Beef containing harmful pesticides, veterinary antibiotics and heavy metals is being sold to the public because federal agencies have failed to set limits for the contaminants or adequately test for them, a federal audit finds.

USA Today reports that a program set up to test beef for chemical residues "is not accomplishing its mission of monitoring the food supply for … dangerous substances, which has resulted in meat with these substances being distributed in commerce," says the audit by the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Office of Inspector General. The health effects on people who eat such meat are a "growing concern," the audit adds.

The residue program is run by the Environmental Protection Agency, which sets tolerance levels for human exposure to pesticides and other pollutants, and the Food and Drug Administration, which does the same for antibiotics and other medicines. The audit reports that limits have not been set by those offices for “many potentially harmful substances, which can impair FSIS’ enforcement activities,” the audit states.

The FSIS said in a written statement that the agency has agreed with the inspector general on "corrective actions" and will work with the FDA and EPA "to prevent residues or contaminants from entering into commerce."

To read the audit, go to

Source: USA Today

Smithfield plant closure sends hog prices down

Hog futures fell for a second straight session on speculation that demand for the animals will slow as Smithfield Foods Inc. reduces processing capacity. Cattle prices also dropped, according to Bloomberg reports.

Smithfield closed its Sioux City, Iowa, plant last week, which was earlier than expected. That closure cams as a “bit of a surprise” for traders, said Rich Nelson, director of research at broker Allendale Inc.

“One less buyer out there for cash hogs will add a little pressure,” said Nelson. Hog futures for June fell 0.4 cent, or 0.5 percent, to 83.975 cents a pound on a Chicago Mercantile Exchange. Hogs had risen 1.2 percent last week. Hogs for immediate delivery to slaughterhouses have dropped 1.4 percent from the high on April 6, when it reached 75.02 cents a pound.

Cattle futures for June delivery fell 0.7 cent, or 0.7 percent, to 94.05 cents a pound. The price rose 1.3 percent last week, the second straight increase. Feeder-cattle futures for May settlement declined 0.325 cent to $1.1505 a pound.

Wholesale choice beef climbed to $1.6567 a pound at midday, the highest price since July 2008, according to USDA figures. Consumers may slow buying as prices rise, Nelson said.

Sources: Bloomberg, Business Week

NAMP joins chorus against draft validation guidance

The North American Meat Processors Association is urging all U.S. processor members to write FSIS Administrator Al Almanza and their Congressional representatives to oppose the FSIS draft guidance validation guidance document in its present form, according to a statement released by the association. Earlier this week, NAMP sent processor members a copy of the draft guidance document, a summary, and suggested language for their communications to Almanza and the Hill.

Last Monday, a coalition of industry associations including NAMP had another meeting with Almanza and FSIS officials, and Almanza met with industry groups again on Wednesday in a regular monthly briefing. At Monday’s meeting, the coalition stressed it views this document as a fundamental policy change not merely a guidance, that the document requires in-plant validation by microbiological testing for even the most basic and time-tested processes, and it imposes a cost burden on processors with no discernable food safety benefit.

NAMP and other industry associations requested an extension on the comment period. FSIS granted an extension until June 19, Almanza told the group on Wednesday.

Although the comment period was extended, NAMP says it is urging all its U.S. processor members to submit their comments now, and to alert their members of Congress about the significant adverse impact this proposed guidance could have on their cost of doing business with no known improvement to food safety.

“Companies should not have to validate that the sun rises in the East,” one coalition participant said after last Monday’s meeting.

The approach is unnecessarily broad in scope, and not focused on possible specific needs for in-plant validation, NAMP states. For example, companies would be required to validate by in-plant microbiological testing the cooking processes in Appendix A.

While NAMP opposes the draft guidance document, it does appreciate the willingness of FSIS to meet with NAMP and the coalition, to get the document out to industry informally for comment, and to listen to industry’s concerns. Although it is still early in the process, these actions by FSIS indicate industry’s feedback may have a constructive impact on FSIS decision-making.

FSIS is circulating the document informally to solicit stakeholder feedback before FSIS puts it into the formal Office of Management and Budget (OMB)/Federal Register notice process.

Source: NAMP

Poultry, fish, may cut Alzheimer's risk

A study of 2,000 Manhattan residents showed that people who ate diets containing dark, leafy vegetables, poultry, fish and nuts and less red meat, butter and fatty dairy products had a 38 percent lower risk of getting Alzheimer’s disease. The report, available in the Archives of Neurology, states that those foods may protect blood vessels in the brain, preventing tiny strokes that may contribute to Alzheimer’s, according to Nikolaos Scarmeas, an associate professor of neurology at Columbia University Medical Center in New York and author of the study.

“We know that these foods are definitely helpful for other conditions and diseases, and now we have this hint that they may be helpful for brain diseases,” Scarmeas said in a telephone interview with Business Week. “It makes sense to follow this diet.”

The study was done by observing the participants’ eating habits rather than as a controlled clinical trial that prescribed their food, so scientists can’t make recommendations based solely on this research, he said.

Source: Business Week