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General News    H4'ed 5/19/10

Government Report Finds Dangerous Residues in Meat

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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 norecall," 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.

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Martha Rosenberg is an award-winning investigative public health reporter who covers the food, drug and gun industries. Her first book, Born With A Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks and Hacks Pimp The Public Health, is distributed by Random (more...)
 

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