UK supermarket chain wants cameras in abattoirs to control cruelty

In early 2008, the Humane Society of the United States released video documenting animal abuse at Hallmark/Westland Meat Packing Co. of Chino, Calif., secretly shot by an undercover employee.

That $100-million-a-year company does not exist anymore – brought down by someone using an over-the-counter video recording device.
In April 2009, Cargill Beef announced it had implemented a third-party video-auditing system that would operate 24 hours a day at its U.S. beef plants to enhance the company’s animal welfare protection systems. All of Cargill’s U.S. plants were expected to have the program in place by the end of 2009.

In Feb. 2010, Cargill announced it would expand its remote video auditing program to monitor food-safety procedures within processing plants.

Last week, a new undercover video investigation by a national animal welfare group claimed to show disturbing conditions at a Texas farm operated by the country’s largest egg producer and distributor.

?The Humane Society of the United States said that one of their investigators documented a range of filthy, unsanitary conditions while working at a Cal-Maine Foods operation in Texas over a five-week period this fall. A five-minute video produced by the group shows hens confined in overcrowded cages with rotting corpses, dead and injured birds trapped in cages, eggs covered in feces, and escaped hens floating in manure pits.?

The images are a stark contrast to the clean white birds and eggs featured in the video on the Cal-Maine corporate website.

On Nov, 19, 2010, The Independent reported that Morrisons became the first U.K. supermarket to promise to install CCTV at its abattoirs to reassure the public. The RSPCA called for other chains to follow suit. The supermarket said CCTV images from its Colne and Turriff abattoirs would be stored for 30 days and made available to the Food Standards Agency (FSA). Spokesman Martyn Fletcher said: "Our customers want to know that animals are treated well through the slaughtering process and we believe installing CCTV cameras is the best way to demonstrate we have the highest possible standards."

Slaughterhouse cruelty has been under the spotlight after Animal Aid captured breaches of welfare laws at six out of seven randomly selected abattoirs – including one supplying organic meat, where pigs were kicked in the face.

September’s footage from F Drury & Sons reinforces the suspicion many, if not most, of the 370 abattoirs in England and Wales break the rules.

Speaking on behalf of F Drury & Sons, the Association of Independent Meat Suppliers said the 20-second rule had been designed for religious slaughter when animals are not stunned. "The likelihood of a stunned animal being conscious is extremely small," said its veterinary officer Stephen Lomax. "This is not an animal welfare issue."

He blamed government vets for not alerting owners to the "deplorable" abuse found elsewhere. He said: "There’s no excuse for all the self-serving arguments the FSA gives about these vets [monitoring abattoirs] not having enough time. They spend a great deal of time phoning their boyfriends, reading the newspaper or filling in useless forms. The system has failed."

The FSA initially denied illegality at F Drury & Sons, but changed its mind when challenged.

Companies would protect their brand and build trust with the buying public by having their own video to supplement claims of humane handling and food safety.

Live animal imports into America: agencies need better collaboration to reduce the risk of animal-related diseases

The United States legally imported more than 1 billion live animals from 2005 through 2008. With increased trade and travel, zoonotic diseases (transmitted between animals and humans) and animal diseases can emerge anywhere and spread rapidly.

That’s a lot of animals.

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) concluded the statutory and regulatory framework for live animal imports has gaps that could allow the introduction of diseases into the United States. Specifically:

(1) The Department of Health and Human Services’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has regulations to prevent the importation of live animals that may pose a previously identified disease risk to humans for some diseases, but gaps in its regulations may allow animals presenting other zoonotic disease risks to enter the United States. CDC has solicited comments in advance of a rulemaking to better prevent the importation of animals that pose zoonotic disease risks.

(2) The Department of the Interior’s Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) has regulations to prevent imports of nonnative live animals that could become invasive.

GAO recommends that the Secretaries of Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Homeland Security, and the Interior develop a strategy to address barriers to agency collaboration that may allow potentially risky imported animals into the United States and jointly determine data needs to effectively oversee imported animals.

Working with animals at petting zoo and then working in café in same clothes is bad idea

The owners of a U.K. petting zoo accused of animal welfare offences and bad food safety have withdrawn their application for a zoo licence.

Northern Echo reports that Tweddle Children’s Animal Farm, in Blackhall Colliery, County Durham, has also removed some of its more exotic animals.

Earlier this year, the council’s environmental health officers and the Department for the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs visited the farm following an undercover investigation by the Captive Animals Protection Society. The charity said it had found traces of E coli and dead animals decomposing near a children’s play area.

It also said the bodies of dead animals, including a meerkat and tortoise, had been stored in a freezer on top of food for animals, while staff working with animals were working in the cafe wearing the same clothes.

Tweedle also did not have the required licence for a zoo.

The council said no traces of E coli were reported but head teachers who may have been planning school visits were warned about its investigation.

Salmonella outbreak in New Zealand sourced to farms?

There’s some sort of salmonella outbreak going on in New Zealand and health types think contact with farm animals could be to blame.

The Southland Times reports that health authorities are reporting an increase in stomach diseases in the Southland area and are warning farmers to be careful when handling newborn lambs and calves.

Southern District Health Board medical officer of health Dr Marion Poore said most of the gastroenteric diseases noted so far this spring were in relation to farm workers or young children living on farms.

She said the onset of spring could bring an increased risk for those in rural communities.

Food donated for animals served in UK zoo cafeteria

In scandal-starved U.K., the Daily Mail reports a safari park has been forced to admit serving up food meant for its animals in the public canteen.

Woburn Safari Park in Bedfordshire has said that potatoes and onions generously donated for the animals were fed to paying customers.

However safari park bosses stressed today that they had not put customers’ health at risk.

The incident only came to light when a member of the public (or kitchen staff – dp) complained to Central Bedfordshire County Council about kitchen practices.

Park chiefs were then forced to admit that in September last year they had used food in the public canteen that had been donated as animal feed.

However, they insisted this was a ‘one-off’ and not common practice at the park which houses animals including lions, tigers, elephants, rhino and giraffes.

The potatoes and onions were said to have been unsuitable for the animals.
Officials from Central Bedfordshire Council launched an investigation into the incident and discovered the allegations were true.

Safe food is food that doesn’t make you barf; don’t like it, make your own definition

“Just when I thought I was out, they pulled me back in.”

That’s from the truly terrible movie, The Godfather III (see below), but I prefer Sil’s impersonation on the truly terrific television series, The Soprano’s (right).

Safe food is food that doesn’t make you barf.

At least that’s my definition. Food safety has come to mean all things to all people, but to me, food safety is about minimizing the chemical, physical and especially microbial risks that can be found in food. The risks that make up to 30 per cent of all people in all countries barf every year (or at least that’s the number the World Health Organization says; when are those updated U.S. numbers coming out?)

Animal welfare, genetic engineering, local/organic/natural, trans fat and fat kids, these are all bandied about under the rubric of food safety, but have little or nothing to do with safety. These issues are valid on their own but are primarily about lifestyle choices and food porn. Americans love choice.

And to talk.

Reminds me of that scene from Monty Python’s, The Meaning of Life, when death visits the dinner party:

“Shut up. Shut up you Americans. You always talk, you Americans. You always talk and you talk and you say, ‘Let me tell you something,’ and ‘I just wanna say this.’ Well you’re dead now, so shut up.”

(Python food safety note: The dinner guests all died at the same time from presumably botulism in the salmon mousse. “Darling, you didn’t use canned salmon, did you?”)

Every time I focus on core food safety issues, someone tries to pull me back in to lifestyle debates. Sure I dabbled in genetic engineering and food production systems – doesn’t everyone in college – but I got enough to do focusing on the things that make people barf.

For the past week, the Intertubes have been pneumonically spewing out messages about the risks of antimicrobials in animal husbandry since a CBS News so-called special report aired on the issue.

Antimicrobial resistance is one of those persistent ag issues where — like me crossing the border into the U.S. – every journalist or customs officer thinks she’s discovered something no one else has yet.

They’re always wrong.

Antimicrobial resistance has been on the public agenda since the Swann report of 1969. It’s a risk, it needs to be managed, just like any other risk, to maximize benefits and minimize risk.

But leave it to Whole Foods to go over-the-top, in a blog post entitled, Our meat: No antibiotics, EVER!

(The capitalization and exclamation marks are from the Whole Foods original blog post, the authors and editors who apparently think their readers have disorders and need to be bashed with punctuation and capitalization)

Theo Weening, the national meat buyer for Whole Foods Market, says he “can assure our customers that our standard is: No antibiotics, EVER! We work very hard to make sure that the people who produce our meat have raised their animals without the use of antibiotics, growth hormones* or animal byproducts in the feed.”

Meat-buyer Weening fails to distinguish between the routine use of antibiotics as growth promotants and the use of antibiotics to treat animals that are sick. Should sick animals be deprived antibiotics? Wouldn’t that go against animal welfare standards?

And note the asterick beside the no growth hormone BS. At the end of the blog post, there is an asterick with the comment, “*Federal regulations prohibit the use of growth hormones in raising pigs, veal calves, bison and poultry.”

Tyson already tried this line of labeling. Didn’t work. Whole Foods is hopeless.

What I really want to know is if the Whole Foods or any other steak has been needle tenderized or not so I can adjust my cooking temperature (as verified by a tip-sensitive digital thermometer). Those are the kinds of things that make people barf.