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Center for Food Safety News #19 (formerly Food Bytes) June 4,1999
Beef Hormones, Irradiation, & Mad Deer: America's Food Safety Crisis Continues

News and Analysis on Genetic Engineering, Factory Farming, & Organics
by: Ronnie Cummins & Ben Lilliston
Campaign for Food Safety <>
Affiliated with Organic Consumers Association <>
and the Center for Food Safety (Washington, D.C.) <>
Beef Hormones, Irradiation, & Mad Deer: America's Food Safety Crisis Continues

The last half-dozen issues of CFS News have been devoted almost exclusively
to genetically engineered foods and crops and the increasing global
resistance against Monsanto and the biotech transnationals. While we intend
to keep shining the spotlight on Frankenfoods, it's time to focus once
again on several other food safety controversies that have been simmering
in the background.

On May 3, an official European Union (EU) scientific panel issued a
139-page report which affirmed that at least one of six growth hormones
contained in U.S. beef exports and banned by the EU can definitely cause
cancer. The EU's Scientific Committee on Veterinary Measures, consisting
of European and US-based endocrinologists, toxicologists, and other
scientists, told the Associated Press that the hormone 17 beta-oestradiol
"has to be considered as a complete carcinogen." The EU panel stated
moreover that all of the banned hormones "may cause a variety of health
problems including cancer, developmental problems, harm to immune systems
and brain disease... Even exposure to small levels of residues in meat and
meat products carries risks..."

Secretary of Agriculture Dan Glickman condemned the EU scientific panel's
"unsubstantiated arguments" and warned that the US would go ahead and
impose trade sanctions on the EU beginning in July.

Since 1989 Europe has banned the importation of US and Canadian beef
produced with growth hormones such as estradiol, a potent cancer-causing
estrogen. These beef hormones are implanted in pellet form under the skin
in the ear of cattle to force them to grow faster, adding to industry
profits by approximately $80 per animal. Most US beef (90% of all feed
lot cattle according to the Cattlemen's Beef Association) is now
hormone-implanted. Yet lab rats fed dosages of these hormones have
developed cancer, and at least three of the most commonly used beef
hormones appear on state and federal lists as "known" carcinogens.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and US Department of Agriculture
(USDA) insist, however, that these beef hormones are totally safe, and that
consequently hormone-tainted beef need not be labeled. The USDA claims beef
hormone residues pose no danger, but then admit they don't test for
them--except on rare occasions. As a result few American beef eaters know
they're likely getting an extra dose of hormones and estrogen with their
burgers or steaks. Organic meat production is the exception, as organic
beef producers are prohibited from using growth hormones in cattle or other

The use of beef hormone implants are illegal in the EU. This is
characterized as unacceptable "protectionism" and a "clear restraint of
trade" by the mammoth US beef industry, who have prevailed upon the Clinton
administration to bring the EU in front of a trade dispute tribunal of the
GATT World Trade Organization. US trade officials have threatened to impose
punitive duties on $202 million worth of EU farm products and other goods
annually if the ban is not lifted. Similar US strong-arm tactics on behalf
of America's banana giants (Chiquita, DelMonte, Dole) recently forced the
EU to change its laws giving preference to a small quota of banana imports
from its former colonies in the Caribbean.

As Dr. Samuel Epstein of the University of Illinois told the Los Angeles
Times "The question we ought to be asking is not why Europe won't buy our
hormone-treated meat, but why we allow beef from hormone-treated cattle to
be sold to American and Canadian consumers." As Epstein's Cancer Prevention
Coalition pointed out last year:

* Confidential industry reports to the FDA, obtained under the Freedom of
Information Act, reveal high residues of sex hormones in American beef.

* Following implants in cattle of Synovex-S, a combination of estradiol and
progesterone, estradiol levels in meat increased up to 20-fold over what is
considered normal. Based on conservative estimates, the amount of estradiol
in two hamburgers eaten by an eight-year-old boy could increase his hormone
levels by 10%.

* Much higher hormone levels are found in meat products following illegal
implantation in cattle muscle tissue, which is commonplace in US feed lots.
A random survey of 32 large feed lots found that as many as half of the
cattle had visible "misplaced implants" in muscle, rather than under ear

* Lifelong exposure to high residues of natural and synthetic sex hormones
in meat products poses serious risks of breast and reproductive cancers,
which have sharply increased in the US since 1950. Hormone residues are
also suspected to be causal factors in premature sexual development in
young girls.

* Repeated assurances on the safety of hormone-implanted meat by two World
Health Organization bodies, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and
the Codex Alimentarius Commission (Codex) reflect the biases of senior FDA
and USDA officials and industry consultants, and rely heavily upon
unpublished industry data and outdated scientific information.

Trade analysts noted that the recent beef hormone and banana conflicts
between the US and Europe may be just the prelude to an all-out trade war
in the near future--over genetically engineered foods and crops. As
Glickman told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch on May 24, the increasing
conflict over GE crops between the US and Europe "could make beef hormones
look like the minor leagues."
US Moves to Eliminate or Reduce Labeling Requirements for Irradiated Foods

In the wake of five years of unprecedented food poisoning outbreaks,
government and industry inaction, and increasing public alarm, the FDA
announced in February that it was seeking "public input" on whether to
change or eliminate the current required labels on irradiated foods. The
FDA action comes partly in response to a legal petition filed in 1998 by
the powerhouse National Food Processors Association. A little-known
provision of the FDA Modernization Act of 1997 passed by the US Congress
directed the FDA to explore the possibility of allowing labeling of
irradiated foods to expire. Congressional backers of the legislation told
the FDA that current irradiation labeling requirements for nuked foods were
causing "inappropriate anxiety" among consumers and holding back the
expansion of food irradiation. Proposed alternative labels, backed by the
industrial meat giants, fast-food corporations, and supermarkets chains,
would utilize misleading terms such as "cold pasteurization" or "electronic
pasteurization," instead of irradiation, to reassure consumers.

The FDA announced initially it would be accepting written public comments
until May 18 on two questions: "1) Whether the wording of the current
radiation disclosure statement should be revised, and 2) whether such
labeling requirements should expire at a specified date in the future."
After being bombarded with thousands of comments (and a petition from the
Campaign for Food Safety & the Organic Consumers Association signed by an
additional 8,000 consumers) the FDA announced that they were extending the
comment period until July 19.

Currently, irradiated meat and produce must be labeled with a prominent
"radura" symbol and statement indicating that the product has been
irradiated. For this reason very little food in the US (except for
approximately 10% of all spices--which, due to a loophole in the law, do
not have to be labeled) is currently irradiated. In the food irradiation
process, food is passed through a chamber containing radioactive cobalt-60,
cesium-137, electron beams, or X-rays that bombard the food, literally
break and rearrange the food molecules, and kill bacteria, insects and
mold. Organic food certifiers prohibit irradiation for foods labeled

The US government, prodded by the nuclear industry, ruled in 1986 that food
irradiation was safe and legal, despite objections from consumer groups and
scientists that the process was unpredictable and dangerous. Among the
major hazards cited by critics are the following:

* Irradiation destroys vitamins and damages the nutritional quality of
food. Even at low doses, some irradiated foods lose 20% of vitamins such as
C, E, K, and B complex. Because irradiation breaks down cell walls,
irradiated foods which are stored for long periods may lose up to 70-80% of
their vitamin content.

* Scientific studies--deliberately ignored by the FDA--are alarming. In
numerous lab tests, animals fed irradiated foods have shown increased
tumors, reproductive failures and kidney
damage. In 1979 J. Barna of the Hungarian Academy of Sciences noted
hundreds of adverse effects in animals fed irradiated foods. In a study
carried out by the National Institute of Nutrition in India, whose results
were published in 1975, chromosomal abnormalities were observed in children
who were fed irradiated wheat.

* Nuclear and electron beam irradiation produces toxic byproducts in the
food. Ionizing irradiation is so powerful that it knocks electrons out of
atoms and creates what are called "free radicals." These free radicals
react with food components, creating new radiolytic products, some of which
are toxic and carcinogenic (benzene, formaldehyde, lipid peroxides), and
some of which may be unique to irradiated foods. No one knows the long-term
impact of eating these "modified" foods.

* Irradiation creates the impression of "counterfeit freshness," kills off
beneficial bacteria, and creates an ideal environment for the proliferation
of botulism and grain aflotoxins--two of the deadliest food toxins on
earth. Although irradiation kills 90-99% of harmful bacteria, those
bacteria that survive will be radiation-resistant and ever more virulent.

* Nuclear irradiation facilities using radioactive materials are
environmental hazards. Accidents have already occurred in Georgia and New
Jersey, injuring workers and contaminating the ground water.

Despite irradiation's hazards and drawbacks, it is being aggressively
pushed by an embattled meat industry looking for cover in the wake of
numerous recent food-borne illness outbreaks, particularly E -coli,
salmonella, and listeria. At the same time, the industry has vigorously
opposed efforts to clean up filthy slaughter houses, slow down meat
production processing lines, stop the feeding of antibiotics and rendered
animal protein to livestock, and increase the number of federal meat
inspectors--all more productive, and less hazardous, measures to reduce
food-borne illnesses.

The complete FDA irradiation proposal can be viewed at:

We invite CFS readers to send a strong comment to the FDA demanding
prominent labeling on irradiated food, and opposing misleading labels such
as "electronic pasteurization" or "cold pasteurization." Also, tell the FDA
that the requirement for irradiation disclosure (both the label and the
radura symbol) should not expire at any time in the future. As long as
irradiated food has to be prominently labeled, and industry knows that
consumers are opposed to it (in a nationwide poll by CBS television in
1997, a full 77% of American consumers said they were opposed to
irradiation), corporate America will be reluctant to put out nuked food
onto the marketplace.

Send comments before July 19, 1999 to:
Dockets Management Branch (HFA-305)
Food and Drug Administration
5630 Fishers Lane, Room 1061
Rockville, MD 20852.
Refer to Docket #98N-1038

If you choose to e-mail your comments, be sure to include
the docket # in the subject of the e-mail. Send e-mail to
Please cc your e-mail comments to us at:

For further information on food irradiation see the irradiation section on
our web site <> In addition we recommend several good
books you can buy at bookstores or find in a public library:

Food Irradiation: Who Wants It? by Tony Webb, Tim Lang, & Kathleen Tucker
(Thorsons Publishers Inc. 1987) currently out-of-print

The Food That Would Last Forever by Dr. Gary Gibbs (Avery Publishing Co.
1993) available at your local bookstore or via <>
America's "Mad Deer" Epidemic: A Public Health Time Bomb Set to Explode?

As we pointed out in an earlier issue (Food Bytes #2, September 24, 1997),
there is increasing evidence that the US has a growing number of people
coming down with the human equivalent of Mad Cow Disease, called CJD
(Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease). Although the meat industry, the blood plasma
cartel, and the Centers for Disease Control tell us there's no need to
worry, that only 250 Americans a year are dying from this incurable
brain-wasting disease, we remain skeptical. The CDC and the USDA tell us
that it's not necessary to make CJD an "officially reportable disease"
(whereby doctors are bound by law to look for it and report all cases to
the federal government), or to scientifically test farm animals and
Alzheimer patients for the disease, but mounting evidence indicates that as
many as 40,000 Americans (or 1% of the nation's 4-6 million people
diagnosed with Alzheimer's Disease or dementia) may actually be wasting
away with CJD. See the book Mad Cow USA: Could the Nightmare Happen Here?
by John Stauber and Sheldon Rampton <> If you want to
order Mad Cow USA, send us $10 at our office in Minnesota and we'll mail
you a copy.

To call attention to this growing public health hazard and to force the
government to take action (i.e. to stop the widespread practice in
industrial agriculture of "animal cannibalism," the feeding of waste and
diseased animal parts back to animals, and to make CJD an official
"reportable disease") lawyers at the Center for Food Safety filed two legal
petitions in Federal Court in Washington on January 7, 1999. For details on
the CFS legal petitions see <>

In Britain and Europe the meat industry's former feeding practice of animal
cannibalism has unleashed a fatal Alzheimers-like dementia that is killing
a growing number of young victims who ate contaminated beef from mad cows.
Some experts predict hundreds of thousands of Britons and other Europeans
may die in the decades ahead due to the long and invisible incubation
period of this brain-destroying illness, called "new-variant
Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease" (nvCJD).

Europe has now banned the feeding practices that spread Mad Cow and nvCJD.
However, in the U.S. the dangerous practice of "animal cannibalism"
continues unabated-- with government approval. Although the FDA passed a
so-called "mammal-to-mammal animal feed ban" in 1997, the regulation is
filled with loopholes, and, according to farmers and ag experts, is not
being enforced. As Dr. Michael Hansen of the Consumers Union stated in
Genetic Engineering News in July 1997 [the FDA] "rule exempts swine,
horses, blood, gelatin and milk from the feed ban... [and] still leaves the
door open to spreading of a TSE...[Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathy]

Heretofore unpublished internal USDA and APHIS (Animal Plant Health
Inspection Service) documents such as "Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy in
the USA" (July 1993) recently obtained by the Center for Food Safety under
the Freedom of Information Act and published on the internet
<> make it clear that the US government knows that a form of
US Mad Cow Disease is already likely present in US cattle and in the food
chain. According to government estimates it is likely that at least 36
animals per year are slaughtered in the US with Mad Cow Disease. The
Clinton administration has prepared an elaborate contingency plan for
"damage control" once the first US Mad Cow is confirmed.

As evidence grows that TSEs (Transmissible Spongiform Encephalopathies or
Mad Cow-like diseases) are infecting sheep, deer, elk, and other mammals in
the US (including humans) billions of pounds of rendered fat, offal, meat
and bone meal continue to be fed back to cows, pigs, chickens, fish,
household pets, and elk and deer. (On so-called deer and elk farms where
hunters pay fees to shoot them, deer and elk are often fed rendered animal
protein). Rather than invoking the "precautionary principle" to protect
human health, the powerful U.S. beef and industrial agriculture lobby has
convinced the government to issue a watered down feed ban while waging war
against free speech by lobbying for "food disparagement laws" in more than
a dozen states, criminalizing the actions of those such as Oprah Winfrey
and Howard Lyman who have spoken out for food safety and warned of an
impending Mad Cow-like crisis in the USA.

Although the apparent increase in CJD deaths in the US hasn't yet set off a
major food safety or public health crisis, The New York Times, USA Today,
and CNN television have recently reported on an emerging epidemic of Mad
Deer Disease and Mad Elk Disease (technically called Chronic Wasting
Disease or CWD) in the Rocky Mountain area of the US. Not only have up to
7% of mule tail deer and 1.5% of elk in areas of Colorado and Wyoming been
diagnosed as having Mad Deer/Elk Disease (in comparison 1-2% of cattle had
Mad Cow Disease in England at the height of the epidemic there), but the
highly-publicized death in March of Doug McEwen, a 30 year-old deer hunter
in Utah from CJD--and reports of several other young deer hunters with CJD
across the country--has unnerved hunters and wildlife officials as well as
the entire beef and blood plasma industry. (The World Health Organization
warns that Mad Cow-like diseases can likely spread through blood
transfusions). Doug McEwen was an avid blood donor, and his blood plasma
products--marketed by the Bayer corporation--ended up in more than 20
countries. In March the Canadian government temporarily quarantined all
blood plasma from the US because of the McKuen case. Meanwhile US
authorities are considering a ban on blood plasma products from the UK. and
barring anyone who's been to the U.K. since
1980 from donating blood.On May 25, CBS News in New York ran a story on yet
another young US deer hunter, 27 year-old Jay Whitlock, who is dying of

Over the past several years Colorado state wildlife officials have warned
deer and elk hunters to send them the heads of animals that they've killed
in order that they may be tested for CWD. But while the government delays
and prevaricates several million Americans--especially hunters and their
families--continue to eat venison and elk on a regular basis. Meanwhile
thousands of sport hunting and "road kill" deer and elk are routinely
rendered into animal and pet feed. Scientists warn that Mad Deer/Elk
Disease is likely to spread into cattle and sheep because the prion
proteins in these mammals are so similar. Captive elk have already infected
wild deer, apparently from fence line contact.

Government officials have tried to play down the emerging CWD crisis,
claiming there's no connection between the McKuen case (the Centers for
Disease Control claim it's "normal" for several in a billion people to die
from CJD while still in their twenties or thirties) and the CWD epidemic in
deer and elk, and emphasize that most infected deer and elk are
concentrated in a limited area in Colorado and Wyoming. But according to a
February 23, 1999 story in the New York Times "Weighing 'Mad Cow' Risks in
American Deer and Elk" by Sandra Blakeslee:

"Game farms are another story. The disease is found in captive deer and
elk herds in three states -- South Dakota, Nebraska and Oklahoma-- and in
the Canadian province of Saskatchewan, said Dr. Beth Williams, the nation's
leading expert on chronic wasting disease, at the University of Wyoming in
Laramie. The disease was reported in the mid-1960's at the Wildlife
Research Station in Fort Collins, Colorado, where it eventually wiped out
90 percent of the animals. But before people knew what was happening, many
infected animals were sold to game farms or zoos elsewhere for breeding,
thus spreading the infection. Ranchers made large profits selling antlers
to Asia, where they are used in making herbal remedies and aphrodisiacs."
Stay tuned for further developments.

The Campaign for Food Safety would like thank Steve Urow for his
incredible volunteer efforts since 1995 in maintaining and updating our
<> website. The CFS site now gets over 125,000 hits per
month. Steve is also the founder and web master for the non-profit - a directory of
eco-friendly businesses and organizations.

End of Campaign for Food Safety News #19 (formerly called Food Bytes)

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