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A recent Harvard School of Public Health study has claimed that eating smoked or cured meats could increase the risk of leukemia in children and young adults. Chen-yu Liu, et al., “Cured meat, vegetables and bean-curd foods in relation to childhood acute leukemia risk: A population cast-control study,” BMC Cancer (2009). Researchers analyzed the dietary habits of 515 participants between age 2 and 20 in Taiwan, finding that those who consumed smoked or cured meats more than once a week were more likely to develop acute leukemia. In addition, the study allegedly confirmed that children who regularly ate vegetables and tofu showed a reduced risk for leukemia. The authors speculated that nitrites added during the curing and smoking process could play a role in cancer, but stressed a need for further causation studies to discover a mechanism. “These are some very active compounds in your body,” stated Harvard Professor of…

Maple Leaf Foods Inc. has agreed to pay $25 million to settle class claims filed after ready-to-eat meats tainted with Listeria monocytogenes allegedly sickened dozens of Canadians and caused 20 deaths in 2008. The settlement, which must be approved by courts in several provinces, would provide an additional $2 million if needed to fully compensate those filing claims by the July 31, 2009, deadline. The company’s Web site explains the settlement’s terms and notes what those objecting to it can do. Approval hearings will be conducted on March 5, 10 and 20 in Ontario, Saskatchewan and Quebec, respectively.

“While some have difficulty with the cuteness versus deliciousness ratio – that adorable little face, those itty-bitty claws – many feel that eating a squirrel is a way to do something good for the environment while enjoying a unique gastronomical experience,” writes New York Times journalist Marlena Spieler in this article chronicling Britain’s efforts to save its indigenous red squirrel population from an influx of North American gray squirrels. “The grays take over the reds’ habitat, eat voraciously and harbor a virus named squirrel parapox (harmless to humans) that does not harm grays but can devastate reds,” according to Spieler, who credits the “Save Our Squirrels” campaign with creating a market for culled squirrel meat among TV chefs, cookbooks, farmers’ markets, and restaurants. Hunters, gamekeepers and the U.K. Forestry Commission apparently supply the delicacy, which has been promoted as a low-fat alternative to other game animals. “Part of the interest is…

According to news sources, litigation has been filed in California challenging a new law that prohibits the sale or distribution of food from nonambulatory livestock. One of the suits, filed in late December 2008 by the National Meat Association, claims that the state’s hog industry should be exempt. An association spokesperson reportedly indicated that “hog fatigue” causes hogs to lie down occasionally, but that nothing is wrong with these animals. The American Meat Institute (AMI) filed a motion to intervene, arguing that the law as a whole is preempted by the Federal Meat Inspection Act. An AMI press release notes, “on some occasions all species can become injured even until the last minutes before processing, but an injury like a broken ankle does not automatically make livestock unfit for consumption.” The California law (A.B. 2098), effective January 1, 2009, amended the state penal code by proscribing any slaughterhouse use of…

In late December 2008, Mexico banned imports of meat from 30 U.S. processing facilities, telling the USDA that sanitary issues were to blame, although some, including Senator Charles Grassley (R-Iowa), suggested that the move was in retaliation for the new country-of-origin labeling (COOL) rules that took effect September 30. Mexican officials denied any connection and reportedly lifted the embargo for 26 of the plants as of December 30. According to a news source, Mexico is the leading buyer of U.S. meat, and the suspension led to a sharp decline in cattle and hog futures at the Chicago Mercantile Exchange. U.S. and Mexican officials were reportedly scheduled to meet January 5, 2009, to discuss meat import issues. Meanwhile, Mexico has reportedly joined Canada before the World Trade Organization seeking consultations with the United States over the COOL regulations. The two countries are apparently most concerned about the impact on meat and livestock,…

The Canadian government has reportedly filed a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO), challenging the U.S. country-of-origin labeling (COOL) law. According to a news source, Canada alleges that COOL will impose unnecessary costs on meatpackers that use Canadian livestock and could lead to additional and more stringent labeling requirements in other countries. Canadian Trade Minister Stockwell Day was quoted as saying, “We believe that the country-of-origin legislation is creating undue trade restrictions to the detriment of Canadian exporters.” The complaint initiates a consultation period, which, if unsuccessful, could lead to resolution by a WTO dispute settlement panel. Canadian beef and pork producers recently called on the government to institute such action; further details about their concerns appear in issue 281 of this Update. See Meatingplace.com, December 2, 2008.

A University of Arizona scientist has reportedly warned the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that more than 40 percent of prepackaged meats sampled in 2006 tested positive for Clostridium difficile, an intestinal bug usually associated with hospitals and nursing homes. In addition, Professor of Veterinary Science J. Glenn Songer apparently found that 30 percent of the contaminated meats carried a highly toxic strain of C. difficile that is also resistant to drug treatments. He warned that not only is this disease difficult to trace to its source, but it survives most forms of sterilization, including cooking. “These data suggest that domestic animals, by way of retail meats, may be a source for C. difficile for human infection,” Songer told MSNBC.com, which reported on the emergence of the superbug in supermarket products like ground beef, turkey and ready-to-eat summer sausage. Yet, “There are no documented cases of people getting Clostridium…

USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) is seeking comments on policies that regulate whether processors can use animal raising claims in labeling for meat and poultry products. “[R]ecent experience with labeling claims related to the raising of poultry have led FSIS to initiate a review of its evaluation and approval process for labels of meat and poultry products that contain animal raising claims,” stated the agency in a recent Federal Register notice. Animal raising claims include language that describes a product as “raised without antibiotics”; “not fed animal by-products”; “free range”; “vegetarian fed diet”; and “raised with added hormones.” FSIS currently evaluates such claims “by reviewing testimonials, affidavits, animal product protocols, and other relevant documentation provided by animal producers.” The agency is soliciting public input on this approval process, which also allows meat and poultry establishments to submit certification from outside organizations or entities in support of animal raising claims.…

The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine’s (PCRM) Cancer Project has filed a petition with the USDA asking the agency to prohibit processed meats from school cafeteria menus. The initiative follows an advertising campaign warning about the purported cancer risks of processed meat consumption. Further details about the campaign appear in issue 277 of this Update. PCRM advocates a vegetarian diet and opposes animal research. See PCRM Press Release, October 9, 2008; meatingplace.com, October 13, 2008.

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