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General News    H2'ed 1/20/15

Dangerous? Deceptive? 2015's Top Food Stories So Far

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2015 began with a statement from Chipotle that it was pulling pork off its menus because of an abusive supplier. Chipotle said, "Conventionally raised pigs generally do not have access to the outdoors, spend their lives in densely crowded buildings, live on hard slatted floors with no bedding and no ability to root, and are given antibiotics to keep them from getting sick. We would rather not serve pork at all than serve pork from animals that are raised in this way."

While selling humane meat is better than inhumane, not everyone sees Chipotle as a hero. Wayne Hsiung, an organizer of the It's not Food, It's Violence campaign says the chain is "a metaphor for the broader problem of animal exploitation and species bigotry." Vegan options at restaurants like Chipotle pose no "benefit for animals" says Hsiung and haven't increased veganism itself in the U.S.

Nor is Chipotle the only deceptive outlet, charges Direct Action Everywhere, a group Hsiung also helped found. A video it obtained from Petaluma Farms in Petaluma, CA, which is an egg supplier to Whole Foods, shows hens in astounding states of sickness and suffering. The pictures not only tar Whole Foods they tar Humane Farm Animal Care (HFAC) whose humane standards the operation met says the New York Times!

And speaking of deception, it was only a few weeks ago that a Perdue farmer opened his barns and showed the public the truth about what that big food outlet does to animals.

Craig Watts Perdue Poultry Contract Farmer
Craig Watts Perdue Poultry Contract Farmer
(Image by Compassion in World Farming)
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January brought implementation of the California law mandating more room for egg laying chickens. But like the Whole Foods disappointment, the "good" news occludes the bad. Larger cages do nothing for the suffering of hatchery chickens which are ground up alive at birth. Yes, you read that right. Until the egg industry ceases to buy its layers from hatcheries which the industry admits kills "200 million male chicks," there is no such thing as an ethical egg. Hatcheries also risk human health and are known for injecting the eggs of future egg layers with antibiotics before they hatch. Yum.

Another food story in 2015 also raises food safety questions: the U.S. lifted its ban on imports of Irish beef which were blocked since the mad cow scares more than ten years ago. Should we be reassured? Guess again! Three "mad cows" have been found in the United States in the last ten years and the government protected the identities of the Alabama and Texas ranches that produced two of them! The circumstances surrounding the first "mad cow," which came from Canada were even more outrageous. According to the San Francisco Chronicle and other newspapers, the public ate meat from the mad cow and health officials even refused to identify the restaurant outlets that served the meat.

(My food expose, Born with a Junk Food Deficiency: How Flaks, Quacks, and Hacks Pimp the Public Health, available at Barnes & Noble, chronicles the details of government handling of the mad cow outbreak in which it put the "health" of the U.S. beef industry over that of consumers.)

Even when people do not care about animals per se, abusive "factory farm" conditions tolerated and hidden by major food outlets put food consumers at risk at the same time they harm the environment and workers.

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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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