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Let Them Eat Feces:

Agribusiness & Government Move to Weaken
U.S. Food Labeling Laws and Irradiate Beef

by Ronnie Cummins
Little Marais, Minnesota

Once again Corporate America's food giants find themselves scrambling to restore public confidence in the wake of the latest outbreak of e-coli 0157, which the press has dubbed the "hamburger disease." In August, after several dozen consumers in Colorado were poisoned by the e-coli feces in their burgers, 25 million pounds of hamburger meat had to be recalled from the Hudson Foods Corporation. Even the giant chain Burger King was forced to stop serving hamburgers in their restaurants briefly. In interviews with the press, the government Centers for Disease Control (CDC) admitted that food poisoning has reached epidemic proportions in the US, with up to 80 million consumers per year being poisoned, mainly by feces and bacteria-contaminated beef, poultry, eggs, and fish. National polls in the US have found 80% of all consumers expressing concern about food safety issues such as e-coli and salmonella, pesticide residues, artificial growth hormones, and genetic engineering.

Statistics over the past 4 years indicate that up to 35% of America's hamburger meat may be contaminated by feces, with up to 1.5%-3.5% likely containing the deadly e-coli 0157. In 1993 the Foundation on Economic Trends sued the USDA over the e-coli and meat contamination issue--forcing the government to begin placing warning labels on all 2 billion packages of fresh meat sold in the USA each year. Statistics on salmonella and feces contamination of poultry and eggs are even worse, with the Clinton Administration announcing in July 1996 that the government's long-term goals were to reduce feces residues on poultry to just under 50%!

In addition, an investigative article in US News and World Report on Sept. 1 reported that cattle and other animals are now being fed raw manure on a massive scale--as a low-cost alternative to alfalfa, hay, and other traditional feeds. And now, after a year of media reports on the BSE epidemic in Europe, the US news media appear finally to be waking up to the fact that literally billions of pounds of dead and diseased animals and waste body parts continue to be rendered and fed back to America's farm animals and pets. No wonder sales of organic foods and natural, free-range meats have skyrocketed over the past 5 years. No wonder the USA has had to resort to using the WTO to try to force its beef on Europeans, who have banned all US beef imports since 1988. Even Boris Yeltsin, certainly not known for his consumer activism, briefly halted half a billion dollars in chicken imports from the USA to Russia in 1996, citing widespread feces and salmonella contamination. The Wall Street Journal reported on Sept. 18 that Clinton has sent USDA secretary Dan Glickman to Russia to deal with the "growing backlash" against food exports to Russia, "especially poultry."

Reacting to the ongoing crisis in public confidence, the Clinton Administration and America's food multinationals have decided to take drastic action. Not drastic action in the sense of implementing stringent food safety measures. The drastic actions they have in mind are entirely different: to crack down on and intimidate the media and food critics; to restrict or to take away altogether consumers' rights to know what's been done to their food; and finally to start using nuclear waste to irradiate America's feces-tainted meat, poultry, and produce.

Published in In Motion Magazine October 21, 1997

Ronnie Cummins is National Director of thePure Food Campaign, a non-profit, public interest organization dedicated to building a healthy, safe, and sustainable system of food production and consumption in the US and the world. The PFC's primary strategy is to help build a national and international consumer/farmer/labor/progressive retailer boycott of genetically engineered and chemically contaminated foods and crops.