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The Topsy-Turvy Logic of America’s Food Cops

The Topsy-Turvy Logic of America’s Food Cops
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Texas-Police-Hit-Organic-Farm-With-Massive-SWAT-Raid_huffpost_Screenshot-273Mass-produced CAFO food is becoming more dangerous than ever, yet US authorities seem obsessed with destroying small farmers and distributors of raw and organic foods.

The USDA has ended a ban on Chinese chicken imports to the US by authorizing four Chinese plants to process chickens that were slaughtered elsewhere. There will be no USDA inspectors on hand at the plants to verify the origin of the slaughtered chickens or to enforce US standards. There is no labeling requirement, so consumers in the US will have no way to know which chicken products were processed (that is, cooked) in China or what their origins were.

China has a terrible track record for food safety. Bloomberg News reports:

China has earned a reputation as one of the world’s worst food-safety offenders. In just the last year, consumers have been confronted with a bird flu outbreak, news of sales of 46-year-old chicken feet, and reports of poisonous fake mutton. These are not isolated incidents, but rather the most spectacular instances of a crisis that has become so severe that some consumers now smuggle quantities of infant milk formula from foreign countries into China.

Introducing unlabeled Chinese cooked chickens will just make a bad situation in the US worse. We reported in July that USDA has proposed new poultry regulations to speed up line speeds and reduce the number of federal inspectors by 40%, relying more on inspectors paid by the poultry producers, and in particular allowing the use of more, stronger, and dangerous chemicals to sanitize the filthy birds that have lived in overcrowded squalor.

The USDA now plans to roll out similar regulations for pork plants nationwide, despite the fact that plants using the new system have failed to stop the production of contaminated meat. Five US pork plants have been using the new USDA program for a decade; three of the five are among the worst offenders in the nation for health and safety violations. Plants in Canada and Australia using the new program have also been plagued with recalls and tainted meat.

Nor can you guarantee a safe meal by getting a steak instead of a pork chop. Large numbers of cattle in the US are fed dangerous fattening drugs that are banned in most other countries: beta-agonists, which can put twenty to thirty-four pounds on cattle just prior to slaughter. Eli Lilly sells Optaflexx and Merck sells Zilmax, which Merck claims is used on 70% of the cattle slaughtered in the US.

Merck announced last month that it is suspending sales of Zilmax while it conducts a new study of the effects on cattle. This may be in response to the largest US meat processor, Tyson Foods, announcing that it will no longer be buying any cattle fed Zilmax, due to health problems. The most common problem is that cattle are rendered unable to walk. As the Wall Street Journal reported, the drugs have taken away one of the feed-lot operators’ key bargaining chips: the ability to time when they send cattle to the packing plant to get the best price. “Now, you only have so many days after an animal has been fed [a beta-agonist] before it’s got to go to slaughter or it becomes so lame it can’t move,” said a cattle producer in Colorado.

Ractopamine, the beta-agonist in Eli Lily’s Optaflexx, is banned in Russia and China, so the US cannot export pork to either country, nor beef to Russia. Smithfield Foods, the world’s largest hog farmer and pork processor, has dedicated half of their slaughter capacity to processing hogs that have never been fed ractopamine so they can meet the demands of exporters.

Americans are eating meat that is increasingly contaminated and full of drugs that have been banned in other countries. Meanwhile, US authorities are more concerned about the so-called “dangers” posed by raw milk and organic produce. A small organic farm in Texas was raided last month by a SWAT team in search of marijuana plants, which they did not find. In an armed raid that lasted ten hours and included aerial surveillance by helicopters, the police seized seventeen organic blackberry bushes, fifteen okra plants, fourteen tomatillo plants, as well as native grasses and sunflowers—after holding residents inside at gunpoint for at least a half-hour! The only person arrested was someone on the property with outstanding traffic violations.

We reported in August 2011 about the armed raid of raw food co-op Rawesome Foods in Venice, California. This was no small-town police action, but a joint raid by the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Office, the FDA, the Department of Agriculture, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Rawesome was charged with selling unpasteurized dairy without a proper license, even though Rawesome does not sell to the public but only acts as a distributor for co-op owners, so no license is necessary. Despite there being no evidence whatsoever of contamination, 800 gallons of raw organic milk were poured down the drain, and $70,000 worth of raw organic food was seized.

In Wisconsin, raw milk farmer Vernon Hershberger was raided and accused of committing “dairy crimes” for distributing raw organic milk to a small group of people who were members of a private buying club (much like the Rawesome Foods co-op).

And you may recall our article last month about the war on small farmers. Small farms, and especially raw and organic farms, produce the highest-quality food in America. Yet US authorities seem intent on destroying them through regulation, paperwork, fees, and raids while turning a blind eye on poor meat safety inspections and the drugging of livestock with toxic pharmaceuticals.

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