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British government admits to distributing meat from tuberculosis-infected cows
The British Farming Ministry admits to selling meat from cattle infected with bovine tuberculosis (bTB) and distributing it to catering companies and some supermarkets. Meat from these diseased cows, which number 28,000 per year, could wind up in prison food, hospital meals, or even school lunches.
It is believed that the Department for Food and Rural Affairs makes £10 million a year off the sale of bTB diseased cattle. Farmers are compensated a total of £1,700 per infected cow slaughtered.
Ministry officials say that the chances of the bTB virus being transmitted to humans, even through uncooked meat, are low. Despite this, companies like McDonald's, Burger King, and Sainsbury’s have chosen to ban the meat, though large catering distributors like Aramark and Compass could not deny having served it.
Bovine tuberculosis infects approximately 70 British citizens every year. The symptoms are similar to the human form, and include loss of appetite, severe cough, and weight loss.
The first new case of mad cow disease in the U.S. since 2006 has been discovered in a dairy cow in California. The infected cow was the fourth ever discovered in the U.S., and was found as part of a USDA surveillance program that tests about 40,000 cows each year.
The infected cow was discovered at a rendering plant, meaning its meat was never bound for the country’s food supply, noted John Clifford, the USDA’s chief veterinary officer. Rendering plants process animal parts intended for use in animal food, soap, chemicals or other household products – not the human food supply.
Mad cow disease, or bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE), is fatal to cows and can cause Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (a fatal human brain disease) in people who eat infected meat. However, according to the FDA there is currently no evidence suggesting that humans can be infected by drinking milk from animals with BSE.
The spread of mad cow disease has largely been linked to the use of recycled meat and bone meal in cattle feed. Thus, following the enormous mad cow disease outbreak in Britian in the early 90s that killed more than 150 people and 180,000 cattle, the U.S. banned feed containing these materials in 1997 as a precaution to keep BSE out of the country’s food supply.
Given this ban, the California cow is unsurprisingly what scientists call an atypical case of BSE, meaning it came as a result of a random mutation, not from infected cattle feed.
There have been three other confirmed cases of BSE in U.S. cows – in 2003 in Washington state, in 2005 in Texas and in 2006 in Alabama. Both the 2005 and 2006 cases were also considered atypical cases and brought no major repercussions.
However, the 2003 outbreak had crippling effects on the cattle industry. Beef exports fell by more than 70 percent, as consumer confidence in U.S. beef products fell, and a number of major buyers in Southeast Asia ban banned all U.S. beef imports.
What will be the impacts of the most recent confirmed case of mad cow disease? Experts disagree.
Stevie Ipsen, director of communications for the California Cattlemen’s Association was quoted: “This is a big deal. People have a lot of fear over mad cow disease and for good reason. But our country’s meat is still the safest in the world. We’re confident people will carry on eating beef.”
Meanwhile, a senior scientist for Consumer Reports is critical even of the tightened U.S. mad cow disease policy, noting: “We still allow risky practices. You can’t feed cows to cows directly. But you can feed cows to pigs and chickens and then feed them to cows.”
Regardless of the statistical risk, Ipsen is right – this IS a big deal. Add this case of mad cow disease to the HUGE pile of recent news about the health risks and problems either exacerbated by or directly caused by meat consumption.
Just a few recent headlines:
- Eat less meat to prevent climate disaster!
- Meat is killing us!
- Eating red meat drastically increases stroke risk, and increases overall risk of premature death! in school lunches!
While the infected cow was not bound for the country’s food supply, let’s allow this case to serve as a reminder that the impacts of eating animals are felt well beyond the dinner table. May the downward spiral of meat consumption continue!
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Experts See Flaws in U.S. Mad Cow Safeguards
Despite stringent measures to protect people and cattle from mad cow disease, experts in and out of government say more can be done.
''While the government has taken a lot of actions to prevent mad cow disease from infecting cattle, including a ban on the importation of cattle from affected countries, there are holes in the fire wall,'' said Caroline Smith DeWaal, food safety director for the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a consumer advocacy group.
The experts point to several areas of concern:
*The United States lags behind Europe in testing cattle for the disease, which is believed to be caused by aberrant proteins called prions.
*Machines that are used to strip meat scraps from carcasses can leave the meat contaminated with nervous system tissue, where the prions are believed to concentrate.
*There is little regulation of dietary supplements, some of which contain nervous system tissue from cattle.
*Regulations to prevent prion contamination of animal feed are unevenly enforced.
Mad cow disease is believed to have spread among cattle in Britain when nervous system tissue from infected animals was ground up in feed. The practice of using waste from cattle or other ruminants in feed for those animals was banned in Britain in 1988 and in the United States in 1997.
Agriculture Department officials say everything possible is being done to protect cattle and the nation's food supply.
''We have amended our actions as the risks have changed and the science has changed,'' said Dr. Linda Detwiler, a veterinarian who leads the mad cow disease working group at the Agriculture Department.
For example, Dr. Detwiler said, the agency will be testing more ailing cows -- so-called downer cows -- for signs of mad cow disease. Dr. Detwiler said that quicker tests are under study.
Meanwhile, Agriculture Secretary Ann M. Veneman said the department was seeking money for additional efforts. She said financing would be increased for the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, which works to prevent disease transmission and for border inspections to keep infected animals out of the country. An Agriculture Department official who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the agency was ''very short-staffed and the number of people in the field keeps going down.''
Mad cow disease, formally known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy, or B.S.E., leaves brain tissue spongy and full of holes. Other animals are infected by similar transmissible spongiform encephalopathies, among them scrapie, in sheep, and chronic wasting disease, in deer and elk.
The human form, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, was identified in 1926 and kills about 250 Americans a year. Some people inherit a susceptibility to the incurable disease, but causes in most cases are unknown.
Until recently, scientists believed that the disease seen in one species could not infect members of other species. But in 1996 doctors in Britain identified young people who seemed to have Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, which typically strikes the elderly. They later determined these young people had a new variant of C.J.D., which they attributed to eating meat from cows with B.S.E. The disease has now claimed more than 100 lives, most of them in Britain.
Dr. Marcus Doherr, a veterinarian epidemiologist at the University of Bern, in Switzerland, said the United States should test more slaughtered cattle for signs of B.S.E. Dr. Doherr helped develop the Swiss testing program, which many experts consider the most advanced.
Dr. Thomas Pringle, who runs the Sperling Biomedical Foundation in Eugene, Ore., and is an authority on mad cow disease, points out that many downer cows go directly from the farm to the plant where they are turned into feed without being tested. Dr. Doherr also recommends more stringent regulations for meat that is mechanically stripped from carcasses in processing plants.
A small test conducted by the Agriculture Department in 1997 showed that of the 13 samples of meat stripped by machinery, two contained spinal cord tissue. The meat stripped mechanically is used in hamburgers, hot dogs and other sausage products.
As a result, the department began requiring processors to remove the spinal cord before putting the carcass in the machine, and it said it would randomly inspect the meat for traces of nervous system tissue.
''We are still doing tests for central nervous system meat recovery, but not much,'' said Dr. I. Kay Wachsmuth, deputy administrator for the office of public health and science in the Food Safety and Inspection Service at the Agriculture Department.
From the approximately 45 million pounds of mechanically stripped meat each year, 27 samples were taken in 2000 one was positive for traces of nerve tissue.
Ms. DeWaal said the United States should adopt European-style rules banning the spinal column that encases the cord from use in mechanical meat recovery systems. Cattle feed can also be hazardous. Regulatory authority over animal feed rests with the Food and Drug Administration. In 1997 the agency outlawed the feeding of meat and bone meal from mammals to cattle and sheep. But chickens, pigs and farm-raised fish are still given feed made from slaughterhouse waste. When those animals are slaughtered, their waste is, in turn, fed to cattle and sheep.
Also, the F.D.A. recently reported that more than 20 percent of the companies inspected over the last three years were either keeping inadequate records, not labeling their products to distinguish feed containing mammal products from others or had no method to prevent waste from cows and sheep from being mixed with waste of chickens or fish.
Dr. Murray Lumpkin, a senior medical adviser in the office of the F.D.A. commissioner, said that the rate of compliance had increased so that almost all inspected plants now met standards. But he said that as many as 3,000 of about 10,000 feed mills in this country had not been inspected. ''With more resources the fire wall could be stronger,'' Dr. Lumpkin said.
Errors can also be made in the feedlot or on the farm. In January, more than 1,000 cattle at a Texas feedlot were quarantined after they had been mistakenly fed the banned feed. Purina Mills, which had supplied the feed, agreed to buy the animals and said they would be destroyed. Four calls to Purina to determine the fate of the animals were not returned.
'ɼhances of feed getting mixed up are pretty substantial,'' said Carol Tucker Foreman, the director of the Food Policy Institute at the Consumer Federation of America and a former assistant secretary of agriculture for the Food Safety and Inspection Service. Ms. Foreman said the ban on feed made from cattle and sheep should cover all animals.
In a recent interview, Dr. Bernard Schwetz, the acting commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, said safety might also be improved by letting certain mills mix only feed for cattle and sheep and others mix feed for chickens and pigs. But Dr. Schwetz said those decisions were not imminent. ''We will be talking about them within the next year,'' he said.
Since Dec. 31, the European Union has forbidden animal protein in feed for any animals.
Dr. George Gray, the director of the program on food safety and agriculture at the Harvard Center for Risk Analysis in the School of Public Health, said a total ban on animal protein in feed ''might be a wise decision.'' The Agriculture Department commissioned Dr. Gray's center to perform an assessment on additional steps that might be taken to reduce the risk of mad cow disease in the United States.
There is wide agreement that preventing outbreaks of variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease in the United States means regulating more than food.
For example, certain dietary supplements, called glandulars, can contain freeze-dried brain and spinal cord from cows, tissues in which prions reside. This material is believed to be used in less than 1 percent of supplements.
But because the F.D.A. has limited authority to regulate dietary supplements, it cannot ban the importation of these glandular materials from countries where mad cow disease exists.
Five dietary supplement industry trade associations said they were working to provide the government and consumers with information about the precautions being taken by their members. But many small companies do not belong to any trade associations.
Dr. Walter Hueston, a former Agriculture Department official who did the agency's first risk assessment on mad cow disease and is now a professor of veterinary epidemiology at the University of Maryland, said the biggest obstacle to improved government surveillance was lack of money.
Tuberculosis found in South Dakota cattle herd
Bovine tuberculosis has been confirmed in a South Dakota beef herd for the first time since 2017. State veterinarian Dr. Dustin Oedekoven says that an infected cow was initially identified in January by meat inspectors during routine inspection at a Minnesota packing plant. Records linked the cow to a Corson County beef herd which had additional animals confirmed as infected by recent laboratory testing.
“The index cow (the initial cow identified with lesions at slaughter) did not have official ID or a backtag,” Oedekoven said. “The lot she was in had been sourced from two different auction markets in different states with multiple sellers. It took some time to narrow the possibilities to find the herd she most likely originated from. State animal health officials conducted TB skin testing in the herd, and some cattle that tested positive were necropsied at the Animal Disease Research and Diagnostic Lab in Brookings. Samples were collected and tested positive at the National Veterinary Services Lab in Ames, Iowa.”
The state veterinarian’s office is working closely with the affected herd owner, as well as other producers in the area, USDA officials, Standing Rock Sioux Tribal officials, area veterinarians and wildlife officials to evaluate the extent of the disease and mitigate further spread.
“State and federal officials are now tracing animals that had been sold out of that herd, or that had been brought into the herd, as well as conducting testing in neighboring herds. As calving has begun in some of the herds of interest, testing may be delayed until late spring or summer,” Oedekoven said.
The state vet’s office will keep producers updated as the case proceeds, but Oedekoven says, “It’s a slow process by nature.”
The last case of TB discovered in South Dakota was in 2017 in Tripp County. That case was announced in November. The case before that was in Harding County in March of 2017. Oedekoven said TB cases in South Dakota have been identified in November, January and February. “These have all been cows that were culled from a spring-calving beef herd, sold through a South Dakota auction market, and then either slaughtered right away, or fed for a short time prior to slaughter. Slaughter surveillance has been the reason each cow was identified, leading back to finding additional infected animals in the herd. I think the timing is mostly coincidental with traditional timing of selling cull cows, and those cows subsequently being subject to inspection – our surveillance system works.”
Oedekoven said bovine TB is not currently a threat to food safety in the United States, thanks to milk pasteurization and comprehensive meat inspection programs.
Bovine tuberculosis is a chronic, slowly progressive respiratory disease of cattle. Infected animals may transmit infection to other animals when in close proximity for prolonged periods. Cattle rarely exhibit visible signs of illness and testing of cattle herds is necessary to determine if animals are infected. The U.S. has nearly eliminated bovine TB due to a cooperative eradication campaign. South Dakota has officially been recognized as free of the disease since 1982.
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The Food Standards Agency has said: “All meat must be marked with an identification mark which will indicate the approval number of the plant of origin.
“However, meat from TB reactors, once it has been passed as fit for human consumption, is not required to be marked in any way to distinguish it from other meat.
“Meat which passes the post mortem inspection is fit for human consumption and does not need additional labelling.”
Lead poisoning on farms
Lead poisoning can cost you money and kill your cattle. The highest incidence usually occurs immediately after turn out when animals discover lead-containing materials abandoned on the pasture.
Accumulation of lead beyond legal limits renders meat, offal and milk unsafe and illegal to enter the food chain. Lead poisoning can also result in stunted animal growth, animal deaths, increased birth defects and infertility, decreased productivity, loss of market value and disposal costs for dead animals and vet fees.
The most frequent causes of lead poisoning in cattle are:
- flaking high lead paint - mainly calves
- vehicle and electric fence batteries - eg battery remains accidentally mixed with animal feed, or batteries fly-tipped on farm land
- high lead soils - usually arising from historic mining and smelting operations, land erosion - especially by water courses but occasionally landslips
- ash from fires in which lead materials were burned such as painted woodwork, leaded building materials, putty, wiring
- lead shot from shooting which can be eaten with soil uptake and can also contaminate certain crops, especially maize and end up in silage
Withdrawal periods and offal removal
A 16-week withdrawal period before slaughter is usually sufficient but for lead which is retained in the stomach this can extend for several years. Some animals may show no signs of poisoning but have lead residues in milk, offal and meat. Offal tends to have higher levels of lead for longer periods than meat or milk.
Animals and/or their produce may need to be tested to investigate whether lead residues are present and also to monitor whether a withdrawal period has been adequate or whether offal should be removed after slaughter.
How to avoid lead contamination on your farm
There are several steps you can take to protect your cattle and the human food chain from lead contamination. You should:
- check your fields and barns for vehicle batteries, building materials, flaking lead paint, putty, lead flashing
- remove or fence off fly-tipped material
- prevent access to burnt out cars and old machinery that might contain lead
- prevent cattle access to bonfire ash
On farms with high lead soils, you should:
- keep your cows’ soil consumption as low as possible
- avoid waterlogged land and poached land for grazing
- avoid overgrazing and maintain adequate sward height
- fence off bare areas of soil
- calibrate cutters when making silage to minimise soil uptake
- flatten any molehills prior to cutting grass for silage
- provide salt licks and mineral supplements
- use mains water or tested borehole water rather than natural run-off water from high lead soils
What to do if you suspect lead poisoning in your cattle
If you suspect some of your cows are contaminated with lead, you must:
- remove your cattle from the affected area (pasture, pen or yard) immediately
- consult your vet
- confirm the cause of disease and if it is lead poisoning then investigate the source
Advice and testing for lead in cattle, produce or soil is available from your private vet or local APHA office.
New USDA Ruling Allows for Chicken to Be Produced From Diseased Birds
When the president invoked the Defense Production Act in April, to keep essential goods in production through the pandemic, it had some unexpected consequences on the food supply chain.
The meat industry, in particular, has seen a significant deregulation. Rollbacks of safety measures such as plant inspection standards, meat labeling regulations, and farm pollution restrictions have taken place in service of preventing meat shortages and keeping the industry operational with fewer bureaucratic hoops to jump through.
Now, as a direct result, the USDA's Food Safety and Inspection Service said it will allow the sales of chicken meat made from birds that have had diseases. And yes, that's for human consumption.
Bloomberg reports that in July, the agency accepted a petition from the National Chicken Council to allow slaughterhouses to process birds infected with Avian Leukosis. The infection causes a condition akin to cancer in chickens, where malignant tumors and lesions can develop.
Not only will inspectors not be required to examine the first 300 birds of each flock for signs of the disease, but processors will also be allowed to simply cut the tumors off and process the rest of the bird.
And eating meat of sub-par quality isn't the only negative outcome. Avian Leukosis is a rare but highly contagious disease that affects birds and poultry, and while it's unlikely to be transmitted from birds to humans, it isn't entirely impossible. According to Bloomberg, the indication of cross-species transmission comes from U.K. workers who were exposed to birds infected with the disease and have developed antibodies.
Parthapratim Basu, previous Chief Public Health Veterinarian for the FSIS, told Bloomberg the deregulation may be another major public health crisis waiting to happen. "A poorly regulated meat industry could very well become the source of a new epidemic," he was quoted saying.
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Diseased Meat That Tested Positive For Bovine TB Sold For Food, Defra Confirms
Diseased cattle that was slaughtered after testing positive for bovine tuberculosis is being sold for human consumption by the government.
The raw meat, from around 28,000 diseased animals a year, is banned by most supermarkets and burger chains, The Sunday Times reported.
Tesco, for example, rejects it because of "public-health concerns surrounding the issue of bTB and its risk to consumers".
But it is being sold to some caterers and food processors, and finding its way into schools, hospitals and the military, or being processed into products such as pies and pasties, the newspaper said.
A Defra spokeswoman said: "All meat from cattle slaughtered due to bovine TB must undergo rigorous food safety checks before it can be passed fit for consumption.
"The Food Standards Agency has confirmed there are no known cases where TB has been transmitted through eating meat and the risk of infection from eating meat, even if raw or undercooked, remains extremely low."
The meat is sold with no warning to processors or consumers that it comes from bTB infected cattle.
The news has been seized upon by campaigners against the badger cull, which has been justified in order to rid cattle of bTB.
Asked whether the public should know whether or not the meat they are buying originated from an infected cow, a spokeswoman for the Food Standards Agency said: "All meat must be marked with an identification mark which will indicate the approval number of the plant of origin.
"However, meat from TB reactors, once it has been passed as fit for human consumption, is not required to be marked in any way to distinguish it from other meat. Meat which passes the post mortem inspection is fit for human consumption and does not need additional labelling."
If an inspection of a carcass reveals tuberculous lesions in more than one organ or region it is declared unfit for human consumption and destroyed, she explained.
But if only the lymph nodes in one organ or part of the carcass is infected, then that area is removed and the rest is considered safe to enter the food chain.
She added: "Cooking this meat would be an additional safety step, but we would emphasise the risk even before cooking is very low."
The Sunday Times reported that Defra's reassurances contrasted with experts' warnings who have said rising levels of bTB in cattle are becoming a serious threat to human health.
Such claims have been used to justify a cull of tens of thousands of badgers which, are said by some, to help spread the disease between cattle.
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Goat meat is tender, juicy, lean, and has a mild flavor. It is quite similar to beef, and contrary to popular belief, it is not gamey in flavor. And…it smells amazing while cooking.
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Here are the most desirable cuts of goat meat to try in your next recipe:
- Neck Chops, Rosette, or Roast
- Rib rack
- Loin chops, or tenderloin
- Leg mini-roasts
The possibilities are endless and often you can cook goatmeat cuts similar to your favorite beef cuts, but to make things easier we have a great selection of goat meat recipes for you to try.
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