Archive for ‘Human Effects’

Attempts to force the meat industry to test for other strains of E.coli are being held up

Wednesday, June 8th, 2011

Europe is currently in the grip of what has become one of the deadliest E. coli outbreaks in history. As one might imagine, that has inspired some soul-searching here in the United States. Food-safety experts have spent years trying to persuade the USDA to step up E. coli testing, and now the department is trying to take steps to require the meat industry to expand its testing for other strains of the bacteria. And the meat industry, unsurprisingly, is not happy about that.

As Food Safety News reports, the USDA’s attempts to force the meat industry to test for other strains of E. coli are being held up by the White House Office of Budget and Management. This is in part because of the efforts of the American Meat Institute, which represents 95 percent of red-meat processors. The AMI, like any other industry group, has powerful lobbyists, and those lobbyists have an undue amount of influence in the way governmental decisions are made, or not made.

The AMI has quite an illustrious history of resisting government regulation. When, in the aftermath of the 1994 Jack in the Box E. coli scare that killed four children and sickened hundreds, the USDA declared E. coli 1057:H7 an adulterant (a legal term meaning that a food product does not meet state or federal standards), the AMI insisted there was no emergency and sued the government for its meddlesome behavior.

Five years later, the AMI sued again when the USDA attempted to shut down a beef plant due to salmonella contamination, and the courts ruled in the group’s favor. In March, AMI executives met with OMB officials to try to persuade them that additional E. coli testing would be an “unnecessary burden.”

There is no mention of the current E. coli scare on the AMI’s website, but there is a press release trumpeting new CDC data identifying 442 cases of E. coli in 2010, which achieves the public health goal of one case per 100,000 people. There’s also a press release for the National Hot Dog & Sausage Council’s first-ever hot-dog photo contest. The reward is “the ultimate summer barbecue”; if the AMI gets its way, bloody diarrhea and renal failure may be on the menu.

Source: Basically, the American Meat Institute Wants Us to Eat Shit and Die – The Village Voice Blogs

Date: 08 June 2011

Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011

Demands for a more western diet in some emerging countries could have a more detrimental affect on global health and hunger than population growth

Why will nearly one in seven people go to bed hungry tonight? After all, the world currently produces enough food for everyone. Today’s major problems in the food system are not fundamentally about supply keeping up with demand, but more about how food gets from fields and on to forks.

Hunger – along with obesity, obscene waste and appalling environmental degradation – is an outcome of our broken food system. And the challenge of producing enough food to meet demand looks set to increase. With the world’s population expected to grow from around 7 billion today to more than 9 billion in 2050 – an increase of nearly one-third – there will certainly be a lot more stomachs to fill. The UN has forecast that, on current trends, demand may increase by 70% over the same period, and that’s without even tackling current levels of hunger.

But population growth, per se, is not the primary problem. By 2050 an estimated seven out of 10 people will live in poor countries reliant on food imports. The quantities of food eaten by each of these people every day is likely to be an unjustifiable fraction of what anyone reading this blog has already eaten today.

Instead, the real crunch is likely to come from the changing dietary preferences from people in some large emerging countries. Economic growth, urbanisation and rising affluence are increasingly bringing with them higher demand for convenient, processed foods, for meat, and for dairy products – in short, a more western diet.

This change in demand has significant environmental consequences. Feeding livestock is much less resource-efficient than growing grains for human consumption. Already, one-third of the world’s cereal harvest and more than nine-tenths of the world’s soya is used for animal feed. Soy-derived feed may be produced on, or indirectly contribute to expansion on to, cleared rainforest land. Rainforests are very important natural carbon sinks and therefore their clearance accelerates climate change, which is already challenging food production the world over.

The production of 1kg of beef uses 12 times the amount of water needed to produce 1kg of wheat, and more than five times the amount of land.

Changing diets bring significant social challenges. Malnourishment in the form of over-eating as well as under-eating will increasingly clog up healthcare systems and arteries in the developing world. In the rich world, obesity afflicts the poorer segments of society, because healthy foods are frequently more expensive. In the US, seven of the 10 states with the highest poverty levels are also among the 10 states with the highest rates of obesity. But in emerging countries obesity tends to be concentrated in the middle classes – those who lead more sedentary lifestyles and consume more processed foods. Countries such as Mexico and South Africa are having to increasingly deal with problems of the over-fed at the same time as those of the under-fed.

But before we point the finger at emerging economies for their rising consumption, let’s keep things in perspective. In 2007, the average American ate more than twice as much meat as the average Chinese resident. At the same time, consumers in rich countries waste almost as much food as the entire food production of sub-Saharan Africa. So while rising affluence and changing diets are certainly set to pose some challenges over the coming years, we should perhaps start by looking long and hard at the contents of own fridges and dustbins.

  • Richard King is economic justice policy adviser at Oxfam GB

Source: Global food crisis: The challenge of changing diets – The Guardian UK

Date: 01 Jun 2011

Bison E. coli Recall Grows; Retailers Named

Thursday, July 8th, 2010

That bad buffalo meat, originally recalled July 2, is being distributed nationwide through a blue chip retail network. And, the recall was reissued July 7 to include 776 additional pounds of bison products that were sent off to a Nevada processor for additional cuts.

The 66,776 pounds of ground and tenderized bison steak products were recalled because they may be contaminated with E. coli O157:H7, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS).

Yesterday, FSIS disclosed that ten major retail chains were believed to be selling the E. coli-contaminated buffalo meat at the time the recall. Among the retailers were: Albertson’s, Giant Foods, Hannaford’s, King Sooper’s, Kroger’s, Market Basket, Price Chopper’s, Stop & Shop Supermarkets, Super Valu, and Whole Foods.

Source of the recalled bison meat is Rocky Mountain National Meats, based in Henderson, CO.

A five person cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses, with onset dates between June 4 and 9, 2010, in Colorado and one case in New York State led FSIS to suspect the bison was making people sick.

FSIS said the New York case had “an indistinguishable” PFGE pattern.

“FSIS determined there is an association between ground bison products and the cluster of illnesses in the state of Colorado,” the agency said in a press release.

Here the specific list of recalled bison products from Rocky Mountain Natural Meats:

16-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL GROUND BISON.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 21, June 22 or June 24, 2010.

16-ounce packages of “NATURE’S RANCHER GROUND BUFFALO.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 22, 2010.

16-ounce packages of “THE BUFFALO GUYS ALL NATURAL GROUND BUFFALO 90% LEAN.” These products have a lot number of 0147.

12-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL BISON STEAK MEDALLIONS.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 23 and June 24, 2010.

12-ounce packages of “GREAT RANGE BRAND ALL NATURAL BISON SIRLOIN STEAKS.” These products have a “sell or freeze by” date of June 20, June 23 and June 24, 2010.

15-pound boxes of “ROCKY MOUNTAIN NATURAL MEATS, INC. BISON 10 OZ SIRLOIN STEAK.” These products went to restaurants and bear a Julian Code of 0141.

Various weight boxes of “BISON B TRIM.” These products bear a production date of May 21, 2010 and a Julian Code of 14110. The boxes also state “KEEP REFRIGERATED.”

E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium that can cause bloody diarrhea, dehydration, and in the most severe cases, kidney failure. The very young, seniors and persons with weak immune systems are the most susceptible to foodborne illness. Individuals concerned about an illness should contact a physician.

Source: Bison E. coli Recall Grows; Retailers Named – foodsafetynews

Date: 08 July 2010

Colorado Firm Recalls Bison Products Due to Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination

Wednesday, July 7th, 2010

Colorado Firm Recalls Bison Products Due to Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination

FSIS became aware of the problem during the course of an on-going investigation into a cluster of E. coli O157:H7 illnesses in Colorado with illness onset dates between June 4, 2010 and June 9, 2010.

  • 5 case-patients have been identified in Colorado
  • E. coli O157:H7 is a potentially deadly bacterium…..
  • FSIS routinely conducts recall effectiveness checks

Source: Colorado Firmu Recalls Bison Products Due to Possible E. Coli O157:H7 Contamination - fsis.usda.gov

Date: 07 July 2010

Global warming raises new E. coli concerns, U of G prof says

Tuesday, July 6th, 2010

Temporary closures like Toronto’s waterfront Budapest Park and associated Sunnyside Beach last week to protect against potentially dangerous organisms doesn’t surprise local environmental scientist Jack Trevors, the University of Guelph environmental sciences professor and his colleagues said:

  • The organism at the heart of the Walkerton tragedy a decade ago represents a rising threat as the world warms.  Warning further study is critical to meeting any risk.
  • The public may be at increasing risk as E. coli, which contaminates water and soil, finds an inviting environment in a warming planet.
  • While people carry benign E. coli is in their guts, some strains, notably 0157:H7, are dangerous.
  • There are pathotypes that produce toxins.
  • That allowed scientists to extrapolate potential risks from a global warming trend conducive to bacterial growth including threats to beaches, food supply and source drinking water.
  • We know we’re living in a period of climate change.
  • As human populations grow, they use more food and fuel, this activity warming the Earth.
  • That raises the prospect of these populations increasingly encountering E. coli
  • We have to deal with it in an effective way.

Source: Global warming raises new E. coli concerns, U of G prof says – news.guelphmercury

Date: 06 July 2010

Drought Hastens Rural Emigration

Sunday, July 4th, 2010

As extreme drought conditions stress agriculture in many areas of Bolivia, rural farming families are having to choose between the prospect of starvation or relocation to urban areas.

According to Simón Pisaya Mamani, a farmer from Ingavi province in the state of La Paz,

“[They] say the drought this year will be stronger than before, which worries us because already we don´t have food. It´s a shame, my sons told me that if we´re going to continue in the same situation they´re going to emigrate to the city.”

Rufino Mamani, a farmer in nearby Tacaca, recalled that last year as a consequence of drought, two of his sons moved to Cochabamba in search of work.

The mayor of Jesús de Machaca, Moisés Quiso (MAS) said,

“We’ve sent information to the municipal experts to calculate exactly what percentage of animals and planted fields are in danger. The dry season has only just begun and we´re worried that all the production will be for nothing.”

In the municipality of Laja, in the Los Andes province, farmers´ wells have run dry and the only reliable water source is the Pallina River which is contaminated by run-off from El Alto.

Many farmers report that their meager potato harvests will only be good enough for making chuño, freeze-dried potatoes. Unfortunately the winter frosts haven´t been very consistent and without the nightly frosts needed to make chuño, farmers fear the potatoes will only be good for feeding pigs. Other parts of Bolivia are also hurting in the dry season, including areas in Santa Cruz and Potosí. The drought is hitting other economic sectors in addition to agriculture. The Laguna Colorada, a major tourist draw near the Salar de Uyuni, has dropped several centimeters this season and lost much of its characteristic red color.

Source: Drought Hastens Rural Emigration - boliviaweekly

Date: 04 July 2010

Report says swine flu cost Britain 1.2 Billion Pounds

Thursday, July 1st, 2010

An independent review says Britain spent 1.2 billion pounds ($1.8 billion) fighting swine flu, including 1 billion pounds on drugs, according to AP.

The study published Thursday says officials spent 654 million pounds preparing for a possible pandemic of H1N1 influenza and 587 million pounds responding to the outbreak. The total includes 1.01 billion pounds spent on drugs including antivirals, vaccines and antibiotics.

The review by former senior medial official Deirdre Hine calls the government response “proportionate and effective,” but says inflexible contracts for vaccines left Britain with many extra doses.

The World Health Organization says more than 17,000 people have died worldwide since swine flu emerged in April 2009. There have been 457 deaths in Britain.

Source: Report says swine flu cost Britain $1.8 billion – Saudi Press Agency

Date: 01 July 2010

Climate change threatens food supply

Tuesday, June 22nd, 2010

Climate change and extreme weather events pose a grave challenge to the country’s food supply, agricultural researchers have warned.

Gu Lianhong, a senior researcher with Oak Ridge National Laboratory in the US, said the lab’s research had shown climate change will cause China’s per capita grain output will dramatically drop after 2020, even taking technological progress into consideration.

The study suggests the projected geographical pattern of earth’s surface temperature will dramatically increase in the late 21st century (2090-2099). This will cause more extreme weather and climate events to impact such industries as agriculture, Gu said.

He stressed that increasing droughts and heavy precipitation, more intense tropical cyclones and warmer days will very likely happen globally.

“These are all closely related with grain output,” Gu said.

The researcher made the remarks on the sidelines of the International Forum on the Mitigation of Desertification, Land Degradation and Drought (DLDD) in World Dryland, which ended over the weekend.

By the 2050s, freshwater availability in Central, South, East and Southeast Asia is projected to decrease, particularly in large river basins, Gu said. The regions’ coastal areas, especially heavily populated mega deltas, will be at great risk due to increased flooding from the sea or rivers.

Because China is the world’s most water-deficient country, climate change will definitely harm its agricultural production, Gu said.

The researcher’s warning came as China is faced with a challenging grain situation this summer because of strong rainfalls in the south during the summer harvest season. Other problems include droughts in northern grain production areas and lingering low temperatures in the south.

In the past few years, the country has experienced more frequent extreme weather events against the backdrop of global climate change. These include severe droughts, ice storms, sandstorms and floods that harm the economy and security.

The severe drought in Southwest China, which has lasted since late 2009 and is one of the worst in decades, has affected about 8.3 million hectares of arable land. It also left at least 17.9 million people and 12.4 million heads of livestock facing water shortages as of this May, the Office of State Flood Control and Drought Relief Headquarters said in a statement.

A report by McKinsey & Co released last year said extreme drought caused by a “high climate change scenario” could more than triple crop losses in Northeast China. They could reach 13.8 million metric tons, or 12 percent of the total, by 2030.

The average annual temperature in China has increased by 0.5 C to 0.8 C, a little higher than the global average, over the past 100 years and especially in the past five decades. But the country’s precipitation volume did not change much during the period, China’s National Climate Change Program said in June 2007.

The average temperature in China will possibly rise 1.3 C to 2.1 C from 2000 to 2020, increasing the risks of extreme weather and climate events in the country, the plan said.

China must maintain an annual grain output of 500 million tons to feed the nation’s 1.3 billion people, the Ministry of Agriculture said.

The country’s summer grain output rose six years in a row to exceed 123.35 million tons in 2009, 2.6 million tons more than the previous year.

Source: Climate change threatens food supply – China Daily

Date: 22 June 2010

Bolivia Reinforces Food Security Program

Monday, June 21st, 2010

 

The creation of a National Food Security Committee (Consa) will improve local production capacities, the state-run newspaper Cambio reported Monday.

According to the daily, Consa will be charged with drafting legislation for strengthening and ensuring the national production policy first implemented in 2008.

The deputy minister of farming and rural development, Victor Hugo Vasquez, said the new committee will oversee the coordination of actions with social organizations, international cooperation, and state institutions.

Its main tasks include promoting and ensuring that food sovereignty is recognized in future laws and activities, as well as regulating the creation and implementation of national policies and laws.

The committee will also promote the implementation of a follow-up, monitoring, evaluation, and adjustment system of programs and plans put forward by the Ministry of Development Planning.

Consa is also expected to carry out comprehensive actions to reduce and eliminate malnutrition in the framework of the right to food.

Source: Bolivia Reinforces Food Security Program – Prensa Latina

Date: 21 June 2010

Tackling land degradation crucial for human well-being, UN officials stress

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

United Nations officials today stressed the need to look after the world’s drylands, which are home to more than one billion poor people and where efforts to achieve key development targets face particular challenges.

“When we protect and restore drylands, we advance on many fronts at once,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon pointed out in his message for the World Day to Combat Desertification and Drought, observed on 17 June.

“We strengthen food security, we address climate change, we help the poor gain control over their destiny, and we accelerate progress towards the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs),” he said, referring to the global anti-poverty targets world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

But, as the Secretary-General pointed out, desertification continues to be a problem. Over the past 40 years, nearly one third of the world’s cropland has become unproductive, often ending up abandoned.

“The unremitting stress of drought, famine and deepening poverty threatens to create social strains, in turn creating the potential for involuntary migration, the breakdown of communities, political instability and armed conflict,” he said.

“Let us reaffirm our commitment to combating desertification and land degradation and mitigating the effects of drought; and let us recognize that enhancing soils enhances life.”

Source: Tackling land degradation crucial for human well-being, UN officials stress – UN News Centre

Date: 17 June, 2010

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Reversing Meat-Eating Culture to Combat Climate Change

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Livestock Production and Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers

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Plant-Based Diets - A solution to our public health crisis

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Leaders Preserving Our Future - Insights Paper - WPF - November 2010

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Maintaining a Climate of Life - Summary Report

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Livestock's Climate Impact

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Livestock & Sustainable Food

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Reducing Shorter-Lived Climate Forcers Through Dietary Change

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The global cost of biodiversity loss: 14 trillion Euros? - EU Commission (2008)

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Forests, Fisheries, Agriculture: A Vision for Sustainability (2009)

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