Wednesday, February 20, 2013

(Bad) Food For Thought

Laugh all you want to at Europe's horse meat in the mix problem.  As Aviva Shen at Think Progress reminds us, the American meat supply and the regulatory safety system here is in far, far worse shape.

Food regulators recently uncovered horsemeat masquerading as beef in Burger Kings, school cafeterias, and hospitals across Europe and the UK, prompting multiple product recalls and widespread horror. The horsemeat scandal has not touched the US, and many experts and journalists have rushed to reassure Americans that their burgers are safe from horse contamination. But compared to the dangerous pathogens hiding in US-produced meat, Americans might want to consider replacing their beef patties with European horsemeat.

The debacle has exposed weaknesses in the EU’s food safety procedures. However, horsemeat poses a negligible health risk. There have been no reported deaths or illnesses caused by this contamination. Though a harmful horse painkiller called bute was found in 8 of the 206 horses, a human would have to eat more than 500 burgers made entirely of horsemeat to ingest a human dose.

On the other side of the Atlantic, the average American consumes roughly 270 pounds of meat per year, and it’s unlikely that horsemeat is in the mix. There is, however, plenty of evidence that many Americans are inadvertently eating a side of deadly bacteria like salmonella or e. coli with their burgers. According to Center for Disease Control estimates, 48 million Americans get sick, 128,000 are hospitalized, and 3,000 die from foodborne illnesses every year. In comparison, the entire European Union had roughly 45,000 illnesses and 32 deaths from contaminated food in 2008. That means foodborne illness strikes 15 percent of Americans each year, but only .00009 percent of Europeans.

Pay attention to that last part, kids.  You're over a thousand times more likely to get food poisoning from food here than in Europe.  Maybe socialism isn't so bad when foodborne illnesses kill 3,000 a year in this country and we're pretty much okay with that.

Strike that, Republicans aren't okay with that.  They say that number should be higher because we've got too much government regulation.  You know what's getting cut as part of the sequestration meat axe?  The guys inspecting meat axes.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack and the White House have caused quite a stir in food and agriculture circles by warning that budget sequestration could lead to a two-week furlough of federal meat inspectors, which would effectively halt American meat and poultry processing.

The meat industry has responded by arguing that the U.S. Department of Agriculture is actually legally obligated to provide Food Safety and Inspection Service inspectors at meat plants — without an FSIS inspector plants are not allowed to operate — so USDA should instead furlough less important, or “non-essential” employees to meet the automatic cuts.

Sorry folks, Republicans are more than happy to let these cuts happen. These cuts will have consequences, and the GOP is hoping those consequences are "We block it and you'll blame Obama."

Somehow, that's a load of bull.  Or horse.


delosgatos said...

The TP author forgot to shift the decimal point when converting from decimal to percentage. 45,000/500,000,000 = .00009 = .009%.

bughunter said...

You know, if you're going to eat a freakin' cow, why are you grossed out about possibly having eaten a bit of horse by accident?

I mean, have you ever seen a cow up close? Compared to a cow, horses are aesthetically sublime. (And I've heard horsemeat is rather tasty, though it's banned here in CA).

Not saying the labeling and quality control fraud are excusable; I just don't understand the reactions of horror.

Related Posts with Thumbnails