On food safety

One of the arguments I’ve made in defense of schools choosing to buy local agricultural products is that when you deal with someone you know, you’re able to verify the safety and quality of the products you’re getting fairly easily. This is diametrically opposed to the other option: buying agricultural products that are made by industrial agriculture operations, which means relying on an inefficient and functionally useless federal regulatory mechanism. Some people (particularly Sarah Brodsky at the Show-Me Institute) defend the broken system of industrial agriculture without ever considering the dangers implicit in this system. In this vein, here is Helena Bottemiller describing how federal regulatory mechanisms are woefully inadequate in ensuring basic food safey:

Veterinary drugs, pesticides, and heavy metals are making it onto our plates via meat, according to a federal audit released this week.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) Office of the Inspector General (OIG) report concludes that the agencies responsible for monitoring harmful residues are “not accomplishing” their mission.

“Together, [USDA’s Food Safety Inspection Service], FDA, and EPA have not established thresholds for many dangerous substances (e.g., copper or dioxin), which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce,” says the audit, which identifies lack of agency commitment and poor interagency coordination as key issues.

The OIG also found that FSIS does not attempt to recall meat, even when its tests have confirmed the “excessive presence of veterinary drugs.”

“Not only does overuse of antibiotics help create antibiotic-resistant strains of diseases, but the residues of certain drugs and heavy metals can have potentially adverse health consequences if they are consumed in meat,” OIG reported. The audit offers the following table, which lists five drugs and substances found in meat and their potential health effects (click to enlarge):


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