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Is US Food Truly Safe? Part 3 The Deceptions

By       Message Joel Gill     Permalink
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Yes, US food is safe, but marketers tend to bend the facts. If consumers can be kept confused by deception, then lower and lower quality product can be introduced to and accepted by them.  In this quest for lowest cost, sometimes food safety or quality can fall through the cracks.

Deception # 1 If it bears the USDA grade stamp, it is a product of the USA.

The USDA grade stamp, with the flag, does not mean the product is of US origin. Many consumers mistakenly conclude that if it bears the grading label, USDA Sandard, USDA Choice, or USDA Prime, it is from the USA. What they do not realize is that a fee is paid by the meat supplier to grade the meat and receive the label. It doesn't matter which country it is from, it is simply graded and approvedl for the appropriate grade label is granted. Many corporations and importers are very aware of this and use the grade label to hype their product as US without actually declaring that to be the case.

Deception # 2 If it has the USDA inspection stamp it is product of USA.

Once again the American public is being fooled through savvy advertising campaigns designed to make cosumers believe the product is from the USA. The inspection stamp does not guarantee this, but only that the meat has been inspected (at some level as not every package of meat is inspected, but only a very small fraction of the entire supply) and found to be safe. The best example I can find of this is the McDonalds commercial (I'm not picking on them, most chains do it) where the ingredients are listed one by one and the consumer is assured "We use only 100% USDA inspected beef". Duh! They couldn't legally sell it if it wasn't "100% USDA inspected" regardless of which country it was from.

Deception # 3 Large corporations can supply the consumer with the lowest cost, highest quality product
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Large corporations do supply a low cost product, but at what cost to quality and value. If you buy beef for $6 per pound, you get a pound of beef for $6. Not true. Under USDA rules, the supplier can add up to 12% "enhancement solution" read flavored water. Your $6 per pound meat actually costs $6.72 / lb. if you had purchased all beef, instead of beef and water. The same is true for chicken. Ever wonder why you have so much fluid in the packing after you unwrap the meat? Now you know. Some will argue this only makes the meat more tender. If you start with high quality meat, you don't need to enhance it. Small packing companies provide a higher quality, more consistent product because they actually try to bring a high quality product to market, not take a lower quality product, treat it, and sell it as a high quality product like many majors do.

Deception # 4 If the meat is red, it is fresh and wholesome.

A few years ago it was learned that if you expose fresh beef to carbon monoxide ( part of the stuff that comes out of automobile tailpipes) it will "lock in" the red color. This is true due to the chemical reaction between the hemoglobin in the bits of blood that are  left in the tissue and the chemical agent CO. The USDA approved treating beef with CO for sale to consumers ( the levels used in the process are too low to be a health risk when you open the package) to the glee of box store meat managers. Now their product would look fresh and wholesome even if it was completely rotten. The sellers of this treated product defend the process as making the product more appealing and of course you have the "use by" date on the label. (Interestingly they want the label to help them provide this info, but they fight allowing you to know which country their product comes from on the very same label ) Under the approved USDA regulation, an unsuspecting consumer could come into a meat market, purchase a package of "bargain meat" because it only has one more day of shelf life left, take it home, put it in the fridge and get it out to cook a few days later. Why not? It looks fresh, but it has already turned bad and is rotting. The sellers of this type of product say "Once the package is opened, the odor should alert the cook that the meat is bad" . Thanks a lot, a bargin $4.79/ lb. meat must now be thrown out. Some bargin. You can usually spot meat treated this way by its packaging. If it is in one of the old fashioned Styrofoam trays with the plastic touching the meat, its probably non carbon monoxide treated and its color can be trusted. If it is in a deep dish package, without the plastic touching the meat, beware. (Several companies have ceased using CO due to customer objections, but may still have packaging materials left over) It never hurts to ask how the product has been treated. Speak up America.

Deception # 5 Organically produced products are more wholesome and healthy.

Be on guard consumer. If you know the producer and can look him in the eye or visit him in the fields, you are probably ok. Corporate agribusiness has caught on to the growing demand for organic foods. They have caught on so much that they have been successful in getting the USDA to alter the definition of "organic" to conform to the product they produce, regardless of chemicals or other objections, to the organic community, practices. Sometimes that "organic" product is a far cry from what you, the caring consumer, is seeking. Please be very aware when buying organic as to what you are really buying.

In the world of stage entertainment, those practicing the art of magic or illusion use a technique called misdirection. That technique causes the observer to look at the right hand while the left hand accomplishes something the practitioner doesn't want the observer to see. Voila! A dove, flower, or rabbit appears or disappears. Don't fall for the deceptions of corporate agribusiness when it comes to  what you feed your family.

More to come in part 4
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57, married, cattle broker for 38 years in MS. President of MS Livestock Markets Association. Member of MS Beef Council. 2nd term Alderman, Pickens, MS. Conducted 2003 cost analysis project for implemintation of Country of Origin Law. 2005 member (more...)

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