the condition of the nation's industrial meat supply. It turns out that a lot of the U.S. meat supply is tainted with veterinary drugs, pesticides and heavy metals.
According to the report, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service, or FSIS, continues to fail at properly monitoring the safety of the nation's meat supply. So tainted meat is regularly being approved for sale, much of which ends up in school lunch rooms where it is fed to -- guess who? -- our children!
What's truly disturbing about this is that the USDA knows why meat it getting tainted but it's doing nothing about it. In fact, the agency regularly allows toxic meat to make its way to store shelves without even trying to stop it.
We're not talking about microbial pathogens here; we're talking about chemical contaminants that cattle are eating and then passing on to consumers. These contaminants are not cooked off like pathogens are, and they can actually intensify when cooked and become more harmful.
Pathogens vs. Chemical Contaminants
It is important to make this distinction between pathogens like E. coli versus chemical residues like pharmaceutical drugs and heavy metals. The public usually thinks about food contamination in terms of pathogens but often doesn't consider the chemical contamination.
The types of contaminants that are ending up in meat are things like veterinary drugs and antibiotics that industrial agriculture uses to keep animals from dying before slaughter. You see, industrial farming is so filthy and unnatural that animals raised there wouldn't stand a chance without a steady stream of drugs to keep them alive.
The irony about the excess use of drugs and antibiotics is that these things actually end up causing the diseases they are meant to treat and prevent. But the conditions in which these animals live are typically so horrendous that they probably wouldn't make it to the slaughter without these toxic chemical interventions.
Why aren't the regulatory agencies doing their job?
This is the same question being asked by OIG in its audit report. The FSIS is tasked with heading up the national residue program with the help of the FDA and EPA, but none of these agencies are actually doing their jobs.
These agencies are supposed to work together to establish tolerance levels for various pesticides, drugs and toxins in an effort to minimize their presence in the food. But according to the report, the agencies have not even established thresholds for many of the dangerous substances being found in meat, let alone test for them.
The agencies did jointly establish a Surveillance Advisory Team (SAT) and an Interagency Residue Control Group (IRCG) to help them accomplish program goals, but since none of them have actually committed to realistically achieving these goals, the whole program has basically gone nowhere.
If it's broken, blame someone else
So which agency is actually at fault for the meat safety failures? Well, it depends on which agency you ask. They all blame each other.
Every year, the SAT is supposed to bring together the FDA, EPA and FSIS to establish which residues they will test for that year. But each year, no matter what has been agreed upon, the FSIS continues to test for only one type of pesticide.
According to the EPA, the FSIS is refusing its requests to test for more pesticides. The FSIS, however, claims that the EPA has not established tolerances for many of those pesticides, so it can't test for them (while also insisting that it just doesn't have enough resources to do the testing).
For items that do get tested, the FSIS relies on the FDA to approve proper testing methods. However the FDA only wants to use testing methods that are old and outdated. When newer, better methods are recommended, the FDA is often unwilling or unable to use them.
The methods of these various agencies often conflict with one another, which is why the SAT was established in the first place. It was meant to be the coordinator of the three agencies to help them communicate and get the job done. But instead of coordinating, it seems to exist more as a formality while the three blame each other for not getting anything done.
The agencies are generally run so poorly and corruptly that it is surprising they get anything done at all. The only things they seem to have time to do is harass supplement makers and shut down raw milk producers, all while turning a blind eye to the industry players that are really causing most of the problems.
Dirty secrets of the meat industry
According to the report, meat plant violations are not a big deal to the FSIS. The agency routinely allows plants that are in violation to continue operating.
In 2008, one meat plant had over 200 violations, but the FSIS still classified the violations as "not reasonably likely to occur" and allowed the plant to continue operating as usual -- business as usual in the meat industry, eh?
The meat industry gets away with a lot, and the things it gets away with are no small matter. Take, for instance, the practice of cow "recycling". When a cow gets too old or sick to produce milk, she is handed over to a slaughter facility to be turned into meat. (The industry term for these animals is "spent" dairy cows).
Why is this a problem? According to the report, the plants that process spent dairy cows represent over 90 percent of the residue violations discovered in a 2008 investigation.
These same plants also process "bob" veal, or male calves that are born to dairy cows. Dairy cows are given large amounts of antibiotics after they birth calves in order to treat birth-related infections. Since dairy producers are required to wait a certain amount of time after administering the drugs before using their milk for human consumption, they just go ahead and feed the tainted milk to the bob veal calves in order not to "waste" it.
Since the drugs never got a chance to clear out of the system, it eventually ends up in the veal meat at the store. So when you eat veal meat, you're essentially eating bovine antibiotics.
And if the calves' mothers don't recovery quickly enough with the antibiotics, the producer may sell them off to be slaughtered before they die. That way they will at least make some money off those cows. Unfortunately, this results in even more antibiotics going into the beef food chain.
Ethanol waste being used as food
Hold on to your (cowboy) hats... it doesn't stop there. Farmers are now actually feeding livestock the industrial waste that is left over after corn is turned into ethanol fuel. It's not enough that industrial producers are recycling old, sick animals for human consumption, but now they are feeding them toxic bio-sludge as well.
Of course they've given the sludge a politically-correct name, "distillers' grains", but it doesn't change the fact that it is a waste byproduct that is harmful to animals forced to eat it.
The USDA has known since 2008 that animals who eat distillers' grains are more likely to harbor dangerous pathogens like E. coli, but has stated that it would not regulate the use of distillers' grains as cattle feed.
Since the ethanol fermentation process requires a lot of antibiotics to control it, antibiotic residues are plentiful in distillers' grains. And not only that, distillers' grains are loaded with mycotoxins linked to an oxidative imbalance in pigs called Mulberry Heart Disease (MHD) that can cause them to die suddenly.
No wonder pigs are sicker than ever; they're being fed toxic waste as food! But large hog producers don't really care because it saves them money, and the USDA doesn't care because, well, they basically represent the interests of the animal slaughter industry (the pork, beef and chicken industries).
As long as the ethanol producers are happy, the hog producers are happy, and enough organizations continue to sing the praises of distillers' grains, then there's no need to protect the public from the dangers of the tainted end result, it seems. Nobody will notice, right?
These are just a few of the many violations that the FSIS, FDA and EPA seem unconcerned about. And this isn't merely my personal opinion: These things are stated in the report itself as fact.
Nothing to see here, folks, just move along
The casual way in which the USDA report highlights the failures and gives lip service to fixing them would be humorous if it didn't have such disastrous consequences. For example, much of this meat ends up in the public schools.
The tainted meat usually comes from low-grade providers, so schools are quick to snatch it up and feed it to children because it's dirt cheap. And fortunately, it's labeled, "Suitable for human consumption."
Millions of American children, who are still in their developmental stages, are eating cheeseburgers filled with antibiotics, pharmaceutical drugs and toxic chemicals -- all thanks to the greed of powerful industries and the inexcusable depth of corruption within agricultural regulatory agencies.
This tainted meat also makes its way to grocery stores, big-box warehouses and even restaurants. Anywhere you're buying hamburger meat (or just hamburgers), you're likely to be chowing down on meat laced with toxic chemicals, antibiotics and other pharmaceutical drugs.
Yet, amazingly, these issues are never addressed publicly. The general public has no idea that industrial meat contains a cocktail of dangerous toxins. They have no clue that the regulatory agencies that are supposed to be protecting them can't even properly communicate with each other, let alone protect the public. Most people have no idea just how bad things really are.
Whenever there is a recall, nobody talks about why the meat got tainted or how it managed to pass by regulators without being stopped. There is never a discussion about the underlying flaws in the meat system itself that encourage contamination. Instead, regulators unleash a chorus of whining over how underfunded they are and how everything would be fixed if the entire food supply was simply irradiated before hitting store shelves.
Except irradiation doesn't destroy heavy metals and pharmaceuticals. It only makes the meat appear to be safe in the short term because it doesn't make anybody sick the very next day.
Food "safety" laws will only make things worse
The response to food contamination has been to devise food "safety" bills that experts claim will solve the problems of the food system. But a closer look reveals that the bills actually do more to eliminate the good guys than to punish the bad guys.
Just last summer, the U.S. House of Representatives passed H.R. 2749, the "Food Safety Enhancement Act of 2009" and a Senate version of the bill is likely to be voted on this summer.
But these food safety bills don't actually make food any safer.
Basically these bills will give more power to agencies like the FDA (who are already failing at their current tasks) while greatly increasing the regulatory burdens on small growers and ranchers who produce high-quality, safe food. Such bills completely avoid addressing the root causes of food contamination and instead create larger bureaucracies with more unchecked power that will only be unleashed against small operators rather than agro-industry giants.
The idea is utterly insane, but as long as it claims to deal with "food safety", most people will blindly accept it as something good. After all, the politicians and the corporations that sponsor them wouldn't lie to us, would they? (Chuckle...)
So how can food really be made safer?
The entire food system itself will have to be radically reformed in order to truly make food safe. Mass-produced food that's factory-made by corporate conglomerates will never be the kind of thing we truly wish to feed our children. Government subsidies for cash crops must end. Policies that favor Big Agribusiness while destroying smaller growers and ranchers must be reversed.
It's important for us all to oppose any and all food "safety" bills that threaten to eliminate the very operations that produce safe food. Protections for local and family farms must be present in any legislation, otherwise they will be forced out of business. The Cornucopia Institute is doing a lot of great work in this area, so be sure to check their website for regular updates: www.Cornucopia.org
Conscious consumers must also start seeking alternative sources of food that are not produced out of the current corrupt system. Local farms, food cooperatives and community supported agriculture (CSA) are great sources of safe food, and they offer the opportunity to develop a relationship with the people who raise the food.
You can also choose to grow your own food at home. Whether urban or rural, there are workable solutions to raising your own food at home, regardless of your situation. Even those who don't have any yard space can grow sprouts on a kitchen counter. (That's food, too!)
Knowing the source of your food and how it has been raised is crucial to ensuring food safety for yourself and your family. And remember: You vote with your dollars. It's up to you to choose food products from small, local growers rather than the corporate agro-giants that would much prefer to just shove their dirty, contaminated beef down your throat at every meal.
We began this archive as a means of assisting our visitors in answering many of their health and diet questions, and in encouraging them to take a pro-active part in their own health. We believe the articles and information contained herein are true, but are not presenting them as advice. We, personally, have found that a whole food vegan diet has helped our own health, and simply wish to share with others the things we have found. Each of us must make our own decisions, for it's our own body. If you have a health problem, see your own physician.