We’re Eating WHAT?

US Government Report Finds Dangerous Residues in Meat

by Martha Rosenberg / May 21st, 2010

Many food consumers worry about pathogens like E. coli,
Salmonella and Listeria in their meat. But according to a new
government report, they should worry more about veterinary drugs,
pesticides and heavy metals in their food.

A new Office of Inspector General (OIG) report released last month
finds the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) fails to
test for many drugs in cattle, inadequately tests for others and fails
to recall meat which is clearly contaminated.

“Between July 12, 2007, and March 11, 2008, FSIS found that four
carcasses were adulterated with violative levels of veterinary drugs
and that the plants involved had released the meat into the food
supply. Although the drugs involved could result in stomach, nerve, or
skin problems for consumers, FSIS requested no recall,” says the
report.

Drugs cached on the national dinner plate may include antibiotics
like penicillin, florfenicol, sulfamethazine and sulfadimethoxine, the
anti-parasite drug Ivermectin, the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug
flunixin and heavy metals says OIG, which oversees Department of Health
and Human Services programs.

Of 23 pesticides designated by the EPA and FDA as high risk, FSIS
only tests for one says the report, in some case because no established
action levels are set. Nor are there action levels for Dioxin,
pesticides with cancelled registrations like lindane and fire
retardants called PBDEs (Polybrominated diphenyl ethers), some of the
most worrisome endocrine disruptors. Pesticides and endocrine
disruptors are increasingly linked to the epidemic of childhood ADHD
and asthma. Livestock antibiotics, used to produce weight in livestock
with less feed, cause resistance and allergic reactions in people and,
some say, weight gain.

Unlike pathogens like E. coli, says the OIG report,
residues cannot be cooked away and are sometimes broken into even more
harmful compounds when heated. And how was your dinner?

A quick look at FDA April inspection letters suggests the OIG report does not exaggerate.

Alan J. Svajgr of Darr Feedlots in Cozad, Nebraska is warned about
the chlortetracycline and monensin, two antibiotics, he has
“adulterated” his cattle feed with “contrary to the New Animal Drug
Application (NADA) approvals for these drugs,” in one warning letter.

Shirlee and Thomas Jermin of Templeton Feed & Grain in
Templeton, California are warned that they have not disclosed the
antibiotic sulfamethazine in their Pig Starter & Grow Medicated
Feed and omitted a cautionary label statement to “withdraw 15 days
prior to slaughter.” Oops.

Rodney R. Land of Land Dairy in Mayo Florida sold a dairy cow for
food with 0.2 parts per million (ppm) of sulfamethazine in her liver
tissue and Michael D. Martin of Martin Feed Lot in Harrisburg, Illinois
sold a beef heifer for food with a walloping 38.855 ppm of
sulfamethazine in her liver as well as 0.1781 ppm of flunixin, say
other letters.

And Hendrik G. Doelman of Elma Dairy in Rochester, Washington sold a
dairy cow for food with 0.441 ppm sulfadimethoxine in her liver and
1.04 desfuroylceftiofur, a metabolite from a cephalosporin antibiotic,
in her kidney tissue says another FDA letter.

And then there’s the calves. Raymond Wright of The Wright Place
dairy in Clinton, Maine sold a bob veal calf with 10.99 ppm of the
antibiotic neomycin in his kidney tissue thanks to unapproved use of
Custom Calf White Plus NT Medicated Dairy Herd and Beef Calf Milk
Replacer says the FDA and Raymond L. Martin of Corner View Dairies in
Lyons, New York sold a bob veal calf with 1.83 ppm penicillin in his
kidneys. And that’s just April.

Bob veal, calves under three days old and weighing only 70 to 100
pounds, represent the biggest residue risk to the food supply says the
OIG audit which was sent from Gil H. Harden, Acting Assistant Inspector
General for Audit to FSIS administrator Alfred Almanza.

“Farmers are prohibited from selling milk for human consumption from
cows that have been medicated with antibiotics (as well as other drugs)
until the withdrawal period is over; so instead of just disposing of
this tainted milk, producers feed it to their calves. When the calves
are slaughtered, the drug residue from the feed or milk remains in
their meat, which is then sold to consumers,” says the report.

Whereas dairy cows end up in fast food hamburgers, bob calves are
put in “value added” veal products like veal sausages and breaded veal
patties. Heart rending descriptions of the frail animals, electric
prodded into standing at livestock auctions, have appeared in
agricultural reports.

Ninety percent of the residue violations cited in the report were
found in dairy cows, veal calves and bob veal (to whom farmers feed
“waste milk” that is “unmarketable” for human consumption) says the
audit. Four plants had an astounding 211 violations which FSIS says it
cannot properly monitor without a national identification program that
is opposed by agribusiness.

Yet repeat violators — “individuals who have a history of picking up
dairy cows with drugs in their system and dropping them off at the
plant” — are widely tolerated by FSIS charges the report.

Two years ago, Americans became aware of cull dairy conditions when
they saw sick and crippled cull cows fork-lifted and water-boarded to
become part of the school lunch program. Where is the meat identified
by the OIG report going?

Martha Rosenberg is a columnist/cartoonist who writes about public health. She can be reached at: martharosenberg@sbcglobal.net. Read other articles by Martha.

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