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.
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.