Mexico Rejects US Beef as Unsafe

In 2008, a large shipment of export beef from American cattle ranches was rejected by Mexican health authorities and returned to the US. The reason: copper found in the beef exceeded safe levels for human consumption. The rejected beef was then sold to consumers back home in the states. Legally.

Say again?

Turns out that the US has not gotten around to define safety levels for certain harmful substances potentially found in beef, mostly residue chemicals. How did a nation of burger loving, steak chomping meat lovers reach this point?

USA Today, published the findings of a recent federal audit on beef safety inspections. Although the USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS)

tests meat for such pathogens as salmonella and certain dangerous strains of E. coli…,

…the residue program relies on assistance from 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.

Limits have not been set by the EPA and FDA “for many potentially harmful substances, which can impair FSIS’ enforcement activities,” the audit found. read more…

Seems like another case of mis-coordination between the right hand and the left hand of the same body.

What you need to know:

How do high levels of copper, arsenic, and penicillin get into beef in the first place? This is the unfortunate result of modern day, factory farm growing methods. Cows for years have been raised not on a pasture but rather in close confinement, eating surplus corn instead of grass, thus developing digestive problems that are treated with copious amounts of antibiotics. Add hormones for quick growth, heavy metals in drinking water from nearby factories, pesticide residues from neighboring farms, and you’ve got a symphony of chemicals waiting to be unleashed into the human body with each bite of that T-bone steak.

By the way, Mexico is not the only country finding US beef objectionable. Japan, for the last 7 years has been severely restricting the import of American beef. The reason – fear of mad cow disease as a result of sub-par US feeding methods.

Why wouldn’t the US government put the safety of its citizens as top priority? As usual, you need to follow the money. The way beef is raised today, it can be sold rather cheaply. Consumers are happy to pay less, even if there is a certain risk to their health as a result.

The lobbies representing huge cattle factories make sure that Congress does not impose too many restrictions and inspections which would obviously result in increased “manufacturing” costs. A spokesperson for the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association said “Beef farmers and ranchers pride themselves on producing a safe and wholesome product, and anything less is unacceptable.” Right.

What to do at the supermarket:

There is no way for a consumer to know today if her meat contains these residues. One option is to buy organic beef, but for many people the price is prohibitive. The other option is to stop, or substantially reduce beef consumption altogether. A golden path may be to cut back on beef consumption just enough as to afford buying only organic.

  • J in VA

    Another option is to buy from a local farmer–it may not be “organic” but you would be free to ask how their animals are treated, their menus and may find that it is as natural as “organic” but the farmer may have not gone through all the headache/cost to be able to label it that way officially.

    In my area, I can buy local beef, chicken, turkey (in the fall), lamb and pork.

    J in VA

  • Carrie (Love Healthy Living)

    That is disgusting!!! One more reason to be really careful when selecting meats (or anything, for that matter).

  • Timothy Lake

    I agree with J — local is the best choice. We basically cut out eating beef, which I can’t get locally. We eat wild-caught fish & seafood, local lamb, chicken and a little pork. Usually we eat chicken two days a week, fish two days a week and vegetarian two days. We “spurge” on the other day, usually with lamb. The only beef we ate in 2009 was a prime rib roast on Christmas.

    Know your ingredients! Make friends with the farmer! As consumers, we can demand certain standards–as long as we use our dollars to make good choices. If no one bought factory-farmed animals, they would cease to be offered.

  • Heidi Kelly

    Timothy hit the nail on the head, if people continue to buy it, there will be no incentive for change. I am a part of the gluten-free community and I see the changes that companies are making everyday to accommodate our segment of the population because they want our money!

    I also think it is important to spread awareness. My dentist didn’t even know that cattle aren’t supposed to eat corn! It’s easy to assume that highly educated people would just know these things, but this has nothing to do with intelligence. If you are not looking for the information, how would you know? You sure won’t see it on a label.

    And like you said, cut back on meat consumption (so the higher quality meat is more affordable) and bump up the local organic produce by joining a CSA program. We just did and my kids love getting their weekly “Veggie present,” it has encouraged them to try new things. Many CSA’s also offer a work share program, where you can volunteer some time in exchange for a discount on your box, and you can have some fun using your “Farmville” experience on a real farm! :-) Not sure if it is okay to leave a link, but I just blogged on this yesterday:

    You can also share articles like these on your Facebook Page, Twitter, etc. I do this everyday, planting “seeds of thought” for people, by using my one little voice.

    I am living proof that change CAN happen, you just have to want it.

  • Dr. Susan Rubin

    This is not the first time another country has refused our food due to substandard quality.

    A similar thing happened years ago with chicken. Russia refused to import chicken legs from the US because they were inferior in quality to their own poultry. Here in the US, the chicken part of choice is the skinless, boneless chicken breast, full of white meat. We end up with an excess of dark meat, i.e. chicken thighs because the American consumer thinks dark meat is less healthy.

    The Russians called this meat “Bush legs” and refused it because it was too high in antibiotic residue and it also undermined local agriculture in Russia

  • http://http// Dr Renee Lea-Currie

    Makes me glad we no loner eat beef. I know this philosophy of feeding animals genetically modified corn instead of their normal diet is reeking havoc with people’s health. Thanks for this great information. It will help with the 3 upcoming local presentations I am doing on local, organic, natural and how to make sense of it. I am excited at the prospect of our town receiving a co-op so everyone can have ACCESS to healthy foods. The problem is that so many people across the country do not know what (if any) items are available in their area or the farmers are too far away (30+ miles) to be convenient in our busy lifestyle. Co-ops are the way to go! Thanks again for sharing this great information. I love educating people as well!

  • Debbie

    You should read “The Omnivores Dilemma” a book which addresses this issue in detail and also follows the food chain of pigs, chickens, etc. It is an eye opener.

  • Jennifer

    Americans as a whole have lost touch with where their food comes from. Children are being raised not knowing that a pork chop came from a very much alive pig or that a cow needs to calve (give birth) before giving us any milk. We need education not regulation. My children on the other hand; know how to plant and grow a garden, how to milk a cow and a goat; how to cook and prepare healthy foods and that all our living farm animals feed us in some way either through their eggs or milk or through there bodies in the form of healthy meats. Even if my children never farm, they will know how to survive and be able to teach others. Think Sustainable.

  • kc

    For a truly disturbing fact, think about this: Beef carcasses that are prepared for export to the EU must be sprayed with hot water only. Beef destined for American markets are sprayed with a lactic acid solution that is made from GMO corn. The hot water treatment reduces E.coli prevalence by 81% and the lactic acid spray reduces the prevalence of E.coli by 45%. Pair this information with the fact that lactic acid and citric acid (another GMO corn derivative) are also approved by the USDA for use on organic meats and produce. Even some of the expensive pasture raised beef that can be purchased online undergoes this GMO corn spray process. Consumers wanting to avoid sick meat coated with GMO corn have only one option: buy from a local grassfed farmer and have the beef processed to order by a trustworthy processor. It is ridiculous what I had to go through to find corn-free beef for my family (corn allergy) and we still can’t find chicken, pork, eggs, or raw dairy (the only dairy that isn’t contaminated with corn).

    By the way, wild caught seafood is routinely dunked in citric acid laced ice while still on the boat to keep it fresh. Chicken (even organic chicken) from the grocery store often contains GMO corn derivatives and chlorine bleach. If consumers want pure foods with very little chance of contamination, they must shop food co-ops, farmers markets and local farms and that goes for meat, dairy and produce. Everyone is going to have to choose health over convenience for these products to become more readily available.

  • VL

    As long as people are willing contribute to unhealthy food production by buying cleanly appealing pieces of flesh from behind polished glass without bothering to check the source and write letters to governing bodies, we will have profit driven toxins left in and placed into our food. If you are eating land animals, you may want to check the regulations for farming and production/distribution (minimal) vs safety and sustainability. If you are eating fish, you are eating metal (such as copper, aluminum, cadmium, etc.) and plastic toxins (such as bisphenol/BPA)or laced with added neurotoxins (such as citric acid) as preservatives. If you use and discard plastic, you are contributing to the death of your neighbors children and your own. We are polluting our food very chain rapidly and there will soon be no retun.

  • Alan8

    The two corporate parties have stopped even the pretense of caring about the health and well-being of the peasants, and are primarily focused on protecting corporate profits.

    Reason #9 to vote for the Green Party!